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How Much and How Often Do Labradors Shed?
So it's only been a few months since you got a new pup. You're already frustrated from having to clean all the hair from your clothes and furniture. Well, I've got good news and bad news for you.
The good news is that it's completely normal; there's nothing wrong with your pet.
The bad news?
You've seen nothing, yet. Just wait till the real shedding begins!
A dog's coat type plays a significant role in determining how much he will shed. Single-coat dogs shed much less than those who have a double coat.
Labradors have a double coat that shields them from freezing temperatures and water. However, as we've said, a double coat also means they lose a lot more hair than dogs with a single coat.
People usually think that since Labradors have short hair, they must not shed much. But that is simply not true; the fact is that Labs shed a lot. There are also other short-haired dogs like the Great Dane and Pug who shed just as much.
Labradors keep shedding some amount of hair throughout the year. However, they will shed far more than usual during the molting season, which takes place every six months. This happens because they change their coat to adjust according to the weather. You'll need to be prepared to take extra measures twice a year.
Labs lose their thick winter coat in spring and grow a thinner one to prepare for the summer. Similarly, they develop a thick winter coat after shedding the summer one in autumn. The process lasts for two to three weeks, and the period is known as molting or shedding season.
Evolutionary Logic Behind the Shedding of Dogs
Many wild animals have a biannual 'molt,' especially those living in regions with very different seasons, like foxes and wolves. They switch their coats in spring and summer to adapt to the changing temperature. Some animals even have a different colored winter coat to have camouflage against the new terrain arctic hares are an example of that.
The same goes for dogs. Although they don't need to be camouflaged, they switch their coats to cope with changing weather. But your Labrador lives in your home with you, where the temperature is consistent, and his body doesn't have to fight the climate. Why does he still shed?
Well, we've had the privilege of protection from weather conditions only recently. In the eyes of nature, it's a minuscular period. So Labs still exercise the shedding attribute they inherited from their ancestors. If they continue to live in our comfortable homes for the next ten thousand years, there's a chance they may not shed anymore.
But until then, you'll have to deal with the constant shedding, especially since we're talking about Labradors. Labs shed more than many other breeds because of their thick double coat. Let's understand how it works.
How Does Labradors' Double Coat Work?
If you know anything about Labrador's history, you know that they originated in Newfoundland, Canada. They were bred to swim in icy waters and retrieve fish and ducks for fishermen. Labradors were perfect for this job because their double coat protected them from freezing water.
Labrador's double coat consists of two layers: the upper layer is called the topcoat, while the layer beneath it is the undercoat. Each of them has a different purpose.
The topcoat is waterproof and has silky fur. It shields the undercoat against water and protects the dog from the cold temperature of the water. Apart from that, it also isolates the skin from the wind and prevents it from getting dry.
The undercoat has a short, dense layer of hair that helps regulate body temperature. This is the layer that causes extra shedding every six months. The hair grows thicker in winter to keep the dog warm, and it grows thinner to help your Lab stay cool during summer.
Do Some Labs Shed More Than Others?
Every dog is different and has its own personality. So it's possible for some Labradors to shed more than others. There's been no research on this topic, but logically, it's possible. Note that even if some Labs may shed more than others, you can never predict which one will shed how much.
One common query about Labrador shedding is whether yellow Labs shed more than black ones or whether coat colors affects the amount of shedding.
The answer is no. Labradors' coat color makes no difference to their shedding quantity and frequency. All of them have the same genetic makeup, and they will all leave hair on your clothes and carpets. Even the American and English Labradors are identical in this regard, even though their appearances are different.
This misconception may have come from people noticing less fur around the house with a particular Lab. For example, if you have lighter colored furniture or floor, dark hair will be much easier to see, and you may even have to clean it multiple times a day. In that case, having a yellow Lab will make the shedding less pronounced, so it is a better pick.
Similarly, if you have dark-colored floors and furniture, a yellow Lab will make it seem like there's a lot of shedding. So it would be better to own a black or chocolate Lab if you live in such a home.
Bottom line: Yellow Labs shed, Black Labs shed, and so do Chocolate Labs. Don't think you can avoid cleaning hair by picking a particular coat color.
How to Keep Your Lab from Shedding Too Much
Shedding is a normal part of Labrador's life. But you should take your pet to the vet if you notice he is shedding excessively. It could be a sign of an underlying health condition, so you shouldn't ignore it.
Lice, fleas, mites, and parasites are some common causes of excessive shedding in Labradors. Skin allergies or other skin conditions also contribute to an unusual amount of shedding. Another reason could be stress. Your Lab may start losing more hair whenever he goes into a stressful situation.
Lastly, nutrition is also a factor. The healthier your dog is, the better and shinier your coat will be. A poor diet can lead to excessive shedding and a myriad of other health problems.
How to Stop Labrador Shedding From Taking Over Your Home
Now you know that a Labrador, being a Labrador, will shed. You can't really reduce the amount of shedding, but there are a few things you can do to reduce the amount of hair in your house. It will make the shedding season more bearable. Here's how to keep your dog's coat healthy:
It is best to brush your Labrador at least once every three to four days. Brush your dog outside regularly, and you'll find less hair inside the house. It not only removes loose and dead hair but also gets your pet comfortable with getting handled.
I like the Hartz Groomer's Combo Brush. It's an affordable tool for everyday deshedding. The brush itself has two sides: one with stainless steel tips to remove loose hair and another with dense bristles to redistribute the natural oils on your Lab's coat.
