Labrador Retriever Coat – Facts, 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

Lab’s have a “Double-Coat”, meaning they have two layers of fur: a top layer called the Guard coat (sometimes called Top coat) that 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, and protect their 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.

This is why it’s very bad practice to shave your lab, you won’t be doing them any favors by getting rid of the very thing that keeps their body temperature normal.

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 head first 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 due to their water repelling nature all excess water quickly runs off.

Those natural oils is what keeps their coat smooth and shiny, so the last thing you want to do is 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 she starts to become a little too stinky, or rolls in something less than attractive. Even then, consider just rinsing them off with luke-warm 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 be faced with a seemingly endless amount of shedding for several weeks.

This is a healthy and normal response, and 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

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 be scratching 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.
labrador-food

​​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. Also not true. Allergies are triggered from pet dander, which are particles of skin that shed all year. In fact, shaving them will make it worse, as you expose their skin even further. ​

And as a final warning, once you shave a double-coated dog their top coat hairs generally will not grow back in the same way. This will leave you only with ​guard hairs, which is rough and patchy. ​That beautiful, silky lab coat will 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?

Absolutely 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

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.

First of all, 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 different 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.

However, Silver Labs are not recognized from clubs, and may be a cross breed. 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 this is considered a fault by Kennel standards. 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 in some cases may faintly appear on the coat, muzzle, or front legs.

CC Images courtesy of Pharaoh Hound and Liabilly Wildflower

Skin conditions

Is your lab suffering from:

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

These conditions can be the result of 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.

Furthermore, Labs can be obsessive lickers and scratchers, which over time will cause them to literally 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? As always I love to know your opinion, so leave a comment or shoot me an email.

If you're looking for a dog that doesn't leave a mess, check out our ranking of the top 35 dog's that don't shed

31 thoughts on “Labrador Retriever Coat – Facts, Care, Grooming, & Shedding

  1. Hi, do you have a D.I.Y. dog wash for my yellow lab that has missing patches of hair down to his pink skin? I am afraid of sunburn? And a wash that will get the black scailing patches to wash away to see if he can grow new hair?

    • Lori, have you visited the vet about his missing patches? If so, for bathing I would recommend a very gentle hypoallergenic shampoo and gently exfoliate. But I would stay away from Oatmeal based shampoos as they may encourage bacterial growth.

  2. As an animal lover, this makes me smile. Labrador Retrievers are purely beautiful creatures and this article tells you why they are. It also tells you what to expect from them, so you are informed.

  3. There has been no dna proof that Silver Labs are cross breeds that I can find. If you look at a well bred Silver , they have every single trait a Lab has from the beautiful double coat, the velvet lab ears down to the otter tail. If they were weims they would have a different body type and longer ears or at least look like a Weim. In my opinion they do not.

  4. My yellow lab sheds all day, every day! Nothing makes him not shed but I’ve found that the furrminator style brush helps some. The first time we used it enough hair came off to make a twin of my 90 lbs dog. I’ve had to make my peace with hair everywhere, lots of vacuuming at my house!

    • I sympathise with you. My yellow lab shreds none stop, all year long. My house and my vehicle are covered in dog hair at all times. It is not a seasonal thing. I laugh when people talk about shedding … they have no idea what shedding really means with a yellow lab. The furminator brush was recommended by my groomer. He has worn through the blade in a short time.

      • It’s an never ending battle, that’s for sure. I have a routine of brushing my labrador a little bit everyday, lately I’ve been using a rubber brush like a kong zoomgroom as it’s easy on his skin but gets a decent amount of fur off.

  5. I have a chocolate lab. He is neatured. His fur on his back and tail is very wiry and course with a slight lighter color. He’s never been shaved and gets bathed very little. Any suggestions?

    • Hi S Davis. I have the exact same problem with my black lab. I love him dearly and would love to find a solution to his coarse wiry back coat. Have you found a solution? Thanxs

      • I give by black lab mix about a tablespoon or so of coconut oil in her food and that has been helping her say nice and soft

      • I got my lab from the shelter and within a month of feeding her salmon oil (supplement you can find at specialty pet stores) her fur is significantly softer, shinier and her shedding has Decreased! Also, the salmon oil is her favorite and she gobbles up anything that it covers

  6. I have a young yellow lab. She doesn’t shed hair so much, but the floor is always covered with a light, powdery stuff that I think must be dander. I never had it before with other pets, but this stuff drifts everywhere. I have to sweep at least twice, sometimes three times, a day! Is this usual? Anyone else have a dander problem with labs?

