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Taking care of your Golden Retriever’s coat is very important to keep your pup looking and feeling their best.
After all, the breed gets its name from its gorgeous coat!
But you don’t have to be a professional groomer to keep their fluff in good condition.
In fact, even if you do take your Golden to a professional, you’ll still need to know how to maintain their coat care between appointments.
If you don’t, they could get painful mats or dry, itchy, uncomfortable skin, or you could accidentally damage their coat.
So in this article, you’ll learn:
- What a Golden Retriever’s coat type is (and why that matters)
- What factors affect the quality of your dog’s coat
- How to care for your Golden’s coat
- Why coat care is important for your Golden’s health
- How to help your dog enjoy grooming
- Whether or not you should give your dog supplements for their coat
How To Take Care Of Your Golden Retriever’s Coat
Golden Retrievers should be brushed two to seven times per week, depending on the thickness of their coat and how much they shed. They should be bathed about once every two months. This will keep their coat healthy and shiny, and prevent mats.
Understanding Your Golden Retriever’s Coat
Before we dive deep into the how-to of caring for your Golden’s coat, it’s important to first understand what makes a Golden Retriever’s coat unique.
Golden Retrievers have a double coat, which means there are actually two different types of layers.
The outer coat is the long, smooth, feathery fur that you see and pet.
The undercoat hairs are short, fuzzy and dense.
These two layers act as insulation against all types of weather, including heat, cold and moisture, and protects the skin.
Golden Retriever coats are also oily.
While you might be prompted to wash your own hair when it starts to feel oily, your dog’s coat is actually oily by design.
Golden Retrievers were originally developed to be hunting companions, and would often run or swim through water to pick up a shot bird.
The oily coat repels water.
So even though your Golden may not be a hunting dog, they’ve maintained this feature of their coat.
Golden Retrievers can vary greatly when it comes to how their coat looks.
Some are basically small wooly mammoths, and others have just a bit more fluff than a Labrador.
Some Goldens may have a long coat with a lot of feathering, while some are much more sparse.
The fur can be straight or very wavy.
Fur is shortest on the muzzle, face and paws, while longer feathering is usually found on the neck, chest, backs of the legs, and tail.
Golden Retriever coats shed year round, with heavier shedding during the spring and fall, which is known as “blowing coat.”
The amount of shedding can range from moderate to heavy.
What Factors Affect the Quality of a Golden Retriever’s Coat?
There are a few things that can influence the appearance, texture, and health of your dog’s coat.
Your dog inherits all sorts of things from their parents, including coat type.
While of course there can be variety within a litter of puppies, coat type is controlled by genes.
If your dog comes from a line of Golden Retrievers who have had shorter, sparser coats for generations, then it’s likely that they will have a similar coat.
Likewise, if both or even one of your pup’s parents have thick, long coats, then it’s likely yours will too.
The weather and time of year can also affect what your Golden’s coat is like.
During certain seasons, their fur will likely be thicker and longer, and then when they “blow their coat” it will get thinner and shorter.
The quality of food your dog eats can also impact their coat.
Dogs who eat nutritious, well-balanced food will be more likely to have a shiny, healthy coat.
But a poor diet can lead to a dull, brittle or dry coat.
Many health issues can affect a Golden Retriever’s coat, including allergies, skin diseases, and hypothyroidism.
If you notice changes in your dog’s coat, it’s always a good idea to consult your veterinarian as it may be an indication of an underlying health problem.
Some Goldens experience changes in their coats after being spayed or neutered.
Not all dogs’ coats are influenced by this, but for some, their coats become quite thick and frizzy.
How to Care for Your Golden’s Coat
Most Golden Retrievers need to be brushed a couple of times a week to remove loose hair, but it really depends on your pup’s coat.
A long, thick coat will need more brushing than a shorter, less dense coat.
If the loose hair isn’t removed, it can result in matting, which are painful knots in your Golden’s coat.
Regular brushing also helps comb out any tangles, as well as any debris like burrs or small twigs.
As an added bonus, your Golden’s coat will look shiny and fresh, and there will be less dog hair around your house and on your clothes (and in your mouth).
