If you’re considering getting a Labrador, you won’t be disappointed, as they are a popular breed. You will undoubtedly have many questions, including how to care for them, particularly grooming their beautiful coats. You may also wonder whether Labradors shed.
Labradors do shed. They are naturally heavy shedders due to their double coat and consistently shed all year round. Shedding also becomes extremely heavy in the spring and fall seasons when clumps of their dense undercoat fall out in line with the season change and variation in temperature.
This heavy shedding is typical of breeds with a double coat like the Labrador Retriever, even though they are short-haired. In the doggy world, it’s known as “blowing the coat.”
To fully understand the best methods of controlling your Lab’s shedding, you’ll need to understand why he’s shedding so much in the first place. Knowing what to expect, you’ll be better prepared to deal with shedding when it occurs.
In this post, you’ll learn all about Labrador Shedding. I’ll tell you:
- Why Labradors shed
- Recognizing abnormal shedding
- When shedding season starts and ends and what to expect
- Shedding solutions, including reducing and controlling shedding
When we get to solutions, I’ll give you my 7 top tips on reducing shedding in your Labrador.
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Why Do Labradors Shed So Much?
You’d be surprised how much some short-haired dogs actually shed! You will find clumps of fur in places you never imagined, from your kitchen drawers to the insides of your jacket pockets! It gets everywhere! To further understand why Labradors shed so much, we need to look at the type of coat he has.
Labradors shed heavily due to their dense double coat. The topcoat is wiry, rough, and waterproof, whereas the undercoat has a layer of fine soft hairs providing cooling in summer and insulation in winter. As the hair goes through its normal growth cycle, old and damaged hair will molt.
Double-coated breeds have two layers of fur. When looking at dog coat genetics, each hair follicle will have 1-2 topcoat (guard) hairs and several undercoat hairs. Puppies are born with a single coat but will start to develop their adult coat from 3 months of age, lasting until they are around one year old.
Wolves, the closest living ancestor to the domestic dog, also have a double coat, which is presumed to be the ancestral trait. However, the undercoat is absent in single-coated breeds, caused by a gene mutation, and thus they shed less because the undercoat is more prone to molting with the change of season.
If we look back at the history of the Labrador, they needed their thick, wooly undercoat to protect them from the cold when swimming and to retrieve in icy waters. Their guard coat provided them with an extra waterproof layer. Labradors still make excellent outside working dogs because they can withstand a wide range of weather conditions.
Watch This Cool Time-Lapse Video of a Labrador Being De-shedded…
Which Color Labs Shed The Most?
You may have heard that the yellow Lab sheds the most or that the black Lab is the least shedding, or that the chocolate Lab sheds more than a black Lab. So, which is true and which color of Lab sheds the most?
All colors of Labrador shed the same, whether chocolate, black or yellow. Coat color has no impact on the amount of shedding or grooming required. It’s a complete myth that one particular color will shed more or less than another. All Labs have the same characteristics, no matter their coat color.
I think the confusion may have come from some owners believing yellow Labs shed more due to having dark-colored carpets, whereby the yellow fur would obviously be more noticeable! And vice-versa, dark-colored fur will undoubtedly show up more on light-colored carpet and flooring.
There is also no difference in shedding in the rarer long-haired Labradors, who molt equally the same.
If you are truly looking for a Labrador that sheds less, consider a Labradoodle (Labrador and Poodle mix). The Poodle is a low shedding breeding; therefore, your cross won’t shed as much as a purebred Lab.
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Labrador Shedding Season
You might not know that the shedding habits of the Labrador follow a schedule, in a sense. There are certain months when Labs shed the most in addition to their normal year-round shedding. So, when exactly is the Labrador shedding season?
Labrador shedding season occurs twice a year, specifically in the spring and fall. This is when your dog will change or “blow” his coat which takes 2-3 weeks, sometimes longer. Therefore, Lab shedding season occurs during September, October, or November and March, April, and May.
