A correct Labrador coat repels dirt, but occasional bathing is still important to keep the dog clean and smelling good. How often you bathe your Lab depends on personal preference and on how dirty he gets. You can bathe him weekly, monthly, two or three times a year, or every time he goes out and rolls in duck poop or other stinky substances.
Since Labs love water, giving them a bath isn't always the same ordeal it is with some other breeds. You can still count on getting pretty wet yourself, though. Gather everything you need beforehand: shampoo, conditioner, towels, and cotton balls to place in the ears to help keep water out. Brush the dog to remove dead hair.
If you're bathing your Lab in a tub or large shower, place a nonskid mat on the floor so he has good footing. Wet him thoroughly with warm water, starting at the head and working your way to the end of the body. Lather with shampoo, then rinse.
Be sure you get all the shampoo out of the coat. Shampoo residue can make the dog's coat look dull. A 50/50 mixture of cider vinegar and water is a good final rinse that will help remove shampoo residue.
Towel-dry the dog thoroughly, removing as much water as possible. Your Lab will help you with this process by shaking frequently. Then blow him dry, using the warm setting (not hot). If you brush him while you're drying, you can remove more hair, but you have to dry him completely — not just damp dry — for this to work.
If you choose not to blow dry the dog, let him dry naturally inside his crate, which should be in a warm, draft-free place so he doesn't get chilled. Letting him dry in the crate also ensures that he doesn't immediately run outside and roll in the dirt.
If your Lab's fur tends to develop a greasy feel between baths, rub in some dry cornmeal, cornstarch, or oatmeal to absorb the oil. Then brush it out. Double-check with the veterinarian to make sure the greasiness isn't caused by a skin condition.
Dealing with Skunk Odor
Face it — if you live in a rural, or even suburban, area and hunt or hike with your Lab, someday he's going to have a run-in with a skunk — and he's going to come out on the losing side. Before you let him back in the house, you'll want to eradicate that awful, disgusting scent he's sporting.
Lots of remedies for removing skunk odor have been suggested, from bathing dogs in tomato juice to dousing them with Massengill douche. The following homemade solution will also work, and you can find the ingredients at most drugstores or grocery stores.
Mix one quart of 3-percent hydrogen peroxide, a quarter-cup of baking soda, and one teaspoon of liquid soap. Wet your Lab down to the skin, then apply the mixture. Work it through his fur and leave it on for several minutes. Rinse thoroughly. Make sure your Lab doesn't drink or lick any of the solution, and throw out any of the mixture you don't use. It's not safe to bottle and store this chemical combination.
Removing Sticky Substances
At some point, your Lab is going to have a sticky encounter with chewing gum, tree sap, tar, or paint. Sometimes the only way to remove these gooey substances is by clipping off the fur where it's stuck, but before you do that, try one of the following techniques.
Any time your Lab smells bad, check for a reason. It might just be that he found a dead bird and rolled all over it, or he may have an ear infection or skin problem. Whenever you can't identify the source of an odor and a bath doesn't solve the problem, take your Lab to the veterinarian.
Rub the area with ice. Chewing gum or sap usually becomes brittle when it gets cold, making it easy to crumble it out of the fur. Work some petroleum jelly, vegetable oil, or oily peanut butter into the sticky substance. They will help soften it so you can work it out of the coat. Wipe with a rag and repeat until all the stickiness is removed.
If these tricks don't work, just clip the offending substance out of the coat. You don't want your Lab chewing on tar, tree sap, paint, or old chewing gum. Never try to remove these substances with turpentine, gasoline, paint thinner, or any similar harsh substance. They can be absorbed through the skin and are toxic to your dog.