How to Bathe a Labrador Retriever in 10 Steps

How to Bathe a Labrador

Just like us, maybe not as frequently as us, all dogs require regular bathing and grooming. In this article we give you step by step instructions on the basic of Labrador Retriever bathing including how frquently you should bathe your Lab. These steps are vet recommended to help your Labrador stay healthy and super duper clean.

How to Bathe a Labrador

How to Bathe a Labrador

Bathing a Labrador Retriever take multiple steps, and unfortunately means you will probably end up just as wet, if not more wet, than your Lab. Make sure you wear something you don’t mind getting set and soapy. Typically Labs love water and will work with you through the process. When done with a positive vibe, bath time can actually be a great bonding time for you and your dog.

If you want a suggestion for vet recommended shampoo, my go to shampoo for Labradors is Pro Pet Works All Natural Organic Oatmeal Pet Shampoo Plus Conditioner. It works great and has helped reduce dog dandruff as well.

Follow these easy steps on how to bathe a Labrador and get your Lab shiny and clean:

10 Steps To Bathe a Labrador

1. Get Your Supplies Ready

Preparation is key when bathing your Lab. Have everything you will need ready and close by the bathtub before you even put your dog in the tub will be a lifesaver. You will need a mild shampoo and conditioner, petroleum jelly, a scrub brush, a slicker brush, and a hand-held sprayer (a pitcher will work here, too). Do not forget to have plenty of towels within reach.

2. Brush and Blow Out

Using a hair dryer on your Labrador’s coat while it’s wet help to loosen dirt, debris, and dead hair from the skin. Next, to remove tangles from the fur you can use a scrub brush. Then, use the slicker brush on the undercoat to remove additional loose hair. This whole process will be easier if ou get rid of as much loose hair and dirt before starting the bath.

3. Protect the Dog’s Eyes and Ears

Use a dab of petroleum jelly at the corner of your dog’s eyes to repel any shampoo and water that may get in them. A cotton ball in the ears helps keep the water out.

4. Use Lukewarm Water

Whether you are bathing your Labrador Retriever inside or outside, it’s very important to keep the water lukewarm for their comfort.

5. Secure Your Dog

For outdoor baths, clip a leash to your dog’s collar and either hold on to it or secure it to something sturdy. For indoor baths, you can lure your dog into the tub using a treat or toy. Hopefully, your Lab will love the water experience and jump in on their own after the first encounter.

6. Lather Up Your Dog

We your Labrador’s coat throughly and all the way down to the skin, as well as the under coat. Using either your hands or the scrub brush, use a mild dog shampoo working it into the coat from front to back, or head to tail. Make sure you keep all water and soap away from the dog’s face; instead use a soft washcloth on the face area.

7. Rinse The Coat

Using the hand-held sprayer or hose, rinse the shampoo out of your dog’s fur. Remember your Lab has a double coat which means you have to do double the rinsing to make sure you got all of the soap from the skin and hair. Do not stop rinsing until the water is running completely clear with absolutely no signs of bubbles or streaks. This is so important; leftover soap will dry up and cause skin irritation and itchiness.

8. Apply the Conditioner

If you are using a liquid conditioner, apply it to your dog’s fur, let it stand for a few moments, then rinse thoroughly. Spray-on conditioners can be applied at this time, leaving a few minutes for them to penetrate the coat.

9. Towel Dry Your Dog

Using clean towels, gently dry your dog’s coat as much as possible. Your dog will probably shake a few times to help with this step of the process.

10. Blow Dry Your Dog

It’s not uncommon for dogs to dislike noisy dryers, but if your Lab is tolerant of the noice, use oto speed up the drying process. Make sure the dryer is on the cool or lowest setting keeping it a hand’s length from your Lab’s coat. You could burn your dog’s fur and skin if you get the heat too close. Use a brush to gently dry the in its natural direction. If using a blower isn’t working for you, you can do an air-dry method, it just takes a lot more time.

Using these easy steps, bathing a Labrador can become a very routine and pleasant experience for both you and your dog. You can also check out our picks for the Best Dog Shampoos to see what is the best option for your dog.

How to Clean Your Dog’s Ears

Cleaning a Labrador Retrievers ears is crucial to the bathing process. This breed is highly prone to developing ear infections which are often caused by bacterial growth in the ear canal due to moisture, wax, dirt, or parasites.

Because Lab’s have floppy ears, dampness and debris are easily trapped leaving the ears no way to dry out. When you bathe your Labrador, that is a perfect opportunity to clean their ears as well.

My recommendation for ear cleaner is Virbac Epi-Otic Advanced Ear Cleaner.