Your Labrador changes his coat when the seasons change, allowing him to adjust to the new climate. He will shed his old winter undercoat as the weather warms, making room for a lighter summer coat. When the weather becomes colder, he will shed his lighter undercoat and acquire a thick, warm coat in preparation for the winter. This allows him to be comfortable during the entire year.
For about two to three weeks each time, his thick undercoat will begin coming out in clumps. You won’t fail to notice it flying everywhere! The shedding will be quite intense during this time whilst your dog molts all of his dead undercoat.
Although the period in which your Labrador “blows his coat” will be the worst when it comes to shedding, he will continue to shed regularly all year-round. This is completely natural and all part of the normal growth cycle and molting in your dog’s hair.
This year-round shedding is the same for all Labradors, no matter their color, as mentioned previously.
Why is My Lab Shedding So Much All of a Sudden? Abnormal Shedding
Now that you have a good understanding of your Labrador’s typical shedding schedule, you also need to be aware that not all shedding is normal. Some hair loss patterns indicate health issues that a veterinarian should treat. If your Lab suddenly starts to shed unnaturally, you’ll need to find out why.
Labradors may shed suddenly (outside their typical pattern) due to health reasons. Causes include a poor diet, dehydration, allergies, parasites, or stress, and anxiety. Less common reasons are hypothyroidism, Cushing’s disease, underdeveloped hair follicles, pregnancy, or a medication reaction.
Experts can distinguish between normal shedding and fur loss caused by health, nutritional, and environmental factors. The following signs and symptoms can identify abnormal shedding:
- Dry or brittle hair
- Irritation, open sores, blisters
- Bald patches
- Dislike of petting
So, what’s the deal with these anomalies? Let’s look in more detail at the factors that can cause atypical fur loss in dogs:
- Poor diet. A healthy balanced diet provides a steady supply of essential nutrients. Your Labrador’s hair needs these nutrients to stay securely in the hair follicles. As such, a poor diet with deficient nutrients will cause hair loss.
- Dehydration. When your dog is dehydrated, blood flow and oxygen delivery to tissues and organs, including the skin, are compromised. The decrease in skin suppleness causes the fur to fall out effortlessly.
- Parasites, ticks, lice, and fleas. All of these itches your dog’s skin, and as a result, he will bite or scratch. This causes the pet’s fur to fall out, and the chewed skin can become infected.
- Underdeveloped hair follicles. This can be congenital, although it isn’t always hereditary. Hair follicles do not develop properly, resulting in patchy or total hair loss.
- Cushing’s disease. A benign tumor causes this in the pituitary, which causes excessive production of the stress hormone cortisol, causing hair loss in dogs. 100,000 dogs are diagnosed with Cushing’s disease each year, with dogs older than six years at greater risk.
- Hypothyroidism. Symptoms of hypothyroidism include increased shedding, hair loss, and thinning. However, it’s not a prevalent disorder in dogs, and Labradors are not among the three most prone breeds.
- Skin trauma. Abnormal shedding can be caused by skin trauma such as bacterial and fungal infections, food and other allergies, some pet drugs such as steroids, inflammatory disease, and burns. Temporary hair loss can also occur during pregnancy, nursing, or when recovering from an illness.
- Stress and anxiety. Behavioral problems that cause stress and anxiety, such as separation anxiety or OCD, can drive your Labrador to chew his hair and skin, leaving patches. Acral lick dermatitis is the name of this ailment. Parasites and other allergic conditions can also cause it.
Whatever the cause of your dog’s unnatural shedding, prevention and solutions are similar to controlling normal heavy shedding, whether year-round or seasonal.
Labrador Shedding Solutions
Owning a Labrador is a gratifying experience. But, it does come with its downside. No matter what time of year it is, your dog won’t stop shedding! There is no solution to stop shedding completely, but you can certainly do things to reduce and control it.
