Dear Dr. Zeus, I’ve seen you on TV and have admired pictures of you – you have such a beautiful coat. Do you use a special shampoo and/or conditioner? Is there a benefit to using a dog formulated product? – Buddy, a mixed breed from Chicago
Dear Buddy, Why thank you! In the Labrador community there are all types of coats as I’m sure holds true for most other breeds. Typically black labs have the best overall “true” lab coat – coarse, thick, and for the most part water resistant. According to the AKC (American Kennel Club), the standard lab coat is short, straight and very dense, giving a fairly hard feeling to the hand with a soft, weather-resistant undercoat that provides protection from water, cold and all types of ground cover. You can see the full description here.
My coat differs throughout the year. It’s amazing when I’m in full coat, I look 20 pounds heavier and my neck is like a linebacker – unfortunately my parents tend to feed me less at this point which is always a bummer for a lab. When my coat sheds (which seems to be 2 times a year, the worst being in December), I look like a lean, mean hunting machine (which I am for all intents and purposes). I feel fast and light and can run like the wind. When I was showing a lot, I would get baths regularly and my parents and handler used a shampoo and conditioner called #1 All Systems Super-Rich Protein Lotion Pet Conditioner. It always had me looking my best as I trotted around the ring pursuing my champion and grand champion titles. When I’m not showing, I usually just get hosed off if (but more like when) I get dirty, which for a lab is usually enough! Soaps can soften and remove natural oils from the coat, making the coat much less effective. Have you heard of “like water off a duck’s back”?
A lab’s coat should work the same way! Water should wash over the dog as opposed to penetrating though the fur to the skin. If a lab’s coat is correct, water should not reach the downy layers of fur or skin. If water doesn’t roll off that’s okay, it’s doesn’t mean you have a bad coat, it just means you may carry a little more water with you in your coat. If your family wants you smelling nice and feeling clean, it’s certainly okay to get bathed and shampooed. But there’s nothing like that earthy feel and smell for me. I don’t stay clean for long – one of my favorite things to do is roll on my back and rub it on the ground, floor, carpet, or couch, anything to get a good scratch.
Brush Your Troubles Away!
Brushing is another matter. I’m not a big fan but keep in mind that I’ve had my coat brushed almost every weekend for the greater part of a year whilst standing on a grooming table. So like I said, I’m not a big fan when the brush comes out. There are a variety of brushes for different purposes but the common one my parents use is a pin brush. My non-show dog sister, Java, got the FURminator deShed Tool Dog Lrg/Yellow Long Hair which works pretty well in getting all that loose hair out. But it tends to break the hair as well so that is why it’s “banned” in our house from us show dogs. All in all, Labradors’ coats are more “wet and wear” than “wash and wear”. We don’t need much maintenance which saves everyone time and water. I hope that helps.
Dirt Shampoo For Labradors!
There are some in the Labrador show world who never give their dogs a bath! They believe that any bath will ruin the dog’s coat for the show ring. While I am all for maintaining a harsh correct coat, I also think that presenting a smelly dirty dog is inconsiderate to the judge and just plain wrong. If you maintain your dog’s coat with frequent brushing, hose downs when required, and a shampoo bath before the show (we usually try for the day before so the coat can settle a bit), you will present a clean, healthy coat on your Labrador. The judge will be much happier for not having to wash their hands after examining your dog!
The Other Retrievers
Obviously there are other breeds besides Labradors! The Chesapeake Bay Retriever and Curly-Coated Retriever have similar needs to the Labrador. That is, weekly brushing and occasional baths. With these breeds maintaining the coat is a relatively easy proposition, even for a show dog. Now with the Flat-Coated Retriever, Golden Retriever, and Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever you need to be much more consciences about maintaining their coats. Keeping them out of the “bramblies” is one thing to do and making sure they are brushed regularly gets rid of old dead hair and keeps your retrievers coat in a healthy state. They definitely need baths on a bit more frequent basis than the average Labrador as it helps keep away all the tangles that happen from a good day on the hunt or playing in the mud!
Do you have a shampoo and conditioner that you recommend?
Category : Ask Dr. Zeus