How Often You Should Bathe Your Dog (Plus 8 Bathing Tips)

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Girl giving Lab a bath in tubSplish splash, does your dog need a bath? Most humans shower once a day, but how often should you wash your dog? We’ll get down and dirty with the facts on how to keep your furry friend looking fresh and clean to ensure a happy, healthy pup.

Article Overview

How Often Should I Bathe My Dog?

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Bathing your dog isn’t just good for their hygiene, it’s also an excellent chance to check for unusual scratches, bumps, fleas and other abnormalities. These things are easier to see when their hair is wet and flat against their body.

But how often should you wash your puppy? There are a few factors that determine your pup’s bath routine:

  • Hair Length: Does your dog have long hair that can trap dirt and debris? Or are they short haired and less susceptible to getting grimy?
  • Activity Level: A dog who is mostly indoors and stays out of trouble when they’re outside is probably cleaner than a dog who likes to dig holes, play in the park, roll in waste or go swimming.
  • Allergies and Skin Conditions: Some dogs have skin allergies or other health conditions that make them prone to needing a bath more or less frequently. Learn more about dog skin problems.

At a minimum, it’s advised to bathe your dog at least once every three months. You can wash your dog as frequently as every other week (with gentle shampoo, it could be even more frequent). When in doubt, use your judgment — if your dog starts to smell, it’s probably time for a bath.

Is it bad to bathe your dog every week? It can be. Your dog needs natural oils produced by the skin to promote hair growth. Plus over bathing can cause irritation and dryness. So don’t overdo it!

Dog with CBD oilCBD Oil Can Help Calm A Dog Before Bath Time

Many dogs become anxious when it’s time to hop in the tub. To help ease your dog’s anxiety, you could give your dog a little CBD oil or a CBD infused treat. Give your vet a call before administering any CBD products, and if approved for your dog, bath time could become a relaxing, bonding experience for you both.

How To Bathe A Dog: 8 Bathing Tips

How do you bathe a dog correctly? It can be tricky trying to tame your pup in the tub while also washing them. Thanks to these tips, giving a dog a bath is easier than you think. Try these simple steps to ensure you have a successful bath time with your furry friend.

1. Buy Shampoo & Other Supplies

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Pro Pet Works Natural Oatmeal Dog ShampooPro Pet Works Natural Oatmeal Dog Shampoo

Use a dog-specific shampoo or a baby shampoo to prevent suds stinging their eyes. We recommend you use a hypo-allergenic and all natural shampoo to reduce potential skin irritations and dryness. Have a rubber or non-stick bath mat handy for the tub keeps them from slipping and sliding too much (both inside and outside the tub). Also, have cotton balls ready to gently place in their ears to block water out.

2. Don’t Forget To Brush

This step can easily get overlooked. Before bath time, prep your pup by giving them a thorough brushing to get rid of tangles and excess hair. Need a brush? You’re in luck, we’ve recommended the best dog brushes for you.

3. Pick A Spot (& Stick To It)

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Rinse Ace 3 Way Pet Shower SprayerRinse Ace 3 Way Pet Shower Sprayer

Wondering how to bathe a scared dog? Consistency is critical when it comes to keeping your pet clean and calm. Bathing can be uncomfortable, so having a place they are familiar with will ease their fears or at least let them know what to expect.

A lick pad is a great way to get your pup to sit still during a bath. Just stick the pad to the side of the tub or countertop (if your dog bathes in the sink) and add peanut butter. This combo is sure to keep your pup distracted and entertained, so you can focus on cleaning.

If you live in a smaller apartment, a bathtub with a handheld shower sprayer is sufficient. If they are smaller or a puppy, you could also use the sink. There are special tubs just for bathing dogs, but if you are already tight on space, this might not be a good option.

Have an outdoor area and live where the temperature to bathe dogs outside is warm year-round? Then outside might be a better option, but make sure it’s on a flat, sturdy surface like concrete or a deck, so you’re not counterproductive washing them in the muddy grass or yard. A kiddie pool can double as an outdoor doggy spa too.

4. Gather Before You Lather

Once your pup is wet, you’ll have your hands full so having everything you need nearby is necessary. Set aside a clean towel, cup for rinsing (if need be) and treats for afterward (or during for good behavior). Never leave a dog unattended in the tub, and if you’re outside, make sure your dog is contained or on a leash.

5. Some Like It Hot: Water Temp Matters

“Can I bathe my dog in cold water?” is a common question we hear.

Lukewarm to slightly warm water is ideal. Never use scalding hot water as it can burn your dog’s skin. Think of what would be good for a newborn baby or a small child. Not too hot, not too cold.

