So, you’ve gone out and got yourself a Labrador Retriever, or you’re considering getting one, and you want to know what sort of hairy litter you can expect on your clothes and furniture? You’ve come to the right place!
While there are a few dog breeds such as the Portuguese Water Dog and Afghan Hound that don’t shed their fur, it’s generally accepted that most breeds do. Unfortunately, Labrador Retrievers fall into the “do” column rather than the “don’t” column.
(image of a happy-looking Labrador)
In fact, they don’t just shed, they shed A LOT!
No matter the colour of your Labrador, you can expect to find dog hair on your clothes, carpets and floors, furniture, and body as well as on your dog. The amount of shedding they’re capable of might even make you wonder how they aren’t bald 80% of the time!
Whilst this doesn’t affect the lovely disposition and dedicated nature of Labradors, nor their suitability as family pets, it is a factor to consider before jumping in with the commitment. As we’ve all been told numerous times by dog charities and animal advocacy groups: dogs are for life, not just for Christmas.
It’s therefore important to understand all the factors at play, including the hairy details (yes, I went there), so without further ado, here’s what you need to know!
What Causes Dogs to Shed?
Shedding is a natural part of life for most dog breeds, the Labrador retriever included, and it will be a life-long occurrence. Although shedding happens year-round, there are a few factors that can exacerbate the issue which are outlined briefly below:
You’ve probably heard the phrase “I’m so stressed my hair is falling out” at some point in your life, or worse yet, lived that experience yourself. Unfortunately, Labradors can suffer the same fate when placed under undue or prolonged stress. They’re fun-loving dogs that just want a happy life; I’m sure you can relate!
(image of Labrador playing fetch/frisbee/ball)
Unluckily for Labradors, despite being adorable and generally low-maintenance in terms of coat-care, they are prone to certain skin conditions that can worsen shedding. Skin conditions can include examples of parasites, fungal and bacterial infections, yeast infections, and dandruff – yes, dogs can get dandruff too.
(image of a skin condition or fleas in a Labrador)
This won’t apply to all Labradors as like humans, they’re all different. Some will have allergies and others won’t, and these allergies might be to different stimuli, some of which might cause increased shedding. Certain weeds, grasses, and pollens are common aggravators.
It’s also worth noting that as well as allergies causing shedding in dogs, dog shedding can also cause allergy flare-ups in humans.
The more a Labrador’s fur is disturbed, the more it is likely to shed. This means that if a Labrador gets fleas, lice, or any other infestation or condition that could lead to him or her feeling itchy, the result is going to be increased scratching and subsequently increased hair loss. Particularly persistent or aggressive scratching can essentially pull hairs out as your dog tries to relieve the itchy sensation.
This might seem like an obvious one but it’s still something that a lot of people are surprised by when summer rolls around – heat can lead to more shedding. The reason for this is simple: dogs that are warm require less fur to regulate their body temperature than when it’s cold.
The Heat Cycle
When female dogs are in heat, they often shed more fur than they do normally. The increase in oestrogen that comes with the heat cycle instinctually urges the female to find a mate, and these changes happening in her body can be very stressful, leading to increased hair loss.
There may be other causes for shedding but these are definitely the most prominent ones. Keeping these factors in mind can help you to anticipate and deal with your Labrador’s increased shedding.
Why Do Labradors Shed So Much?
If you’ve had other dogs in the past, or if your Labrador currently has a companion of another breed, you might have noticed that Labradors shed a lot more than some other kinds of dogs. This is because Labradors are double-coated.
Double-coated fur is exactly what it sounds like: it has two layers to it. The top layer is more protective in function whereas the undercoat’s purpose is to keep the lab warm. Because Labradors have essentially double the amount of fur as single-coated breeds, it makes complete sense that they would shed more.
As we mentioned briefly earlier, the colour of your Labrador makes no difference to the amount of shedding that they’ll experience. This is because all lab colours, be it yellow, chocolate, black, fox red, or snow white, are double-coated.
The only difference colour makes in this situation is that you’ll likely be able to see certain coloured hairs more easily than others. If you’ve got white tiled floors, then black, chocolate, and red hairs will show up more easily, but if you’ve got dark purple carpets then white and yellow hairs will be more noticeable (you get the idea!).
