Many pet parents find themselves asking questions after adopting a new pup, including how often they should bathe their dog. The answer can be tricky since it depends on the dog and other factors.
There are no hard and fast rules for bathing—but how often will depend on many things, including the breed of dog, their coat type, lifestyles, and the time of year.
- Your pup’s breed will be a major determining factor when it comes to how often they need full baths.
- Products matter–especially if your dog is managing a health or skin condition. Always work with your veterinarian.
- Dog odor tends to be more obvious in the summer versus the winter months.
How Often Should You Bathe Your Dog?
Bathing and grooming are two related but different things. All dogs need regular grooming. This includes trimming their toenails, brushing their coat out, using de-shedding tools for dogs with thicker coats, and cleaning their ears and folds of their skin.
Some dogs will need more frequent grooming than others. However, most dogs will benefit from a weekly “once over” to shorten their nails, clean their ears, and take care of small snags and tangles in their fur. A full bath—including a wet down, shampoo, and rinse varies. Bathing too frequently can lead to dry coats and skin problems, while not enough bathing can lead to health problems and a stinky pup. The happy medium may range from bathing your dog once a week to only a few times a year.
Dog Breed and Dog Coat Type
Your dog’s breed will be a huge determining factor for how often to bathe them, and how much work this process entails. It isn’t as simple as fur length, as hairless dogs like the Xoloitzcuintli need quite a bit of coat care even though they don’t have much fur. Other dogs, such as the Puli, have super long coats. They surprisingly need little care—especially after their coats have been corded. Double-coated dogs like Labradors often need more de-shedding work than they do bathing, and long-haired pups like Collies tend to get more tangles and mats which require regular care.
As a rule, the larger the dog and the longer the coat, the more effort will be needed to keep things under control, although this may not mean bathing, but more general grooming and coat care. Be sure to research the breed (or mix of breeds) to find out its needs before adopting. As a responsible pet parent, you need to know what to expect.
If your pup has any health conditions—particularly those that affect the skin—your veterinarian will likely have additional guidelines to consider when developing a bathing schedule. Be mindful that medicated shampoos may be necessary to treat some skin conditions, and that these dogs may need to be bathed either more or less frequently than the general breed recommendations.
Using the wrong product on a dog with unhealthy skin could make matters worse, so if you are noting any changes in your pet’s skin, be sure to check it out with your veterinarian before opting for a product.
The time of year will also affect how often to bathe and what products to use. During the warm, wet months of the year, many dogs are prone to greasy coats and doggy odor. Skin allergies will also be more in focus, with scratches and sores developing. Parasites such as fleas and ticks are also more common, further irritating the skin. This means that more frequent baths—often with medicated products—are necessary.
Dogs that swim in the warmer months may not need as many baths but will need a good rise in clean water post swim. During the winter, dogs typically aren’t as dirty, but are more prone to dry skin which can be itchy and irritating, so a moisturizing shampoo is necessary. The level of bathing will depend on the amount of dirt and grime on your pooch.
Age and Lifestyle
Puppies and young adults tend to be experts when it comes to finding ways to get dirty. As a result, these dogs often need more baths.
As dogs age, they tend to become more inactive. Some dogs prefer to stay indoors rather than play outside. Senior pups typically do not need as much bathing—usually just enough to keep any body odor at bay. You can also invest in some grooming wipes to keep them smelling fresh between baths.
Senior dogs also have restricted activity and may have trouble keeping themselves clean. They may require more intensive grooming, as they may not be able to do it on their own. Some of these pups may start to show health issues, such as urinary incontinence. Urinary incontinence can cause dogs to easily soil their coat. If they are managing health conditions, daily wipes and spot cleaning may be necessary.
How Often Should You Brush Your Dog?
Brushing should be done daily for long-coated breeds and at least weekly for dogs with a short coat. Brushing goes a long way to keep fur and underlying skin healthy. Dogs with thick coats will need to have the undercoat pulled out with de-shedding tools, while dogs prone to tangles will need careful dematting.
Most mixed-breed dogs will benefit from brushing a few times a week. When in doubt, brush it out.
Dog Bathing Products to Have on Hand
Before stocking up on bathing supplies, chat with your veterinarian to be sure they are right for your pooch.
Some great products to keep on hand include:
- Miller’s Forge® nail trimmers
- General ear cleaner (ask your veterinarian if your dog needs a prescription cleaner)
- Soft brush for your dog’s topcoat
- De-shedding tool for the undercoat (if your dog has one)
- Towels to prevent slipping and sliding on the floor in the bathing area
- Fluffy towels for drying off
- A hair dryer to lessen moisture
- Shampoo/conditioner: oatmeal products tend to work well for all skin types
- Waterless shampoos for in between bath clean ups
- Grooming wipes for spot cleaning
Professional Grooming Considerations
Many pet parents take their pups regularly to have a groomer do all the heavy hitting. If you prefer a particular haircut for your pup, or it’s time to do a seasonal shave down, these tasks are often best left to a groomer. If you notice your dog has tight knots or has rolled in something sticky like bubblegum, groomers have special tools to deal with the situation safely.
Whether you want to groom your dog or have a professional take care of them, good coat care is not only cosmetic, but also critical to the health of your pup.
Featured Image: iStock.com/Su Arslanoglu
Help us make PetMD better
Was this article helpful?