  7. I have a yellow lab who is a professional guide dog. Talk about shedding it was an endless process. I have the dog grooming salon use the Furminator but now he is not shedding at all. I have been searching everywhere own the internet for why he stop. Was it because I had him Furminator monthly? If not then why did he stop shedding. I groom him consistently for he and I travel excessively and don’t want him to offend anyone. Just had him at the Vet for his Annual Wellness and he is in better shape then me…LOL Appreciate and Thank you for anyone who can answer my question.

    • I have an 8-year old retired guide dog- a yellow lab who is the most wonderful dog! Your comments about shedding in home, car…could have been written by me! It is August and she now has thick clumps of hair that can just be pulled out. I have figured she is well worth the shedding and I’ve just started wearing less black (she entered my life after 15 years of standard poodles and is truly an amazing gift!). Enjoy your gift!

  8. My yellow lab is 11 months old…this is second time he starts to shedding…i see hair falling of when he just walk…i groom him and there is no end..sometimes i fear ill take all of his hair out…can I overgroom my dog??

  9. Love my yellow lab and the yellow lab we had before him. Both shed an incredible amount but the joy they bring makes it tolerable to say the least. I’ve tried the Fulminator and the Kong brush but you can fill a trash bag every day and it still keeps coming. Truly amazing. Great article, makes a lot of sense.

  10. My Yellow Lab just had to have surgery for both ACLs, so his hips down to his feed have been shaved, as well has rump area for the IV. How can I encourage the yellow fur to come back in? Right now both hips are fairly white. It is like the undercoat is coming in but not his topcoat. But it has just been 2 weeks since his second surgery and 6 weeks since his first surgery.

  11. Good common sense article. I never wash my 2 labs (although have had them groomed around 6 monthly), keeps their coats shiny and healthy. If soiled, I find just let it dry out and brush the next day, it falls out. They love swimming, although often in the sea (an estuary so maybe mixed salt and river), I have read you should wash salt water off but haven’t done this and again their skin and coats are immaculate. Shedding not a major problem, but you need to keep a handheld vacuum around! Never trim, just use combs/brush/gloves. Dyson groom also great, although they don’t like the vacuum noise!

  12. My 2 yr Old lab sheds all his belly fur durring the summer. Is this normal?? Should I consult a vet? I’m concerned that she’s alergic to grass. It grows back in the winter. Any suggestions?

  13. We have a nine year old chocolate lab whose winter coat is very slow to shed completely off. He sheds terribly, and I can brush a trash bag full off of him daily, yet he still, in July, has gobs of lighter colored, “dead” hair, that is taking forever to come off. Usually, by July, he is a nice slick darker brown, but every year it seems to take longer. His coat look dull and scruffy, like a grizzly bear.

  14. I get the same shedding with my yellow lab the 3 tools that I use is the rubber groom zoom a large slicker and a rake I also use a dryer that gets about 90% of the undercoat..as far as the dander there’s a really good medicated shampoo it’s called dermabenss wash your dog lather it in and leave the shampoo on for 10 minutes and rinse well… are use the shampoo and I absolutely love it. This year is seems to be bad With double coated dogs I’m in grooming and I’m seeing it a lot this year.

  15. My Chocolate lab is almost 3 and is 112 lbs. she sheds badly and she fights being brushed and she has dandruff but not to bad. On the side of both her front elbows she is missing fur. She doesn’t get exercised as much as she should because I’m disabled with a terminal lung condition. She is still shining but not as much as when she was younger. She will take a bath but we can’t get her over knee deep in the water. So really I got 2 issues, she sheds all the time and she doesn’t really like water. She won’t even go out to relieve her self if it is raining, she waits until the rain quits.

    • Wow. That’s a big girl. Lol. My chocolate lab is 9 years old and weighs about 79lbs. He too has missing hair, on his elbows. The vet said it was just because he leans on them when he lays down. He also hates the water, we have a pool and he won’t get near it. Lol. Bob, my lab, hates the rain and will not eat, drink water, or go out if it’s raining. But he does enjoy getting groomed, by the groomer. And although his shedding drives me nuts, I wouldn’t trade him!!😍

  16. I have never been without a lab, they shed, never wash a lab as it removes their natural oils, feed with a very expensive food and give fish oil. never wash a lab! hunt and shoot ducks.

  17. I have a 90 lb 21/2 year black English lab goes swimming a lot in fresh water will jump in any body or puddle she sees loves the water runs right to even in the coldest winter days below zero. No problem. Started dandruff she is on. Salmon oil on her dry food from,the vet. Hope it helps

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