Complete Guide to Grooming Golden Retrievers


Understanding Your Golden Retriever’s Unique Double Coat

One of the first things you might notice about a Golden Retriever is its unmistakably luxurious golden coat: At the tips of its tail and around the chest are feathering hairs that curl up and bounce with every step the Golden takes.

This beautiful coat fits this fantastic breed so well, but it’s no coincidence: Like Labrador Retrievers and a few other species, Golden Retrievers have a unique double coat that protects them year-round.

Double-coated breeds have two layers of fur: The long and smooth outer coat and the fuzzy undercoat full of soft fur. They grow independently of each other at different speeds and lengths, so it’s important never to shave a Golden (or any double-coated breed).

Ultimately, a Golden’s double coat protects them from the elements, whether it’s hot or cold. They can play in the snow or hot summer sun without being uncomfortable.

The Outer Coat

The outer coat protects the undercoat and sensitive skin underneath by repelling water, dirt, and debris. In the hot summer months, these long hairs allow cool air to circulate through the thinner undercoat, keeping a Golden’s body temperature stable and comfortable and protecting against sunburn.

The Undercoat

In winter, the undercoat grows thick to keep the dog’s body warm—and prevent frostbite or hypothermia—by trapping warm air against the skin. The undercoat also keeps the dog cool in summer, so they don’t overheat in extreme temperatures.

Next time you see your Golden Retriever playing in the snow, look carefully at the outer coat getting wet and icy. Although you can’t see it, the undercoat stays dry and warm. The cold iciness doesn’t even touch your Golden’s skin, which is why they can spend hours playing outside in any weather.

Why You Should Groom Your Golden Retriever Frequently

As you might have guessed, any breed with a double coat requires plenty of brushing and grooming care, and Golden Retrievers are no exception. Your Golden Retriever’s coat requires frequent brushing and professional grooming between the two main shedding seasons in spring and autumn.

Try to brush your Golden Retriever a few times a week, if not daily. Without frequent brushing like this, your dog will experience:

  • Painful mats and tangles that are hard to brush or wash out

  • Loose fur and constant shedding throughout the house

  • A dirtier coat, since old and dead skin cells get stuck

  • Potential hot spots which, if left unattended, could turn into inflamed skin lesions

Should Golden Retrievers Be Shaved?

You should never shave your Golden Retriever or any double-layered dog’s coat. Doing so will cause the dog to lose its natural protection against the elements, exposing them to cold temperatures, sunlight, dirt, debris, and insects like ticks and fleas.

The coat won’t grow back the same: Instead of being smooth and luxurious-looking, it will grow back coarse and patchy.

When and How Often You Should Groom Your Golden Retriever

According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), your Golden Retriever should become familiar with some basic brushes and tools, such as:

  • Pin brush — Lifts loose hair, debris, and dirt while also evenly distributing natural oils so that your pup’s coat is healthy and shiny

  • Metal comb with medium to wide teeth — Reduces mats and tangles so that everyday grooming is more comfortable

  • Thinning scissors — These shears remove a small amount of hair with each cut, which is necessary for dogs with long coats like Goldens. It keeps the hair length less blunt and more natural-looking

  • Blunt or sharp scissors — You’ll use these less often since they’re for cutting out extra long or thick hairs, like underneath the paws or mats and tangles that are otherwise impossible to remove

Grooming Schedule

Coat Brushing Tooth Brushing Nail Trimming Bathing Professional Grooming
3 to 5 times a week 2 to 3 times a week Every 2 to 3 weeks Every 4 to 6 weeks Every 8 to 10 weeks

Do Golden Retrievers Need Professional Grooming?

Although only a third of dog owners get their dogs professionally groomed, it’s a must for Golden Retriever ownership.

Groomers have access to more tools and knowledge when it comes to handling your pup’s coat, meaning that they may be able to identify problems like:

  • Lumps and bumps

  • Skin conditions

  • Tough mats

  • Ticks or fleas

When you take your Golden Retriever to the groomer, they’ll receive a full coat cleaning with brushes and hairdryers, clippers, and an ear cleaning solution. Groomers can also administer flea and tick medication, which needs to be issued every few months or annually, depending on the type of treatment.

So although you do your due diligence by providing near-daily brushing and monthly bathing for your Golden, your groomer is professionally trained and certified to provide top-notch care and can help your pup feel and look their best.

