Dear Pet Lovers:
I just inherited a family member’s black lab – I have never owned a dog before and am wondering about grooming. Do labs need to be groomed? And if so, what needs to be done?
Lucy in PA
Labs shed. Yellow labs shed consistently throughout the year, while black and chocolate labs lose nearly their entire coat twice each year – in the spring and the fall. So some grooming is in order. The good news is you can do most of the grooming at home. Here are a few ways to keep your new pet in tip-top shape:
Brush brush brush. During shedding season, you will have to brush your lab every day. For the rest of the year, once or twice a week will suffice. Use a special dog brush (ask your local pet store what they recommend for your lab) which will remove dead hair and help to distribute the natural oils all labs have in their fur. During high shedding season, you can use a brush designed for when labs are shedding their coat to assist in brushing off dead fur – do it outside because you won’t believe how much fur comes off.
Bathe during shedding season. When your lab is in the height of shedding season, a bath is the best way to hurry up the process. If you bathe her two – three times a week during this time, you can get the dead coat off quickly so the new coat can come in. It’s a good idea to head to a self-serve dog washing place (many pet store chains have them, like Pet Smart) so you can leave the mess behind. You can also do it at home – outside with a warm water hose is optimal. You can either use a dog shampoo or just water and work your fingers really thoroughly through her entire coat. Then you can speed up the process by blowing her coat dry with a hair dryer set on warm , while brushing the fur in the opposite direction of its natural nap to get rid of all the old fur. Warning – it’s a mess.
As for bathing the rest of the year? If you keep up with the once or twice a week brushing, you don’t really need to bathe labs unless they roll in something (which can happen often:-)). The natural oils keep their fur in good shape without regular bathing.
Nails. Labs’ nails grow fast so you can trim them yourself once or twice a month – but have an expert show you first as it’s very tricky to determine where to cut the nail without hurting your dog. We recommend heading to a professional - it’s relatively cheap – $10-$20.
Enjoy your new pet!