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Labrador Retriever Coat – Care, Grooming, & Shedding

Your Labrador retriever’s coat comes with a set of fascinating features to withstand whatever nature throws at it.

Some of those features may be frustrating (like all that shedding), but it all serves an important purpose.

If you’re a lab owner, or thinking of adopting, then this will get you up to speed on how to help keep their coat healthy, clean, and a few points on how to control shedding.

The Double Coat

Labs have a Double-Coat, meaning they have two layers of fur.

The top layer called the Guard Coat or Top Coat – which is slightly more “wiry” and abrasive.

Underneath you’ll find a softer and lighter under-layer called the Undercoat.

Combined, these layers are used to:

  • Regulate body temperature
  • Protect from harmful UV rays
  • Repel water
  • Protect the skin

The undercoat is a fantastic insulator, and you’ve probably guessed that it keeps them warm in the colder months. But those layers of fur also keep them cool in the summer, and insulate them from warm air.

It’s a dangerous practice to shave your lab. You won’t be doing them any favors by getting rid of the very thing that regulates their body temperature.

Why Labs Are Born to Swim

Labradors are like sea lions of the land. And while these dogs were born with four legs for roaming the earth, the Labrador’s true calling is the water. If you ever get your lab near a lake or pool, then you’ll know what I mean.

Their coat serves an important function when they go diving headfirst into the river. You may remember from grade school science that oil and water just don’t mix, and they’ll naturally separate.

Well, your Labrador’s undercoat has natural oil secretions among their thick undercoat that repels water and keeps their skin dry.

Next time you take your lab for a swim, keep an eye on how fast they dry. You would think that thick coat would act like a sponge, but because of their water repelling nature, all excess water efficiently runs off.

Natural oils are what keep their coat smooth and shiny, so the last thing you want to do is to deprive them of that natural barrier. Which brings us to our next important point: bathing.

Bathing and Washing Labrador Coats

How often should you bathe your Lab? The short answer: as little as possible.

The long answer: bathing your lab too often can strip away those natural oils that help protect them, leaving them with dry, flaky skin that becomes itchy and uncomfortable.

So the ideal time to bathe your dog is when they become a little too stinky, or rolls in something less than attractive. Even then, consider just rinsing them off with lukewarm water instead of a full on bath, especially if it’s just dirt or mud they rolled in.

When it is time for a full bath to remove some stink, use a mild oatmeal or coconut based dog shampoo that helps keep skin moisturized.

Labrador Shedding

Do Labs Shed?

Oh yes.

Don’t let that smooth, short hair fool you. They shed an impressive amount of coat during the entire year. But it varies from one Labrador to another, and you may get lucky and find your dog sheds considerably less than others.

Either way, twice a year (spring and fall) you’ll be treated to a full “blow out”, where you’ll face a seemingly endless amount of shedding for several weeks.

This is a healthy and perfectly normal response. Shedding is a natural process in which many animals (including you) lose old and damaged hair.

So have your vacuum and lint rollers ready. These are definitely shedding dogs.

two labrador retrievers

How To Control Labrador Shedding

​Labs shed all year, and will typically “blow” their coat every spring and fall. The amount of hair that comes off a lab can range from moderate to absolutely ridiculous, so let’s arm ourselves with a few tools to save some sanity in our homes.

  • ​Keep a routine of brushing your lab out at least once a week, and twice a week during the spring and fall when they’re blowing out their coat.
  • Ensure they’re getting a high-quality diet, including omega fatty acids – this promotes stronger hair follicles and less shedding.
  • Be aware of any dry “flaky” skin, redness, or excessive scratching. If your dog is suffering from allergies, mites, or skin conditions, they may scratch their fur off. Contact your vet to determine the best course of action.
  • Keep your dog in a comfortable environment, a stressed out dog will naturally shed more.

​​A little bit of brushing can go a long way, and they certainly enjoy the attention you give them during this time.

During routine brushing, run your hands over their skin and search for any abnormal lumps or bumps.

Labs are prone to developing tumors, especially as they age. These are not always cancerous, however discovering and examining these bumps early can help you and your vet determine the best course of action.

Can I Shave my Lab?

No, shaving your lab can be detrimental to their health and overall comfort.

Some owners mistakenly believe that shaving their dog during hot weather will help them be more comfortable. However, double-coated dogs require their coat to regulate body temperature, protect them from weather, and to act as a natural barrier against harmful UV rays.

Also, some allergy sufferers believe shaving your dog will reduce allergic reactions. Again, not true. Allergies are triggered from pet dander, which are particles of skin that shed all year.

In fact, shaving a dog may make allergies worse, as you expose their skin even further. ​

And as a final warning, once you shave a double-coated dog, their top coat hairs will not grow back in the same way. This will leave you only with ​guard hairs, which are rough and patchy. ​That beautiful, silky lab coat may never look the same again. 

Do Labs Have Hair or Fur?

​Both. In fact, there’s no difference between hair and fur. You might see me use both terms, just know that they mean the same thing.

Are Labs Hypoallergenic?

Definitely not. Allergies towards dogs are developed from pet dander (not hair), and labs certainly have a lot of it.

There are many hypoallergenic dog breeds to choose from, but if you really want the Labrador personality but without the allergic reaction, then consider getting yourself a Labradoodle (Labrador-Poodle mix).

Just be warned, not all Labradoodles are hypoallergenic.

Coat Colors

A yellow, chocolate, and black lab. CC Image courtesy of Liabilly Wildflower

Labrador retrievers come in three primary colors, Black, Yellow, and Chocolate. However, there are some lesser known and “unrecognized” colors, described as Silver, Red, and White.

