How Often Should You Wash Your Dog?

It’s a common question that groomers hear every day: “How often should I wash my dog?” The short answer is that most dogs benefit from getting a bath every 4 to 6 weeks. The long answer is more complicated than that. Here’s the information you need to decide how often to wash a dog. Read to the end for tips on how to bathe and groom your dog.

How Often Should You Wash Your Dog?

There are many different factors to consider when trying to figure out: How often should a dog be bathed? Here are some of the main things to think about when deciding how often to bathe your dog.

Activity Level and Time Spent Outside

A dog that spends all day running around a farm and rolling in cow pies may need to be bathed more frequently than a dog that spends most of its time indoors laying around. If your dog often joins you on outdoor activities, they likely need to be bathed once a month.

Coat Type and Hair Length

Some of the most significant factors to consider when wondering how often you should bathe your dog is their coat type and hair length. In general, the longer your dog’s hair is, the more frequently you’ll need to wash them (with the caveat that you must brush or shave them first, since water makes mats worse).

Short-haired dogs, especially those that spend most of their time inside, may never (or rarely) need an actual bath. Dogs with a thick undercoat that sheds seasonally benefit from baths every 2 to 3 months. Dogs with continuously growing fur that needs trimming usually do best with a bath and cut every 4 to 6 weeks.

One exception is hairless dogs. Hairless dogs are prone to skin problems and may need weekly baths with a special, gentle shampoo to help manage their skin.

Skin Conditions or Allergies

If your dog has any allergies or skin conditions, you should talk to the vet about how often you should wash your dog. Bathing your dog strips out their natural oils and can dry out the skin, which could make some skin conditions worse. On the other hand, some skin conditions clear up best with baths several times a week with a medicated shampoo.

If your dog has healthy skin, you can wash them up to once a month without drying them out too much. If you need to wash your dog more often than that, make sure you find a gentle shampoo and conditioner that will add moisture back to your dog’s skin.

How to Give a Dog a Bath

Now that you know how often to wash your dog, let’s talk about the best way to bathe a dog.

Get Everything Ready First

The last thing you want is to realize that you’re missing something important after your dog is already soaking wet, especially if they’re unlikely to stay in the tub or sink if you walk away. Here are all the supplies you should have handy before you get your dog wet:

  • Cotton balls to put in your dog’s ears to prevent water from getting in and causing an infection.
  • Shampoo made for dogs. People and dogs have different skin pH levels, so human shampoo is far too drying to use on dogs. Oatmeal shampoo is excellent for dry skin, and hypoallergenic shampoo is always a good choice.
  • Conditioner (optional). Dogs with short fur and healthy skin may not need conditioner. If your dog has dry skin or long fur, conditioner can help add more moisture than shampoo alone.
  • Use small treats or a lick pad to reward your dog for cooperating during the bath, and keep a really high-value treat, toy, or bone handy to give your dog as soon as the bath is over.
  • Cup, pitcher, or sprayer to rinse your dog.
  • Towels. Even if you plan to use a dryer on your dog, use towels first to remove as much water as possible.
  • It’s best to use a dryer made for dogs (especially if you have a dog with long hair or a thick undercoat). If you use a human hairdryer, make sure you only use it on the cool setting. Otherwise, you may cause your dog to overheat.

Brush Before the Bath

It may seem counterintuitive, but you should always brush your dog before the bath. Why?

If you have a long-haired dog, you need to remove any mats they have before they get wet. That’s because water makes mats tighter, so they’ll be harder to brush out after the bath.

For dogs that shed, it helps to remove some of the loose hair before it clogs up your tub. Also, undercoat can get stuck in your dog’s coat once you add water, so it’s often easier to remove before the bath rather than after.

Even though you brushed your dog before the bath, it’s always a good idea to brush them again after the bath, once they’re completely dry.

Use Lukewarm Water

You may love a steaming hot shower, but your dog probably won’t. Dogs have much more sensitive skin than humans, so keep the temperature down to a pleasant lukewarm temperature. You also want to make sure the water isn’t too cold, since that could lead to hypothermia at worst and an unpleasant experience at best.

Wash Feet Up, Rinse Head Down

Dogs are more likely to shake once their head gets wet, so save that part for last. First, get your dog’s body, legs, and tail wet, and start washing from the feet (which are usually the dirtiest part of the dog) up and the tail forward.

Wash the head last, then rinse it first to help prevent getting shampoo in your dog’s eyes. Rinse your dog from the head down to the feet.

Dry Your Dog

Nobody wants to have a sopping wet dog running around their home. Use at least one towel to remove as much water as you can from your dog’s coat before releasing them from the tub or sink. You can follow up with a dog dryer or a human hairdryer on a cool setting. Never use heat to dry your dog, as it can cause overheating.

Give a Good Reward

Most dogs don’t enjoy getting a bath, so give them a fantastic reward once they’re done with the whole thing. They’ll be more likely to learn to tolerate baths in the future once they learn that they get an awesome treat afterward.

Can You Wash a Dog Without Water?

Don’t want to go through the hassle of giving your dog a full bath? You can keep your dog clean between washes with grooming wipes or waterless shampoo. Grooming wipes work best on short-haired dogs or small areas, like the feet or under the tail. Waterless shampoo can help remove dander or grease on dogs with longer fur.

How Often Should You Groom Your Dog?

Dogs need more grooming than just baths, and many of these things need to happen more often than only when you wash your dog.

How Often Should You Cut Your Dog’s Nails?

In general, most dogs need their nails trimmed about once a month. If you have a large dog that runs on pavement daily and doesn’t have dewclaws, you may rarely need to trim their nails. On the other hand, if you have a small dog who hardly walks on pavement, you may need to trim their nails every couple of weeks.

How Often Should You Brush Your Dog?

This depends on your dog’s coat type. Most dogs benefit from weekly brushing. Yes, even short-haired dogs. That’s because dogs produce natural oils, and brushing helps spread those natural oils throughout their coat. Brushing also helps reduce shedding. If your dog has long hair, you may need to brush them as often as every day to help prevent the formation of mats.

How Often Should You Brush Your Dog’s Teeth?

Did you know that 4 out of 5 dogs show signs of dental disease by the time they’re 3 years old? Crunching on kibble and gnawing on the occasional bone really aren’t enough to care for your dog’s teeth. It’s best to brush your dog’s teeth every day with an enzymatic toothpaste for dogs – never use human toothpaste, as it can make your dog sick.

Extra Benefits of Grooming Your Dog

Bathing, brushing, and grooming your dog doesn’t just help them look good, but it’s good for their physical and mental health. Grooming your dog helps prevent mats, enables you to find parasites or lumps, and can be a great bonding experience between you and your pup. All in all, it’s hard to overstate the importance of keeping up with your dog’s grooming needs.

Final Thoughts on Washing Your Dog

Hopefully, we’ve provided you with the information you need on how and how often you should wash your dog. Generally, washing your dog about once a month is the best way to keep them clean and reduce shedding and odor. Bathing your dog should be just one part of your regular grooming process with your dog, which should be an excellent bonding experience overall.

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