During periods of heavy shedding, you should brush your dog daily.
Of course, there’s also nothing wrong with taking your pup to a professional groomer, especially if they are blowing their coat.
Groomers use a forced air dryer that can help remove a ton of dead fur, so you aren’t dealing with tumbleweeds of hair at home.
Best Brushes for Golden Retrievers
Because Goldens have a double coat, you’ll need a brush that can go through all the layers and not just the surface.
For dogs with a thick coat, it can help to first back brush their fur, which can help you reach the undercoat, and then brush it in the direction it naturally grows.
A metal comb can be used on longer feathering on the ears, legs, and tail, as well as on any matting.
A bristle brush can be nice to use after you’ve worked on removing the undercoat, as there’s usually quite a bit of loose hair sitting on top of their coat.
A grooming mitt or your bare hands can also be effective at getting off all the leftover fur once you’re done brushing.
(Pro tip: brush your Golden outside to avoid all of the extra hair falling onto your floors.)
There’s also one brush that you’ll want to avoid if you have a Golden Retriever: the Furminator.
This is a metal tool that can actually cut your dog’s fur, which can damage their coat and potentially their skin.
For any tangles, spraying the fur with water or a detangling spray can make it easier for both you and your dog.
You can read this article if you want to read more about the best brushes for Golden Retrievers.
Getting a Golden Retriever puppy? Get the 30-day game plan to raise them into the dog you’ve always dream of with the Golden Retriever Puppy Handbook here
How to Deal with Matting
If you come across a mat (a thick knot or tangle) while you’re petting or brushing your dog, you have a couple of options.
You can either cut the mat out or try to comb it out.
Cutting it out is usually quicker and less of an ordeal, you’ll just want to be careful that you don’t cut too close to the skin.
If the mat is large, it’s best to cut it out.
Sure, they may have a bit of a funny haircut for a while, but the hair will grow back.
If the mat is smaller, you can use a comb to brush it out.
If you leave the mat, it will grow over time resulting in an even bigger problem.
Additionally, a mat can be painful for your dog as it pulls on their skin.
So it’s best to deal with mats as soon as you find them.
And if you’re regularly brushing your dog, mats shouldn’t be too common or severe.
Most Goldens should be bathed about once every 6 to 8 weeks.
If your dog loves getting muddy or has a penchant for rolling in goose poop, you may need to bathe them more often.
The breed’s oily coat actually helps repel dirt, which helps them stay clean between baths.
And if you bathe them too often, you can remove too much of the oil and dry their coat and skin out.
When bathing your Golden Retriever, put down a towel or rubber mat so your dog has some traction and isn’t slipping on the wet tub or shower.
Use lukewarm water and a quality dog shampoo.
Make sure you’re scrubbing the shampoo all the way through the coat and to the skin.
Take your time rinsing their coat to ensure any residue is gone.
A licky mat with suction cups and some yummy, spreadable food like cream cheese or peanut butter can also keep your pup entertained and still during bathtime.
Before you let your dog out of shower or bath, towel dry their coat so they aren’t sopping wet all over your floors.
While it may seem convenient to let your dog air dry, it’s best to use a dryer.
The double coat can make the air drying process slow, which can potentially lead to fungus, hot spots and matting.
You may be tempted to use your hair dryer, but a dryer made for dogs will get the job done much faster.
Additionally, a human hair dryer is often too hot for a dog, as their coat can trap the heat causing the skin to burn.
If possible, do this outdoors, as there will be a lot of dog hair flying around.
The Golden Retriever Club of America provides an excellent guide to drying your Golden Retriever.
You can also take your dog to a groomer for a bath and blowout, and leave the hair tornado to the professionals!
Haircuts and Trims
Unless it’s for surgery or medical reasons, you should never shave a Golden Retriever.
The breed’s natural double coat does a fantastic job of regulating their body temperature and when you shave it, you disrupt their natural climate control.
Additionally, shaving can damage the coat, causing it to look and feel weird when it grows back.
