This content was reviewed by veterinarian Dr. JoAnna Pendergrass, DVM.
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Splish 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.
According to a study1, 56% of pet parents don’t bathe their dogs as frequently as they should, and 60% use the sniff test when deciding when it’s bath time.
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 allergies.
At a minimum, bathe your dog at least once every three months. You can wash your dog as frequently as every other week (with a 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. It’s also a good idea to check with your veterinarian about how often to bathe your dog.
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 and good overall skin and coat health. Over-bathing your dog could strip the skin of these natural oils, leading to irritation and dryness. So don’t overdo it!
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 talk to them about if your dog is a good candidate for CBD. We also recommend contacting the product’s manufacturer to check with them first.
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
WashBar Natural Soap Bar
Use a dog-specific shampoo to prevent suds from stinging your dog’s 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 bathmat handy for the tub to keep 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.
WashBar sent a sample of their Natural Dog Soap Bar in exchange for an unbiased review.
Before using this soap bar, I used liquid dog shampoo that came in a plastic bottle. Now that I’ve used this bar of soap, I’ll never go back. Using a bar of soap is so much easier than using a bottle of liquid soap because it frees up one hand to hold my dog while I use the other hand to scrub and lather my dog’s skin and fur. This especially helps with getting my dog’s belly and underside. I also like that this WashBar soap has zero waste. It comes in a cardboard box, so there’s no plastic used. One bar of soap is equivalent to over 20 oz of liquid shampoo. This is important to me because I try to limit my plastic use in other items I purchase, so why wouldn’t I do the same for my dog’s shampoo. – Kimberly A., Canine Journal-Kimberly Alt
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)
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, the sink or tub 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 counterproductively washing them in the muddy grass or yard. A kiddie pool can double as an outdoor doggy spa too.
You might also consider trying a hose attachment like the Aquapaw. As seen on Shark Tank, the Aquapaw has a soft, silicone brush with a handle on the end of the hose that allows you to control the water flow with a button on top. It’s easy to grip and gently massages your pup while you wash them — no need for a bucket of water or tub. Canine Journal’s founder had the opportunity to experience the Aquapaw in exchange for an honest review.
Our Personal Experience With Aquapaw
We attached this grooming brush to the hose outside, and it was so much better than anything I have ever tried for bath time. Our dogs preferred the gentle rub and brush to the typical cold spray of water from our shower wand. It was also fast and relatively painless for all. I will definitely use it again and recommend it to anyone seeking a less stressful dog bath experience. – Michelle S., Canine Journal
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
Pet Shower Attachment
“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 the 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
DII Bone Dry Microfiber Pet Towel
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 a visual format to easily reference.
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.
Looking how to give a dog a bath at home without water? It’s possible to use 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, check our reviews of the best dog wipes. You can also use a dog brush to get the grime out.
Another option is waterless or dry dog shampoo. It can come in various forms, including spray, powder, or mousse, and are designed to leave your dog looking and smelling fresher without adding water. This can be helpful between baths or if your dog is scared of water.
Lastly, if your dog starts to stink up the house, you might want to try a pet odor neutralizer.
Just like humans like to be clean, dogs enjoy being clean too. The only difference is that dogs 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 regularly.
Source:  Honest PawsTagged With: Grooming, Reviewed By Dr. Pendergrass, DVM