No matter which coat color you choose, the Labrador retriever’s thick fur ensures that yellow, black, and chocolate Labs are all soft and fuzzy cuddle buddies. But after a cuddle session, will you be covered in dog fur? Do Labs shed?
Yes, Labs do shed. So, they’re not the best dog for neatniks or people with allergies. However, the Labrador retriever is the most popular dog breed in America, and Lab owners across the country have found ways to cope with their dog’s shedding.
We’ll explain how much Labrador retrievers shed and what pet parents can do to minimize the amount of hair around the house. Plus, we’ll help you decide if this breed is right for you based on their needs and yours.
How Much Do Labs Shed?
Labrador retrievers are among the heaviest shedders in the entire dog kingdom. Much like golden retrievers, Australian shepherds, huskies, and Newfoundlands (a breed that hails from the same region of Canada as the Labrador), Labs have a double coat. It’s one of the nine coat types recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC).
Double-coated dogs have two different types of coats at the same time. They have a thick undercoat that provides insulation — it keeps the dogs warm in the winter and cool in the summer. And they have a topcoat, an outer layer of hair that covers the undercoat and provides some weather resistance. Think of it like wearing a fleece for warmth with a raincoat over the top to help you stay dry.
Double the coats essentially means double the shedding. So, when you compare double-coated dogs to other dogs that shed — for instance short-haired dogs, like rottweilers or bulldogs — you’ll see significantly more shedding from the double-coated breeds. So, the double-coated Labrador sheds a lot, and there will be parts of the year when Lab owners see large tufts of hair blowing around their house.
When Do Labs Shed?
The Lab’s two coat types shed differently and at different times of the year. The topcoat will shed moderately all year round. So, there will never be a time when your home is completely hair-free. But, you’ll see a significantly higher amount of shedding when the seasons change in the spring and fall.
The Labrador retriever only needs its undercoat to regulate its body temperature in the winter and summer. So, during the spring, the Lab sheds its winter coat, and during the fall, it sheds its summer coat.
Spring and fall will be the Lab’s heavy shedding season, sometimes known as molting season. At this time of year, Labs will blow their coat — the undercoat will come out in large clumps, and you may notice a lot of hair literally blowing around your house.
What Can You Do About Labs’ Shedding?
While Labs shed a lot, there are steps you can take to manage this “hairy” situation. However, these steps aren’t foolproof. You’ll still find pet hair around your house, but you’ll see significantly less of it if you do the following:
- Feed a high-quality dog food: A complete and balanced diet is essential to your dog’s whole body health, including the health of their skin and coat. Look for a dog food with real meat as the first ingredient and dog-friendly fruits and vegetables in the ingredient list.
- Use a fish oil supplement: Fish oil supplements for dogs are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which according to scientific research, help improve dog’s skin and coat health.
- Brush your Lab’s hair regularly: Brushing your dog’s coat helps to remove dead hair and distribute the coat’s natural oils, which prevents dry skin and keeps the hair looking healthy. Brush your Lab once a week in the summer and winter, and everyday during shedding seasons. The best dog brush for a Lab’s coat is a slicker brush or a rake.
- Bathe your Lab with a deshedding shampoo: A deshedding shampoo helps to remove loose hair from your dog’s coat, so you can leave it behind at bath time instead of finding it on your furniture.
- Invest in a robot vacuum cleaner: Robot vacuums run daily, automatically sucking up dog hair. They can help you keep your floors hair-free. However, manual daily vacuuming or sweeping can also help manage loose fur.
- Keep lint rollers handy: To remove hair from your clothes and furniture, keep lint rollers in strategic locations around your home. Placing a lint roller in a side table drawer allows you to quickly remove hair from furniture before guests come over. A lint roller near your front door or in your car can help you get hair off your clothes before you head out.
- Redecorate with your dog in mind: If you’re replacing your furniture or flooring, choose a color that helps camouflage your dog’s hair. If you have a yellow Lab, choose light upholstery or flooring. And if you have a chocolate or black Lab, choose dark upholstery or flooring. This will help make any fur around your house less noticeable.
While it may be tempting to shave your Labrador retriever during shedding season, experts and groomers recommend against shaving double-coated dog breeds. Not only can shaving your dog put them at risk of sunburn, but it can also make it harder for double-coated dogs to regulate their body temperature.
Labs shed a lot naturally, but if you notice signs of excessive shedding, like a sparse coat that has bald patches or that you can easily see the skin through, contact your vet. This could be a sign that your dog is losing hair due to an underlying health problem, like fleas, allergies, or an endocrine disorder.
Are Labs (and Their Shedding) Right for You?
Labs are lovable dogs known for their friendly disposition. They’re intelligent and high-energy dogs who benefit from active owners who can provide plenty of exercise and training. Like the golden, they often make good family dogs, but because of their shedding, they aren’t right for everyone.
If you have pet allergies, you shouldn’t get a Labrador retriever. While dog fur isn’t the source of pet allergies (the true culprit is a protein found in pet dander, saliva, and urine), shedding does spread allergens around your environment. That’s because dander attaches to your dog’s fur and then becomes airborne when your dog sheds.
Labs also aren’t a good choice for fastidious pet parents who can’t stand to see hair around their house. Even though you can take steps to minimize the amount of fur, you won’t be able to eliminate fur entirely with this heavy-shedding breed.
Many Lab lovers who want to avoid the breed’s shedding turn to Labradoodles. This hybrid of a Lab and a poodle is often non-shedding, but not always. It can take several generations of breeding for a doodle dog breeder to get mostly non-shedding puppies, and even then, there may be a couple puppies in the litter that get the Lab’s double-coat genes.
There are also several non-shedding purebred dogs, including poodles, soft-coated wheaten terriers, Portuguese water dogs, and schnauzers — all of which are a better choice for people who want a dog that doesn’t shed. But whichever breed you choose, be sure to ask plenty of questions before you bring your puppy home.
America’s Favorite Furry Friend Has a Lot of Fur
The Labrador retriever has been the most popular dog in America for over 30 years. And while this breed has a lot of positive traits that have helped it earn that top spot — from a friendly disposition to a ruggedly handsome appearance — being a low-shedding dog isn’t one of those traits.
So, if you’re wondering, “Do Labs shed?,” the answer is yes. Labs shed a lot. These double-coated dogs have a topcoat that sheds year round and an undercoat that has two heavy shedding seasons in the spring and fall.
For typical pet parents who want to minimize the mess in their house, regular brushing and a robot vacuum can help keep the Lab’s hair at bay. But for people with allergies or people who keep a spotless home, the Lab likely won’t be a good fit. A non-shedding breed, like the poodle or schnauzer, will make a better match.
For more information on your favorite dog breeds, visit the Native Pet blog.