It’s important to note that major kennel clubs only recognize the three primary colors, however Red and White labs may just be a false interpretation.

Yellow labs come in many shades, from a deep orangey color to a faded (nearly white) yellow. These are sometimes mistaken as Red and White, but are essentially Yellow Labs and are still recognized colors by Kennel clubs.

CC Images courtesy of Pharaoh Hound

However, Silver Labs are not recognized from clubs, and may be a crossbreed. There is little known about the silver labs, and ​is speculated to be a crossbreed with Weineremers (which have similar physical characteristics).

In very rare cases there are Brindle Labradors, again Kennel standards consider this a fault. Brindle is unique orange or tan color markings that appear due to a recessive gene. Sometimes called “tiger strips”, it’s like a marble effect, and sometimes may faintly appear on the coat, muzzle, or front legs.

Skin conditions

Is your lab suffering from:

  • Dry, flaky skin or “dandruff”
  • Red, inflamed, and itchy skin
  • Missing hair or “patches”

These conditions can result from allergies, improper nutrition, thyroid issues, lack of fatty acids in their diet, mites or parasites, or just over-bathing. Skin problems will need to be properly addressed and treated.

Labradors are especially susceptible to allergies, and red and itchy skin are common symptoms.

Labs can be obsessive lickers and scratchers, which over time will cause them to scratch their own fur off, leaving bald spots or patches.

Always consult with a vet first to ensure you’re meeting dietary needs and if there are any underlying health concerns.

What Has Your Experience Been?

Does your Lab shed like there’s no tomorrow, or do you find it to be a fairly manageable task? What do you do to keep their skin and coat clean and healthy?

If you’re looking for a dog that doesn’t leave a mess, check out our ranking of dog’s that don’t shed

Photo of author

Shayla McConnell

Shayla​ has been working closely with animals for over 10 years. Initially trained​ as a Vet Tech Assistant in a local emergency clinic, she ​later changed career paths and became a ​professional Dog Groomer, and is now running her own successful pet grooming business.

49 thoughts on “Labrador Retriever Coat – Care, Grooming, & Shedding”

  1. I feed my chocolate lab 8 months old dry food from an online company called Lifes Abundance. It is all stage food and it is auto shipped. It was recommended by her breeder and she has a beautiful coat. Love Labs

  2. I have a 5 year old female yellow lab and her shedding cycle seems to be reversed. Every fall she blows her coat but it stays light with little undercoat all winter. In spring, her heavier coat grows back for the summer. We live in a cold climate! She swims alot in the summer and we hike regularly in the cold snowy winter. She is on high quality food (Fromm) and gets a salmon oil supplement. Does anyone else have this? Can you reverse this shedding cycle?

  3. I have a yellow lab who’s now 11 and I always said (as a joke) wish he was black as you wouldn’t see the hairs so much on my clothes. We now have a 3 year old chocolate lab and how wrong was I !! He sheds constantly, his hairs are everywhere 🙄. Even on the toilet seat! My cream carpet looks like I have a chocolate rug and now Rossco ( yellow lab) is malting I’m just stroking him and it’s all coming away in my hands. His hair is much softer and fluffier than Ziggys. I need a hoover strapped to them both! I don’t wash Ziggy often as is recommended but have noticed today when brushing him he’s not as oily and has very small tiny white flakes, do you think this is dandruff as he is regularly fleed etc and Rossco hasn’t got it, so wondered if anyone has any ideas to get rid of this. He’s not over scratching and has no sore spots. Like I say only difference is his hair seems more coarse, but saying all that, brown or yellow covered carpets, furniture and clothes I wouldn’t be without them for one minute. 🐶🐶😘

    • Yes, try Hills science diet, we buy from Amazon. Have a black, choc. & yellow/white. Little spendy but all have great coats , shed less and coats shine. We do brush!

  4. I have a 3 year old chocolate lab i just rescued, she used to be a puppy mill mama (kept in a cage to have puppies) and since I got her it has been A LOT, now she started shedding A LOT and I though she was sick or something but this makes sooo much sense because I just changed her food and shes still getting used to me but the amount of hair is crazy, i got a vacuum today LOL (I celebrated it with a dance) because i kept brooming like mad every day hahaha

  5. I have 3 labs, 2 black and the baby girl is chocolate. All 3 have very different situations when it comes to their coats. The older lab now 15yrs old has a very wirey coat. The 5yr old has a soft black coat but sheds like crazy and gets very flaky in the summer months. The chocolate now 1 1/2 has a soft coat but has bad allergies in the summer. She is also the one I can’t keep out of the pool. Infact any body of water, if she sees a puddle in the driveway she is trying to swim in it! My solution, once a month they all get a Salmon dinner, they absolutely love it, I brush them all at least twice a week and I find if I brush up the coat first it loosens all the hair. I also use pure coconut oil in a spray bottle once a month and that has been helping the baby’s allergies, it also keeps the gnats and mosquitoes off of them. Only problem is they love that also so they will walk around licking each other lol. I put it in their food also.

  6. Hi my name is Susan. I have a young yellow lab. She has a ridge down her back when she is playing guard dog. Is this normal? I have never had one of these beautiful souls before. and I don’t know what the standard is . She looks everything else a lab. Hmmm have a bought a dog with a little Ridge back in her? I don’t care love is love. I just wonder.

  7. Have had 4 Labs over the last 40 years & my mother brought one from England when she migrated in 1952. All have been brilliant loving dogs, the one I have now ‘Lady’ is black and very fluffy whereas my others were smooth coated, she was from a breeder so no cross breeding, wondered if anyone else had had this with theirs.


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