If you’ve been fortunate enough to find companionship with a particularly white-coated Golden Retriever, you know already how joyful it is to see that beautiful coat flouncing as he runs. Strong, healthy fur is an earmark of well-bred Goldens; when maintained correctly, your pup’s fur will stay shiny and protective of his skin long into old age.
Unfortunately, many Golden owners struggle with proper coat maintenance after adoption. Golden Retrievers have several unique coat features that require a special approach to both bathing and brushing, and if the wrong method is used, it can hinder the fur, keeping your dog from looking his best. This is particularly true for white-coated Goldens. Their fur is so light that it not only shows debris like mud and grass stains easily but can pick up dyes from shampoos and coat conditioners, too.
Fortunately, with an understanding of your Golden’s coat and how to care for it
, protecting that beautiful, creamy sheen is really quite simple.
Golden Coat Basics
Let’s start with the breed standard coat features for the Golden Retriever (as posted by the Golden Retriever Club of Canada
- Dense and water repellent with good undercoat.
- Texture not as hard as that of a shorthaired dog, nor as silky as that of a setter.
- Lies flat against body and may be straight or wavy.
- Feathering may be lighter than rest of coat.
- Excessive length, open coats or limp, soft coats are undesirable.
Given the information above, it’s important not to over-soften the coat or improperly condition it when caring for your creamy Golden. This is an all-too-common problem for owners, particularly because some strategies make the coat more glamorous. But it’s important to remember that a glamorous look isn’t necessarily the same thing as a healthy coat; balance is important, even when trying to achieve a beautiful white sheen.
Regular Coat Maintenance Tips
Keeping your white Golden Retriever’s coat shiny starts with regular coat maintenance; these are the basic steps required to maintain all Golden Retriever coats, regardless of shade. From daily food supplements that improve the hair from the outside in to brushes that remove extra shed, daily maintenance is much easier than correcting problems once they occur.
Natural Supplements & Food
Before discussing supplements, it’s important to note that the best way to “supplement” your dog with everything his or her coat needs is to feed a good, high-quality food in the first place. The average Golden needs approximately 1500 calories per day
, although your vet should adjust this based on your dog’s size and activity level. Feeding too little can cause a dull, dry coat that breaks easily; feeding too much (especially of the wrong food) can cause the coat to become excessively oily and dull.
Feed a high-quality kibble or moist food that contains approximately 20 percent protein
and 8 percent fats to properly support your dog’s health; this includes his coat.
If you have coat problems (particularly dull or dry coats), supplementing with additional omega-3 and omega-6 amino acids may help, as can increasing your furry friend’s moisture intake. Just be sure not to give any supplements without the approval of your vet, as your dog may need an individualized dose.
Brushing your Golden Retriever daily is optional; if you truly can’t squeeze it in for a day or two here and there, it’s probably not going to cause too much harm. That said, you should work in at least three brushing sessions per week. Make one of these sessions a day you have off and you can mix it with bonding or playtime, too!
Before you brush your dog, you should know that static removal is one of the most important first steps before grooming. But what’s so bad about static, anyway?
If you’ve ever touched your dog after walking across carpet, you’ve experienced static
first-hand; that small jolt is really an electrical shock. In the hair, it can cause drying, dulling and splitting. Brushing your dog’s hair naturally generates static electricity, so it’s best to always take this step first.
Start off by spritzing your dog with an anti-static conditioner that’s been diluted down quite far. A teaspoon of a regular coat conditioner like Loyal Canine Company’s Rise and Shine works quite well when diluted 20:1 or less. This formula will weigh down the hair slightly, preventing static electricity from forming while you brush your dog.
Ruff-to-Smooth works particularly well, but you must take care to use it sparingly so as to not over-moisturize the coat. Spend a few minutes spritzing and brushing it through the coat with a wire-pin brush
, working gently with the grain and never against it. Remember: just a few spritzes are plenty to get rid of static.
Next, work out any loose hairs with a slicker brush, avoiding sensitive areas like the groin, lower belly, face, ears, and feet. Then, finish up with a bristle brush to soften the area and smooth everything back down. If you come across mats, use a wide-toothed metal comb to work them out from the ends up.
Is your treasured companion particularly white and shiny in color? If so, bathing and stain removal will become a regular part of her care. As mentioned previously, white coats are notorious for picking up stains during play. They will often take on a brown tinge from mud, or a green tinge from grass. Even a swim in the pool can occasionally tint your Golden’s fur an off-white shade.
Food (particularly treats and vegetables that contain a lot of color) may also stain her muzzle and chest area, as can mud and regular, everyday dirt.
Never avoid allowing your dog to frolic and play to reduce the risk of stains; this isn’t fair to her and isn’t natural. Instead, work the stains out when they occur.
For everyday stains, like grass or mud, try a diluted mixture of white vinegar in warm water. You need only a teaspoon or two per 4 cups of water; never use the vinegar straight as its acidity can damage the coat. Spritz it onto the stained areas, allow it to sit for a few seconds, and then use a warm cloth to gently wipe the fur down on both the front and back.
If the issue is tear stains, or stains around the genitals, groin, and sensitive mouth skin, skip the vinegar – it’s not safe to use around the eyes. For all but the tear stains, stick with regular warm water and dog shampoo; otherwise, see a groomer for specialty products.
Before you consider removing tear stains, it’s vital that you determine exactly what is causing them in the first place. Allergies, poor quality food, and even teething can all cause this unsightly problem, as can other health problems. See your vet if you’re not sure why they are occurring; your sweet buddy may have a health problem or could just be experiencing irritation.
To fix existing tear stains, try a warm, moist washcloth first. If this fails to remove the staining, a product like Henry Schein's Tear Stain Remover
may help. Be cautious with over-the-counter tear stain products; some, like Angel Eyes, aren’t approved for use in dogs and thus, may not be safe. The same is true for home remedies, especially if they make use of hydrogen peroxide or milk of magnesia. If you’re not sure, speak with your vet.
Preventing tear stains is easier than fixing them. Once your dog is back to his or her bright, smiling self, it’s time to put some preventative measures in place. The AKC has listed a few excellent tear stain prevention tips
. Use these tips moving forward to reduce the likelihood of them returning once you fix the problem.
If you’ve tried all of these options and the stains just aren’t budging, it may be time for a bath. Although this is a fine approach, ensure that it isn’t a habit. Over bathing is a significant cause of coat breakage and may also dry out your dog’s skin.
Bathing once every 30 to 60 days with a good, dye-free shampoo and conditioner (try White Hair Shampoo by Makondo Pets
; it’s all-natural and dye-free) is best. But feel free to dunk your doggie more often when necessary for his or her safety and comfort. Skunk encounters and childhood art projects come to mind.
Your dog is your best friend. He deserves to look and feel his best at all times. With proper coat maintenance and regular stain removal, you will ensure that he has the strong, healthy coat needed to enjoy all of his favorite activities with no itching, oiliness, or excessive shedding. That’s a gift both of you can truly enjoy.