Labrador grooming- How to groom a Lab Retriever (STEP BY STEP)

Labrador grooming can be a time consuming and painstaking process, especially for novice dog owners. 

This is a process that requires you to be patient and dedicated even for experienced dog owners. 

Do not let this dog’s short fur fool you into thinking that he is low maintenance as this dog’s coat can be a handful.

One of the main reasons for this is the Labrador Retriever’s heavy shedding. These dogs shed moderately all year round and blow their coat twice every year (Fall and Spring).

They are also fond of playing in muddy pools, dust, grass, and stinky surfaces that to them look great.

You should also keep in mind that this dog was bred to be a retriever and has a high affinity to water and will jump into any water pool without considering its condition.

There are several ways that you can train your Lab to control his urge and impulse to jump into water. Check out our Labrador Retriever guide to get a better insight.

So how can you groom your Lab irrespective of his coat color? Keep on reading to find out more about what you should know about the Labrador Retriever grooming. 

How to trim a Labrador's nails

The labrador’s coat overview

Most dog lovers would be forgiven for thinking that the Labrador is one of the easiest dogs to groom.

The wonderful coat appearance can fool anyone into thinking that grooming him would be a walk in the park.

However, this is further from the truth and to see the reason for this we should briefly look at the Lab’s coat description.

You  may be interested in: The low-maintenance and calm Mexican Hairless dog (Xoloitzcuintli).

Labradors have short and dense double coats and are constant shedders. This means that they will need to be brushed frequently to keep shedding at the bare minimum.

You should always prepare this dog for Spring and Fall which are the seasons when he sheds the most by increasing the brushing frequency. 

These coats are also water-resistant.

So, now that we have looked at Labrador’s coat basics let us look at why it is important to groom him. 

Why is it important to groom a Lab?

  1. Grooming is a great time to strengthen the bond between you and your Lab as you get to spend some quality time together.
  2. To minimize shedding by removing dead and loose hair from the undercoat.
  3. Grooming your Labrador will improve his confidence.
  4. To keep the dog smelling fresh and shiny.
  5. As you groom your Lab you can see if he has any skin infections, injuries, growth, or abrasions that should be treated by your vet.
  6. To check and control parasites such as fleas or ticks.
Labrador have a high water affinity
Labradors have a high water affinity

How often should I groom my Labrador?

Brushing: Should be done at least 3 times a week. The brushing frequency should increase with an increase in shedding.

Bathing: Should be done after every 6 weeks preferably or when it is completely necessary. It is also common for some Labs to be bathed after every 3 to 4 days with medicated shampoo to treat certain skin conditions (should only be done with a vet’s approval).

Trimming the nails should be done every 2-weeks at least.

The ears should be cleaned every week.

Dental care is essential and should be done a least 4 times a week.

You should never clip/shave the Labrador’s coat as this can destroy the undercoat which may fail to regrow back correctly.

Which tools and supplies will I need to groom a Lab Retriever?

Slicker brush:

This arguably the most important brush for a Labrador Retriever one that is used by most dog owners often.

A slicker brush will help get rid of knots, tangles, loose and dead hair.

Bristle brush:

Penetrates the dog’s undercoat during brushing and should do this without scratching the skin.

This brush also distributes coat oils which leaves the coat looking healthy and shiny.

Most used during the finishing touches.

Pin brush:

Brushes the dog’s coat reaching the undercoat.

It should be designed to reduce skin irritations that may occur when you brush a Labrador.

Hand mint grooming glove:

Grooming gloves are not only great for improving Labrador’s grooming experience and are easy to use.

Unlike the bristle and pin brush, a hand glove only removes dead hair from the topcoat.

Steel comb:

Steel combs are great for removing any knots/tangles that may be on the Lab’s coat.

The Labrador’s tails, neck, underbelly, and ears are notorious for tangling and knotting regularly.

Booster baths:

Instead of using your bath tab or bathing your Labrador outside on the grass, a booster bath will be a great alternative.

Booster baths are also great for people that suffer from back pains as it eliminates the issue of having to lean for extended periods.

