The very luxurious, soft and slightly wavy coat of the Golden Retriever is one of the most distinguishing features of the breed. Caring for the coat of the Golden Retriever is very important, as there are some significant factors that owners need to be aware of with the breed.
The first and most obvious is that the Golden Retriever is a double coated breed. As with most dogs with this type of coat they are moderate shedders year round, however routine grooming can really help in cutting down on the amount of hair that is shed on a daily basis. A Golden Retriever that is brushed daily or at least five times a week will actually shed only a moderate to a small amount hair in the house for most of the year.
Double coated breeds typically "blow" their coat, a term that is used to describe the heavy shed that occurs usually in the early spring and the fall season. The Golden Retriever is absolutely no different and there is nothing that can be done to prevent this shedding from happening. The double coat means that the breed has a heavier, thicker outer coat covering a dense, almost woolly like inner coat. This combination of coats works to both insulate and protect the dog, plus to help the coat stay water resistant. The two coats also work to protect the skin from any types of abrasions, scratches or other harsh elements.
This highly protective coat can also be a problem for the Golden Retriever. The outer and inner coats can actually work against the dog, especially during the heavy shedding season when most of the inner coat is shed. The woolly inner coat can easily mat and tangle, including both the other parts of the inner coat as well as the thicker, outer coat. These tangles and mats, if not removed immediately will continue to mat, resulting in huge, massive, solid chunks of hair. Typically this tends to form around the base of the tail, on the breaches of the hind legs, around the front legs and around the throat area. Not only are these tangles unsightly but they can cause significant skin problems over time.
Under the mats the skin will become rubbed, causing abrasions and lesions that may only be surface deep. This opens the skin up to bacterial infections, plus it also can lead to very deep lesions as the dog scratches or chews to attempt to remove the hair mat.
One of the most important tools to have in your grooming supplies is an undercoat rake, also known as a grooming rake. This is a very sturdy, longer toothed combination between a brush and comb. The undercoat rake is absolutely essential in keeping the coat of the Golden Retriever is good shape all year round.
To use the grooming rake start by pushing the coat, both the inner and outer coat up and forward, then use the grooming rake to groom the coat back down and towards the back. Never groom against the direction of hair growth, this can cause the individual hair shafts break and may increase tangling and matting problems.
Grooming, if done on a daily or every other day basis, will only take a few minutes, however if the dog is not routinely groomed it can take significantly longer. Grooming is also important as it gives you time to check the dog's skin, as the Golden Retriever may be prone to skin allergies and this can give you a chance to check for hot spots or irritated areas.
At grooming the dog's nails should be checked and clipped as necessary. The teeth can also be cleaned, either by using a doggy toothbrush and toothpaste or one of the specialized dog chew toys that have bristles or rubberized protrusions designed to clean the teeth all the way down to the gums. Check the teeth for any discoloration or any signs of irritation, bleeding or swelling of the gums. This can indicate periodontal diseases such as gingivitis, which can also be a sign of other health conditions.
The longer, turned over ears of the Golden Retriever also need to be routinely checked for any signs of wax build up or infection. Often if dogs are in and out of the water the ideal conditions for bacterial problems in the ears can occur. The first signs of problems are typically a foul smell in the ears, irritated, swollen or red coloration in the inner ear, and the obvious wax in the ears. In serious infections the wax may be discharged from the ears and the dog may constantly shake their head, rub their head on the ground or scratch at the ears. Early detection can typically cure the infection with a bit of cleaning of the outer part of the inside of the ear. Use a soft, cloth on your finger, never use human ear cleaning products or Q-tips or swabs as there is a risk of damaging the ear if the dog moves his or her head suddenly. It is also very important not to attempt to insert anything into the ear, instead schedule an appoint with the vet. They may choose to flush the ear out with a cleaning and drying solution, removing the deeper layers of wax and debris. Ear drops may also be required.
To clean the coat of the Golden Retriever it is important to avoid using any type of human hair products. There are hypoallergenic dog shampoos that can be used, but full wet bathing should only be done as necessary. This is because the coat has natural oils that can be stripped or removed from the coat, even with mild dog shampoos. Dry shampoos, which are like powders that can deodorize and remove debris from the coat and skin are a good option instead of a complete bath.
High quality food that is rich in Omega 3 and 6 is great for the coat. Feeding a raw foods diet or at least providing meaty knuckle bones for the dog can also help with coat condition. These bones are also very helpful in dental health and helping the dog maintain a natural digestive process.