AKC Gazette
AKC Gazette

by Faith Hyndman

Looking back on all the Labrador Standards over the years, there isn't one comment involving coat directing us to moose, tease, backcomb or blow dry our Labrador Retrievers' coats in preparation for the breed ring. The more shows I go to, the more I've noticed dogs being presented with evidence of excessive grooming. Correctly prepared coats are simply clean Labrador Retrievers …. period.

It puzzles me when I walk by owners' or handler's trucks and see a grooming table occupied by a Labrador Retriever with scissors, shedding blade, hair dryer, chalk and all the other show dog paraphernalia. A Labrador's coat is one of the best things about them. They don't need anything done to them; nothing other than good nutrition, good breeding and good timing. They don't need their pants or bellies trimmed nor their whiskers cut off. If they are out of coat, there is nothing that can be done to make it look better that a practiced eye won't detect. Leave them home and use that time to do obedience, agility or run some hunt tests.

It doesn't matter which standard you read, which camp you belong to or whether you think all have some merit, all the standards describe coat in basically the same way: "It should be short, straight, and very dense, giving a fairly hard feeling to the hand." Or "short, dense without wave or feathering, giving fairly hard feel to the touch." The LRC Standard states that wave is permissible.

Standards should be read with a sense of history and an understanding of the vocabulary of that time period. When our early standard stated that our dogs were not to have wave in their coats, remember that in the early stages of breed development, outcrosses were made and some coated breeds were used to enhance the Labrador Retriever. There became an earnest attempt a bit later to avoid throwbacks to that particular coat's appearance. It does not mean that a Labrador's coat should not have any wave at all. It means it should only look like a Labrador Retriever and not any other breed. It should not resemble a Flatcoat's coat, a Golden's coat or a Setter's coat.

Most of the breed books mention that wave is not only acceptable but indicative of a good coat. It has always indicated to me that before even touching it, I know it will probably have the correct hard feel. I don't profess to be an historian of the breed and there are many reading this who have been in the breed far longer than I have, but these facts are out there for all to read. Combine this information with some hands on experience and you'll begin to understand what a correct Labrador coat is. Before long, you'll only need to look in order to recognize correct coat.

We are responsible for showing dogs in good coat. Don't try to fix it. Take them for a swim to clean them up a bit, but don't shampoo or brush them unless you have finished showing for the season. Shampoos will soften the coat and brushing will rob them of their undercoat, none of which you want before a show.

The Labrador Retriever is a natural dog. He should be presented that way.

Faith Hyndman
Doylestown, PA 18901

(Labrador Retriever Breed Column for AKC Gazette April 2004 Vol 121, No 4, pp 52)

The Labrador Retriever Club, Inc., is the single organization officially recognized by the American Kennel Club as the national parent club of the Labrador Retriever. The Labrador Retriever Club, Inc., was incorporated in October 1931, in the state of New York, and is not affiliated with any other association titled or claiming to be the National Labrador Retriever Club.