Why Does My Labrador Have Curly Hair? Causes and Effective Solutions

Curly hair is distinctive, even more, noticeable when you see it on a labrador; As we all know labradors have a pretty basic signature appearance that we all grew to love: solid coat color and straight hair so a lab with curly hair will not go under the radar. 

So, Why Does My Labrador Have Curly Hair? Labradors can have curly hair along with their hackles, due to a genetic abnormality, nutritional deficiency, the lab being a mixed breed, or a close relative breed: the curly-coated retrievers that have straight hair on their front legs and faces and tightly curled coat all over.

If your lab is not straight-haired, keep reading this article to know whether your dog naturally has a curly coat and ways you can take care of it or things to do to get it back to its normal, straight texture. 

Why Does My Labrador Have Curly Hair? 

lab with curly hair to show why does my labrador have curly hair

Labradors have a standard look of straight, dense short hair that comes in different colors. Many factors can have your labrador’s coat curlier than normal. These factors include malnutrition, your lab being a mixed breed like a labradoodle, or actually a close relative breed like a curly-coated retriever and not a labrador.

Labradors with curly hair don’t go unnoticed; while some people think what some people may not know is that there is a breed called curly-coated retriever, this breed is distinguished by its thick crisp curly coat with straight hair of the face and front of the legs.

The coat is tight to the skin and protects against water, rough weather conditions, and rough underbrush. The coat should be either black or brown, according to the breed standard.

Can Purebred Labradors have curly hair? 

No, purebred labradors cannot have curly hair. Purebred labs will have short, straight hair. If a labrador has curly hair this is due to a genetic anomaly, malnutrition, being a curly-coated retriever, a close relative to the breed, or a mixed breed.

According to the AKC, The labrador’s coat is a distinguishing characteristic of theirs: It should be short, straight, and thick, with a somewhat firm feel in the hand. The Labrador should have a soft, weather-resistant undercoat that protects him from water, cold, and all sorts of ground cover.

A small wave down the back is common. Woolly coats, soft silky coats, and sparse glossy coats are not among the characteristics of the breed.

If your dog has a full coat of waves or curls, it may be a curly-coated retriever. A curly-coated retriever is built similarly to a Labrador retriever, except for a distinguished curly coat.

curly-coated retrievers are different from labs as they have waves running from the base of the head to the tip of the tail.

Their lower legs and face are straight, smooth, and short-haired. While the ears have curls or waves are generally looser than those on his body.

What are curly or wavy hairs in Dogs? 

To put it in the simplest way, The coat hair pattern whether curly or wavy is determined by two distinct known mutations in the KRT71 gene. This gene produces keratin, a protein that determines the sort of hair a dog has.

This can be written as n/n, n/C, C/C, n/C2, C2/C2, or C/C2. The more and higher in number the C is, the more curled the hair.

Hair curling would not occur in dogs whose genes are recessive (n/n).

You can also learn if golden retrievers can have curly or wavy hair here.

Are Curly or wavy hairs normal in Labradors? 

Curly or wavy hairs are not normal in Labradors. According to the breed standard, Labs have a short, dense, straight coat. Sometimes the texture of the coat is affected by factors like not getting enough nutrients, too little food, irregular grooming, 

if the hair has turned slightly wavy or curly yet it has always been straight then this might be due to malnutrition, irregular grooming, lack of supplements not using a good shampoo, or an underlying health issue that needs medical attention.

If your dog has had curly or wavy hair since he was born then he actually might not be a labrador in the first place. He might be a mixed breed like a “Labradoodle”, a crossbreed between a Labrador and a Poodle who have the same appearance as labradors yet with a curled coat.

Another possibility is your dog is a close relative to labradors, a curly-coated retriever, who look really similar to labradors, with straight hair on the face and front of the legs and a full curly coat.

How to get your Labrador’s curly or wavy hair to its natural shape? 

Regular Grooming

A showering routine with regular brushing stimulates blood flow and makes hair grow in its healthiest form, it also removes dirt, dead hairs, and improves hair follicles’ health.

Fight Bacteria 

The environment surrounding your dog has a great effect on his coat; keeping the surrounding environment clean and safe will fight off bacteria and keep your dog’s coat healthy and in its natural texture.

Diet and Nutrition 

Healthy Starts from the inside; what you feed your dog will show on his physical appearance that is why you need to make sure he is getting food that satisfies all his nutritional needs in terms of quantity and quality.


In addition to main meals, you can give your dogs supplements that complement what you’re feeding them. My recommendation is to consider supplements like Omega-3 and Omega-6 as they have a great effect on dogs’ coats and their texture.

Check the PetHonesty 100% Natural Omega-3 Fish Oil for Dogs on Amazon. It’s really good and none of my dogs have had any side effects to it so far.

Good Shampoos 

Finding a good shampoo is essential for your dog’s coat and health, find a shampoo that will gently cleanse your dog’s coat without causing any allergies, and keep it free of any bacteria; better yet, I recommend you look for a shampoo with collagen. You can check the best shampoos for your dog’s hair here.

For more tips, check out my guide to helping your labrador’s coat regrow faster here.

When to worry and check with the vet? 

Changes in hair texture can be due to many reasons, and sometimes may even be related to a health issue, but it usually has noticeable symptoms. If you notice any of these symptoms, make sure you take your dog to visit the vet:

  • Hairless spots in their coat
  • Less energy than normal
  • Appetite loss.
  • Fever
  • Eyes that are bright red
  • Eyes that are watering
  • Dry nose and breathing with a loud noise
  • Itching and licking for a long time
  • Nipping and biting at their coats
  • Constant Thirst
  • Sleeping more than usual

Related Questions 

Do English Labs have wavy hair on their back? 

English labs can have a slight wave to the thicker hair down their backs called “hackles” which generally appear as rougher, denser hair than the rest of their coats. Hackles are wrinkled or zigzagged or wavy hairs that extend from a dog’s neck or shoulder blades to the base of his tail.

Do Labradors have wiry hair? 

Labradors have wiry hair as they are a double-coated breed. The outer coat layer may be wiry and rougher than the undercoat which has a soft and fluffy texture and protects the dog’s skin from sunlight, heat, cold, weather conditions, and also being scratched by twigs or tree branches.

Why do some dogs have curled tails? 

Some dogs have curled tails as an indication of hemivertebrae: a congenital disease is caused by an abnormality in the development of the vertebrae. The tail is an extension of the dog’s spine, when this spine extension curls, the bones and the end of the spine will twist.

Helpful Resources 

Labrador Retrievers for Dummies by Joel Walton, Eve Adamson (which you can also check on Amazon here)

Bald Spots in Dogs

The Complete Labrador Handbook: The Essential Guide for New & Prospective Labrador Retriever Owners

Living with a Retriever: Recommendations and Sources

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