How to Deal with Labrador Shedding
Whilst shedding cannot be stopped, there are ways to make it more manageable. Finding clumps of hair everywhere you go or collecting on your hand every time you stroke your furry best friend can be frustrating so these are some strategies that might help to lessen the mess, so to speak.
Thorough Grooming Practices
One of the best things you can do to minimise shedding is to practice proper grooming. Keeping your Labrador’s coat in tip-top condition will help to keep shedding under control by removing the hairs purposefully instead of allowing them to fall off and collect randomly.
Generally, it’s only necessary to brush your Labrador a couple of times per week as their coats are short and typically low maintenance, however you might want to increase this to daily sessions during peak shedding seasons to make the increased fur loss more manageable.
(image of a dog brush)
Regular but spaced-out shampooing can also help to curb excessive shedding as once again, it’s an opportunity to purposefully remove hair before it collects in your carpet. Although shampooing should be regular, you should only shampoo your Labrador every two to three months, unless your dog gets visibly soiled. You can shampoo more frequently provided you use a very gentle product.
There are also certain medicated shampoos on the market that can target shedding to minimise it at its core, although you should only use such products under the advisement of your vet.
This will undoubtedly seem like advice that doesn’t need to be said but you came here for information so here’s some information! Clean up after your dog as and when they shed.
Not only will this minimise any build-up of fur collections in your furniture and clothes, it will also allow you to monitor your dog’s shedding. If you’re regularly cleaning up your Labrador’s hair, you’ll be able to tell when they’re shedding more or less than usual, and this could help you to pinpoint potential triggers.
You might not be able to eliminate any of these triggers once you identify them (you can’t skip summer and make it so that the weather is cool all the time), but you might be able to implement different strategies for tackling them (in the case of summer triggering increased shedding, you could try introducing a fan or aironditioner to your home, or give your Labrador cool baths to keep them from overheating).
During peak shedding seasons, a good vacuum cleaner can be your best friend. It might be a good idea to invest in a high-quality hand-held or cordless one to make sure you get all the fur in those hard-to-reach places.
(image of a cordless vacuum)
Modifying Your Labrador’s Diet
If you find that your dog is shedding an unusual amount or that the shedding is particularly persistent despite employing other management techniques, it could be down to a hormonal imbalance or nutrient deficiency. Modifying your Labrador’s diet can help to rectify issues such as these and in turn, reduce shedding to a normal level.
When in doubt, it’s always best to consult your vet to ensure any changes you want to make are going to benefit your dog without leaving any unsavoury effects. Labradors, like any dog breed, need to have a balanced diet to ensure optimal health. You’ll also need to take your dog’s age into account here as puppies will require different volumes of foods and nutrients to what a fully grown dog will need.
Making sure their food has sufficient concentrations of omega fatty acids and other good fats will help to keep their coats and skin healthy. There are also certain vegetables (ones safe for dogs to consume, of course) that can help to replenish any vitamins or minerals that are deficient.
(omega fatty acid symbol or graphic)
Spending More Time Outdoors
If you don’t want a lot of hair being shed in your house, there’s a very simple solution: take your lab outside more! Labradors love playing and sniffing, so they’ll be grateful for the extra adventures.
There are plenty of places that are ideal dog-walking and exploring spots such as the beach, woods, countryside or local park (assuming there are dog-friendly examples nearby) and keeping your dog outside for longer will mean less fur is shed inside your house.
This also means less clean-up for you.
When spending time outdoors with your lab though, it’s very important to bear their health and limitations in mind. Make sure they don’t overheat in the sun by providing them with cool drinking water and shade where possible, and make sure any tarmac or concrete you walk on isn’t too hot for their paws.
Similarly, make sure any cold weather conditions don’t adversely affect them either. Spend more time outdoors, but do so sensibly.
So, What Does It All Mean?
Labrador Retrievers are amazing dogs and will be loyal to you to the very end. Having coats that shed a lot certainly won’t change this. In fact, you could even say that cleaning up a bit of hair every so often is a small price to pay for such an intelligent, devoted, and adorable companion.
(image of a child hugging a Labrador)
Shedding does fluctuate across the course of the year and there are things you can do to manage it so it’s definitely not worth considering the shedding a deal-breaker.
That said, if the maintenance and clean-up aren’t for you, then neither is a Labrador. Before buying or adopting any dog, always consider all the factors and implications so you know exactly what you’re getting yourself in for.