Grooming Your Labrador Retriever
I wish I could tell you that
there is no grooming involved with a Lab. Indeed, I hear there
are some breeders out there saying Labs don't shed, in order
to sell their puppies. I think this cartoon says it all:
This isn't snow folks.
This is my backyard after 10 minutes of grooming my Labs.
Now tell me again how Labs don't shed.
I've blown up more vacuums
than I care to count from coping with Lab hair.
Granted, my blacks only really
shed twice a year (as compared to the yellows that shed 365/24/7)
but when they blow out that coat spring and fall, let me tell
you they blow. I'm not going to lie to you and tell you they
aren't shedding machines. I don't want your phone call after
your dog rubs up against you just as you're about to leave for
work in your brand new outfit and covers you with hair.
To properly groom your Lab you
will need the following tools:
|A: Wire Slicker Brush
B: Short-haired rake
C: Narrow toothed comb
D: Wide toothed comb
E: Toenail clippers
F: Bristle brush
The only time I use a bristle
brush (F) is when my dogs aren't shedding and they just need
a quick touch up. It will catch any stray hairs, but won't get
to the skin of the dog. A bristle brush will help distribute
the oils throughout the coat. When the dog isn't blowing coat
you can get by with brushing twice a week. Plan on everyday
if the dog is in a big seasonal blow.
Remember, this grooming procedure
is what I do. Another Lab owner/breeder might
not do things exactly as I do them. That's fine too. This is
what I've done for a number of years and it works for me. Most
Lab owners/breeders will agree, the sooner you get the dead,
shedding hair out, the sooner the new coat will come in. My
grooming procedure is based on that fact.
First, I take the rake (B) and
rake the dead coat out. (I would recommend you do this OUTSIDE
and do not stand downwind from your dog. Trust me on this one.
Wear something that you don't mind getting hairy). I don't normally
put a time limit on this. I just rake until my arm starts aching
and I'm getting most of the dead coat out. Be gentle here.
You don't want to hurt the dog and make him not like his grooming
can use instead of the rake is
the pink Zoom Groom. This is easier on the dog's skin and it
really gets the coat out. Keep brushing this over the dog's
coat until your arm feels like its going to fall off. The more
you use these shedding tools, the quicker the old coat will
Once you're done the first step,
I take the wire slicker brush (A) and (gently) go over the dog
again, getting out the clumps of hair the rake missed. The rake
won't miss much. Use the wire slicker gently. Don't dig into
the skin with it.
With the wide toothed comb (D)
I clean out the slicker brush and then lightly go over the dog
with the wide toothed comb. This should loosen any mats.
Next is the most time consuming
portion of the grooming routine; combing with the narrow toothed
comb(C). During this portion, I will usually let my dog lay
on its side while I work, then roll her over and work on combing
out the other side.
Starting under the chin and
around the ears, I work on combing out all the coat. This procedure
will loosen the hair from the skin, allowing air to continue
to reach the skin. This is important in the prevention of hot
spots. I thoroughly comb each side, then make the dog stand
and catch any areas I wasn't able to reach.
I go under the tail, through
the "skirts" of the dog and then comb out the tail. You'll be
amazed how much hair you'll dislodge doing this. Whatever you
take out now, you won't have to vacuum up later. The last step
in doing the coat is running the bristle brush(F) over the dog
quickly to pick up any loose hairs.
Gadgets that claim to de-fur
We've all seen the commercials.
A pet owner gets a ton of hair out of their dog by using these
gizmos. I'm sure they do get a lot of hair out. I use one on
my horse in the spring. However, my horse doesn't have a double
coat like my Lab does. These gizmos have a blade in them which
commences to damage the coat on a Labrador. You can cut the
coat as well as the dog's skin if you aren't careful. There
have been instances where the dog ended up with skin infections
from too much use of these gizmos. Please don't use them. Use
the pink Zoom Groom instead. It might take you a bit longer
to get all the hair out, but your dog's coat and skin will be
Shaving a Lab
Do you want me to reach through
the monitor screen and shake you? You never shave a Lab for
maintenance. NO! NO! NO! NO! The ONLY reason to
shave anything on a Lab is:
- For Surgery
- For a Hot Spot
If you dog is having surgery,
let the vet shave the area that needs to be shaved. If you see
a hot spot, then yes you need to shave the area where the hot
spot is to keep it from spreading. Shaving a Lab for routine
maintenance is just WRONG. As you can see, I feel very
strongly about this issue.
Some people feel they must
shave their Lab because all that hair must make the dog hot.
WRONG. The undercoat actually keeps the dog cooler.
Some people feel if they shave
their Lab they can keep the dog from shedding. WRONG.
The dog will still shed. Shedding is natural for a Lab. What
it will do is instead of shedding normal undercoat which is
fluffy and soft, the dog will shed short, prickly hairs which
will poke your skin if you make contact. Short, prickly hairs
Please don't shave your Lab.
Groom it thoroughly instead. Your dog will thank you. Besides,
your dog won't be the laughing stock of the neighborhood either.
on shaving dogs
article on shaving dogs with double coats
another article on shaving dogs with double coats
Now that we have determined
that yes indeedy Labs do shed, what can you do when they're
in the middle of a spring or fall blow? Plenty without
having to resort to shaving.
The sooner you get the dead
coat out, the sooner the new coat will come in. So get
yourself and your dog to one of those "self-serve"
dog wash places if you're lucky enough to have one within driving
distance of your home. If you don't, you can do this at
home but unfortunately you're going to bury yourself in dog
hair while you do it. This is why I like the self-serve
places. You can leave all the hair there.
