Do I Need To Groom My Labrador?


I get asked this question so often that I thought I should take some time to answer it thoroughly. If you want to cut down on bathing, and get rid of a stinky, dry or oily coat that sheds constantly, plus promote healthy skin, be sure to follow these important steps. You’ll be well on your way to less brushing, vacuuming, and more.

It’s a Lab Thing! (or is it?)

My first ‘hint’ I got that Labradors should not/do NOT require a lot of grooming was my first dog show. I looked at the premium and went, “Labs are on at 8 am??” (Followed by a huge groan) Yep, the low maintenance breeds are usually shown earlier on show day, since many other breeds require hours (yes, hours!) of grooming before they enter the ring. But, be sure, us Labrador people do some gentle heckling of other high-maintenance breeds by bragging about how we and our Labradors ‘rolled out of bed and into the show ring this morning!’ So yes, us, and, breeds like Bulldogs are up bright and early to stand for the national anthem that play first thing before ring-time. We’re usually stifling a yawn or two during that early morning eight o’clock start.

The second thing I learned at my two-day dog show judging class taken at one of our annual Labrador Specialties. We learned all I already knew– and more– about a proper coat for the Labrador Retriever (see AKC Breed Standard description for coat in the Labrador). Since it is a dense, sometimes-coarse coat, people assume that they must shed all of the time. After all, their neighbor’s Labrador produces a dust cloud of hair each time you touch it, right?

You only get out what you put in

If there’s one thing I’ve learned; its not a good idea to base your facts and decisions in life based on ‘Joe-Shmoe Lab-Owner-Next-Door’ (or dog owner) who has never read the breed standard, possibly bought his dog from a (who knows?) “breeder” or adopted it from a shelter. In this case, genetically—it’s a free for all. “Joe-next-door” probably couldn’t tell you a thing about species-appropriate feeding of canines, let alone explain the ingredients in the pet food he shovels into his dogs food bowl each day.

Since many people ask why my dogs don’t shed or need grooming comes down to nutrition. Now, before you click out of this page because you are so in love with the label design of your dog food bag, and the commercial that accompanies it (I know, its cute!)—oh yeah—and JOE—let me tell you what I’ve learned over the past 30 years of owning and caring for Labradors. Or better yet, I’ll give you the short version and I’ll give you some reading in a minute if you want the long version—deal??? Deal!

A species-appropriate diet for canines includes plenty of fresh, lean, high quality MEAT—their teeth sure do give us a big ‘hint’ that they are carnivores and tell us a little about their ancestral diet. But they were not ONLY meant for muscle and organ meat, but also a wide variety of nutrients in a dietary (not sprayed-on-synthetic) form of these nutrients in the pulverized form, and predominately of veggies, fruits, herbs, and grasses. In the wild, not only do dogs graze (and no, not because the constantly need to puke) and get the variety of herbs, veggies (corn does NOT qualify—remember its used to fatten pigs!) and fruits this way, but they also would have eaten the stomach contents of their prey which would have included all of the above—conveniently pre-digested, or course. Never, once, in nature have carnivores—more specifically canines—eaten a diet full or processed carbohydrates or sugars. Yet, that is the predominant amount of ingredients in today’s kibble—not to mention a growing number of legumes for cheap proteins that are now outnumbering the amount of meat sources in our kibble. Legumes are not even species-appropriate for canines, and, therefore, are causing even more skin & coat allergies, ear infections, digestion issues, bad breath, dental disease and diseases like diabetes, Crohn’s, and Addision’s disease. Add to that the phytoestrogen properties of legumes and you have the hormonal disaster that also results in all of the above conditions and more. The only kibble I can conscientiously recommend is Life’s Abundance All Life Stages. No phytoestrogens, low carb, ALL organic (its important to get the non GMO ingredients as well–a company looking for a profit will pay for the .34 per ounce of vit C, or they the organic one at .74 per ounce form, get all the benefits from it, not just have a non-effective amount–that’s what L.A. does) , and price per feeding is less than any other premium brand I know (so the bag may cost you a tidbit more, but it will last twice as long) To learn more about the mission and quality of the company and the food, click here.

The Hormonal “Curve” ball

Ever talk to a women who’s had a hysterectomy? What is the first thing to goes? Hair and skin. It’s the same with our pets, and we’ve been robbing them of their hormones earlier and earlier in life in order to satisfy the cry of “spay and neuter your dog ASAP!” Well, just a FYI—that’s why pet Labs shed a lot sometimes…it CAN be hormones that are taken away, but most often, when diet is changed HUGE changes can be seen (yes, I’m lucky enough to enjoy fully ‘hormonal’ lab—and coat!). So if you HAVE spayed of neutered your dog…paying attention to nutritional needs is most important on your list. And is another reason to seek out other forms of sterilizing our pets that does not rob our dog’s natural hormones.

If you’d like to do more reading on this, I highly recommend the book, “Give your Dog a Bone” by Dr. Ian Billinghurst (DVM)— it will absolutely revolutionize how you think about feeding your dog—and yourself, believe it or not, as you learn about what forms of foods provide specific ingredients.

Supplies and Grooming Needs

*A shedding brush should always be on hand to brush out dead coat. Getting the dead coat out will help encourage growth of a healthy coat, and will keep the oils distributed throughout. I pull out the brush maybe once a week here. But I usually forget! Ha! (just to be honest) When I’m getting ready for a big show coming up I usually brush a little more. A FURminator is great if your dog DOES begin shedding–in clumps to be exact!

*A good nail cutting tool—cutting your dog’s nails is as important to their hips and joint health as the hereditary factors. This is the MAIN reason I see de-formed paws which then stress the wrist and arm, traveling up to the upper arm in front and hips in the back. If your dog’s nails are long enough to cause the toes to splay, you have neglected this important part of your dogs “hand.” Start early and cut often. This way your dog won’t freak out and it will be a task they are very use to. Trim every 2 weeks. Once a month minimum! (see blog on cutting your dog’s nails) If your dog’s paws look “cat like” and you do not hear ANY clicking—congratulations—I want to hug you—really! Some people love grinders–do what works and what will make you do it!

Should I Shave my Labrador?

Do I recommend shaving a Labrador? NO! This practice, in my opinion, is not only lazy, it leaves the skin susceptible to cuts, scrapes, flea, ticks, mosquitoes, and sunburn. And who doesn’t want to cuddle that fluffy, curly, shiny lab coat? I know I do! Especially when its not shedding all over my clothing!

As a rule of thumb, rinse your Lab after swimming in Chlorine or salt water. This will keep the coat and skin from drying out.

My favorite warm weather grooming “hack”: Either let your Lab swim in cold water each day, or give him a little “hose shower” each day. The chilly water will “tease” those little fibers of joy to stay put! (Our ‘Odin’ is so use to this he just loves when the hose comes out!)

My favorite dry/cold weather “hack: After ensuring you are feeding a species-appropriate diet and are grooming properly, add a high quality fish oil supplement to keep the skin and coat conditioned and moisturized. I use the one above because I believe in high quality products and if they are purer, I use less—and save more! Plus I don’t want my fish oil to be high in mercury. Brush the coat more regularly to keep dead coat out and encourage new coat to come in and to distribute natural oils. And you know what, this is a life-changing addition I made to my grooming tools. I don’t know HOW the heck it works bit it does. You run it over your pet’s coat and any odor sticks to it…its CRAZY! You can read more about it here.


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