Grooming Your Golden Retriever


Grooming won’t only make your Golden look beautiful; it also can prevent serious health problems. Just as with people, good grooming involves more than an occasional brushing of the hair. Keeping the nails, teeth, eyes, and ears well groomed is just as important.


One of the Golden’s best assets is its golden coat. The best way to get a good coat is to grow it from the inside, and that means proper nutrition. You can help that coat stay healthy on the outside by brushing and washing.



Brushing is a wonderful experience for most Goldens as long as it doesn’t involve pulling on tangles. If you wait too long to get started or between session, the coat can become matted and grooming will be a battle neither of you looks forward to. An adult Golden will need brushing one to three times a week, and even more during shedding season. Delaying it will only result in more work for you later.

Before starting, mist the coat ever so slightly with water as brushing a dry coat can result in hair breakage. After misting, use a pin brush to get out most of the tangles. Be sure you get all the layers down to the skin. Start at the bottom of the dog and work up, lifting the coat and brushing it layer by layer in thicker areas.

If you come across a tangle or small mat, try picking it apart with the end of the comb, your fingers, or a mat rake. Big mats can be cut into strips with blunt-nosed scissors.

Slip a comb between the mat and skin to make sure you don’t cut the dog. Then try to work with the smaller mats.

Nothing pulls out dead and shedding hair like a slicker brush or a shedding rake. Unfortunately, these are also great at removing living hair. Use these tools if you want to get rid of as much hair as possible, but use them sparingly if you are trying to promote a show coat.

Use a comb on the feathers of the forelegs, chest, tail, and britches, and to search for overlooked tangles on the rest of the dog. A bristle brush can be used to remove and distribute oils, but if the air is dry, it can cause the coat to have static electricity.

You will save yourself lots of headaches and hassles if you brush your dog before bathing. Wetting tangled hair causes them to bunch up and mat even more tightly.

Removing dead hair prior to bathing also helps water and shampoo penetrate down to the skin.



For the best results, use a good shampoo formulated especially for dogs. Even the fanciest human shampoos aren’t as good as these, because dog and human hair have different pH values and therefore need different shampoos. Dog skin has a pH of 7.5 while human skin has a pH of 5.5. Bathing the dog with a human shampoo can lead to scaling and irritation. While using a human shampoo will not do terrible things to your dog, it’s just that using it will not give you as good of results and, if your dog already has dry skin or other coat problems, it could make them worse. If you are on a tight budget and your dog has healthy skin and coat, using a mild liquid dishwashing detergent can actually give good results.

If you want top-notch results you need to use a top-notch dog shampoo that is just right for your dog. For example, if your dog’s coat is too limp, you can get a shampoo with a texturizer. If the coat is too full, you can get one with a conditioner. Some shampoos have brighteners and some have ingredients that claim to bring out the gold coloration.

Other shampoos are available from your veterinarian and are effective for various skin conditions. Oatmeal-based shampoos can help sooth itchy skin, moisturizing shampoos can help dry skin, antiseborrheic shampoos can help with excessive greasy scaling and dandruff, and antimicrobials can help with damaged skin.

If you use your bath tub for dog bathing, place a nonskid mat in the bottom of it and help your dog in and out so he doesn’t slip. A handheld sprayer is extremely handy for indoor bathing. Use water that you would be comfortable using for your own shower.

Warm water tends to open the hair follicles and helps to loosen dead hair.

1. Start by wetting down the dog’s hair to the skin, leaving the head for last. Be sure the water isn’t just running off the top of the dog. You need to thoroughly soak the undercoat down to the skin.

2. Before applying shampoo to the dog, first mix it with water. Use a big sponge to apply it and then use your hands to work up a medium lather.

3. Rinsing is an important step. Any shampoo remaining in the coat can cause dryness and itchiness. Begin rinsing from the front and top of the dog and work backwards and rearwards. To keep your dog from shaking, keep one hand clenched around the base of one ear.

4. Most Goldens won’t need a cream rinse, but you can add a small amount if you prefer. While cream rinses tend to make the hair lie flatter, they can also make the hair too soft and silky.

After washing, don’t let your dog outside on a chilly day when he is still wet from a bath. You have removed protective oils from the coat and saturated your dog down to the skin, so he is far wetter than he would ever get by going swimming and thus far more likely to become chilled.

Once the Golden’s thick undercoat gets soaked, it can take a long time to dry. Blow-drying is essential if you want to give your Golden a show-dog finish. You can use a human hair dryer, but they dry with hot air, which can damage the hair and be uncomfortable on the dog’s skin. A better, but more expensive dryer is a forced-air dryer, which blows cool air at high pressure. It literally blows the water off the dog’s coat instead of relying on evaporation.

