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How to Groom Golden Retrievers – 8 “Must Dos” of Golden Retriever Grooming

How to groom a Golden Retriever.
Written by Tiffany Jeng

The Golden Retriever is the 3rd most popular dog in the US, according to the AKC records. And it’s easy to see why. This sporting dog breed’s beautiful golden hair makes it a joy to look at. Any proud owner of a Golden would want to maintain its natural sheen.

Here’s a quick guide on how to groom a Golden Retriever:

  1. Brush your Golden’s coat once every week.
  2. Bathe your retriever at least once every three months and at most once every two weeks.
  3. Trim (not shave) your Golden Retriever’s coat whenever there is overgrown and unkempt fur.
  4. Clean the eyes and ears to preempt infections.
  5. Brush their teeth and seek professional dental care.
  6. Cut your Golden’s toenails every time they are overgrown.
  7. Apply tick and flea preventative powder once every month or after every bath.

Golden Retriever grooming is not rocket science, but there are some nuances, tips and best practices to the process. Keep reading to discover the nitty-gritty of each of these “must do” grooming routines.

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1. Brushing Your Golden Retriever

The golden coat that gives this breed its name is both gorgeous and fluffy. This coat has a double layer: the extensive inner layer (undercoat) and the thick and water-repellant topcoat (also known as guard hairs).

Golden Retrievers shed heavily two times per year and moderately throughout. Their undercoat thickens to adapt to the winter cold, and the outer coat sheds to weather the summer’s heat.

Daily brushing helps, but shedding all over the house is just part of owning a large hairy dog. Our Goldens aren’t too bad most of the year, except in spring when they ‘blow’ their coats.

– Jun0wh0 (Reddit User)

If you want to rid the coat of loose fur and keep the dog properly groomed, you should perform regular brushing at least once every week. More frequent brushing is welcomed but weekly should be the bare minimum.

If you brush more frequently, make sure to be gentle. While brushing is great for the coat, it can be rough on the sensitive skin of Golden Retrievers.

You should consider brushing your Golden Retriever outside the house so that loose fur doesn’t cover the floor of your home. Trust me, there will be a lot. Vacuuming the fur can be difficult – especially if you have a carpet.

Matting in the Coat

The long fur that grows around the legs, the underbody, the neck, and on the back and tail is especially prone to matting. As such, the reason why regular brushing is so essential is because of matting.

Tangled fur causes pain to your dog when combing or brushing, so make sure you watch out for it. If your Golden suddenly jerks or shrieks, they’re likely in pain. It’ll be obvious.

If matting has already occurred, hold the fur close to the skin while brushing. Doing this will ensure the pressure of the brush is not felt on the dog’s skin. If the brushing does not detangle the fur, trim the fur to eliminate the knot. 

Slicker brushes are the way to go for dealing with matting in Golden Retrievers. A true time and tested brush is the Hertzko Slicker Brush, which I highly recommend checking out at Amazon.

This brush is perfect to reducing any tangled hair as long as you brush your dog frequently. Plus, it does a great job removing any loose fur and makes it extremely easy with its retractable bristles and anti-slip grip.

2. Bathing Your Golden Retriever

As with brushing, bathing is the pet-owner’s bonding time and should be an enjoyable moment for your Golden Retriever. 

Because water flattens fur on your pet’s skin, bathing can also be done with a health inspection function in mind. Look closely for irregular bumps on your dog’s skin or the presence of fleas or ticks.

One of the common questions any dog owner will ask is how often they should bathe their pet. Well, the answer to this question depends on a few factors:

Dogs with long fur will require more frequent baths compared to those with shorter fur. The obvious reason is that longer fur easily harbors dirt and makes it more difficult to shed it. But frequent bathing does not in any way mean every week.

If your dog spends more time indoors than outside, you may not need to bath it often. Dogs that are always engaged in outdoor activities may require a bath every time they are muddy.

  • Dogs with skin conditions will need frequent baths as part of the curing process. However, consult with your veterinarian.
  • In the absence of skin conditions or excessive dirt from extra outdoor activity, long-fur dogs like the Golden should be bathed at least once every three months.
  • The most frequent you can consider bathing your dog is every two weeks (twice a month). Anything more frequent than this can be potentially bad for your dog’s skin and coat.

Over-drying your dog’s skin with frequent baths or by using drying shampoos can strip away the natural oils in the coat, which are necessary for fur growth. And according to PetMD, this may even lead to skin irritation.

Bathing: Step by Step

Bathing your dog is less complicated than you think. If you want to give your Golden Retriever the perfect bath, follow these steps:

  1. Brush your dog’s coat before bathing him. Brushing prior to the bath allows the shampoo and water to reach every part of the coat with greater ease.
  2. Shampoo your dog and lather it all over their body, gently rubbing to ensure the skin is washed. You might consider using a soft sponge. Wash off the shampoo thoroughly, ensuring none remains in the folded parts like under the legs or ears.
  3. Dry your Golden Retriever with a towel. Wet fur is prone to breakage and tangling, so ensure your Golden is well dried after a bath. A blow drier on low heat can be used once a towel has absorbed the dripping water. Remember not to overdo it and to follow the pattern of the fur.
  4. Brush again. While brushing is important before the bath to loosen the fur for the shampoo and water, it’s also important post-bath to complete the grooming procedure. An undercoat brush can be used to ensure all the fur is combed, including the shorter fur near the skin. Make sure that your Golden’s fur is completely dry before brushing.