6. Clean From Bottom To Top, Rinse From Head to Tail

Follow the instructions on the shampoo bottle, then lightly lather the soap in a circular motion paying particular attention to their paws and other places prone to dirt. Start with their feet and work your way up to their face last.

This will stop soap from dripping into their eyes and ears as well as cut down on shaking. Rinse starting from the head and work your way down until the stream is clear. This helps the shampoo wash down and away from their sensitive spots.

7. Towel (Or Blow) Dry

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Covering your pup in a towel retains heat and also lessens the chances of them shaking water all over you (and your house). If it’s cold, or your dog has long hair that takes longer to dry, you might consider using a dog blow dryer to speed up the process.

8. Make It Fun!

Are you trying to figure out how to give a dog a bath that hates baths? Make it enjoyable! Bathing can be a bonding experience for both you and your dog.

Take baby (or puppy) steps introducing them to water and working up to a full bath. Don’t take the plunge right away. Be patient and be gentle. If your dog senses you are stressed out they will be too. Make sure you reward with treats and show lots of love and affection.

8 Steps To Bathing Your Dog (Infographic)

To summarize, here are the eight steps for bathing a dog in visual format to easily reference.

Dog Bathing Tips


To share this infographic on your site, simply copy and paste the code below:

Watch A Dog Get A Bath (Video)

Check out this 90-second video to see an expert from Petco bathe a Lab using some of the tricks and techniques we shared above.

Can I Give A Dog A Bath Without Water?

Spritzing sprayWondering how to give a dog a bath at home without water? It’s possible using quick bath dog wipes to calm down the stink. They reduce bacteria and odors. Wipes are always good to have on hand, especially in the car for those dirtier post-dog park moments. You can also use a dog brush to get the grime out.

Lastly, if your dog starts to stink up the house, you might want to try a pet odor neutralizer.

Other Ways To Improve Your Pup’s Quality Of Life

Just like humans like to be clean, dogs enjoy it too. The only difference is while they can lick themselves every so often they mostly rely on their pet parents to help with hygiene. In addition to bathing, you can improve their quality of life by brushing their teeth and give them a full groom on a regular basis.

Do you have any other tips for keeping your canine clean?

About The Author:

Sadie graduated from the Moody School of Communications at the University of Texas at Austin with a Bachelors in Advertising and minor in Business. Her love of pets started from an early age with her childhood cocker spaniel, Peanut, and two cats. She is currently dog mom to Lexie, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.

As a professional dog sitter for more than a decade, Sadie has cared for dozens of canines of various breeds, sizes and temperaments. The responsibility of caring for others' pets has helped her understand the importance of giving animals a loving home. She has experience potty and house training as well as teaching dogs tricks such as sit and shake. Sadie is passionate about canine well-being so she feeds her pup all-natural meals and no table scraps.

Sadie and her husband live in Washington DC and enjoy walking Lexie to nearby dog parks or patios and taking her canine companion on trips. Having an adventurous, long-haired Blenheim means frequent baths and home grooming to maintain a clean coat. A small dog also requires more frequent dental care and Sadie is proactive with Lexie's oral hygiene.

She has been covering dog-related topics since 2012 and is proud to share her latest personal experience, resources and information with fellow pet parents. Her expertise has appeared in many notable media outlets, including The New York Times' Wirecutter, Forbes, People, Reader's Digest, Apartment Therapy, and other regional news organizations.

We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites.
Disclaimer: The information provided through this website should not be used for diagnosing or treating a health problem or a disease. It is not a substitute for professional care. If you have or suspect you may have a health problem, you should consult your health care provider.

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Afton Jackson
June 9, 2020 10:17 pm

We recently got a new dog named Scruffles and I want to know what we could do to make sure we keep him groomed. I really like how you stated how bathing a dog in a place they like can reduce a lot of the fear they have of baths because Scruffles really prefers a spot in our kitchen that he always likes staying at during afternoons. I’ll be sure to remember the rest of your tips when we get more supplies for Scruffles like bathtubs and beds. Thank you so much!

February 7, 2020 5:21 pm

I bathe my dog once a week with hotspot and itch relief shampoo. I would like to bathe her a lot less but her skin gets stinky and she sleeps on my bed. She also gets flakey skin. We have tried switching foods but that didn’t change there anything I can do to help her stinky skin and bathe her less? I feel like me bathing her so much is making her skin flaky but the oils she secretes from her skin stink.