When drying, follow these steps:

1. Start at the top and front of the head, but behind the head. Be careful as the high force of the air can damage the eyes, ears, and other sensitive areas.

2. Hold the nozzle close to the dog and blow directly onto the hair so that it parts the hair down to the skin, blowing off water in all directions.

3. Once your dog is partially dry, he will probably look as though he’s just stepped out of a tornado. Use a pin brush to make the hair lie in the direction it grows, which is generally toward the rear and down. Now use the forced air to encourage the hair to lie close to the body as it dries by blowing in the direction it grows.

4. If you stop drying too soon, the dog’s damp coat will dent and wrinkle when he lies down, ruining all your hard work. If that happens, sprinkle the dented area with water and blow dry it again.



The main rule to remember when trimming a Golden is that less is best. This is a natural breed that should never be sculpted into a perfect silhouette. A Golden with a proper coat will not have excessively long hair, but some straggling hairs can be cut off. If your dog has extremely long feathering you might want to shorten it so that leaves and sticks are less likely to get caught in it. If you trim before giving a bath rather than after, you will do better at achieving a natural look.


Ear Grooming

Since most Goldens have a lot of fluffies under their ears, it’s good to start there. Ear grooming looks easier than it is, but try following these steps:

1. Use a stripping comb to remove some of the thick undercoat, and continue until the hair is lying relatively fat. In extra fluffy situations, you may need to use thinning shears as well.

2. The outer earflaps are most important. Your goal is to have them covered fairly evenly with close-lying hair. You will usually need to comb the hair backwards and thin ever so carefully with the thinning shears, cutting with the shears held in line with the length, rather than the width, of the ear.

3. Finally, use the thinning shears to even up the hair along the ear’s edges.



Trim the hair around the feet. This is a good idea for pet dogs, since hairy feet tend to carry more dirt into the house.

1. Use small blunt-tipped scissors to trim any long hair growing between the pads beneath the foot so that it is even with the pads.

2. Trim along the outer edge of the foot so that no hair touches the ground and the whole foot has an even, rounded, appearance.

3. Use a flea comb or slicker brush against the direction of hair growth so the short hair on top of the toes is sticking out, and then use the thinning

Don’t worry about doing a perfect job. Goldens should look like they just stepped out of the field rather than out of the beauty salon.



shears, cutting in line with each toe, to remove the extra hairs. Comb the hair back down.

Canine nails were designed to withstand traveling several miles each day. However, unless your dog is a marathon runner, you are going to need to trim his nails regularly.

The most common problem associated with excessively long nails occurs when the nail becomes snagged on something such as a carpet loop and pulls the nail from its bed or dislocates the toe. In addition, nails that are too long affect every step the dog takes, causing discomfort and eventually lameness. If dewclaws (the “thumbs” on the wrists) are left untrimmed, they can get caught on things more easily and can be ripped out or actually loop around and grow onto the dog’s leg. You must prevent this by trimming your dog’s nails every week or two.

It is easier to cut the nails by holding the foot backward, much like a horse’s foot is held when being shoed. This way your dog can’t see what is going on, and you can see the bottom of the nail. You will see a solid core culminating in a hollowed nail. Cut the tip up to the core, but not beyond. Occasionally, you may slip up and cause the nail to bleed. Apply styptic powder to the bleeding. If you don’t have any, dip the nail in flour or hold it to a wet tea bag.



A dog’s ear canal is constructed in such a way that it naturally provides a moist environment in which various ear infections can thrive. Earflaps that hang down, especially those with long hair around the ear canal, tend to block the aeration of the ear. Dogs that swim a lot are more likely to get water in their ears. The combination of moisture without aeration makes the ear susceptible to problems. Check your dog’s ears regularly and don’t allow moisture or debris to accumulate in them.

Ear problems can be hard to cure once they’ve started, so early veterinary intervention is important. Signs of ear problems include inflammation, discharge, debris, foul odor, pain, scratching, shaking, tilting of the head, or circling to one side. Bacterial and yeast infections, earmites or ticks, foreign bodies, inhalant allergies, seborrhea, or hypothyroidism are possible underlying problems. Because the ear canal is lined with skin, any skin disorder that affects the dog elsewhere can also affect its ears.

