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Caring For Your Labrador's CoatCaring for the coat of a Labrador retriever is not much of a problem. The short, dense hair is easily groomed with a daily application of a hound glove or bristle brush. The coat is basically dirt and water repellent, and seldom becomes offensive.
There is little shedding, even though the Labrador loses its undercoat once or twice yearly. Coat trimming is unnecessary (although sometimes resorted to by show competitors who feel tidying is necessary to highlight this or downplay that aspect of conformation).
Bathing should not be a routine matter, but should only be undertaken when absolutely necessary (such as that unexpected meeting with a local skunk, a roll in the mud, or the presence of an accumulated "doggy odor" from the oils in the coat). Washing a Labrador too frequently eliminates too much of the natural oils that give the outer coat its desired harshness. Soap residue can also dry out the skin and be irritating to the dog.
Yellows may need to be bathed a little more frequently than blacks or chocolates, as their coat may pick up some discoloration from grass and dirt. This can often be taken care of by spot washing only the main contact points - the lower legs and thighs.
When bathing is needed, be sure to use a very mild soap designed especially for the dog's coat - not commercial products for humans, which are much too drying for a dog. When bathing the dog, work the water down through the dense outer coat to the skin.
Afterward, be very careful to dry the dog thoroughly. It may sound silly to worry about a Labrador retriever getting a chill from a bath, when a hunting Labrador often spends many hours diving in and out of icy waters without so much as a shiver.
However, the bathing process temporarily removes some of the dog's natural water-repellent oils and gets the dog wet at the skin. At this point, even a water dog is vulnerable to temperature extremes, so be cautious.
A word of caution: Should you notice a change in coat appearance, such as a dulling of the normal sheen, inspect the skin closely for signs of parasite infestation or other skin disorders. If the dog begins to scratch incessantly or chew its coat and skin, there is an irritation present that must be diagnosed by a competent veterinarian.
Recent nutritional studies have shown that many such skin problems can be 'traced to allergic reactions to food additives or other substances. A change in the natural oils of the coat' may point to metabolic problems involving the liver, kidneys, or the digestive tract. The loss of hair may be tied to hormonal imbalances, or could be due to infectious mange.
The point is that the coat is often an indicator of general health and should not be overlooked just because the Labrador is lucky enough not to need much attention paid to it.
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