How to Groom a Golden Retriever from Head to Tail (And Everywhere in Between)

You’ll need a step-by-step guide to groom a Golden Retriever, starting with the coat, getting to the nails, and finally, ending with toothbrushing. There are also plenty of tips and tricks to having an easy at-home grooming experience, which is essential for maintaining a strong bond with your pup. Let’s get started.

Part One of Golden Retriever Grooming: The Coat

You already know how vital, yet delicate, your Golden Retriever’s hair is — so that’s where we’ll start first. This section will walk you through an entire at-home grooming session, including brushing, bathing, and trimming long hairs around the paws, legs, and chest.

Step #1: Start With Brushing

Using your pin brush or a wide-toothed comb, begin by repeatedly brushing your Golden Retriever in one direction from head to tail, gently.

Focus on areas where mats and tangled fur are expected, usually where your dog’s skin experiences the most friction:

  • The armpits

  • Around the neck

  • Back leg hairs

  • Behind the dog’s ears

  • Bottom of the belly

Quick Tip: If you can’t remove any matting without hurting your pup, you should cut them out with a sharp pair of scissors.

Step #2: Bathe with Warm Water and Quality Dog Shampoo

Start by encouraging your pup to stand in your shower, bathtub, or outside in an enclosed space, like your backyard.

Ensure the water is warm and comfortable before you gently and slowly wet your pup’s coat. If your pup seems nervous or dislikes bath time, try encouraging them with a treat and a calm, cheerful voice.

Once the coat is thoroughly wet, lather dog shampoo all over the dog’s fur — including the tail, chest, belly, the back of the legs, and the head. You can also use a scrub brush if you’d prefer it over your hands.

Quick Tip: Be prepared ahead of time and have a large towel nearby, ready to rub them dry quickly.

What Is the Best Way to Wash a Golden Retriever?

If you plan on washing your Golden Retriever at home, almost all experts recommend doing so in the safety of your shower with a non-slip bath mat, or outside with a hose on low pressure if the weather is warm enough. If your pup tends to run, you may want to tether them with a leash or harness.

Step #3: Brush Again After Bathing

This part of the process is similar to getting your own haircut: Your hairstylist will comb, wash, and comb your hair again before they begin cutting or making changes.

So after your Golden Retriever has dried off a bit following bathtime, brush them again to straighten out the coat and eliminate any potential knots.

Quick Tip: In addition to the brush for your Golden’s topcoat, you can also use an undercoat rake to help ensure it’s tangle-free.

Step #4: Trim Fur with Scissors and Thinning Shears

You might be thinking: “Do Golden Retrievers need haircuts?” The answer is a little bit of yes and a little bit of no. Your Golden doesn’t need a full haircut, but a simple trim with some thinning will do the job.

When you trim your Golden Retriever’s coat, focus on the long hairs around the chest, legs, and stomach that are likely to get matted and catch dirt. The feet also get pretty fuzzy and collect debris, so you’ll want to make sure that the hair on your dog’s feet (around the pads) is only ½ inch long.

As you trim your Golden’s legs and chest, use thinning sheers and focus on finding fuzzy and unkempt fir. The hair on the back of the legs should be longer and a bit more feathery than on the front, which should lay smooth and flat.

How Do You Groom A Golden Retriever’s Tail?

One of the most beautiful aspects of Golden Retrievers is that their tails look like fans when extended. So, keep the fur on the tail long and feathered, but not so much that it can tangle and mat. With your trimming sheers, carefully follow the curve of your pup’s tail to take off ½ to 1 inch of fur while keeping the shape.

Part Two of Golden Retriever Grooming: The Nails

Unlike cats, dogs don’t naturally wear down their nails with scratching posts. For Golden owners, that poses the question: How often do Golden Retrievers need their nails trimmed?

Trim your Golden Retriever’s nails every two to three weeks since dog nails grow quickly (much quicker than a human’s).

Quick Tip: Your dog is due for a trim if you can hear them pitter-pattering on hard surfaces, like the kitchen floor or outside on the deck. At this point, the nails are uncomfortably long and could use professional guidance since groomers have tools like grinders and buffers at their advantage to avoid cutting the nails too short.

Step #1: Get Your Puppy Used to Nail Clippers

As you might expect, most puppies and dogs aren’t exactly thrilled to be around nail clippers: After all, they’re new, sharp, and require touching sensitive paws.

The first step to clipping your dog’s nails is to get them used to nail clippers from a young age. You can do so by calling your puppy over and picking up the nail clippers in their presence. Allow them to sniff the clippers, and then quickly praise them and give them a treat.

