Labrador retrievers are popular dogs in part because of their charming personalities and their handsome coats. Labs are known for excellence as sporting dogs, family companions and service dogs. Their coats come in three colors: black, yellow and chocolate, each strikingly beautiful. Regular grooming helps keep Labs looking good and helps manage their prolific shedding. Start grooming sessions while your Lab is a puppy.
Understanding the shedding patterns of Labs will help you with housekeeping and help you keep your dog looking handsome and healthy. Labradors have double coats -- two layers of hair, each with different texture and purpose. One layer provides water resistance, the other insulates the dogs in all types of weather. The outer layer, the guard coat, keeps a Labrador dry in wet weather. The undercoat is soft and downy, like a sweater, providing warmth.
The Labrador coat is distinctive. According to the American Kennel Club's breed standard, a Lab's coat "should be short, straight and very dense, giving a fairly hard feeling to the hand." Labs were bred for water activities, so their coats repel water and keep them warm on outings. The double coats, however, create two separate shedding issues: The undercoat blows about twice a year, and the outer coat sheds throughout the year.
Some Lab lovers misunderstand the shedding processes and are surprised when their puppies mature and shed their coats. Breeders must be sure to educate puppy buyers and help them prepare for the attention needed to care for a Lab's constantly shedding coat. Puppies will start to shed their baby coats at about age 4 to 5 months; within a month or so, their coats will have transformed into the adult version. Most adult Labs shed twice a year, and during this time you will notice lots of hair around the house. Invest in a good vacuum cleaner.
Invest in a good set of grooming tools to keep your dog in top condition and to minimize the amount of hair distributed through your house. Your tack box or supply drawer should have a wire slicker brush to remove loose undercoat, a bristle brush, a narrow-tooth comb, a wide-tooth comb and nail clippers. Brush your Lab at least twice a week to distribute natural oils throughout the coat as well as to keep the hair from distributing itself throughout your house. Grooming sessions also strengthen your bond with your dog. Develop a regular grooming schedule for your dog. You'll come to enjoy the peaceful time you spend together.
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