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.

How Often Should I Bathe My Dog?

Bathing your dog isn’t just good for their hygiene, it’s also an excellent chance to check for abnormal 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 and 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!

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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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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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.

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 blow dryer on low or cool heat 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.

 

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?

Wondering 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?

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Sadie is a dog mom to an adopted Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and has been dog sitting for more than 10 years. When not writing and doing graphic design for Canine Journal, she can be found traveling and doing pet photography for friends and family.

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Jay
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!