Repeat this several times over the next week (or longer) before going onto Step #2.

Step #2: Start with One Paw

At this point, you’re still not going to give your Golden Retriever a full pedicure, But they will quickly understand the purpose of the clippers, how they feel, and how the process will go. You’re only going to start with one paw and trim the very tip (but not too far into the quick, which we’ll discuss in Steps #3 and #4).

Step #3: Push the Dog’s Nail Forward

Focus on one nail at a time with your full attention. Place your pup’s paw in your hands and push the nail forward to see it behind the fur. This gives you a better idea of how long the nails are and a better grip when it’s time to trim. You’ll also see the quick through the nail, guiding you on how much to cut.

Step #4: Clip the Tip of the Nail

Cut within 2 millimeters of the quick. The quick is the blood supply that passes through the nail, which extends as the nail grows. You may be able to see the outline of the quick on the nail: It should look like a line that follows the curve of the nail but stops a few millimeters before the tip.

Remember that the quick is not too far from the tip of the nail, so it’s important that you only clip the very end to avoid accidentally hitting the blood supply, which will cause pain and bleeding (and eventual distrust with nail clipping).

Quick Tip: Remember that you want to trim your pup’s nails every two to three weeks. The longer their nails grow, the longer the quick grows, making it complicated to get your dog’s nails to an appropriate and comfortable length.

Part Three of Golden Retriever Grooming: The Teeth

Did you know that over 80% of dogs three years and older suffer from gum disease? It’s a scary statistic, but luckily, it’s one that you can curb with the practice of proper hygiene.

As soon as you bring your Golden Retriever puppy home, it’s a good idea to introduce the concept of toothbrushing.

But one of the most commonly asked questions that groomers, breeders, and trainers get is: How do you brush a Golden Retriever’s teeth? Dogs can be hostile towards toothbrushing, so here’s a simple, step-by-step guide on getting started

Step #1: Positive Reinforcement Leads to Positive Association.

You shouldn’t just jump to using a toothbrush because you have to get your puppy or dog used to having an object in their mouth and the taste of toothpaste.

Start this endeavor in a quiet place, before bedtime or early in the morning so your pup is already calm. Place some toothpaste on your finger (or a damp cloth or finger cap) and praise them every time they lick it with high rewards, whether playtime, a treat, or an extra walk outside. Many owners reserve extra-tasty treats for special occasions like these.

Quick Tip: Let them lick the toothpaste by itself, too—if your pup likes the flavor, then great. But if not, get a different flavor and try again.

Step #2: Introduce the Toothbrush

Since your dog is already familiar with the taste and smell of toothpaste, you can begin introducing the toothbrush after about a week of Step #1 (or however long until they’re comfortable).

Place a pea-sized amount of toothpaste on the brush and allow them to smell, taste, and lick the toothpaste off. Praise them for this.

Then, with their mouth closed, place the brush under the lip and brush a single tooth gently and quickly. Continue offering high rewards for this, but stay consistent with what you’ve already been rewarding if they seem to respond well to it.

The more your puppy accepts this over the next few days to a few weeks, the more teeth you can get to and brush successfully.

Step #3: Develop a Routine (And Reward)

Every day around the same time, try to gradually increase the number of teeth and how long you’re brushing them until your puppy becomes impatient or begins playing with the toothbrush.

The ultimate goal is to be able to brush all of your puppy’s teeth between 10 and 20 seconds per day. Doing so will help prevent dental diseases like gingivitis, which can cause liver, kidney, or heart problems if it spreads throughout the body.

Don’t forget to continue praising and offering high rewards—otherwise, your pup may lose interest and begin to challenge the process.

The Snowy Pines Difference

Golden Retrievers are beautiful dogs that need a lot of care to stay healthy and look their best, so when it comes to grooming a Golden Retriever, stick to a schedule like this:

  • Brushing: 3 to 5 times a week

  • Toothbrushing: 2 to 3 times a week

  • Nail clipping: Every 2 to 3 weeks

  • Bathing: Every 4 to 6 weeks

  • Professional grooming: Every 8 to 10 weeks

    But, one of the best ways to ensure your puppy is on the right path to a healthy and happy life is getting them from a quality, experienced, and reputable breeder like the team at Snowy Pines.

    At Snowy Pines, we have some of the most friendly and loyal English Cream Retriever puppies ready for their new homes almost immediately. Look through our selection of available puppies and find your new canine companion today.