If your dog has ear debris but no signs of discomfort, you can try cleaning the ear yourself, but be forewarned that too much cleaning can irritate the skin lining of the ear canal. You can buy products to clean the ear or use a homemade mixture of one part alcohol to two parts white vinegar. Hold the ear near its base and quickly squeeze in the ear cleaner; the slower it drips, the more it will tickle. Gently massage the liquid downward and squish it all around. Then stand back and allow your dog to shake it all out. Of course, outdoors is the best place to do this. If the ear has so much debris that repeated rinses don’t quickly clean it up, you have a problem that will need veterinary attention.

If the ear is red, swollen, or painful, do not attempt to clean it yourself. Your dog may have a serious problem and may need to be sedated for cleaning. Cleaning solutions will flush out debris, but will not kill mites or cure infections. Do not stick cotton swabs down the ear canal, as they can irritate the skin and pack debris into the canal. Also do not use powders, which can cake in the ear, or hydrogen peroxide, which can leave the ear moist.



Eye care should never be approached with a wait-and-see attitude. Take note of squinting, redness, itching, tearing, dullness, mucus discharge, or any change in pupil size or reactivity. If you notice any of these symptoms, have your dog seen by a veterinarian immediately. These conditions could indicate a serious eye or neurological problem.

Squinting or tearing can be due to an irritated cornea or a foreign body in the eye. Look under the lids and flood the eye with saline solution. A watery discharge without squinting can be a symptom of allergies or a tear drainage problem. A clogged tear drainage duct can cause the tears to drain onto the face rather than the normal drainage through the nose. Your veterinarian can diagnose a drainage problem with a simple test.

A thick mucus discharge usually indicates a more serious problem, including conjunctivitis, lid irritation, or “dry eye.”



Between four and seven months of age, Golden Retriever pups will begin to lose their baby teeth and get their permanent ones. Many times, baby teeth are not lost, and the permanent teeth grow in next to the baby ones. If this condition persists after the permanent teeth are completely in, consult your vet. Retained baby teeth can cause misalignment of adult teeth. Correct alignment is important for good dental health.

Tooth plaque and tartar are not only unsightly, but contribute to bad breath and a multitude of health problems. If not removed, plaque will attract bacteria and minerals, which will harden into tartar. Plaque can cause infections to form along the gum line, then spread rootward causing irreversible periodontal disease with tissue, bone, and tooth loss. Sometimes, the bacteria may also enter the bloodstream and cause infection in the kidneys and heart valves.

Dry food and hard dog biscuits, carrots, rawhide, and dental chewies are only minimally helpful in removing plaque. Prescription dog food is available that will decrease tartar accumulation, but brushing your Golden’s teeth daily with a dog toothpaste (NOT human!) and brush is the best defense for removing plaque. If you do not brush them, your dog’s teeth may have to be cleaned under anesthesia at least once  a year.



Skin problems make up most of the “non-well” cases a veterinarian sees every day. Problems can result from parasites, allergies, bacteria, fungus, endocrine disorders, and a long list of other possible causes.


In recent years, there have been major advancements in the quality of flea treatment products. Even though many of the flea products are more expensive, they are highly effective. It is far better to put an expensive product on your dog once every three months than to reapply a cheap one every day.

Always read the ingredients of flea products. You may think you’re getting a deal with a less expensive product that is applied the same and boasts of the same results as one of the more expensive products, but you’re not getting a deal if it doesn’t contain the right ingredients.


Some of the major ingredients in the newer products are:

– Imidacloprid (for example, Advantage)- This liquid is applied once a month on the animal’s back. It gradually distributes itself over the entire skin surface, kills at least 98 percent of the fleas on the animal within 24 hours, and will continue to kill fleas for a month. It can withstand water, but not repeated swimming or bathing.

-Fipronil (for example, Frontline)- This comes either as a spray that you must apply all over the dog’s body, or as a self-distributing liquid applied to the dog’s back. Once applied, fipronil collects in the hair follicles and then spreads out over time. It is resistant to being washed off and can kill fleas for up to three months on dogs. It is also effective on ticks for a short period of time.

-Lufenuron (for example, Program) – This is given as a pill once a month. Fleas that bite the dog and ingest the lufenuron in the dog’s system are made sterile. All animals in the environment must be treated in order for this regimen to be effective.

– Traditional flea-control products are either less effective or less safe than these newer products. Ultrasonic flea-repelling collars have been shown to be both ineffective on fleas and irritating to the dogs, and contrary to some old wive’s tales, feeding dogs brewer’s yeast or garlic will not get rid of fleas. 