Learn More on Labrador Shedding Solutions from this YouTube Video…
How to Reduce Labrador Shedding: 7 Top Tips
If you jumped straight to this section, here’s my TL;DR answer on how to reduce Labrador shedding…
To reduce Labrador shedding, brush daily, and use a de-shedding tool twice per week and more often during heavy shedding seasons. Feed a diet that targets a healthy coat and skin, including Omega fatty acids. Ensure he is always hydrated, bathe him 3-4 times a year, and control fleas and parasites.
It’s best, in my opinion, to attack your Labrador’s shedding from all angles. That’s why I’ve compiled a list of seven easy-to-implement strategies for reducing and controlling your Labrador’s shedding. So, here are my more in-depth solutions…
1. Get a Labrador De-shedding Tool
The best way to groom your Labrador is with a de-shedding tool designed especially for a double coat. These tools cater to your Lab’s dense undercoat and dig out any loose hairs that might otherwise be spread all over your home! They are ideal to use when your dog is “blowing his coat.” You’ll need to use this tool twice per week during this time.
I use the FURminator undercoat de-shedding tool from Amazon. It really does an excellent job by removing all the dead and loose hair as it reaches through your dog’s guard coat without damaging it or cutting his skin. I’ve tried other de-shedding tools over the years, but I’ve never found one as good as the FURminator.
2. Get a Labrador Shedding Brush
Just like most dogs, your Labrador will shed all year round. You can’t stop it entirely, but brushing regularly with a slicker brush will keep his hair from always finding its way onto your furniture and flooring.
It doesn’t take all that much effort to brush him daily either! Depending on your doggo, 2-3 times per week may be sufficient. There are many good slicker brushes that you can get for your Labrador’s topcoat that will remove pet dander and keep him looking smart.
I like the Hertzko Self Cleaning Slicker Brush from Amazon. It’s also great for getting rid of tangled hair and super simple to use. It’s easy to clean, too, as it has a button that you click, which removes all the fur from the brush (like the FURminator).
All you need to do is brush your Labrador’s entire coat a few times, and the amount of hair he sheds will be drastically reduced, compared to if you only groomed him once a week.
3. Groom and Bathe Your Lab 3-4 Times a Year
So, as I previously stated, your Labrador will change his coat twice a year, once in the fall and once in the spring. Though you won’t be able to prevent the hair clumps from eventually falling out, bathing and brushing him during these times will assist in getting rid of more of it at once.
Instead of letting his undercoat fall out naturally over the course of this period, you can loosen any leftover fur and remove it at bathing time. Never over-bathe as this strips your Labradors’ natural oils causing dry skin, which then causes further shedding.
There are also special de-shedding dog shampoos to loosen the undercoat during the bath. You can even find ones enhanced with Omega 3 & 6 fatty acids, such as the FURminator deShedding Ultra Premium Dog Shampoo from Amazon, which helps reduce shedding. I’ll cover the benefits of these at number 7 below.
4. Switch to Food That Targets The Coat and Skin
You may have already given some thought to the food you feed your Labrador, but did you realize that the type of food you feed him has a significant impact on his shedding habits?
Inexpensive dog food is largely made of ingredients that some dogs have difficulty digesting, such as corn and grain, not to mention added preservatives and chemicals. Instead, choose a dog food with a high-quality protein source as the primary ingredient. A protein deficiency results in a dull and unkempt coat.
If your Labrador is not receiving proper nutrition, the protein he’s receiving will maintain muscle mass, leaving the coat to suffer. I have a giant guide on the best diet for Labradors if you are looking for more information on canine nutrition, the various types of diet for your dog, and exactly what he can and can’t eat.
Sure, it costs more, but it will help your Labrador by not only reducing his daily shedding but maintaining a long and healthy life. By selecting food that targets the nutritional needs of your Labrador, he’ll maintain a nice healthy coat, and you can greatly reduce the amount of year-round shedding.
