Life with a Lab includes the occasional need to wash them up. Labs, particularly American Field Labs, typically love to run in mud, jump and swim in water, and generally get into mischief that leads to the need for a bath. Starting when a puppy is young will get them used to it early on and you will encounter less trouble later. When the time comes here are a few ideas to make the bath easier and achieve the goal of a clean and happy pet.
When to bathe – Unlike people who like to bathe regularly, many every day, dogs really only need to be bathed as needed. Some breeds are higher maintenance than Labs and monthly grooming may be a good idea for them but for Labs, with their double coat, monthly is really just too much. It will strip oils and dry skin out. Bathing is best done when needed, like when they are muddy, rubbed in something smelly (wild animal scat), swam in the bay, or they are just starting to smell in general (note if body odor is a consistent issue change the diet to help eliminate versus regular bathing).
What to use (note we receive no financial incentives to recommend these products. They just happen to be what we like and we share that information freely.)
Shampoo – When I was young my mother used Suave human shampoo on our pets and puppies she bred. It’s cheap and made the dogs smell pretty good. While Suave and other people shampoos can be used, the thing is that they are typically full of chemicals formulated for people that I wouldn’t use on people let alone on my pets so I searched for more pet friendly products. One of my favorites is Dr. Bronners liquid soap. Its environmentally friendly and works effectively at cleaning the dogs however their fur is squeaky clean instead of soft. My go to shampoo for the last few years has been Earthbath brand dog shampoos. They put quality ingredients in, some of them organic, and leave out the bad like gluten, DEA, parabens, synthetic dyes, sulfates, or phthalates. Bonus that Earthbath is all animal cruelty free. One of the best parts is that it leaves their fur soft and in a scent you like (there are MANY different scents to choose from). Here is a link to the one meant for puppies. https://www.amazon.com/Earthbath-Ultra-Mild-Tearless-Shampoo-Sensitive/dp/B01AW3G3JQ/ref=sr_1_2?crid=2G1B62Z0LM3BG&dchild=1&keywords=earth+balance+puppy+shampoo&qid=1615648891&sprefix=earthbalance+puppy+%2Caps%2C155&sr=8-2
Kong ZoomGroom – We LOVE this thing! This rubber like tool easily removes loose hair and dirt and helps to get soap in and out of their coats easily. It also stimulates oil production and capillaries resulting in a better coat for your dog and seems similar to tools you use for human massage. This thing is a real game changer. Just don’t let the dog get ahold of it thinking it’s one of their rubber chew toys! Here is a link to one on Chewy https://www.chewy.com/kong-dog-zoomgroom-multi-use-brush/dp/51528
Water Spray Wand – You can use just a cup to scoop water to wash dogs off however upgrading to a spray wand makes all the difference! You can you use the detachable head on some showers but usually the hose on these are just too short and can cause frustration for both the dog and the people. Water Spray Wands made for dog baths have longer hoses and are ergonomically designed to make bath time easier. Some allow you to adjust the flow of water from a trickle to a steady firm stream helping to wash the face gently to a firmer stream to get mud off. The one we use is no longer found online however this one appears to fit the bill well:
Treats – If you can manage it, have 2 people bathe puppies the first few times. One person can actually bathe the pup while the other distract the pup with treats and talking. By creating a soothing element to the bath process you are establishing that baths are a really great thing. Treats could be something as simple as their kibble or some special treat used only for bath time to encourage even more excitement for the dog. Bits of fresh oven baked chicken would be great or if you prefer something more ready to go our dogs LOVE Stella and Chewy’s Carnivore Crunch
Lick Pad – sometimes it’s just you bathing the dog and treating the pup with wet soapy hands is impossible. This is where the Lick Pad comes to the rescue. This distraction pad is smeared with organic peanut butter, Kong Easy Treat, Cheez Whiz, or other similar spreadable substance that your dog loves. The pad is then stuck on the bath tub wall or in front of the dog and the dog works on licking it clean while you bathe away. You can also directly wipe on the tub wall but make sure it doesn’t stain first. Lick pads can be found on Amazon in different shapes including this one: