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

This content was reviewed by veterinarian Dr. JoAnna Pendergrass, DVM.

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Dog being lathered in a bath tub

Splish splash, does your dog need a bath? Most humans shower once daily, 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?

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According to an Honest Paws study, 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.

Can I Bathe My Dog Once A Week

Is it bad to bathe your dog every week? Or wondering can I bathe my dog twice a week? It’s not recommended. Your dog needs natural oils produced by the skin to promote hair growth and good overall skin and coat health. Overbathing your dog could strip the skin of these natural oils, leading to irritation and dryness. So don’t overdo it!

9 Benefits Of Bathing Your Dog

Bathing your dog is an essential aspect of their overall health and well-being. While dogs are generally good at grooming themselves, regular baths provide several benefits:

  1. Removal of Dirt and Debris: Bathing helps remove dirt, debris, and loose hair from your dog’s coat. This is particularly important for dogs that spend time outdoors and may come into contact with allergens, parasites, or pollutants.
  2. Prevention of Matting: Regular baths help prevent the matting of your dog’s fur, especially in breeds with long or dense coats. Matting can lead to skin irritation and discomfort.
  3. Reduction of Odors: Dogs can develop odors over time due to natural oils, outdoor activities, or skin conditions. Bathing helps control and reduce these odors, keeping your dog smelling fresh.
  4. Flea and Tick Prevention: Regular bathing, especially with flea and tick shampoos, can help prevent infestations. It’s essential to use dog-safe products to avoid skin irritation and adverse reactions.
  5. Removal of Allergens: Dogs can be allergic to certain substances, and their skin may react to allergens present in the environment. Bathing helps remove potential allergens and provides relief for dogs with sensitive skin.
  6. Early Detection of Issues: Bathing allows you to closely examine your dog’s skin, coat, ears, eyes, and other body parts. This regular inspection helps you detect any abnormalities, lumps, bumps, or signs of infection early on.
  7. Positive Interaction: Bathing provides an opportunity for positive interaction and bonding between you and your dog. It helps build trust and reinforces the relationship between pet and owner.
  8. Positive Exposure to Grooming: Regular bathing and grooming from an early age help your dog become more accustomed to the grooming process. This can be particularly beneficial for grooming procedures that may be necessary for their health, such as nail trimming and ear cleaning.
  9. Cooling Effect: In hot weather, a cool bath can help regulate your dog’s body temperature. However, it’s important not to bathe your dog too frequently, as excessive bathing can strip away natural oils and lead to dry skin.

While bathing is important, it’s crucial to strike a balance and not overdo it. The frequency of baths depends on your dog’s breed, activity level, and overall health. Consult with your veterinarian to determine an appropriate bathing schedule and to choose the right products for your dog’s specific needs. Additionally, always use dog-safe shampoos and conditioners to avoid skin irritation.

CBD 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 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 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

Gorilla Grip Patented Shower and Bath MatBag of 500 count Kendall/Covidien Prepping Cotton BallsWashBar Natural Dog Soap Bar
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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 place in their ears to block water out gently.

Personal Experience With Dog Soap

WashBar sent a sample of their Natural Dog Soap Bar in exchange for an unbiased review.

Black dog bathing in blue tub outdoor with bar of soap on head
Sally the dog, using WashBar soap

“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

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)

Perfect Curve The Original Lick Lick Pad on side of tub with Cavalier King Charles spaniel licking itBeneyond Dog & Cat Bathtub Pet Swimming PoolIntex Sunset Glow Baby PoolAquapaw Dog Bath Brush Pro
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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.

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 will 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 AquapawUsing Aquapaw on dog outside with hose

“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, a 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 the soap from dripping into their eyes and ears and 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

Bone Dry Pet Grooming Towel Collection Absorbent Microfiber
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Covering your pup in a towel retains heat and 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 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 reference easily.

Infographic: Dog bathing tips

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?

International Veterinary Sciences IVS Quick Bath Dog TowelettesBegley’s Natural No Rinse Waterless Pet Shampoo
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Looking for 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 out our reviews of the best dog wipes. You can also use a dog brush to get the grime out.

If your dog is dirty and you are thinking, can I bathe my dog everyday? No. But another option is waterless or dry dog shampoo. It can come in various forms, including spray, powder, or mousse, and is 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.

How Often To Bathe Puppy Dogs

Puppies generally do not need to be bathed as often as adult dogs. Their coats are not fully grown yet, and they typically are not going outside as much (or around other dogs until they get their vaccination shots). You can bathe a puppy as needed if they get particularly dirty or smelly. As with any dog, if your puppy has any skin issues or allergies, you should consult with your veterinarian on how often to bathe them.

Other Ways To Improve Your Pup’s Quality Of Life

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 giving them a full groom regularly.

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The information provided through this website should not be used to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease; it is not intended to offer any legal opinion or advice or a substitute for professional safety advice or professional care. Please consult your health care provider, attorney, or product manual for professional advice. Products and services reviewed are provided by third parties; we are not responsible in any way for them, nor do we guarantee their functionality, utility, safety, or reliability. Our content is for educational purposes only.

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