5. Keep You Lab Hydrated
You might not even realize it, but allowing your Labrador to drink more water daily can reduce the amount of shedding! That’s because dogs will shed more when they’re dehydrated.
You can improve your dog’s overall health and reduce the amount of hair that ends up all over your house by giving him about one ounce of water for every pound of body weight.
Consider getting a dog water fountain such as the Petsafe Drinkwell from Amazon that encourages your dog to drink and saves you from constantly changing his water. I particularly like this one as it has two tiers and includes carbon filters to remove bad tastes and odors from the water.
Tip! In the summer, you can give your Labrador ice cubes to keep him hydrated. You can also treat your doggo to frozen fruits such as raspberries or strawberries to help quench his thirst. These make a healthy alternative to commercial treats.
6. Stay Up-to-Date With Flea Treatment
Flea treatments will not prevent your Labrador from shedding, but they will stop him from scratching and nibbling at himself excessively if he gets a tick or flea!
The more your dog tirelessly scratches to release himself from the discomfort of fleas or ticks, the more fur he pulls out in the process. No ticks and fleas mean less scratching and less shedding.
Remember to stay up-to-date with your Labrador’s flea treatment. This is done every three months for my dog, along with her deworming treatment.
7. Include Omega Fatty Acids in Your Lab’s Diet
I already described how you could reduce your Labrador’s shedding by changing his diet. You can still incorporate Omega fatty acids into your daily schedule to reduce the volume of year-round shedding.
You can do this by choosing specific foods with Omega 3 fatty acids. You can also achieve it by providing your Labrador with a daily supplement that contains these nutrients. Check out Zesty Paws Omega 3 Alaskan Fish Oil Treats from Amazon. They come in bacon or chicken flavor and get thousands of positive reviews.
If your dog food choice doesn’t contain adequate oils, another alternative is to add a little olive oil to his food. Olive oil contains omega-3 fatty acids that support the skin and coat. Check with your vet first on how much to give your dog.
My dog’s cold-pressed dog food already contains fish oils and vegetable oil (rapeseed) which keeps her skin and coat in tip-top condition, so I don’t need to bother about this.
Tip! Sometimes, I add a little tinned tuna or mackerel in oil to my dog’s food. I know she won’t be far away whenever we have salmon for dinner!
Including Omega fatty acids in your dog’s diet will mean far less shedding in the long term, and your Labrador will be healthier at the same time!
Does Shaving a Lab Help With Shedding?
Now that you know what to do to control and reduce your Labrador’s shedding, you may wonder one last thing, especially if you’ve seen dogs with all sorts of hairstyles! Does shaving a Lab help with shedding?
Shaving your Labrador will not help with shedding. Never shave a dog with a double coat as it will cause irritation, expose him to bacteria and infection, and damage the regrowth. Shaving also interferes with your dog’s natural temperature regulation and exposes him to extreme cold and heat.
The fur in Labrador’s coats is not the same as human’s hair; it has a distinct function, and the fur follicles do not regenerate properly. Unless there are valid health reasons, you should not shave your Labrador’s hair.
Let’s Wrap This Up!
Here are the key takeaways of the article. In Labrador Retrievers:
- Heavy shedding is a normal daily event.
- They will also shed more in the spring and fall when they will molt their undercoat.
- Abnormal shedding can be caused by a poor diet, dehydration, some health conditions, fleas, and parasites.
- Shaving your dog’s fur will not reduce shedding.
While you can’t entirely stop your dog from shedding altogether, there are quite a few ways that you can reduce it. Here’s a recap on how to do this:
- Invest in a de-shedding tool for dogs with double coats and brush regularly.
- Bathe your Labrador 3-4 times a year.
- Change your dog’s food to one that focuses on a healthy coat and skin (Omega fatty acids).
- Stay up-to-date on flea and tick treatments.
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