How To Trim A Golden Retriever

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Golden Retrievers are known for their long flowing coat, which requires regular maintenance to keep it looking tidy and beautiful. Regular brushing is mandatory, and trimming the coat occasionally will keep your Golden looking his best.

In this article, we’re going to find out how to trim a Golden Retriever. If you’re Golden is looking a little shaggy, you’re not alone! Many of us who regularly take our Golden’s to the groomer, are having to take things into our own hands. Myself included.

So before you reach for the clippers and give your Golden a drastic haircut, (shaving a Golden is the worst thing you can do!!) just stop and read this first!

Is It Okay To Trim A Golden Retriever’s Coat?

How To Trim A Golden Retriever - Side profile of a Golden Retriever standing on a field of grass.

Giving your Golden a light trimming is just fine, but giving your Golden an all-over haircut is not recommended as you risk damaging the coat and doing more harm than good.

Golden Retrievers have a double-coat, each acting as a layer of protection from the elements.

The overcoat is water repellent and consists of long guard hairs protecting your dog from dirt, debris and UV rays.

The undercoat is soft, fluffy, and dense, and acts as a layer of insulation to keep your pup warm in the winter. The undercoat is what sheds heavily twice a year, and in the summer your Golden will be left with a much lighter and less dense undercoat that will help keep him cool.

What Parts Of The Coat Should You Trim?

There is really no need to give your Golden an all-over haircut, but trimming the feathering is a good idea to keep the coat looking tidy.

You will want to trim the fur on your Golden’s feet and paw pads, the ears, the feathering on the back of the legs, tail, and bum area.

If you want to trim the fur along your Golden’s neckline and belly you can do so as well. Many people choose to leave the neck hair long and instead use thinning shears to thin it out.

Tools You Will Need For Trimming

In order to trim your Golden Retriever’s hair, you’ll need the proper tools.

  • Stainless steel grooming scissors.
  • Stainless steel thinning shears.
  • Stainless steel comb.
  • Wire Pinned Pin Brush (for brushing before).

I recommend that you get a professional grooming kit. It will give you all the tools you need and it will save you from buying everything separately, saving you money.

I like this professional set from Gimars.

Professional Dog Grooming Scissors Set from Gimars.

The scissors are sturdy and comfortable to hold, featuring ergonomic handles. The scissors feature 4CR titanium coated stainless steel blades. They are solid and sharp, and the blades easily cut through thick hair without pulling.

The ends are rounded for safety.

This set includes:

  • 6.69″ thinning shears
  • 7″ curved scissors.
  • 6.1″ straight scissors.
  • 5.1″ straight scissors.
  • Stainless steel comb.
  • Cleaning cloth and storage case.

How To Trim A Golden Retriever

Whether you are trimming your Golden’s coat in between grooming visits, or you are doing it for the very first time, the following is a step by step guide to help you through the process.

If you’re Golden is anything like mine, you’ll find that you might have to do things on their time. By that I mean you might have to trim the legs one day and tail the next, and so on. My Golden just doesn’t sit or stand still for any length of time.

Step 1: Prepare The Coat For Trimming

Always start with a clean and dry dog. You may have to bathe your dog first if the coat is especially dirty, and then make sure the coat is dry before you start.

You will want to brush the coat to remove any tangles and mats. Find out which type of brush I highly recommend.

Choose a location that is comfortable for both you and your dog. I always brush my dog, Ellie, outside, as I want to eliminate the amount of hair in my home, so I choose to trim her hair outside too.

Step 2: Choose What Part Of The Coat To Start With

Depending on the position of your Golden Retriever, you can choose which area you want to start trimming. If your Golden is sitting down you can start with the ears or neck.

Step 3: Trimming The Ears

How To Trim A Golden Retriever - side profile of a Golden Retriever puppy's ears.

Behind the ears is where the hair can get a bit thick. You’ll want to gently pull your Golden’s ears forward or upwards and use thinning shears to thin out the hair behind the ears.

