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How Often Should You Bathe Your Dog?

Dog being washed
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Does your dog hop into the bathtub, looking forward to the soothing, warm water and suds? Or does he run for the hills, fight you every step of the way, and create chaos in the house when he needs to be cleaned?

Regardless of whether your dog is a spa lover or a bathtime ball of nervous energy, the question may have popped into your head—how often do I actually need to do this?

If you’re wondering how often you should bathe your dog, there are a couple of variables to keep in mind. Let’s dive in and review the basics so you can come up with the right bathing balance for your pup.

How Often Should You Bathe a Dog?

Happy lab in bath outdoors

The truth is, there is no set-in-stone answer to how often you should bathe your dog. It can depend on your dog’s skin and coat type, health issues, and the lifestyle your dog lives.

For an average dog—one that goes on leisurely walks, is generally healthy, and lives a normal life of lounging on the couch—he may not need to be bathed more than 3 to 4 times per year. Pet owners may choose to do this when their dog’s odor becomes noticeable.

Variables That Could Impact Bathing Frequency

Golden retriever playing in the mud

There are instances where a dog needs to be bathed more or less than the average 3-4 times per year. Here are some other considerations when trying to determine if it’s time to bathe your pooch.

Your Dog’s Lifestyle

Is your dog the outdoorsy type? Does he enjoy swimming or frolicking in the woods? Does he enjoy long walks on the beach? Does he spend time romping through puddles and getting covered in mud? If so, you should play it by ear and bathe your dog as needed.

If dogs are avid swimmers, it’s important to clean off irritating salt or pool water from their skin and fur—even if it’s just a quick rinse. If your dog enjoys hiking and running amok in the muck, your pup may need a full bath to clean off dirt and debris.

Your Dog’s Overall Health

Does your dog suffer from an underlying disease? Certain medical conditions—such as hypothyroidism, Cushing’s disease, or diabetes—may cause secondary skin or coat issues. If your dog is ill in any way, speak with your veterinarian about the best bathing recommendations for your pet. A veterinarian may prescribe a special protocol or shampoo, as to not to dry out your dog’s skin or further exacerbate any issues.

Your Dog’s Skin/Coat Type

Does your dog have long, flowing hair? Or is he hairless? Different breeds have different coat types.

For instance, if you have a long-haired dog, such as a Collie or Sheltie, they need to be brushed before, during, and after their bath, and they also need a special doggie-conditioner to keep their fur from tangling and matting. A Chinese Crested has little to no hair, and may have blackheads that need a medicated shampoo to treat. If you have a double-coated dog, such as a Siberian Husky or Labrador Retriever, they may need a deshedding shampoo or no bath at all, just a good brushing. If a dog has a heavy coat, and is not thoroughly dried, they may get skin irritation, a rash, or infection from remaining moisture.

Consult your veterinarian or a groomer for instructions about bathing your specific dog breed.

Can You Bathe a Dog Too Often?

Dog sitting outside scratching

Yes, you can bathe a dog too often. Giving baths more than necessary may strip your dog’s coat of essential oils. This may cause secondary issues, such as a bacterial skin infection, or dry itchy skin. Frequent bathing could also complicate an underlying medical condition.

Speak to your veterinarian about what protocol works best for your dog’s specific needs before attempting any at-home grooming task.

When to Take Your Dog to a Professional Groomer

Dog at the groomers

If at-home bathing sessions stress you out, a professional groomer can make sure your dog gets cleaned, brushed, and trimmed appropriately.

Groomers are educated, licensed, and experienced with all types of dog breeds, coat types, shampoos, conditioners, and other supplies. They may also pick up on underlying issues found during an appointment, such as skin irritation, tumors, cysts, an ear infection, or broken toenail.

If your dog’s fur is particularly matted or dirty, a groomer may have better tools and products to help remove mats and grime than you do at home.

If your dog suffers from any serious medical conditions, you can also ask your veterinarian if they provide grooming services at the clinic. Many veterinarians will offer grooming services for dogs with skin conditions or allergies.

A professional setting may also be more conducive to bathing your dog. If your home or apartment doesn’t have a bathtub or you don’t want your dog tracking water all over your house, taking your dog to a groomer may make your life easier.

Tips for Bathing Your Dog at Home

Dog at home being in a towel after a bath

If you want to get down and dirty with giving your dog a bath at home, here are some tips to keep you and your spa buddy safe.

Have your supplies ready. Before you start bathing your dog, have all of your tools and supplies on hand. You may not be able to leave your dog in the tub while you run for a towel or cup. You may need towels, a cup for rinsing your dog, dog shampoo and conditioner, a blow dryer, cotton balls, and a brush and/or comb.

