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Is it okay to cut my Lab's hair?
Labs as well as other breeds have double-coats. Essentially, they have a top coat that protects them in wet conditions and repels moisture, as well as an undercoat that serves as the primary coat that keeps them warm. I've written another post on this, so for more detail check that out here.
This double-coat is a result of centuries of adaptation and genetics due to how they were used as bird dogs in colder climates!
Fans of cutting hair or shaving Labs usually make the argument that if you are not using your Lab in excessively wet or cold conditions regularly, then this adaptation is irrelevant. In essence, living a normal indoor life with a shaved coat would not harm the dog.
To be fair, from what I found during my research, there does not appear to be evidence that this practice causes harm, per se.
With that said, it is not a practice that I personally agree with. I think as humans we do enough harm to the natural order of things for our own gain.
So, what is the gain to be had from doing this? Is it actually effective?
Does shaving a Lab help with shedding?
One of the biggest reasons people even consider shaving a Lab is to help combat shedding. It often takes owners by surprise how much Labradors shed. Given that Labs are usually short-haired, one wouldn't expect the amount of shedding that occurs because of the double-coat.
Everything I found suggested that shaving a Lab's coat had little to no impact on the amount of shedding that occurred. What I did see reported, however, was that the hair was shorter.
In many cases, this actually exacerbated the exact issue they were trying to solve! With the hair being so much smaller, many floor and handheld vacuums actually struggled to suck them up!
Creating a cleaner appearance
The other big reason I found for cutting the hair of Labs was to improve the visual appearance of the coat. In an effort to create a sleek and shiny look to the coat, owners felt like performing the trim often lightened up the coat and improved the overall appearance.
I have found that regular grooming of your Lab can accomplish this just as well. All it really takes is a few basic tools that are fairly inexpensive that you can purchase online. If interested, please check out the Recommended Products page.
How often do Labs need to be groomed?
There is such as a thing as over-grooming your Lab, so we don't want to overdo the grooming. The reality is that with their double-coats, you could probably brush them non-stop for hours, every day, and still remove hair. We obviously do not want to do this!
Labradors should have their coats brushed no more than twice per week. Brushing too often will result in the thinning of their protective coat and loss of natural oils. This can lead to skin reactions that cause discomfort and are difficult to treat. Bathing should be limited to no more than once per month.
I found a really good demonstration of how you should groom your lab on YouTube. Check it out:
Should I take my Lab to a groomer?
If after reading this and viewing the video above you aren't sure if you are able to do the grooming yourself, you should consider a groomer. The most important thing is to ensure that the groomer will not be giving your Lab a haircut or shaving him, but instead performing the more natural brushing and bathing activities as part of their grooming.
The one thing to keep in mind if you do opt for professional grooming is cost.
Services like these are considered luxury services. This means that providers are not price-sensitive, because many of their clients tend not to be. So, it would be extremely beneficial in the long run if you could bear the one-time cost of accumulating the necessary tools and follow the instructions provided!
How much is it to groom a Labrador?
I checked various large chain pet store prices as well as local mom-and-pop providers. They all seemed to be pretty much in line, with only a couple of the smaller providers being outliers.
For example, PetSmart lists a Lab grooming that entails bathing and brushing with a Furminator at $59. This seems to be about right for an approximately 30-minute long "luxury" service. Keep in mind that this does not include tax, tip, or any other add-ons such as nail trimming, etc.
For an active Lab that does require frequent bathing, this can add up quickly. For those who are able to follow the recommended frequency of no more than once per month, this wouldn't be as painful for your wallet.
Labrador coat care
I think it's important to mention what can be done in addition to regular brushing of both the undercoat and the topcoat. I have learned that there are a handful of other things that owners can do to properly maintain that healthy and beautiful coat. There are products that can be applied after both brushing and bathing. Some of these are in the form of aerosol sprays. Others are more of a conditioning oil that you massage in. I have provided links to some of my recommended ones on the Recommended Products page.
I've also found that diet is key. Similar to humans, what your dog consumes has a direct impact on their skin. This, of course, is critical in determining the quality of their coat. If your Lab's skin is dry or irritated, then shedding and scratching will increase. I recommend putting an extra level of care into the quality of food you provide your Lab. You can read more about that in my article Best Dog Foods For Labradors.
I do not believe that Labradors should get haircuts. Based on everything I found, it actually is likely to do more harm than good. I believe regular brushing with infrequent bathing will better accomplish the goals of reducing shedding and maintaining a beautiful coat.
Addressing this only from the outside will not be sufficient. I also believe coupling these practices with good food and hydration is essential as well.
Good luck with your grooming!