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Ask a Groomer: How Often Should You Bathe a Dog?


How often should you bathe a dog? This is a question many new or seasoned dog owners may ask at some point of their lives shared with their dogs. Let's face it: every dog needs to be bathed from time to time, but how often should you bathe a dog? There is no simple answer to this question for the simple fact that the frequency of baths depends on several factors such as your dog’s breed, dog's coat type, and other variables. Here are a few things you should know about bathing your dog by Jennifer Nelson, a dog groomer for more than 12 years.

This dog definitely needs a bath!

This dog definitely needs a bath!

When Do Dogs Need Baths?

Sometimes it’s obvious when your dog needs a bath. If your dog decided to roll in something nasty or take a mud bath, for example, you’ll want to stick him in the tub immediately. If you see signs of fleas or ticks, you want to wash your dog as soon as possible with a flea and tick shampoo to kill the parasites before they get all over your house.

Otherwise, the signs your dog is ready for a bath can be more subtle. Does your dog seem extra greasy? Is the skin flaky? Is your dog itching a lot? Is he shedding a ton? These are all signs that your dog would benefit from a bath.

What are the pros and cons of bathing your dog? Bathing your dog is generally a good thing, but there are a few pros and cons to consider before tossing your pup in the tub. The main advantages in bathing your dog is that clean dogs look and smell better, with a bath, you can remove loose hair without it blowing around your home, use of the right shampoo can improve your dog’s skin and coat and last but not least, it keeps your dog healthy.

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The main disadvantages are the following: washing your dog too often or using the wrong shampoo can dry out their skin, bathing your dog at home can be messy, and your dog may hate it (if you haven't taken the time to condition your dog to love baths.)

"A shampoo's potential benefits include removing debris that may plug hair follicles, decreasing surface yeast and bacterial counts, modifying the skin's microenvironment, moisturizing, and removing allergens that may be absorbed through the skin."~Dr. Gene H. Nesbitt, veterinary dermatologist

How Often Should You Bathe a Dog?

How often should you bathe a dog?

How often should you bathe a dog?

Is it bad to wash a dog too often? Generally, you don’t want to wash your dog more often than once a month or so. Bathing a dog too frequently can dry out their skin. So how often should you bathe a dog? Most dogs do well with a bath every one to four months.

The frequency of grooming and bathing can also vary based on the types of dog coats. Short-haired dogs that spend most of their time inside generally may only need one or two baths a year, while some dogs with certain medical conditions may need baths with a prescription shampoo several times a week.

Regardless, of how often should you bathe a dog, you may want to stick to these guidelines before bathing your dog. Failure to follow these general guidelines may lead to challenges and complications that could have been otherwise easily avoided.

Before bathing your dog consider that water makes mats worse, so it’s crucial to brush your dog before the bath. If your dog has any tangles or mats, you need to brush, cut, or shave them out before the bath to avoid making them worse. Many people wash their dog with the hope of getting mats out, but the opposite usually happens.

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It’s also important to rinse your dog thoroughly after the bath. Any shampoo residue left on your dog’s skin or in his coat can lead to itchy skin and dander at best and a skin bacterial infection at worst. When you think you’ve gotten all the shampoo out of your dog, keep rinsing for another few minutes just to be sure.

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It’s also a good idea to stick cotton balls in your dog’s ears before the bath to prevent water from getting in. Water inside the ear canal can lead to an ear infection. You may also want to use saline eye drops before and after the bath to prevent damaging your dog’s eyes if shampoo happens to get in.

Never use shampoo made for humans. It’s much too harsh to use on a dog’s skin. Why? Humans have a skin pH of around 5.5, while dog skin is around 7.5! That means shampoo made for humans is much too acidic for the more alkaline skin of a dog. Fact: people also have skin that’s three times thicker than dogs, so human shampoo can be very irritating on a dog’s skin.

Types of Shampoo for Dogs 


It may feel overwhelming at times picking a dog shampoo because there are so many types of shampoo on the market nowadays! To narrow things down here are a few examples of dog shampoos:

Oatmeal: Oatmeal shampoo is very gentle and can help moisturize dry dog skin. Oatmeal shampoos sometimes also contain aloe to further soothe dry skin.

Tearless or hypoallergenic: For puppies or dogs with allergies, you want super gentle shampoo without a lot of added scents. Tearless and hypoallergenic shampoos are as gentle as gentle gets. Hypoallergenic shampoo is also great for dogs with owners who have allergies since it isn’t highly scented.

Flea and tick: If your dog has fleas or ticks, a shampoo formulated specifically to get rid of them is the fastest way to get rid of the parasites. You should follow up a flea and tick bath with a regular flea and tick preventative to prevent a recurrence.

Whitening: To keep white dogs as bright as possible, whitening shampoos are often blue or purple to enhance the whiteness of a dog’s coat.

Medicated: For dogs with especially dry skin, sometimes oatmeal shampoo isn’t hydrating enough. Medicated shampoo is soothing for dry or irritated skin that isn’t caused by a medical condition.

Prescription: For dogs with specific medical conditions like mange or seborrhea, a veterinarian may need to prescribe a special medicated shampoo for your dog. Be sure to follow directions carefully because prescription shampoos often need to be left on your dog’s coat for 10 minutes or more for best results.

About the Author 


Jennifer Nelson is a writer in the Midwest who has a passion for animals in general and dogs in particular. She was a dog groomer for more than 12 years and now spends her days with her terrier mix, Scruffles, writing about dogs and medical conditions.

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