If you have a dog who loves bath time, count yourself lucky. And unusual. Dogs might be pretty amicable as a rule, but if there’s one thing that’s almost always guaranteed to turn them into the Hulk, it’s the sight of a full bath and a tub of pet shampoo. For some pet owners, the prospect of bathing their dog is so daunting, they give up on it altogether. But is it wise? Are you doing your dog a disservice by not sticking to a regular bathing schedule? As with most things, the answer isn’t entirely clear-cut. If you’ve ever wondered how often you should wash your dog, keep reading.
How Often Should You Wash Your Dog?
Most people shower every day, but does your dog need to get wet quite so often? The short answer? No. As PetMD outlines, regular grooming helps facilitate the growth of hair follicles and supports skin health. While dogs take care of most of their grooming needs themselves, bathing can help support the process. But bathing too often can have the reverse effect, leading to irritated skin, damaged hair follicles, and an increased risk of bacterial and fungal infections.
So, if some bathing is good but too much is bad, what exactly is the right balance? As with most things, it depends. Health, breed, coat, activity levels, and habits all play a part in determining just how often a dog should be bathed. We’ll touch on some of the other issues to think about shortly, but by and large, there’s one easy way to work out exactly how often your dog needs to be washed: use your nose. If your dog spends most of their day galloping around fields and rolling in all kinds of things, they’re going to need to be washed more frequently than a dog that rarely leaves the sofa… as their smell will attest. If your dog leans more towards the sedate variety and rarely comes into contact with anything that could leave a noxious smell, you won’t have to worry about bathing them until their natural doggy odors start to become noticeable – about four times a year should suffice.
Washing by Coat Type
The two biggest factors in determining how often you should wash your dog are how dirty they are and whether they smell. If they’re covered in mud and stinking up a storm, then it’s obvious they need a bath. But as The Spruce writes, coat type also plays a part in deciding the best bathing schedule. Dogs with medium to long coats will usually require more regular baths than those with short coats. If your dog has long hair, aim to bathe them every four to six weeks. Avoid increasing the frequency unless they get exceptionally dirty: too much washing can strip their coat of the natural oils that help protect them, something that’s especially problematic in dogs with double-coats. In between baths, you can help keep their coat shiny and healthy by brushing and combing it.
Hairless breeds like the Chinese Crested, the Xoloitzcuintle, and the Peruvian Hairless dog require a more intensive bathing schedule. To stop any oil buildup on their skin, they’ll often require weekly or fortnightly baths to keep in tip-top shape. Breeds like the Puli or Komondor with corded coats need the least bathing of all. As shampoo can be very difficult to rinse out of the cords, bathing can actually do more harm than good. The cords can also take an inordinately long time to dry out. Although they’ll need regular grooming sessions to keep their coats in good condition, it’s best to avoid washing them unless absolutely necessary.
Washing by Skin Condition
Dogs with sensitive skin or allergies require a different approach to dogs who are free from allergies and skin conditions. While the latter will benefit from the occasional bath with a gentle, over-the-counter pet shampoo, the former may need a more tailored approach. Depending on the type of condition they have, your vet may recommend or prescribe a specific shampoo to use. Avoid using commercial pet shampoo on a sensitive-skinned pooch without first speaking to your vet: some of the ingredients in the shampoo may exacerbate their problems. Your vet will also be able to recommend just how often you should bathe them to manage their skin condition most appropriately.
Washing by Living Situation
Dogs who spend most of their time indoors need to be washed more often than those who live strictly outdoors. It may sound like it should be the other way around, but ultimately, the main reason we wash dogs is to stop them stinking up our houses. Dogs who spend 100% of their time outdoors aren’t going to do that, so naturally, their bathing requirements decrease. But don’t overlook them entirely. As Mark D. Freeman, DVM, tells Reader’s Digest, baths sometimes serve a greater purpose than simply making a pooch smell nice. “While strictly outdoor dogs probably don’t ever need to be bathed, a bath is a great opportunity for an owner to handle every part of the dog’s body, which can sometimes reveal health issues or concerns such as lumps or bumps and ear infections,” he says. Aim to wash your outdoor pooch once every three months or so to pick up on any potential problems.
Pick the Right Product
Regardless of how often you bathe your dog, never use a human shampoo, even in a pinch. The ingredients and chemicals contained in the shampoo we use might be fine for us, but they’ll be far too harsh for a dog’s more delicate skin. Human skin is very acidic, with a pH of under 5. A dog’s skin is neutral, with a pH closer to 7. Using a shampoo that’s intended for people on dogs can easily lead to irritation, no matter how gentle the shampoo purports to be. To avoid causing any problems, stick to mild, moisturizing shampoos specially created for canines. Oatmeal-based shampoos tend to be the most well-favored. However, bear in mind that some dogs will react to even gentle, canine-specific shampoos. If you’re using a particular brand for the first time, watch out for any problems, including inflamed, itchy skin and hives. If your dog likes to test out every new thing they come across with their mouth, keep a close eye that they don’t ingest any of the shampoo. Warning signs of ingestion include a decreased appetite, drooling, and vomiting.