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Is shaving your lab a good idea?

2nd April 2020 Print

The Labrador Retriever is the most popular companion canine in America. According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), Labs have held the number one spot since 1991.

But there is one drawback to keeping company with America's favorite pup--all their fur. As all Labrador lovers know, Labs shed a lot.

So you may have found yourself thinking about shaving your dog to stop the shedding. But, is shaving your lab a good idea? Let's find out!

The Labrador Retriever's Unique Coat

The Labrador Retriever is a special dog with a unique history. These dogs are descendants of a now-extinct breed called the St. John's Water Dog.

The St. John's Water Dog came by its breed name honestly. These dogs were bred and developed to help their human fishing partners by swimming through the water to collect netted fish and fishing gear.

The Labrador Retriever inherited the same special, double-layered, super-insulating, and water-repellant coat that helped the St. John's Water Dog stay warm and dry while swimming in the freezing Newfoundland waters.

Why Do Labradors Shed So Much?

A Labrador's coat has two layers. The outer layer is water repellant, as we explained in the previous section, but the inner layer is soft, fine, and insulating.

Over time, the fur can get damaged and needs to shed and be replaced. This is vital to make sure the Lab's coat continues to do its job well to protect your dog.

Every six months or so, your Lab will blow its coat. This happens when the normal everyday shedding turns into a "snowstorm" of shedding fur. Whatever color fur your Lab has will cover everything for a period of weeks as your dog sheds until the new coat has fully grown in.

You’ll thank yourself for buying a vacuum cleaner during this time because you’ll use it every single day!

The Special Features and Functions of Your Lab's Coat

Labrador Retrievers are such sweet-natured dogs that they often keep us happy just with their company.

If you do decide to shave your Lab, your dog will, hopefully, go along with it and make the best of it, because you are the most important person in your dog's world.

But shaving your Lab's coat takes some vital protections away from your dog--protections that evolution has built to keep your Lab safe and healthy.

- Your dog's coat is protection from the sun, wind, rain, and cold.

- Your dog's coat guards against skin injury and infection.

- Your dog's coat helps distribute vital skin oils over your dog's body.

- Your dog's coat actually helps keep your dog from overheating.

- Your dog's coat is an important source of body ventilation and air circulation.

Why You Shouldn’t Shave Your Lab

You just learned what your Labrador Retriever's special double-layer coat is designed to do for your dog.

But even if you shave your Lab's coat, won't it just grow back? Surely there will be no harm done if you just shave it off to control the shedding?

Unfortunately, shaving your Lab's coat is always harmful to your dog.

Shaving Damages the Erector Pili

Most Lab owners don't know this, but each tiny filament of fur, or hair, on your dog's body is actually connected underneath the skin to a major muscle group called the erector pili.

The hair follicle is connected to the erector pili so the fur outside your dog's body can be raised or lowered as needed for cooling or warming.

The action of shaving your dog's hair can break the connection to the erector pili which leads to your dog's genetic natural cooling and warming thermostat control getting damaged. After shaving, this system may never work as well again. This puts your dog at risk for getting too cold in winter or overheating in summer.

Shaving Damages the Hair Itself

After you shave your Lab's coat, there is no guarantee the hair will grow back with the same texture and consistency again.

Shaving can cause your dog's hair to grow back differently. It’s often shorter, coarser, prickly and has a reduced water repellent property. The hair can actually irritate the dog and cause itching and infection, too.

Shaving Can Give Your Pet Dander Allergies

Labs are not the right dog breed for people with pet dander allergies. Some people think shaving will control these allergies.

Shaving usually makes the allergy symptoms worse because the protein that causes the allergies is on your dog's skin and saliva, not in the hair itself.

Don’t Shave Your Lab

At the end of the day, shaving your lab isn’t a great idea for dog owners who want the best for their pup. Instead, look to regular brushing and bathing to help maintain excess shedding and you’ll find that works just as well without having to go to extreme lengths of shaving your dog.