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How Often Should I Bathe My Dog?

| Published on January 13, 2018

“How often should I bathe my dog?” It’s the type of question that every dog owner asks from time to time, and it’s one with no simple answer. It depends on a variety of factors ranging from their breed to their health to their lifestyle. If your dog hates bath time, you may want to go longer between baths, but how long is too long? If you like a very clean dog, how often is too often to wash your dog? Let’s break it down and look at some different ways to judge how often you should bathe your dog.

#1 – When he stinks

For many dog owners, this is the simplest solution. If you have an indoor dog who stays fairly clean and has relatively short hair, he may only need bathed once or twice a year. A good brushing of their fur and running over their body with a grooming wipe can help extend the time between baths. If you have a dog that loves to roll in mud or poop or has a significant amount of hair, you’ll want to bathe them more frequently.

#2 – When he needs a haircut

Dogs with hair that grows continuously need regular haircuts anyway and should get bathed when they get their hair cut (typically every 4-8 weeks is recommended by groomers). The bath is usually included when you take your dog to a professional groomer, but you’ll still want to wash your dog first if you groom them at home. Clean hair cuts better and results in a better haircut. Bath time is also a great way to notice anything unusual about your dog or his skin condition, such as irritation, bumps, or parasites.

#3 – Every 1-3 months

The ASPCA recommends washing your dog at least once every 3 months. The experts at Dogtime say that “bathing once a month works for most dogs.” Dr. Jennifer Coates, veterinary advisor with PetMD, says:

“The best bath frequency depends on the reason behind the bath. Healthy dogs who spend most of their time inside may only need to be bathed a few times a year to control natural ‘doggy odors.’ On the other hand, frequent bathing is a critical part of managing some medical conditions, like allergic skin disease.”

#4 – Whatever schedule works best for you and your dog

You may feel like your dog never needs a bath or you may feel compelled to wash them once a week (don’t bathe them more frequently than once a week without talking to your vet first). In the end, you’ll know when it’s time.

Bath time tips

#1 – Brush BEFORE the bath

Your dog should be really well brushed out before they get into the tub, as water will make tangles (called mats) worse. Matted hair can also trap water and shampoo next to your dog’s skin, which can cause irritation.

#2 – Use lukewarm water

Dogtime says:

“Dog skin is different from ours, and hot water can burn dogs more easily. Bath water should never be hotter than what you’d run for a human baby. Keep it even cooler for large-breed dogs, who can easily overheat.”

#3 – Use dog shampoo

Dog skin has a much different pH than human skin, so human shampoo is extremely drying for dogs. It may also contain toxic chemicals or irritating perfumes. Stick with moisturizing shampoos formulated specifically for dogs.

#4 – Save the head for last

Mari Rozanski, of Plush Pups Boutique in Huntingdon Valley, PA, told PetMD:

“I always bathe the body first and head last, as dogs tend to shake once their head is wet. Just because a shampoo says tearless or tear-free, do not put it directly in the eyes, rather wash around the eyes and rinse right away.”

A cotton ball (or half of a cotton ball for small dogs) placed in your dog’s ears before the bath will help prevent water from getting into the ear canal, which can trigger ear infections.

#5 – Rinse well

Soap residue can irritate your dog’s skin and make them itchy. Once you think you’ve rinsed out all the shampoo, go ahead and keep rinsing to be on the safe side.

#6 – Avoid hot dryers

Unless you want to invest in a dryer designed for dogs (a high velocity dryer can help blow out undercoat and reduce shedding), you should either allow your dog to air dry or use a low heat setting at least a foot away from your dog’s skin. Heated dryers can burn your dog or cause them to overheat.

Related: 9 Best Blow Dryers for Dogs

#7 – Reward your dog afterwards

Since most dogs hate bath time, they should be rewarded with praise, play time, or a special treat to reward them for tolerating the bath.

(H/T: PetMD, AKC, Rover, Dogtime, ASPCA)

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