Wet the dog with the warmest
water you can stand. You want it very warm, but not hot
enough to burn the dog's skin. Either use your Zoom Groom
or your fingers to work through the coat to loosen it up.
You do not need to use shampoo. Work and work through
the coat, washing it away and out of the dog.
Then you blow dry. Yep,
that's right. Take a blow dryer and blow that coat dry.
I will use a wire slicker or pin brush and brush the hair in
the opposite direction that I'm blowing in. Again, use the wire
slicker or pin brush gently and do not dig it into the skin.
(I guess I should have warned you not to wear something you
want to wear out in public later that day since you're going
to be covered in hair) Blow and watch the hair fly.
Yes I know I don't normally recommend bathing a Lab, let alone
blow drying, but the coat is dead anyway so you aren't doing
damage to it. You will be amazed at the amount of hair
you get out of your dog.
If you can, try to do this
2-3 times a week and before you know it the dog will be done
with the shed.
To Twizzle Or Not To Twizzle
No, I'm not talking about having
a break and eating licorice though that sounds like a great
||This is a twizzle. Its the little curly-cue
at the end of some Lab tails. It adds character, I think.
Some people just have to neaten it up and trim it, which
is ok too if that's your choice. I usually just leave
There is probably not anything
in the grooming routine that owners hate more than doing toenails.
It doesn't bother me since I'm an ex-groomer and my dogs are
taught from birth that I WILL do those nails whether
they like it or not, so they might as well lay there. For the
most part, my dogs lay down and roll over when they see me get
the nail clipper out.
If you don't even want to attempt
clipping your dog's nails, then spend the $10 a week or every
2 weeks and have a groomer or vet do them for you. You can even
use a Dremmel to grind down the nails. I don't do this, but
here is a wonderful Link
which shows you how to do it.
There are several different
types of clippers on the market. The plier type(E) has worked
the best for me. I do my dogs' nails once a week, because they
grow so fast, so they don't over-grow and damage the dogs' feet.
You can cause a splay-foot by not keeping the nails short. I
admit, I have a Lab foot fetish. I like a nice tight Lab foot.
Splayed-feet drive me crazy. Plus if your dog has dew-claws,
that dew-claw can grow back into the dog's foot. Just think
how painful that would be if it happened to us. Its painful
for the dog too. So do try and do the nails if not weekly, then
every 2 weeks. By just trimming off the tips when needed, you
will save both you and your dog a lot of pain and aggravation
|Yellow nails are by far the easiest of
the nail colors to do. If you look close enough you can
actually see the quick in the nail.
is one of my yellows. Look close, can you see the pinkish
quick? Its not the best picture, but you should be able
to see it.
||This should help you. Look just above
the dotted red line. The vertical red line is where you
should make your cut. You will miss the quick this way.
Sometimes shining a flash light back through the nail
will help you see the quick easier.
IF you should
happen to cut the quick even with these guidelines, don't panic.
You can buy QUIK STOP at most pet stores. Just have it standing
by before you start doing nails, just in case.
|Black nails can be a bit tougher to cut.
You can't readily see the quick in a black nail. I'm here
to show you how you can. Old groomer's trick. ;-)
Turn the foot over and look at it from
the bottom. Look closely. See the little round part
on the underside of the nail? That's your quick.
||Look where the arrow leads. See that
little round part now? You would cut just to the right
of that, where the solid red line is.
not hard when you know how.
If you don't have QUIK STOP
you can coat the bleeding tip of the nail in flour or cornstarch
to help slow down the bleeding. Another good choice is a bar
of soap. Dig the nail into the bar of soap to put a little blob
of soap on the end of the nail. Its important to not let the
dog lick the nail and take off whatever it is you've used to
stop the bleeding.
Whiskers & Eyebrows
||Once again, it is my choice to leave
them. However, one of Murphy's does curl down toward her
eye. Rather than have the eye brow rub her eye and cause
irritation, I will just cut the tip off to keep it from
being in her eye. Other than that, I do not clip whiskers
There, you're done. That wasn't
so hard, was it? Once you get in the routine it doesn't take
that much time. Its so worth it though. The more hair you get
out with grooming, the less hair you'll have in your house and
on your clothes.
You might have noticed I didn't
include a section on bathing. That's because I rarely bathe
my dogs. They don't need it. If you brush them 2-3 times a week
it will keep them clean. The only time I bathe my dogs is if
they get into or roll in something that smells disgusting. Then
its only a spot bath on the parts that smell.
If the dog is really shedding
and you just want that coat out, I will sometimes put my dogs
in the tub and soak them with very warm water. NOT HOT. You
want it about as warm as you can stand it without it burning.
As you wet down the dog, work your fingers to the skin trying
to work out as much hair as you can. Then blow dry. I will do
this twice a week if needed. This goes with the theory that
the quicker you get the dead coat out, the new coat will grow
Grooming also is a bonding process
for you and your dog. It soothes your dog and its a known fact
that stroking your dog will lower your own blood pressure. Plus,
by grooming your dog on a regular basis you can usually find
any skin growths or hot spots before they become large and a
problem. It was through the ritual of grooming that I found
small mast cell tumors (cancerous) on the breasts of both Robin
and Murphy. Since I found them early, my vets were able to totally
remove them and the dogs were able to live normal, long lives.
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