Diana Felix
April 23, 2020 7:00 am
Reply to  Amanda

Hi Amanda, I would like to share my bathing experience with you if you don’t mind. I have a 1yr old lab mix. She is amazing, may I add. So, Lucy (that’s her name), also had bad flaky skin and always scratching. I start with combing her coat out, then bathing her with oatmeal base shampoo for dogs. Then, I give her a really good rinse. Towel dry and then add a mixture of tea tree oil (diluted with carrier oil). I rub it on her coat really good then comb her out. She also, enjoys that’s massage. The oil helps with her flakiness, smell, and her coat is ever so soft. She always smell amazing. The oil mix also helps with fleas and ticks as well. If you need to bathe you pooch more often, try dry shampoo in between regular baths. All this helped my Lucy. I wish you and your pooch good luck. If you don’t mind and you do try this, can you let me know if it worked for your K-9. Much luck. ❤️

Kimberly Alt
February 12, 2020 12:43 pm
Reply to  Amanda

What breed is your dog? Make sure you are brushing her regularly. You should also try to clean her bedding and any bedding she sleeps on weekly. My dog’s bedding can get pretty stinky if I don’t wash it regularly. Another suggestion is to use a pet odor neutralizer in between baths.

Bathing a dog too frequently can dry out their skin, so you may want to speak with your vet about how often your dog needs bathed. You wouldn’t need a vet appointment for this and should be able to just give the vet’s office a call. Hope all this helps!

January 2, 2020 5:25 pm

Also,if your puppy likes to get dirty as much as possible just rinse them with plain old water. Shouldnt be too irritating unless you have trash water quality

October 28, 2019 11:43 am

In frosty weather should the dog be well dried be for walking him.

Kimberly Alt
October 28, 2019 11:50 am
Reply to  Breda

It probably depends on the dog. Some dogs can handle cold temps better than others. Monitor your dog and see how he handles it.

David Johnson
October 17, 2019 12:55 pm

My friend recently bought a dog. Thanks for explaining that at the bare minimum the dog should be bathed every three months. We’ll have to look into professional dog bathing so that we get it right.

July 27, 2018 12:28 am

One thing that really helped my dog get used to the shower is that i just take him into the shower with me. He sees me washing myself and knows it isnt dangerous or harmful and he is okay with being bathed himself. I bathe him frequently but dont always use soaps and sometimes i even just use a warm wet towel to clean up his fur. He sleeps in bed with me so i like to keep him smelling good

January 2, 2020 5:23 pm
Reply to  August

I’ve done this too! A good place to start too is filling the tub and turning the shower on as little as possible. Takes much more water that way but most dogs are much more comfortable.

May 11, 2018 5:35 pm

Do you have any more grooming tips for dogs after the bath? I have heard that you should get their ears cleaned and their nails filed, but what else?
Thanks for these tips too, by the way. I’ll make sure to find a good temperature that suits my dog, bobby!

Summer Lotus
May 15, 2020 11:32 pm
Reply to  Jay

Number one tip to do it yourself pet grooming I can give is practice the behavior you want in the bath (or clipping the nails, or brushing) before you need to give them a bath. You want them to sit down in the bath? Get them to jump in the tub–treat. Touch them like you are rubbing in soap–treat. Ask them to sit–treat. You get the idea. Practice three minutes every day with positive reinforcement and in a year or two, most dogs will happily hop into the tub and stay still. Second most important thing I can share after five high maintenance dogs is make sure they are DOG TIRED before any grooming: if they are tipping over, they’ll be more willing to sit still for a long haul. I have a golden that is prone to ear infections, and of course she loves to swim. I make sure every swim she at least gets a through rinse if not a full bath. I really like using a dog conditioner after a shampoo–its an extra “rise cycle,” but it goes the miles keeping her coat lubricated enough that most every day dirt just wicks right off. With shampoo and conditioner duo, I cut the amount of baths in half and I have zero fur matting problems, even with her very wavy long coat. I dribble Vetoquinol ear cleansing solution into the ears after I’ve towel-dried them and it staves off a lot of issues and vet visits. I also clip my dogs nails, but I don’t do this after or before a bath because it’s really too much to ask of the dog in one go. Nail clipping that a dog allows without fuss is a bit of a training art form, and I make sure that they get massive rewards when I do it–again, when they’re tired. IMO, there isn’t a reason to file nails if you walk your dog on concrete because after two good walks the nails are automatically rounded out by the sidewalk. Some people like the dremel nail grinders; I’ve never cared for them, but heck, give it a try if you struggle with nail clippers. I don’t brush my dogs before baths–if they’re really bad, its better just to lather them up in conditioner and work out the knots by fingers. The last thing you want is to be tearing up their sensitive skin with a knot you cant get out with a brush. Where as in the bath you end up loosening up the dead undercoat and working free a lot of hair that even the nicest of brushes won’t get. Let them dry for a day and THEN do a very through, much more gentle brush through. It gets cold where I live in the winter, so I crank up the house heat when it’s bath time/dry off time–I cannot stress enough the importance of the dog feeling comfortable throughout their bath. That is how you make a dog enjoy a bath–give them no reason not to. Hope this helps!