Brush your dog before bathing. Give your dog a thorough brush out, as this will help remove some of the loose fur, dirt, and debris, and save your drain.

Protect your dog’s ears and eyes. Place cotton balls in your dog’s ears to help keep any water and soap out. Be careful around your dog’s eyes and cover his eyes gently with your hand if you are rinsing his head. Some groomers recommend bathing your dog’s head last because getting their head wet can cause anxiety. Some dogs may benefit from simply wiping their head and face with a wet washcloth.

Use a shampoo formulated for dogs. Avoid using any human shampoos on dogs—even baby shampoo. Dogs and humans have different pH levels, so human shampoos can irritate a dog’s skin.

Follow instructions on the shampoo bottle. Follow the instructions on the shampoo bottle and be sure to rinse thoroughly. Any soap left behind can cause irritation to the skin, or your dog may ingest it by licking it off later.

Don’t let your dog drink bath water. Bath water shouldn’t be ingested. It can cause an upset stomach, vomiting, diarrhea, or lack of appetite.

Dry your dog thoroughly. Once you are finished, be sure to dry your dog using towels and/or a hairdryer. Some dogs may not like the dryer, so if your dog shows any signs of anxiety or discomfort, simply use a towel.

Watch for skin irritation. No matter what kind of shampoo you choose, keep an eye out for any adverse reactions. This may be red, irritated skin, itchiness, hair loss, or even hives. If you see any sign of a reaction, rinse your dog thoroughly and contact your veterinarian.

5 Best Bath Products For Dogs

Bathing your dog is one of those “must-dos” on every pet parent’s checklist. Each dog is unique in her bathing and coat requirements, which means there are different products for different canine bath time needs. Your hair might be fine and thin, so a volumizing shampoo makes sense. Perhaps a friend’s hair is thick and coarse, so she uses shampoo for manageability and to control frizz. 

Although dogs are a lot like people, you should never use human shampoo on a dog. Using a human shampoo on your dog can strip away her oils and the protective qualities she needs in her skin. Dogs may end up itchy, dry, and irritated as a result. We recommend reading the back of a dog shampoo bottle to determine what is in it and if it best suits your pup’s coat and skin. 

Here are five of our favorite bath products for dogs. Happy shopping and happy bathing!

All featured products were chosen at the discretion of the Great Pet Care editorial team and not directly recommended or endorsed by the author of this article. Great Pet Care may make a small affiliate commission if you click through and make a purchase.

Great Coat Aloe and Oatmeal Dog Shampoo

Many dogs have sensitive skin or allergies, which makes Great Coat a sensible solution to manage their skin and coat. This hypoallergenic dog shampoo is designed to relieve dry, itchy skin while leaving her coat smooth and manageable. Because it is a soap-free formulation, the formula is gentle enough to clean the skin and coat without irritation. Much like a spa experience, the colloidal oatmeal and vitamins restore natural moisture and emollients to your precious pup’s skin and coat. Great Coat is one of those pet products you’ll reach for time and again to make bath time more pleasurable for you and your dog. 

Highlights

  • Made in America with ingredients you can pronounce and trust 
  • Helps remove dandruff, dirt, and debris without stripping your dog’s coat
  • Light and airy piña colada scent that smells yummy but not overpowering 
  • Perfectly pH balanced so it won’t disrupt your dog’s natural skin chemistry
  • Contains nano-encapsulated vitamins so your dog’s coat glistens 
  • Aloe vera helps restore the natural moisture of your dog’s coat and skin

Things to Consider

  • Great Coat is most effective if allowed to sit on your dog’s skin for 5 to 10 minutes before rinsing thoroughly.
  • Multi-dog households and pet parents with large dogs may want to purchase multiple bottles since it is available in one size at this time. 

Sample buyer review: “My favorite part about this shampoo was how great the lather was and how easy it was to rinse out. It was able to penetrate through a ton of fur without having to use a ridiculous amount of product. I did not feel like I was endlessly rinsing and there wasn’t any build-up/film once it came to drying her. The smell is so delightful without being overpowering or irritating. Once dried Gerti still smelt very nice and her fur was so soft and clean.”

Bone Dry Embroidered Paw Print Microfiber Bath Towel

microfiber towel for dog after his bath

Every good boy and good girl deserves a warm, cozy towel after a bath. Bone Dry bath towels for dogs are ultra-absorbent and made to soak up excess water fast. In addition to making a perfect after-bath towel, Bone Dry towels are ideal for wet paws and rainy days. The durable, lightweight material is two times more absorbent than cotton towels and large enough for any size dog. As a bonus, these towels can be placed inside your dog’s kennel, in the car, or on their dog bed or couch for cozy, warm comfort. 