Make a few snips, brush it out and see how it looks. You may have to repeat the process until you are satisfied with the results. You don’t want to remove all the hair behind the ears, just thin it out so the ear will lay nicely along the neck.

Use thinning shears to trim the hair on the inside of the ear. Be careful not to remove too much hair as it could give a harsh look. You want your Golden to still have a soft look.

Also, be careful that hair does not fall into the ear canal.

Trim the hair all along the outline of the ear flap to give the ear a neat and tidy look. Be careful not to cut the ear!

Step 4: Trimming The Feet

How To Trim A Golden Retriever - Golden Retriever laying on his side with one paw held by his owner.

Without trimming, your Golden will develop the look of “slippers” on his feet. This is when long hair starts to grow past the feet.

Trimming the feet is pretty simple. Using a pin brush or a comb you want to brush the hair back (against hair growth), so that the hair stands up. Using regular grooming scissors you simply trim the long hair so that it is short and lays nicely on the top of the foot.

Next, you’ll want to trim the long hair between the paw pads. I was able to do this easily while my dog was laying on her side. Hold the paw in your hands and gently and carefully trim using regular grooming scissors.

Step 5: Trimming The Hock

The hock is the joint that is located on your dog’s back legs, just below the knee. It creates that sharp angle just at the back of the legs, it is similar to a human ankle.

Trimming the hock is relatively simple (providing your dog co-operates). You’ll want your Golden to be standing or laying down.

Using a comb or brush you’ll want to brush against the hair growth and trim along the baseline using regular grooming scissors. The hair gets thick here too, so you may have to trim then brush and trim again to get it looking neat and tidy.

Step 6: Trimming The Back Of The Legs

The hair on the back of your Golden’s front legs can get quite long and thick. You still want it to look feathery, but you can use thinning shears to thin it out.

Brush or comb the hair out and away from the legs and use thinning shears to make a few cuts. Repeat the process until you have the desired look.

Thinning shears are great for beginners because they give a forgiving and blended look.

If you want a more sculpted look, you can use regular grooming scissors to trim the longer feathering. You still want to keep some feathering on the legs, but you can make it shorter and more sculpted.

Step 7: Trimming The Neck & Shoulders

Thinning shears are going to be the best to use in this area. Most people prefer to leave this area longer, so using the thinning shears to thin the hair out will give it a natural and blended look.

You’ll want to make a few snips with the thinning shears, then brush and see how it looks, repeating the process until you get the desired look. You don’t want to remove too much hair in this area, or you risk your dog not looking natural.

Step 8: Trimming The Bum Area

The hair along the bum area just below the tail is referred to as the “pants”. This is always the thickest and fluffiest part of a Golden Retriever.

Using thinning shears you can remove some of the bulk and shorten the length while still leaving the feathering look.

You’ll want to have your Golden standing in order to trim this area. Start by brushing and then make a few cuts using thinning shears, then see how it looks. You may have to repeat the process a couple of times to get the look you want.

Step 9: Trimming The Belly Area

You want your Golden to have a bit of feathering along the belly area. Usually, the hair along the belly is not very thick and doesn’t require any trimming. If you notice any unruly hair, you can lightly trim this area to remove any scraggly hair.

Step 10: Trimming The Tail

How To Trim A Golden Retriever - Golden Retriever side profile showing the feathering.

The tail can get quite “bushy” looking if you don’t trim it. You want the tail to have a nice feathery but sculpted look.

The best position for your dog to be in is standing up or laying on his side.

Brush the tail out to remove tangles and mats. If your dog is standing, you can hold the tail up and make a few cuts with thinning shears to thin it out. Brush and repeat.

For a tidier sculpted look, use regular grooming scissors to make an outline starting at the tip of the tail. The idea is to give it a “half-moon” shape.