To clean your Labrador Retriever’s ears, follow these directions:

How to Clean Your Dog’s Ears

1. Gather Your Supplies

You will want a gentle canine ear cleaner (available at pet stores or through your veterinarian’s office), cotton balls, a soft towel, and treats.

2. Clean the Ear Using a Cotton Ball

Pour a few drops from the cleaner on a cotton ball and gently swab around the dog’s ear. Start with the inside of the ear and work your way to the outside to remove any debris.

3. Clean and Massage the Ear

Squeeze a few drops of cleaning solution into the dog’s ear. Gently massage the base of the ear for about 30 seconds. Allow the cleanser to get into the folds of the ear and loosen dirt. Then, let your dog shake their head to remove any excess cleaner from their ears.

4. Dry the Ears

Using a cotton ball or soft towel, wipe out the ear canal. Only use the towel or cotton ball on the visible areas of the ear.

5. Praise and Treat Your Dog

After cleaning the ears, praise your dog for a job well done and give them a treat. Let them associate this experience with a positive reward.

Regular ear cleaning is a must for Labrador Retrievers. Because of the pain of infection, and potential hearing loss, cleaning your Labrador’s ears is a part of the grooming process you should not neglect.

How to Bathe a Labrador Retriever, Final Step: Drying After a Bath

How to Bathe a Labrador, drying

Labradors need to be as dry as possible after their bath to prevent skin irritations, hot spots and flaky skin. So the final step in our How to Bath a Labrador step by step instructions is drying. It may seem self explanatory but it’s important to make sure the dog is completely dry after getting a bath. Here is how we recommend drying:

Towel Drying After a Bath

You’ll need three or four towels to use this process. Instead of rubbing the towel all over your Labrador, it’s more effective to use squeezing or patting motion which soaks up the excess moisture. With this approach, you limit the number of mats and tangles that may develop in your dog’s coat. Start with the top of the head and back first, then dry off the belly, legs, and tail.

Hand-held, Deep-Down Drying After a Bath

If the weather is warm and dry, you can let your Labrador air dry outside. However, if the weather is cool or very humid, a hand-held dryer is one of the fastest ways to get your dog warm and dry. Be sure to keep the dryer on a low heat setting constantly moving it over your dog’s body. Be aware of how hot the dryer is on your dog’s coat by placing your hand nearby so you can always check the temperature.

When Should You Give Your Labrador Puppy Its First Bath?

How to Bathe a Labrador, First Bath

When should a Labrador puppy have its first bath? The earliest you should give a full bath to a Labrador Retriever puppy is about 8 weeks of age. Prior to 8 weeks spot cleanings can be done as needed. The ability of the puppy to regulate its own body temperature is the primary reason for waiting.

After 8 weeks old, you can bathe your puppy with lukewarm water. Remember to use a gentle or mild dog shampoo; never use human shampoo on a dog. Also, avoid using flea shampoo on any puppy younger than 12 weeks of age.

How Often Should a Labrador be Bathed?

How often should a labrador be bathed

A Labrador Retriever should have a bath once every 6 weeks, but that time frame is flexible depending on the dog’s lifestyle and environment. Labradors who like to play in the grass or dir, swim, or roll in the mud will likely need a bath every week or two. Parasites, ticks, and fleas are far more common in muddy and swampy areas making baths more frequently required. However, there is a limit to how much water and soap your Labrador’s coat can take.

Washing your Labrador Retriever too much strips those natural oils from the fur, leaving your dog’s coat dull and her skin unprotected. Skin infections and dandruff may result. Using mild and gentle shampoos can still cause these medical issues; therefore, it’s best not to bathe a Labrador too often.

Of course, Labradors will be Labradors, and there are occasions where unscheduled baths will be a necessity. If your dog stops, drops, and rolls in feces, a dead animal’s scent or remains, they need a bath immediately. The same goes for Labradors who decide to leap into algae-filled ponds or those who revel in racing through mud pits at the local dog park. In these situations, you will need to bathe a Labrador Retriever as soon as possible.


While bathing your Labrador Retriever is an involved process, it is well worth the love, loyalty, and companionship these wonderful dogs provide to their owners.

Perhaps more importantly, bathing your Labrador Retriever is necessary for their current and future health and well-being. To keep your Lab smelling pleasant you will need to bathe a Labrador on a routine basis. Your Labrador will be much happier if they are clean and dry, and so will you.

If you need tips on cleaning your dogs teeth, be sure to check out our article on Labrador Retriever Teeth: Care and Cleaning.

Dr. Anne Traas

Anne Traas, DVM, MS, DACT is a veterinarian and the President of Labrador Retriever Society. She is a specialist in canine reproduction. In her day job, she is a leader in a small biotech where she and a team of vets and scientists are working to develop new medications for pets.

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