While shaving is a no-no, a couple other types of haircuts can be helpful for your dog.
A sanitary trim cuts the hair around their private parts so they stay clean when they go potty.
While it’s not necessary, you can also do some light trimming of your Golden’s feathering, such as around the ears and legs.
Perhaps they have a couple scraggly spots, or the feathering is getting knotted.
Some simple trimming can help with that.
Paw trims can also help tidy up the fur around their feet, and remove fluff between their toes so they have good traction and aren’t slipping.
The Golden Retriever Club of America also provides a guide to coat trimming.
A Golden’s coat really doesn’t need much cutting at all.
In fact, Golden Retrievers who are shown in conformation events receive minimal trimming so that their coats look luxurious yet natural.
Trims can be done on an as-needed basis.
Straight shears or electric clippers can be used for a sanitary trim.
If trimming your Golden Retriever seems overwhelming, you can also hire a professional groomer to do it for you.
Do I Need To Give My Dog Supplements For Their Coat?
Supplements, like fish oil, can be helpful for your dog’s coat, but you’ll want to ask your vet about it first.
Some foods have fish oil in them, so you may not even need to supplement your dog’s diet with it.
Plus, some supplements contain artificial flavorings or colorings, so your vet can help you decide what’s best for your dog.
Why Coat Care is Important to Your Golden Retriever’s Health
While it might seem like keeping your Golden’s coat in good condition is more about their appearance, it also has health benefits.
Brushing helps distribute the oils in your Golden’s coat, preventing oil from building up on their skin and causing skin irritation and issues.
Staying on top of brushing also prevents matting, which not only can be painful, but can also cause issues ranging from irritated skin to wounds to loss of circulation and even limited range of motion.
Routine coat care is also an excellent way to check for any health issues like lumps, bumps, hot spots, ticks, etc.
You may not see these types of things by just looking at your dog, but when you brush them and get your hands on their body, you may discover an issue that needs the attention of your vet.
Additionally, you’re more likely to be aware of any changes in their coat that may be an indication of an underlying medical concern such as allergies or hypothyroidism.
How to Help Your Golden Retriever Enjoy Grooming
For some dogs, grooming can be a stressful experience.
The stress can cause them to pull or run away from you as you try to care for their coat.
It’s worth taking some time to train them to be cooperative during the grooming process.
It’s much easier to groom a dog who is relaxed and willing to participate in their care.
This is called husbandry or cooperative care training.
Dog trainer Deborah Jones wrote a book on the topic, called Cooperative Care: Seven Steps to Stress-Free Husbandry, which offers detailed training steps to help your dog.
YouTuber Kikopup has an excellent video on introducing puppies to body handling and grooming. (These tips will also work for adult dogs.)
And here are some quick pointers for making grooming a low-stress experience:
- Pair the grooming with some yummy food. For example, provide your dog with a licky mat in the bath, or reward with tasty treats throughout brushing.
- Give your dog breaks. Brushing can be quite a process, so it can help to give your dog some breaks to avoid them becoming stressed or anxious. If they seem stressed, stop the grooming rather than pushing through
- Spread the grooming tasks out. It’s perfectly okay to split brushing up throughout the week instead of trying to brush their entire body all in one go.
- Stick to a routine. For example, perhaps you can have a designated mat you bring out and set down in the living room, which your dog sits or lays on for brushing.
When your Golden Retriever willingly cooperates with their coat care, it makes it easier for you to keep them looking and feeling their best!
If this article was helpful, you might also like this one about the best vacuums for Golden Retriever hair.
P.S. Getting a Golden Retriever puppy? Check out the Golden Retriever Puppy Handbook here.
- Golden Retriever Puppy Supplies: 17 Essentials For Your New Puppy
- 10 Grooming Tools Every Golden Retriever Owner Needs
- Best Dog Beds For Golden Retrievers
About the author:
Alisa Healy is a professional dog trainer in the Chicago suburbs, with a wide range of training experience from shelters to in-home training to dog sports. She is a Karen Pryor Academy Certified Training Partner and is passionate about helping people and dogs live fulfilling, harmonious lives together.