If your dog is laying on his side you can fan the tail out on the ground. Use thinning shears to thin it out, and regular grooming scissors to give it a sculpted look.

Can You Use Clippers On A Golden Retriever?

Many people will say that you should never need to use clippers on a Golden Retriever because their hair is meant to be long. Any trimming that is needed can be done with scissors and thinning shears.

However, many people use clippers to trim their Golden’s feet or to give them a “summer haircut”. If you wish to give your Golden an all-over haircut, it is important to only use high-quality dog clippers and make sure you do not cut into their undercoat.

You never want to shave a Golden Retriever! When using clippers at home, you want to make sure that you do not cut the coat any shorter than 1 inch, this way you leave their undercoat intact.

If you are going to a groomer and ask for a “summer cut”, also known as a “puppy cut”, make sure the groomer knows exactly what that is.

Do Whiskers Need Trimming?

Whiskers are found on your dog’s cheeks, chin, muzzle and above the eyes. Whiskers are pretty essential to your dog as they help him navigate the world around him.

Whiskers are an important part of your dog’s senses, helping your dog navigate in the dark, and they play an important role in hunting, retrieving, and any other activity.

Personally, I would not trim my Golden Retriever’s whiskers. There really is no need to trim them. However, the choice is yours, and if you accidentally trim them, the good news is that they grow back.

To read more about dog whiskers, check out this article from PetMD.

Trimming The Nails

I am going to be completely honest here, I have never attempted to trim my dog’s nails, simply because I’m too afraid. I always get the vet or groomer to trim them.

However, I will include a video tutorial below, if you are willing to attempt it on your own. If so, you are braver than me!

Tools You Will Need:

There are 2 popular types of nail clippers,

  • Scissor Style Clippers
  • Guillotine Style Clippers

Scissor style clippers are often more preferred over the other. No matter what type you use, be sure that they are kept sharp by sharpening them regularly or replacing them.

You can also use a nail grinder. Nail grinders are preferred by less confident people, as you can just slowly grind the nail down, being careful to avoid grinding into the quick.

It’s also a good idea to have styptic powder on hand. This can be used to stop the bleeding in case you accidentally cut into the quick.

The quick is the living part of the nail that contains blood vessels and nerve endings. Cutting into the quick will be very painful for your dog, and will cause a lot of bleeding.

Below are scissor-style clippers that are highly recommended by groomers, vets and dog owners.

BOSHEL Dog Nail Clippers in blue.

These scissors by BOSHEL are favoured by professionals and are very popular. They feature razor-sharp stainless steel blades to quickly and easily cut your dog’s nails. They feature an ergonomically designed handle that is comfortable to hold with a non-slip grip.

They feature a safety stop blade to reduce the risk of cutting your dog’s nails too short. A bonus nail file is included to smooth the nails after cutting, and it conveniently stores in the handle.

Here is a short video tutorial that shows how to trim both black and clear nails.

After watching the video, it gave me more confidence in possibly attempting to trim my dog’s nails. The key is to have treats on hand, keep your dog calm, start off really slow, and just trim a tiny bit off the nail at a time.

Final Thoughts

I hope you have enjoyed this article on how to trim a Golden Retriever. The good news is that Golden Retrievers are very easy going, and laid back. This means that the task of trimming their fur and nails should be easier.

If your Golden is anything like mine, they’ll enjoy all of the attention and extra pampering. If you are attempting to trim your dog’s fur or nails for the very first time, just remember to start off slow. You may have to trim one part of them one day and continue trimming the next day.

If your Golden ends up with a “bad” trim job, just remember that hair always grows back, and hopefully, you’ll be able to visit the groomer soon.

What About You?

Have you attempted to trim your Golden Retriever’s fur? Are you confident enough to trim their nails?

Let me know in the comments below. I would love to hear from you.

