Bath time is not known as a dog's favorite activity. When you bathe your dog, do they ever look forlorn, triggering that Sarah McLachlan song in your head? This guide is as much for you as for the lucky dog parents with a pet that cooperates during bath time.
No matter how your dog handles bath time, it is important to know how often your dog needs a bath. So how often should you wash you dog? It depends.
There is no one-size-fits-all answer here, because every dog is different. How often you should wash your dog depends on how long your dog's coat is, how active they are, their lifestyle, and if they have any skin problems.
In addition, dog parents should know there is such as thing as bathing them too much. Let's take a look at everything that encompasses doggie bath time.
How Often Should You Wash Your Dog? Timing Is Everything
When it comes to bathing dogs, use your nose. If the dog starts to stink, it's probably time for a bath. But in addition to their smell, look to these factors to decide how often to bathe your dog:
- Breed and coat length
- Activity level
- Skin condition
These factors will determine how often you should give your dog a bath. You also need to keep in mind that bathing your dog too often is not a good thing, as it will strip their coat of its natural oils. These natural oils keep their skin from getting dry, itchy, and prone to dandruff and matting.
To know how often should you wash your dog, consider whether they are a long-haired or short-heard breed, and if they have droopy skin rolls (i.e. Basset hounds, English bulldogs).
Dogs that have long hair, like shelties, collies, or Samoyeds, can trap dirt and debris more easily than dogs with short hair like Staffordshire terriers or beagles. The former set of breeds are a lot of work to clean, so taking them to a groomer is always an option.
Basset hounds are an exception to the short-hair rule. Though they are a short-haired breed, bassets need to be bathed more often because their coats are extra oily, and their excess skin rolls trap a lot of dirt. Plus, because of their short, stocky legs, their bellies tend to drag on the ground and pick up extra grime.
When it comes to short-haired breeds that don’t need baths as frequently as longer-haired dogs do, you can wash them on an as-needed basis, typically no more than every six weeks to three months. In terms of activity level, dogs who regularly romp around in mud puddles, frolic at the dog park with their slobbery friends, or swim in the sandy ocean will need to be washed more frequently than a dog who lives in the city or suburbs.
Dogs With Skin Conditions
If your dog has skin conditions or allergies, you will need to approach bath time just a little differently, as medicated shampoos and conditioners may require you let the product sit on your dog's skin for a few minutes before rinsing.
Take your dog to the vet so they can examine your dog's skin issue, diagnose them, and tell you how to treat it. Check with your vet for a recommendation on what kind of specialized or medicated dog shampoo and conditioner should be used to treat the skin issue.
If you dog has a flea infestation, for example, they might need a warm water bath using special flea shampoo or Dawn dish soap to get rid of them. Other common skin problems in dogs include yeast infections, mange, and allergies.
Dogs with allergies or yeast infections will often be given a prescription shampoo. If your dog is prone to dry skin, there are useful dandruff shampoos and conditioners for dogs that will help retain moisture and reduce itching.
How to Wash Your Dog
When you are ready to give your dog a bath, make sure you have everything you're going to need in one place. Washing your dog can be hectic once they are wet, so it's good to have everything you need in arms reach.
Make sure you have a shampoo that is specifically for dogs. Human shampoo will dry out a dog's sensitive skin and strip those essential natural oils even more, so only use dog shampoo. However, baby shampoo is also acceptable, as it is much gentler than regular shampoo.
In addition to dog shampoo, you will need a towel, brush, and lots of treats (we recommend superfood treats. Treats can make bath time a positive experience and reward dogs for enduring the process.
Here are the steps for bathing your dog:
- Everywhere is a "splash zone," so wear comfortable clothes you don't mind getting wet.
- Brush your dog before getting them wet, especially if your dog is a breed that has a long coat. Brushing first will help get rid of tangles, excess hair, and matting. If you don’t brush first, you’ll have more wet dog hair to de-mat or untangle.
- Turn on the faucet. Make sure the water temperature is lukewarm to slightly warmer, as if you were going to give a newborn human baby a wash. Never use cold or scalding hot water, as it will be uncomfortable and even painful on your dog's sensitive skin.
- Apply the shampoo to your dog and work it into a lather. Talk to them in a calm, reassuring voice as you work the suds throughout their body. Take extra care around their head, and avoid getting water and soap in their eyes and ears.
- Rinse (almost) every inch of your dog until the water stream runs clear. Do not get water in your dog's ears or eyes.
- Dry them off thoroughly with a towel. It's OK if the toweling down doesn't make them bone-dry, as the rest will air-dry. Using a blow dryer or hair dryer is not recommended, as the heat is too much for their skin.
- Reward your dog. Give them praise, pets, play, and treats for a job well done.
Wondering how to keep your pooch clean in between baths? You can extend that in-between time by using dry shampoo for dogs. Dry shampoo maintains their natural oils, keeps their coat moisturized, and delays odor. If you have a short-haired dog, you can also use pet wipes to remove any dirt they may have gotten into.
Bath Time Doesn't Have to Be Stressful
Though it may seem like a daunting task, dog bathing can be fairly simple. As long as you have the proper tools and know the bathing regimen needed for your dog’s breed, fur, activity level, and skin conditions, you can set them up to have great hygiene.
Remember that taking them a professional is always an option as well. Groomers will do all the hard work for you, plus they often throw in a haircut or a nail trim.