Highlights

  • Several color options, each featuring an adorable embroidered paw print.
  • Microfiber design makes drying time faster.
  • Machine washable and tumble dry on low. 
  • Ideal to hang on your dog’s leash rack for easy access after a muddy or wet walk
  • Double the absorbency of regular cotton towels
  • Affordable price point, making it a perfect gift for any dog lover 

Things to Consider

  • You may want to purchase multiples so your dog can step on one as you dry with the other
  • Do not use with fabric softener for maximum efficacy 

Sample buyer review: “Love these microfiber towels! They are very absorbent and the perfect size. I have one hung on a hook next to the backdoor for drying off the dogs on all of our rainy days!”

OTIME Pet Licking Mat

lick mat when bathing your dog

Many dogs despise bath time. Some pet parents have to spell the word b-a-t-h so their dogs aren’t aware a bath is coming. One of the most ingenious pet products to hit the marketplace is the distraction lick pad. Made of 100 percent food-grade silicone and BPA-free, the 40 suction cups stick to the side of any bathtub. Slather some dog-safe peanut butter on the lick mat and watch your dog enjoy the tasty snack while you bathe her. Keeps dogs calm, free of anxiety, and will help keep you less stressed and dry, too. 

Highlights

  • Deep and large enough for pets to slowly but steadily enjoy a peanut butter distraction
  • Dishwasher safe, non-toxic, and odorless
  • Sticks on any smooth surface
  • Suitable for puppies, dogs of all sizes, and even cats
  • Can be suctioned to the side of a bathtub, tiled wall, or shower glass
  • 40 suction cups ensure the lick pad stays in place

Things to Consider

  • Can also be used with wet food, bananas, or whatever safe, spreadable snack your dog enjoys
  • It may take a slight period of adjustment for dogs to get used to the lick pad 

Sample buyer review: “I use this [with] treats, usually peanut butter, and Momo gets excited when he sees me reach for it. I also use it to get him comfortable being in the shower as he’s quite averse to being bathed. Last bath he managed to continue to lick his treat and pretend he wasn’t allowing me to wash him.”

Cozy Ears Disposable Pet Shower Caps

disposable shower caps for dogs

Ear infections remain one of the top reasons pet parents take their dog to a veterinarian. Getting water in your dog’s ears during bath time can contribute to moisture, yeast, and eventual ear infections. Keep her ears protected from water with this clever shower cap for dogs. Forget putting cotton balls in her ears. The design of this cap stays in place and prevents water from building up in your dog’s ears. Whether your pup has floppy ears or stand-up ears, the shower cap is designed with all types of ears and dogs in mind.

Highlights

  • Covers your dog’s ears so running water cannot enter the ear canal
  • Can be stretched to protect your dog’s eyes in the shower or bath if desired
  • Made of waterproof, transparent, non-poisonous, soft plastic
  • Several sizes are available depending on your dog’s head circumference
  • Can also be used on rainy and snowy days

Things to Consider

  • Caps are disposable and the manufacturer claims 12 caps are designed for one year’s usage
  • Be sure to get the size that comfortably fits your dog to avoid it being too tight

Sample buyer review: “I have three 8-pound Chihuahuas. This shower cap was the perfect solution! I place it over their heads and down below their eyes. They acted like it was something they wore all the time! LOL This was not only a wonderful solution but also a time saver.”

Flying Pig Grooming High Velocity Dog and Cat Dryer

Flying pig hair dryer after dog bath

One of the gold standards in the dog grooming industry is the Flying Pig Grooming Dog Hair Dryer. This professional-grade high-performance dryer cuts drying time up to 60 percent in many dogs. Many dogs get chilly if left to “air dry,” but they are often afraid of a hairdryer. The Flying Pig is ultra-quiet, heavy-duty, and includes interchangeable nozzle heads and a stretchable hose. 

With over 10 feet of stretchability, you can maneuver the unit to the desired location. Multiple airspeeds accommodate any thickness of the coat with two heat settings for the right temperature. If your dog has never been exposed to a canine hair dryer, start slowly in short sessions and reward with a high-value dog treat. Never scold or force a dog to sit still for hair drying. Like most processes, blow-drying a dog is a marathon and not a sprint.

Highlights

  • Four horsepower motor will last for years 
  • Removable filter for ease of cleaning
  • The hose is 10 feet and the cord is 88 inches for maximum flexibility 
  • Does not emit a lot of noise, which means dogs are less likely to fear the dryer
  • Strong and adjustable to dry the coat of any size dog

Things to Consider

  • Dogs may need a period of time to adjust to blow-drying slowly
  • Some people complained about needing to replace the hose 

Sample buyer review: “I was very impressed with this little blow dryer! We tried two of our three Sheepdogs and found that this had plenty of power to get them dry and fluffed up as well as ever. It was very quiet and very light to move around.”

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