Tapeworms look like moving white flat worms when fresh, or like rice grains, usually around the dog’s anus, when dried out. Although they are one of the least debilitating of all the worms, they can produce anal itching. Because tapeworms are in the cestode family, they are not affected by the same kinds of dewormers and preventives as the other worms, which are in the nematode family. The only preventive is to diligently rid your Golden of fleas, because fleas transmit the most common tapeworm to dogs.


Ticks and Ehrlichiosis

Ehrlichiosis is an under-diagnosed yet potentially fatal disease spread by ticks that parasitizes white blood cells and cripples the immune system. Symptoms may include lack of energy, a dull coat, occasional vomiting, occasional loss of appetite, coughing, arthritis, muscle wasting, seizures, spontaneous bleeding, or anemia. Aside from a fever in the initial phases of the disease, dogs may not show any definite signs of illness; they may just not seem “quite right.” A definitive diagnosis is made by getting a blood titer and testing for all strains of ehrlichia. It can be treated effectively if caught early.

Ticks can be found anywhere on the dog, but they most often burrow around the ears, neck, chest, and between the toes.

To remove a tick, use a tissue or tweezers, since some diseases such as Lyme disease, can be transmitted to humans. Grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible, and pull slowly and steadily, trying not to leave the head in the dog. Don’t squeeze the tick, as this can inject its contents into the dog. Clean the site with alcohol. Often, a bump will remain after the tick is removed even if you got the head, but it will go away with time.



Mites are tiny organisms that are related to the tick and spider family. Chemicals that are effective on fleas have no effect on mites. Of the several types of mites, only a few cause serious problems in dogs. Repeated shampoos or dips of not only the affected dog, but other household pets that are in contact with the infected dog. It is highly contagious, even to humans, and spread by direct contact. The presence of just one mite gives a definite diagnosis, but the absence of mites doesn’t mean they aren’t there.



Sarcopti and Demodectic mange is contagious and causes intense itching, often characterized by scaling of the ear tips, and small bumps and crusts of other affected areas. Most of the lesions are found on the ear tips, abdomen, elbows, and hocks. Treatment requires is not contagious and is not usually itchy.

Most cases of demodectic mange appear in puppies, and most consist of only a few patches that often go away by themselves. This localized variety is not considered hereditary. In some cases, it begins around the lips and eyes or on the front legs, or the dog has many localized spots. These cases tend to get worse until the dog has generalized demodectic mange. Demodectic mange affecting the feet is also common, and can be extremely resistant to treatment. are contagious and cause mild itchiness. They look like small white specks in the dog’s hair near the skin. Many flea insecticides also kill these mites, but they are better treated by using special shampoos or dips.


Inhaled allergens

Skin Allergies FAD or flea allergy dermatitis is the most common of all skin problems. When even one flea bites a susceptible dog, the flea’s saliva causes an allergic reaction that results in intense itching, not only in the area of the flea bite, but often all over the dog and especially on its rump, legs, and paws. The dog chews these areas and causes irritation leading to crusted bumps. can cause dogs to have allergic reactions to pollens or other inhaled allergens. Whereas human inhalant allergies usually result in respiratory symptoms, canine inhalant allergies usually result in itchy skin. The condition typically first appears in young dogs and gets progressively worse. The main sites of itching seem to be the face, ears, feet, forelegs, armpits, and abdomen. The dog rubs and chews these areas, traumatizing the skin and leading to secondary bacterial infections. Because the feet are also often affected, many people automatically assume the dog is allergic to grass or dew. Although such contact allergies do exist, they are far less common than flan, inhalant, or food allergies. are reddened, moist, itchy spots that suddenly appear. Hot spots typically stem from an itch-scratch-chew cycle commonly brought on by fleas or allergies. If your dog is affected with this condition, wash the area with an oatmeal-based shampoo, blow it dry, and prevent the dog from further chewing. If possible, shave the area first.

Many allergies can make your dog uncomfortable with persistent itching. Finding the source of the problem can be difficult, but some allergies are more common than others.


Hot spots

Several home remedies have been suggested, including the application of Listerine or Gold Bond powder, but these do not always work and severe cases should receive veterinary care. Your vet can prescribe anti-inflammatory medication, and if needed, antibiotics. As a temporary measure, you can give an allergy pill (ask your vet about dosage), which alleviates some itching and causes drowsiness, both of which should decrease chewing.

Please note: This article is part of a collection of dog-related content that we purchased the rights to. Opinions expressed may or may not agree with those espoused by Master Dog Trainer Adam G. Katz. When in doubt, please refer to the advice given in Adam’s dog training bookThis article is provided for your enjoyment, only. It’s relevance to real world working dog training may be limited.