Dog Shampoos For Golden Retrievers

Not all dog shampoos are created equal, and not all are great for your Golden Retriever’s coat. As an owner of many dogs, we’ve had the chance to try out all types of shampoos, so we feel confident making these recommendations.

  1. Pro Pet Works All Natural Oatmeal Dog Shampoo – Our go-to shampoo for our Aussie, the Prop Pet Works is an all-natural dog shampoo made from oatmeal. It smells great and it’s gentle on the coat, meaning it’d be perfect for the lush coats of Goldens.
  2. Earthbath All Natural Dog Shampoo – After hearing so much about the Earthbath, we eventually tried it out with our Corgi. It’s also an all-natural oatmeal based shampoo and has been a time and tested shampoo with so many raving reviews. So far, so good!

Due to the sensitivity of the Golden’s skin and coat, we recommend you only go with all-natural dog shampoos. Never use human shampoo, as it’ll be too rough on the skin of your dog.

And while some will recommend using baby shampoo, we think it’s better to just be safe and go with dog shampoo. It’s not terribly expensive and will last a good while.

3. Trimming Longer Fur

Golden Retrievers will bite, just like almost any other dog, but they are not vicious biters and mishaps are rare.

There is a reason your dog has a furry coat. The Golden Retriever’s double coated fur acts as insulation during the cold seasons and as protection from heat and sunburn in the hot seasons. So if you live in warmer climate, reconsider shaving your dog.

When it comes to the Golden (and other double coat dogs), you should always try to trim fur instead of shaving it. See what the Verona Street Animal Society says about why owners shouldn’t shave their dog. The double coat just doesn’t grow back the same.

Trimming should only be done when the Golden Retriever’s full coat is overgrown and has unkempt fur. The locations to target include the neck, chest, paws, the area around the ears, and the tail. Trim as you see fit.

Trimming the fur between the paws is critical if you live in a region where it snows or gets humid. In the winter, snow gets trapped in the fur between the paws. In hot, humid summer weather, moisture can get trapped in the fur.

– TheTacticalTraveler (Reddit User)

A pair of scissors and thinning shears should be good enough for the job. Focus on the long fur when trimming so that overgrown hair can keep in line with the rest of the fur. The thinning shears reduce the fur in areas where it is bulky.

Unless your Golden is awfully dirty, you should trim your dog’s fur before a bath so that the loose hair from trimming can be washed away with water.

Not every owner wants the pressure of trimming their dog’s fur, especially around sensitive areas like the paws. So if you have some extra money, feel free to go to a professional dog groomers.

4. Cleaning the Eyes and Ears

The 5 best brushes for Golden Retrievers, as rated by real owners.

Unfortunately, ear infections are common among Golden Retrievers. It’s their long floppy ears that leave no room for aeration that are typically to blame. But fortunately, with a little care and attention, you can prevent such issues.

When you bathe your dog, take time to wipe inside their ears with a ball of cotton wool and some mineral water. In addition, white vinegar in warm water is also good enough for regular ear-wiping.

I squirt some cleaning solution in his ear, rub it with his ear closed, than clean the gunk out with a cotton ball after he shakes his head. NEVER use q tips!

– Jennay9909 (Reddit User)

Should you notice that your Golden is shaking his or her head or scratching the ears against a surface, it’s probably itchy. You should check for signs of infection or ear mites. Discharge and redness will eventually manifest with an infection.

When signs of infection or ear mites are identified, do a more thorough job by inserting five drops of mineral water into each ear canal. Let it sit for a minute before wiping it out with cotton wool.

If this routing ear-cleaning is done for three days without improvement, take your Golden to a vet. Discharge is always a sign of bigger problems and should be reported immediately to the dog doctor.

A little mineral oil and a ball of cotton wool should also be used to wipe the eyes. Just pay attention not to get it into your Golden’s eye. Discharging eyes are also a sign of infection and should be checked by a vet.

5. Brushing Your Golden’s Teeth

Golden Retrievers shed because they have a double coat.

A 2018 study carried out in dog breeding facilities to estimate the prevalence of periodontal disease among 42 breeds (including the Golden Retriever) found that, of the 445 dogs, a whopping 86.3% had periodontal disease!

The previous fact should make one thing clear: dogs need regular dental care. However, an alarming number of owners don’t for whatever reason. I’ll admit, I was one of those owners for so many years!

According to PetMD, brushing at least two to three times a week is recommended for all dogs, including Golden Retrievers. Professional dental care should also be sought at least once a year, if possible.

Neglecting your Golden’s dental care exposes them to the same dental problems that affect humans, including gingivitis, periodontal disease, and gum recession. With a few minutes a week, you can prevent this unnecessary costs and pain.

Tooth Brushing: Step by Step

You can introduce tooth brushing to your dog by first making the dog used to feeling your finger in his or her mouth. Once they’re comfortable with that, it will be easier to open the dog’s mouth and introduce a toothbrush. 