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I am the proud owner of a Golden Retriever named Ellie. She keeps me busy, and when she is resting, you can find me working on my blog. She is always close by though. I live in Stirling, ON Canada with my husband, and we both enjoy the never a dull moment life with our Ellie.

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10 thoughts on “How To Trim A Golden Retriever”

  1. Hello there, nice tips on ” how to trim a golden retriever”.

    I was reading your post earnestly learning the procedures on how to trim a golden retriever but what constantly pops in my head is ” how will the dog react!”. My mind became settled when you said that golden retrievers are “easy going and laid back”.

    I have not had a golden retriever before, just a wolf dog. Thanks for sharing.

    • Hi Lizzychris,

      It is important to remember and keep in mind that all dogs are different and will react differently to having their hair trimmed or their nails trimmed.  By owning a Golden Retriever, these tasks can be accomplished much easier because this breed is pretty relaxed and easy-going.  

      Thanks for stopping by,


  2. Hi Jenny, thank you for this very detailed, descriptive and informative post on how to trim a golden retriever.  This is exactly what I’m looking for because I have a golden retriever named Sheddy.  I have always thought of trimming him a little but I didn’t know how to go about it until I saw this post.  I have almost all the tools I need for the trimming, thanks for sharing.

    • Hi Jomata,

      I think many of us feel the same way as you do, we want to trim our dog’s but we don’t know where to start or we are too afraid of ruining their coat.  I felt the same way as well, but I just did it, mainly because of this groomer lockdown, and you know what?  It’s really pretty simple.  I mean I’m no expert or professional groomer, but trimming here and there to make my dog look better is easy and for me, it’s better than not trimming.  

      I’m sure you’ll do just fine with trimming your dog Sheddy.

      All the best,


  3. Nice write up on how to trim a Golden Retriever. I am a proud owner of a German Shepherd and sometimes I too give him a bit of trimming, not that it’s necessary but to keep him looking much more attractive and lovely.  It’s really fun doing it,  so if you have a Golden Retriever with hair all over him and you feel it’s going to be stressful then trust me it’s not…it’s really enjoyable.

    • Hi Evans,

      That’s great that you enjoy trimming your dog, and that your dog is happy with it.  All dogs deserve to be pampered and look and feel their best.  I do have to say that each dog is different and not all dogs will be as tolerable to trimming as say your dog, or my dog, and that is why some people might feel that it is stressful.  That is why it is always best to start off slow and see how your dog will react.  It might take time for a dog to get used to getting a trimming.  Having treats on hand is a good idea too.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts.


  4. Hello Jenny! 

    I found this article super helpful for me, as I have learned a lot about my Golden Retriever.  A friend of mine told me about this trimming issue but I was scared and didn’t want to ruin my dog’s coat. Thanks for sharing this with me I will try it out, I just hope it will go well.

    • Hi Rolex4real,

      Trimming your Golden Retriever for the very first time can be scary, I would suggest that you start off slow and only one part at a time.  Thinning shears are your friend because they are very forgiving and great for giving a blended look.

      Best of luck,


  5. Hi Jenny,

    I just read your article on how to trim your Golden Retriever, and I found it very informative.

    Do you recommend having a second person assist you just in case your pet moves around a lot?  My dog is very fidgety, and we have to double team him just to clip his nails most of the time.

    He has some pretty bad knots in his fur right now, so we are probably going to get some clippers and shave him for the Summer.

    Thanks once again for putting this article together!  I really appreciate all your hard work.


    • Hi Michael,

      Yes, absolutely if you need to have someone help you with trimming your dog then go for it!  One person can hold and keep your dog calm, or offer treats while the other person does the trimming.

      I’m assuming that your dog is not a Golden Retriever, because you do not want to shave a Golden!  Dogs with only one coat are fine to shave down for the summer, but I would recommend that you use scissors first to trim out the matted fur, just so the clippers don’t get stuck.  (although, some clippers are able to cut through matted fur as well).

      I’m glad you enjoyed this article.

      All the best,



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