Labrador Retrievers are friendly, outgoing dogs that originate from Newfoundland, where they were bred to help fisherman haul nets and retrieve fish from the freezing North Atlantic.
Today, they are the most popular dog breed in the United States. And it’s not hard to see why. Not only do Labs make great family companions, but they continue to excel as working dogs, most notably in guide, rescue and detection work.
And yes, Labs do shed.
Labrador Retrievers have short, dense, water-resistant double coats that shed heavily year-round, and more during shedding season in spring and fall. They’re fairly easy to groom though. Which is good news, since brushing is one of the best ways to manage the shedding.
Read on to learn more about how much Labs shed, what they’re like to groom, and how to reduce the shedding, so you can keep your home as hair-free as possible.
Labrador Retriever Shedding – What to Expect
Labradors are a heavy shedding breed.
They tend to shed heavily year-round but are known to molt their undercoat twice per year, typically during spring and autumn.
This is known as seasonal shedding and this is common among double coated dogs. The reason they shed more heavily during this time is because they’re preparing for the change of season.
For example, during spring they shed their thicker winter coat to prepare for the warmer months ahead, were their thicker coat is not needed.
The shedding isn’t as noticeable compared to dogs with thicker, longer coats though. Like the Newfoundland or German Shepherd (AKA German Shedder) for example. But you will typically notice hair falling out on a continual basis, and even more for a period of about 2-3 weeks during spring and fall.
Why do they shed so much?
There are a number of factors that can cause shedding (molting). But it mostly comes down to the individual breed, as well as things such as the time of year, their overall health and the condition of their coat.
In some cases, excessive shedding can be cause for concern. Things like stress, poor diet, allergies, fleas and other health related problems can cause shedding. So if you have any concerns, you should contact your veterinarian for assistance.
Shedding is normal among most healthy Labs though. Even high levels of shedding. Many people think that short-coated dogs (like Labs) don’t shed much, but this simply isn’t the case.
In any case, the length of the coat does not determine how much fur they drop. It more comes down to the individual breed. And one common thread among breeds that shed heavily, is that they have a shorter hair growth cycle. Which means it takes less time for their fur to go through its natural cycle of growth (anagen), rest (categen) and falling out (telogen).
Either way, Labs shed. But there are some things you can do to manage it, and grooming is one of them. Which, thankfully, isn’t very difficult.
Grooming Your Labrador
Grooming a Labrador is fairly easy, they’re not a high maintenance dog by any means.
As cute and cuddly as they may be, they’re rugged working dogs at the core. So they don’t need endless amounts of brushing or professional grooming to maintain their coat.
The Labradors double coat is short, dense and water-resistant. A double coat just means that they have two layers of fur instead of just one: a top coat and an undercoat.
Their top coat consists of short, straight, dense guard hairs that come in yellow, chocolate or black. And their undercoat is soft and weather-resistant which keeps them warm and dry.
Which is ideal given that they were bred to retrieve fish from freezing cold water. But it also helps to regulate their temperature during warmer weather too, so it doesn’t just protect them from the cold.
In any case, their coat is pretty easy to maintain.
Brush her two or three times a week with a slicker brush outside of shedding season. This should be enough to maintain her coat and remove most of the dead hair before it falls onto your floors, furniture, upholstery and clothing.
A slicker brush is one of the most common types of dog brushes used in grooming. It is made up of fine wire bristles that are slightly angled and have rubber or plastic tips on the end to help protect their skin.
As an alternative, you could use a pin brush, rubber brush, or comb. Any of these can work well, but at the same time, probably aren’t as effective as a slicker for removing the loose fur.
Either way, during shedding season, brushing with a deshedding tool or undercoat rake can make your life easier. These are built to reach the undercoat and remove the old, dead fur as efficiently as possible. So they compliment a slicker brush well during periods of heavy shedding.
Aside from brushing, bath your Lab occasionally (every couple months is a good general timeframe) using a good quality dog shampoo, to help keep them clean. Also, since they are water dogs, they love swimming! And it helps to rinse them off in fresh water if they’ve been out for a swim, as this helps to ensure their skin and hair doesn’t dry out or get irritated.
As with all dogs, make sure you keep their nails trimmed too, as long nails can cause pain while they’re walking or running around. And clean their teeth with a proper toothpaste for dogs.
How to Stop Excessive Shedding (5 Methods)
It’s not possible to completely stop shedding, but you can reduce excessive amounts of shedding and learn how to manage it properly, so that less fur ends up floating around your home.
Here’s how to reduce Labrador shedding:
- Brush your Lab regularly
- Bath him with a moisturizing dog shampoo
- Select a high quality dog food that contains Omega-3
- Use a vacuum cleaner with a dog hair attachment
- Consult your veterinarian if the shedding is excessive
Now let’s explore each of these methods in more detail…
1. Brush your Lab regularly
Brushing is one of the simplest and most effective ways to manage shedding. And it’s not very difficult or time consuming to do with a Lab, since they’re so easy to brush.
