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Wondering How Often to Bathe a Dog? It Depends on These Factors

Written by: Wendy Newell

Last Updated on January 19, 2024 by Dogster Team

A dog getting a bath in a tub.

Wondering How Often to Bathe a Dog? It Depends on These Factors

There are few dog parenting topics with as many differing points of view as how often to bathe a dog. And the answer isn’t a straightforward one, either. Let’s look into some factors that play into how often to bathe a dog right here.

Here’s how often I bathe my dog

Riggns has gotten a bit slower at hiking as a senior dog.
Riggins out on a hike. Photography courtesy Wendy Newell.

Before we get into the specifics of how often to bathe a dog, here’s my story. I have a 12-year-old German Shorthair Pointer mix named Riggins. In his old age he has slowed down quite a bit, but when he was young he was a pistol! We had to go for an hour-long walk or run every day. Weekends were reserved for hiking and outdoor adventures. In between, there was playing and digging in the backyard and romping in mud- and pee-filled parks. He was a filthy beast. During the height of his activity I gave him a bath every Sunday. I’d throw him in the shower, and was always shocked at how much dirt went down the drain.

Of course, I was anxious. I’d heard the advice that you should only bathe a dog once a month, at the most. Unfortunately, Riggins smelled — bad — and I couldn’t live with a smelly creature snuggling up next to me in bed.

I did my homework and picked a show dog shampoo that was gentle enough that it could be used every day. Add a heavy fish protein-based food and the health of an active pup, and Riggins’ skin was always healthy with a silky black coat that glistened in the sun!

The once-a-week bathing worked for me at the time. But will it work for your dog?

First off, why should you bathe a dog?

Before we offer some insight on how often to bathe a dog … why do dogs even need baths in the first place? The most important reason to bathe your dog is for his health. Without a bath, your dog’s skin could get irritated and infected and his coat could get matted and hard to manage. It’s also important that your dog gets bathed regularly to ensure that he can live healthfully alongside your family in your home (and as a cuddle buddy!).

How often to bathe a dog

A dog getting shampooed and bathed.
How often to bathe a dog depends on a few different factors. Photography ©fotoedu | Thinkstock.

How often to bathe a dog depends on his breed, coat quality, skin needs and activity level. So, how often should you bathe your dog?

  1. When he smells. It’s an easy rule of thumb. If your dog smells bad, beyond just normal dog smell, it’s time for a bath!
  2. Consult the professionals. Talk to a professional groomer. She has the knowledge and experience with different breeds and pups so she can help you understand what schedule will be best for your dog’s health.
  3. Medical reasons. If your dog has skin issues, he may be prescribed medicinal shampoo. Riggins used this for a couple of years and it was an amazing solution for his itchy skin. Follow your vet’s directions when using medical shampoo. It will usually require washing more frequently than you are used to and spending more time with a wet, soapy dog as the medicine works its magic!
  4. Pay attention to your dog’s skin. If your dog’s skin gets dry and flaky, you are most likely bathing too often and stripping out important oils from his coat.
  5. Double-coated breeds. Pups with double coats like Samoyeds, Alaskan Malamutes and Chow Chows, will most likely need less frequent bathing but more brushing to keep their coats healthy and clean.
  6. Oily-coated breeds. Basset Hounds, for example, tend to have oily coats. These pups may require bathing as frequently as once a week.
  7. Short-haired dogs and dogs with water repellant coats. Weimaraners and Dalmatians tend to need very few baths as they can regulate their natural oils without much help.

What you’ll need to wash your dog

Now that we’ve given some pointers on how often to bathe a dog, let’s look at how to bathe a dog properly:

  1. Shampoo 
    • Choose a dog shampoo that fits your dog’s coat quality and the frequency with which you need to wash him. Diluting the shampoo with water up to 1:8 will allow you to easily cover your dog in suds without over-using the product.
    • A good way to know that the products in your dog’s shampoo are gentle and safe is to make the dog shampoo yourself at home. Here are a few homemade dog shampoo recipes to try.
    • Do not use human shampoos for adults or babies on your dog. They are most likely going to be too harsh and harm your dog’s skin.
  2. Lukewarm water. You don’t like a cold shower, so why would your dog?
  3. Brush. Comb your dog pre-bath to help shed any dead hair. Comb your dog again after your dog’s coat is dry to keep your dog’s coat free of mats and to help spread out your dog’s natural oils.
  4. Dry carefully. Do not use a hairdryer on your dog. It is most likely too hot, and the harshness will dry his skin out. Pat your dog with towels and air dry, or use a dryer specifically designed for dogs.
  5. Wet alternatives. Try using dry shampoo and/or dog wipes (use wipes made specifically for dogs — not wipes made for humans or babies, as they have ingredients that may be harmful to dogs in them) to keep your dog dirt and mud free in between baths.
  6. Patience and love. Some dogs don’t like baths, like my darling Riggins. With love and patience, you can make the experience less scary and even enjoyable to them.

Tell us: What’s your take on how often to bathe a dog? We’d love to hear from you. Let us know your dog-washing tips.

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