There are also brushes specifically designed to reduce shedding during the molting season. We'll discuss these products in the next section.
You shouldn't bathe your Labrador excessively. Doing so can deprive him of the natural oils that are crucial for his skin. Once a month is a good bathing frequency, but you can also do it as and when your Lab needs it.
For bathing, I recommend the Pet Oatmeal Anti-Itch Shampoo & Conditioner (Amazon) It is explicitly designed to reduce shedding by focusing on your Lab's skin. It is made of natural ingredients that moisturize your pet's skin and make it silky smooth. Remember that moderation is the key to using any pet product, so don't overdo it.
As we've discussed, diet plays a crucial role in keeping your Lab's coat healthy. So make sure you feed your dog only high-quality kibble. Omega fatty acids are essential to keep the coat shiny and prevent your dog's skin from getting dry.
You can also occasionally mix some natural ingredients (home-cooked food) in your Lab's meals. Many vegetables provide decent amounts of vitamins and minerals to keep your Lab's coat healthy. For a full list of vegetables and fruits your Lab can and can't eat, check out this article from the AKC.
Recommended Deshedding Products
There are several products you can use to reduce your Labrador's shedding. You don't need them throughout the year, but they are a must-have during the shedding season. When your Lab is blowing his coat, using deshedding tools will make a massive difference to the amount of hair in your home. Here are the two main products I recommend:
Furminator is the recommended tool to remove hair from your dog's coat. It does a remarkable job at removing most of the undercoat in just one or two long strokes. It has about 22,000 reviews on Amazon, which means a lot of pet owners swear by it.
However, it depends on your dog's particular coat. Labs can differ in the way they shed, and their coats' thickness can also be different. Your pet's age may also make a difference in how he reacts to these deshedding devices. Grooming gently and sensibly should not reveal bare skin or harm the dog's coat.
You can purchase Furminator and read more about it by visiting its Amazon product page.
Some people advise against Furminator and recommend getting a rake instead. Dog rakes are softer on your Lab's coat. They loosen knots and remove some undercoat. The removed hair may be less than if you used Furminator, but it gets the job done for the short and dense coats of Labradors.
However, that doesn't mean you should keep brushing in the same area. I don't recommend a maximum of three strokes in an area per session. It's also essential to introduce your Lab to brushing tools gently so that he doesn't become fearful of them.
The product I'm going to recommend has rounded ends, so it will not scratch or irritate your Lab's skin. If your pet seems to dislike Furminator, you should try a dog rake as it'll be softer and more tolerable for him.
You can check out Oster Dog Rake by following the link to its Amazon product page.
Is Shaving Your Lab a Good Idea?
"So you're saying that Labradors lose their winter coat and grow a thinner one to stay cool in summer. Wouldn't it be best to just shave my dog? It would keep him cool and free me of the hairy mess."
Shaving does seem to be the perfect solution for shedding, but it's not. You should never shave Labradors because they have a double coat. Their fur is not the same as our hair. It has a different function and doesn't grow back properly. Shaving can damage your Lab's coat irreversibly. So here are four reasons why you shouldn't shave your Labs:
- Labradors' undercoat is a soft layer of dense hair that protects them from cold. But when it grows back, it is rough and heavy never the same again.
- Labs have muscles that move their fur follicles up and down, letting air pass through the two coats. When you shave both coats, the new fur is not as effective at capturing air. Their natural cooling system is disrupted.
- As we've discussed, the undercoat protects your Lab's skin from cold weather. But when you shave the double coat, his natural protection is removed, and his skin is exposed to harmful ultraviolet rays.
- Increased shedding during the molting season can trigger allergies for the pet owners. They believe shaving the pet will make things better. However, shaving will expose you to even more allergens because the coat actually traps them.
Cleaning Dog Hair From Your Home
After everything we've talked about, you know all there is to know about shedding in Labradors. But that doesn't mean your Lab will not drop hairs all around the house. So the last point to discuss is the best way to clean hair from your home.
The first thing you can do is to train your Lab to stay off the furniture. Given that Labs are very energetic and love to snuggle around you, it can be hard to do. But it will make cleaning much more manageable because removing hair from furniture is a challenging task.
Next, you will need to regularly vacuum your floor to prevent your home from looking like a dog kennel. All carpets and drapes should be cleaned and sanitized. Most of the dead hair will drop on the floor, but some of it may float around to places your dog has never been. If you don't have time to vacuum the house, robot vacuums are an excellent choice. The one I personally use is half the price of the fancy Roombas, but works awesome! Check it out on Amazon here.
For the traditional vacuum, I recommend the Dyson V11 Cordless Vacuum Cleaner (Amazon). It does a remarkable job at cleaning dog hair off furniture and carpets. It is also lightweight and has a sleek bagless design. With more than 6000 people rating it 4.5 stars on Amazon, you won't go wrong with this one.
Labradors have a short, dense coat that changes every six months, known as the shedding season, and Labs shed heavily during this two-to-three-week period. This is to cope with the changing temperature. Their thin coat keeps them cold during summer, and the thick coat shields them from the cold in winter. Using deshedding tools like Furminator or dog rake can significantly decrease the amount of shedding.
Labradors also shed moderately throughout the year. So expect to see some amount of hair all the time. Regular brushing, monthly bathing, and a healthy diet will keep your Lab happy and clean.