Follow these four steps to brush your Golden’s teeth:

  • Place a small amount of pet-safe toothpaste on a toothbrush designed for use with dogs.
  • Lift the Golden’s lip to expose the gums and teeth.
  • Use gentle motions to brush the teeth and gum, just as you would with an infant.
  • Ensure you reach the molars and premolars because they are most prone to cavities.

As long as you use toothpaste made specifically for dogs, your Golden can ingest it without running any risks. And if your dog is anything like mine, he’ll try to eat the toothpaste.

For most dogs, it’s not going to be easy in the beginning. So, don’t forget to reward your Golden after the brushing. Rewarding them with a treat or a ‘good girl/boy’ message will make brushing easier next time. Positive reinforcement is key!

6. Cutting Your Golden’s Toenails

We know Golden Retrievers are intelligent dogs, but how smart are they actually?

Your Golden’s toenails should not be left overgrown and should be regularly trimmed. But before you start trimming, I want to advise some caution. Not every dog will be thrilled about this, including our Corgi.

If you plan to do the nail-trimming, it’s important that you don’t accidentally cut the skin. It can be very painful and will likely deter your dog from wanting to get its nails trimmed in the future.

Also, you’ll want to slowly introduce this grooming routine to your Golden Retriever:

  1. On the first day, start by introducing the nail clippers. Let your Golden sniff it and get used to seeing it. Don’t forget to reward your dog for getting close to the clippers!
  2. Next, take the clippers and make contact with their paws. Don’t start trimming yet, just let the dog’s paws and clippers touch. Reward them with treats!
  3. You’ll want to now do the same, but squeeze the clipper to produce the clipping sound. Again, you’re not actually nail clipping at this point.
  4. Start trimming, but just a tiny part of the nails. As the days continue, you can start trimming more and more. Bring out your Golden’s favorite treats for this part.

A sharp pair of nail trimmers should be used to avoid unnecessary pressure on the nails. You will also need to consistently persuade your Golden to stay still so that you do not cut into the quick.

For squeamish owners that would not want to take on this task, the dog groomers will do this for you. But even before taking your dog to the groomers, I’d still recommend going through the introduction process.

A quick note on outdoor dogs: If your Golden Retriever spends a lot of time outdoors, then you may not even need to trim their nails. Outdoor dogs that spend their time on pavement will naturally trim their nails just by walking on rough surfaces.

7. Applying Tick & Flea Powder

There are reasons other than obedience that makes the Golden Retriever intelligent dogs.

At least once every month, you should apply tick and flea powder on the entire coat of your Golden Retriever. This will keep those bloodsuckers away.

I’ll admit, this isn’t as essential in some areas. These annoying little pests are much more prevalent in warmer regions, especially during spring and summer. However, they can be in your home year round.

If these parasites are already present, a warm bath with special flea dog shampoo will kill them. Follow the warm bath with combing using a tick and flea comb to remove the dead vermin from the coat.

But because bathing your dog will not permanently keep the bloodsuckers from attacking again, the tick and flea preventative powder should be applied. Again, it’ll depend on the area which you and your dog live in.

8. Nutrition & Coat Health

Red Golden Retrievers have an amber hue that's sometimes like a mahogany red.

Okay, this isn’t technically a “grooming essential,” but it is essential to a healthy golden coat. Without the proper nutrition, your Golden can experience excessive shedding, which can be a scary thing.

According to Roy Cruzen DVM, the number one reason for excessive shedding in dogs is a poor diet, or rather, a lack of essential nutrients. He says that most of the cheap dog food products barely meets the minimal requirements.

Some owners even opt to give extra nutritional supplements for their dogs. And one of the best for Golden Retrievers is salmon oil. This super fish oil will help keep the golden coat soft and smooth.

Other than a shiny coat, there are many more benefits to fish oil. Some of which, include better joints, healthier heart, better skin and a stronger immune system.

While there are proven benefits to this supplement, you should be aware of the potential negative side effects. As long as you’re aware, the good far outweighs the bad. However, I’d still consult with a vet prior to introducing any extra supplements into their diets.

Groom Away!

Grooming a Golden Retriever has both aesthetic and health functions. You can help your Golden to show off a clean and neat coat by bathing, brushing, trimming, and cutting his or her toenails. 

You should also help your pet stay healthy by taking care of ear or eye infections, brushing the teeth, and applying flea and tick preventative powder. If you can dedicate this much to your dog, they will thrive.

Grooming can be fun. It doesn’t have to be a “chore” that you have to do. And if you think about it, it’s not really that bad. In fact, Golden Retrievers are known to be some of the most low-maintenance large dog breeds you can get.

I mean, there must be a reason why they’re one of the 3 most popular breeds in America. Bring one home and you’ll be looking forward to grooming your dog.

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About the author

Tiffany Jeng

Tiffany is a product of Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine (class of 2022). Combined with over 5 years of veterinary technician experience, she's dedicated her life and career to dogs. When she's not studying or working, she's taking care of her Mini Australian Shepherd - Olympus! Read More.

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