Brush with a slicker brush and undercoat rake (or deshedder) two or three times per week during shedding season. Not only will this remove the bulk of dead fur before it falls off of her coat, but it can help to distribute the skin oils, which in turn can lead to a healthier coat.
With that being said, it’s important not to over brush and to be mindful of brushing more carefully around thinner parts of her coat, like the belly.
2. Bath him with a moisturizing dog shampoo
Bathing is another great way to minimize the shedding. Labs typically only need bathing once every couple of months, but bathing weekly during shedding season can help remove thee dead fur.
Not only does bathing remove the old fur while they’re in the tub, but it helps loosen it up prior to a thorough brushing session. Which is why this can be very effective when combined with brushing.
However, it is important to always use a good quality dog shampoo, and ideally one that moisturizes the skin. Never use low quality or human shampoos, as these can dry out the skin and hair. Which is the same reason why it’s important not to over bathe.
Dry skin and hair are among the top reasons why dogs shed excessively. So avoid doing anything that causes dryness and irritation.
3. Select a high quality dog food that contains Omega-3
Geneally spaking, the healthier your Labrador is, the better condition their coat will be in, and the less likely they are to shed excessively. And selecting the right dog food can have an impact on this.
Look for dog food that is made from high quality ingredients and that contains the right amount of vitamins, minerals and healthy fatty acids like Omega-3 and Omega-6. There’s no special “anti-shedding dog food” out there, but some are better than others. So it’s worth speaking with your local veterinarian about selecting the right type of food for your dog.
There are also some natural supplements that can help. For example, some use things like virgin coconut oil or olive oil to help add moisture to their coat.
Of course, if you plan on adding anything to your dog’s food, you should always consult your vet first. But it’s good to know that there are some great options to further reduce the shedding, in addition to a healthy, balanced diet.
4. Use a vacuum cleaner with a dog hair attachment
Once you’ve done everything possible to reduce the shedding, through regular grooming and proper nutrition, the best way to keep your home as fur-free as possible is with a good vacuum.
I personally use a Dyson (one designed for animals) but there are lots of great, less expensive options out there. The key is to find a vacuum with an attachment specifically designed to remove dog hair from carpet and upholstery. The reason this can be so helpful is because Labradors have short, straight hairs that tend to needle their way into carpet. And so it can take a LOT longer to vacuum without the right tools for the job.
Some companies even sell universal dog hair vacuum attachments on sites like Amazon, that fit just about any vacuum. So you don’t need to spend lots of money on something fancy.
Granted, this isn’t a way to reduce shedding. But it is a way to limit how much time you spend cleaning it up, so it can be well worth looking into as a Lab owner.
5. Consult your veterinarian if the shedding is excessive
Even though shedding is common among Labs, sometimes it can be caused by things like stress, poor diet, allergies, fleas and other health related problems. And since Labs shed lots at the best of times, it can be difficult to determine if there’s an underlying problem or not.
Which is why, if you have any concerns whatsoever, you should contact a qualified veterinarian. Your vet should be able to help you identify any potential issues and remedy them.
Are Labradors hypoallergenic?
No, Labs are not a hypoallergenic dog breed.
However, the truth is there are no 100% hypoallergenic dogs. There are just some dogs that are more suitable for allergy sufferers than others. And the reason for this is that all dogs produce things like dander (dead skin) which is mostly what causes pet related allergies.
So, even if you have a hairless dog, it could trigger allergies. But so-called hypoallergenic dogs, like the Basenji or Poodle for example, are generally considered more suitable for people with allergies than high shedding dogs that produce lots of dander, like Labs.
Do Yellow Labs shed more than Black Labs?
There is no evidence to suggest that the color of the Labrador’s coat makes a difference as to how much it sheds. Yellow, black, and chocolate colored Labs are ALL the same breed according to the American Kennel Club’s breed standard.
However, there are some people who believe it makes a difference. For example, here’s one comment from a person who says her yellow Lab sheds more than her black one:
We’ve had two labs in the past one chocolate and a yellow and just got a black lab that is 8 weeks old. I can say that Maggie, our yellow shed way more hair then our chocolate, Bella ever did. It’s so strange how different they are like that. Our sweet puppy has a thicker coat and hasn’t started shedding yet.Comment from Dawn on labradortraininghq.com
There are similar comments online from others. But at the end of the day, this is anecdotal. And, as mentioned earlier, there are a number of factors that can contribute to molting, besides just the breed itself.
Do Labradors shed more than Golden Retrievers?
Golden Retrievers shed a similar amount to Labrador Retrievers. But Goldens have longer hair, so grooming them does require more effort, especially since longer coats are more prone to mats and tangles.
What are some lower shedding alternative breeds?
If you’re looking for a lower shedding alternative to a Lab, there are lots of options. But to give you some relevant examples, lower shedding working dogs include breeds like the Standard Schnauzer or Portuguese Water Dog. Or, if you just want a low shedding, easy maintenance family dog, it’s hard to go past the Boston Terrier or Italian Greyhound.
There’s also a mix breed called the Labradoodle which still molts, but not as much as a pure bred Lab. It’s a mix between the Poodle (low shedding) and Labrador (high shedding).