You can also invest in dog ramp, instead of having to lift your dog every time you want to bath him.

Bathing shampoo:

Different shampoos are depending on your needs and the dog’s skin condition.

You may be recommended to use an allergy-friendly shampoo for Labs with sensitive skin.

Your veterinarian may also recommend a medicated shampoo if your pooch has a skin condition that needs treating.

Some doggie shampoo may need to be mixed with water before being applied to the dog. Check the instruction manual for this.

Towels and dry cleaners:

These are obvious Lab grooming supplies for thoroughly drying your canine friend every bath.

Blunt edge scissors:

For trimming the hair around the ears and paw pads.

Other essential grooming supplies:

  • Nails clippers (guillotine-style trimmers)
  • Toothbrush
  • Doggie toothpaste
  • Cotton balls
  • Ear cleaning solution

How to groom a Labrador Retriever

Step 1: Bathing

Labrador Retrievers should only be bathed when it is completely necessary such as when they are dirty or smelly.

Bathing this dog too often will strip the coat of essential oils causing the skin to dry up.

Some Labradors love taking baths while others despise it although they have a strong affinity to swimming. It all depends on the bathing experience and the dog’s personality.

However, you can condition your Lab to love baths through positive reinforcement and rewarding him for being cooperative as you bath him.

When using a bath tab, you should take care of the pooch to make sure that he does not slip and hurt himself.

Labrador grooming

How to bath a Labrador

  1. Brush the coat to make sure that there are no tangles on the coat before you bath him.
  2. Cover the ears with cotton balls to keep water and shampoo.
  3. Wet the coat thoroughly. And because this dog has a water-resistant coat you should gently rub his coat as you pour water on him. Make sure no water gets into the eyes or ears.
  4. Pour shampoo on the Labrador and lather his coat using gentle circular motions. Avoid the eyes and ears completely as you do this.
  5. Rinse the Lab thoroughly and make sure that no shampoo is left on the coat after you do this.
  6. Repeat the above process one more time and rinse thoroughly.
  7. Take your dog off the water or drain the water.
  8. Use a clean and dry towel to dry the dog’s coat. Use a second towel to dry the dog further.
  9. Using a blow dryer, set the heat to low and thoroughly dry the dog’s coat once again.
  10. Let your Labrador sit indoors for a while.

Step 2: Brushing

The Labrador Retriever needs should be brushed at least 3 times a week to keep his coat clean. 

This will also help make the coat shine by distributing natural oils in the undercoat.

During the heavy shedding season (when he is blowing out his coat) daily brushing is highly recommended.

In the hot season, brushing comes in handy in helping the dog to cool down by allowing free airflow.

But remember the more you brush your Lab the less fur you will have to deal with within your home.


How to brush a Labrador’s coat

  1. Spray the Labrador’s coat with a detangling spray to make it easier to brush.
  2. Using your slicker brush loosen up any dead hair in the coat using circular motions. Gentle circular motions will help stimulate the skin glands to secrete oils which gives the Lab an adorable sheen.
  3. With the same slicker brush, brush the hair against the hair growth direction to loosen up more hair in the undercoat.
  4. Then brush the coat in the hair growth direction to remove the dead hair.
  5. Using a steel comb, go over the brushed areas of the coat to remove any knots and tangles that the slicker brush may have missed.
  6. Pay more attention to the neck region, the tail, around the ears, and the underbelly.
  7. To finish off use a bristle brush or grooming glove for the final touches and brush in the hair growth direction.

Step 3: Ear care

Labradors, especially those that swim often is prone to suffering from ear infections if the ears are not regularly checked and properly cleaned.

If your canine friend is constantly scratching his ear you should check the out. You may notice redness, bad smell, or bumps and you should visit your vet immediately.

Also, if the ears are clean and the dog still constantly scratches but you may not be seeing any signs of an infection or injury, you should also visit the vet.

How to clean a Lab’s ears

To begin with, this is not a process I would suggest to anyone that does not have experience cleaning dogs’ ears. Any mistakes could cause injuries to the dog and do more harm.

