White and black pug in a blue bathtub looking a little eager to get out!

How Often Should You Wash Your Dog? (Sorry Fido!)

If you have recently adopted a new furry friend, you may be unsure of how often you should wash your dog. After all, no one likes a stinky dog, especially if he lives in your house and shares your living space and furniture. This is a subject of much debate which seems to have more clarity around how much washing is too much.

A lot of it depends on how much your dog is outside, how dirty he gets, type of coat, and what your tolerance level is for that dirty dog smell.

Fortunately, there seems to be an acceptable range of washing your dog from weekly to up to three months. And, some people never wash their dogs!

Frequency of Bathing Can Vary from Dog to Dog

Type of Coat

Long haired dogs usually need to be bathed more frequently as do dogs with thick double coats. The American Kennel Club has a great post describing the bathing needs as recommended by groomers for some specific breeds. As an example Collies and Maltese breeds need more bathing and grooming due to their long, thick hair.

Brushing your dog’s coat several times a week also helps a lot with keeping them clean. Brushing will help remove dander, dust, fleas and debris from your dog’s coat. My two short haired pug/cattle dog siblings seem to shed constantly! I use the Furminator Undercoat deShedding Tool which you can see at Amazon to help manage their short, fine undercoats. I notice that if I brush them daily, I don’t have to vacuum as often and have less hair on my clothing. It also helps to keep them a lot cleaner. I had Beagles many years ago, and they seemed to shed a lot less. They also had short hair but they did not have undercoats, and that makes a huge difference.

I prefer that my dogs get a bath on a weekly basis. After about 7-10 days they develop that familiar dog stank smell as oil and dirt build up in their coats. And I swear that dogs sweat! Yes, I know that dogs perspire through their mouths and feet, but they definitely develop a less than pleasant odor after several days of running around outside in the sun and yard. Three months seems way too long as a bathing frequency.

Having said that however, I no longer bathe my dogs weekly as I did with my Beagles. I was younger and the Beagles were smaller than my current dogs who are each about 35 pounds. And they really fight me when I try to lift them into a tub. So, I settle for bathing them every 4-6 weeks. I also use a dry shampoo or eco personal wipes inbetween baths, which helps a lot. Amazon has a great, gentle and eco friendly dry shampoo called Mighty Mutt which is gentle on their skin, soothing, and foams on and dries quickly.

Skin Condition

Vets generally agree that most dogs should be washed at least once every three months. This helps to remove debris, fleas, parasites, bacteria, fungus, and other toxins that dogs can collect on their coats. Vets also agree that bathing more than once a week is too much. It can dry out a dog’s skin and strip the coat of natural oils that condition the skin and help ward off germs.

Life Style

If your dog is inside most of the time, she probably does not get as dirty as a dog who is out in the field or farm a lot. If your dog loves water and has access to the local creek, he may frequently come home as a big muddy mess! My Beagles loved to go sailing with us. They could find all kinds of things on the beach like dead fish to rub all over their body. They would come home pretty stinky!

How to Wash Your Dog

Make sure you use a dog shampoo when you bath your dog. Their skin is different than humans and more sensitive to the type of soaps we use. I like to use a gentle oatmeal soaps that helps with seasonal allergies. ProPet Works Natural Organics is a nice, gentle shampoo for dogs with sensitive skin.

Try to make getting a bath as fun as possible for your dogs. I use a lot of treats which I will place around the back of the tub. But I first fill the tub with about 3-4 inches of lukewarm water. When they are in the tub, I continue to give them treats and then gently pour water from a cup over their coats trying to avoid their ears and eyes. I usually wash their face last with a warm wash cloth. I also have a silicone texturized round mat that fits on the tub wall with suction. Matier 2 pc Dog Lick Mat is the product I purchased for this purpose. It can hold peanut butter really well which the dogs love to lick. This is a great distraction for them during the bath and helps to encourage them to get into the tub.

I also just hose them down sometimes in the backyard. But I only do it on really hot days when the water in the hose is warm. I use a gentle spray and avoid spraying their head directly. This is a lot faster but not quite as thorough as a bath. With both the bath and the shower, I make sure I get all of the soap off and dry them really well with towels. They usually finish drying themselves by running around the yard and living room afterwards and then rolling around on the carpet. A lot of hair comes off after a bath, which is good for them. But it also means I will need to vacuum again!

Where to Wash Your Dog

As I mentioned above, I wash my dogs either in a bathtub or outside in the yard with a hose. But I have also taken a dog into the shower with me. I did this with our Golden Retriever but he did not seem to like it very well. I think the water may have been a bit hot for him. Lukewarm is best for dogs. When I was a kid, my parents had an old round metal tub for bathing our dog Skipper out in the back yard. They would fill it up with lukewarm water. It was a lot less messy than doing it in the house!

If money was not an issue, I would take my dogs to the groomer every 2-3 weeks. It is important to find a groomer who will not terrify your dog but will be able manage him if he is challenging. I went to 4 different groomers before I found one who could manage my difficult dog with a lot of the cattle dog genes. They also do not cage the dogs up but let them run around in a little play area before and after their baths. My dogs do not seem to get horribly upset when I drop them off and they come home smelling and looking great!

A brown and black dog looking grateful in their new home after 9 months at the shelter.
Charlotte and Georgia home from the groomer!

Show dogs or other types of dogs like poodles who need to have their coats trimmed and shaped in a certain way, will definitely need to go to a groomer. Groomers are also great as they will clean ears, trim nails, and express anal glands. Things that I certainly do like to do and cannot do well.

In Summary

Most people wash their dogs on averge, once a month. Dogs should be washed at least every three months and not more than once a week. Frequency depends on how fresh you want your dog to be, and what their coats and skin require for optimal health. Additionally, your dog may require the services of a professional groomer to deal with special issues and provide additional services and hair trimming.

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