Also never use Q-tips to clean the ears.

When cleaning a Labrador’s ears you want to focus on the outer area of the pooch’s ears without going deep. Going too deep could easily damage the ear canal.

You will need an ear cleaning solution (consult the vet) and cotton balls.

Dip your cotton ball in the ear cleaning solution then massage the outer part of the ear canal to loosen up any wax and dirt.

Then use another cotton ball, dip it in the solution, and gently move the wax/dirt away from the ears.

Repeat this until all the debris and wax are removed leaving the ear clean.

After you are done use a clean and dry cloth to wipe the ears.

Step 4: Clean the eyes

It is common to see tear stains on a Lab’s face close to the eyes, especially on yellow Labs.

To clean any tear stains below the Labrador’s eyes you will need a doggie eye cleaning saline such as Hydrogen Peroxide. 

Before you clean the tear stains, it is recommended that you use some mineral oil drops to protect the dog’s eyes from the solution.

Dip a cotton ball in the saline solution, apply it on the tear stain, let it sit for a while.

The tear stain should slowly dissolve from the eye cleaning solution.

You can also use a soft, clean and damp cloth to wipe “gunk” from the corner of the eyes. Gunk is a mucus-like discharge that should not be yellow or green.

Check under the eyelids by using your finger to gently pull down the lower eyelid for inspection. Do the same for the upper eyelids.

You should get your canine’s eyes checked by a veterinarian in case of the following; 

  • The dog shows any signs of irritation.
  • If you see any discharge.
  • Change in the appearance of the eyes.
  • If the eyes have a bluish tinge or look cloudy.
  • Redness.

Step 5: Clipping the nails

Labrador Retrievers are very playful dogs and having long nails could easily hurt them. It also makes it difficult for the dog to walks correctly and uncomfortable.

While clipping the nails, we are only aiming to trim the tips to save the dog from any pain that may be caused by cutting too deep.

Yellow Labs are the easiest as you will need to look for the nails’ quick and cut trim the nail just above it.

For black Labs, spotting this quick can be quite difficult as the nails are also black. Look from the bottom side of the nail and only cut the round tip of the nails.

You will need to have a “quick stop” in case you happen to cut the quick.

Dog nail quick
Labrador Dog nail quick

Step 6: Dental care

If possible you should brush your Labrador’s teeth daily to remove plaque/tartar and prevent it from building up.

A soft doggie brush and toothpaste formulated for dogs should be enough for this.

Brushing the teeth is pretty straightforward.

Lift the dog’s lips and gently brush the teeth’s surface the same way you would brush a kid.

Sometimes dental chews and treats can come handy when it comes to cleaning and strengthening a Labrador’s teeth.

Frequently asked questions

What should I do if my Lab is smelly?

If you recently gave your Labrador a bath and he gets smelly, you can use apple cider vinegar relief. Use a clean cloth, dampen it with the apple cider vinegar and rub it on your canine friend until he is wet. Then rinse him with clean water and dry the dog. This should get rid of any unpleasant smell without destroying the dog’s protective oil film.

How can I stop my Labrador from shedding?

You cannot stop your Labrador from shedding but you can reduce the amount of shedding by frequent brushing. You should brush the coat at least 3 times a week to minimize shedding during the moderate shedding season and daily during the blow out seasons.

How much does it cost to groom a Labrador?

To groom a Labrador you should expect anywhere between $90 and $250 for a full and comprehensive groom. The size of the dog and the length of the fur will also affect the cost of grooming.

My Final Take

If you have gone through the above process and understood it, it may be time to do grooming by yourself.

However, if you are a new dog owner some of the processes above such as nail clipping and cleaning the ears should be done a professional groomer.

Also, if you are still not comfortable with any of the grooming processes above you should visit a groomer and observe how he/she grooms your Labrador.

So, was this grooming helpful to you? 

Let us know in the comment section below.

There you go, WOOF!

You may also like

How to toilet train a puppy-Complete Step by Step guide