Pomeranian having a wash

How Often Should You Wash Your Dog? The Ultimate Guide

Whether you’re a seasoned dog guardian or the newest owner of them all, we’ve all been there. ‘How often should you wash your dog’ is a common question, and today, our experts weigh in on bath time for your pup. Ready to get soaking wet?


How Often Should You Wash Your Puppy?

Wet Yorkshire terrier after a bath

Since puppies have a softer, fluffier coat than adult dogs, their bathing needs are slightly different. As a rule of thumb, the less you wet your puppy the better until they have grown their adult coat. In most cases, adult fur is completely out between 6 and 12 months of age.

In the meantime, we recommend bathing a puppy only when they evidently need it. In any case, try to wait until they are 6 to 8 weeks old. This means, no baths until they get actually dirty either with their own poo, playing in the mud, or something along those lines.

When your puppy gets just slightly dirty -with spilled food, for example- a damp cloth or sponge will be enough to wipe them off. There’s no need to get your puppy wet because of it.

Of course, if you’re wondering when you can wash a puppy when it first comes to your home, it depends on their age and state. So, for example, if you’ve got a healthy pup straight from the breeder or rescue centre, they are probably pretty clean. In that case, you can wait around a month or until they get dirty.

However, if you rescued a puppy yourself, or your pup has a flea infestation, you’ll need to bathe more frequently. Dirty, muddy puppies will need a bath with a very mild shampoo. In contrast, if your little guy has a skin condition, like fleas, ticks, mange or a fungal infection, baths should be supervised by the vet.

Keep in mind bathing is part of the essential socialisation your puppy needs to be happy. This means that even if they don’t actually need it, you should slip a bath here and there to get them used to the feeling.

This way, once your adult dog does need a bath, it won’t be a traumatic experience.


How Often Should You Wash Your Adult Dog?

Just like puppies, how often you should wash your dog depends on different factors. For example, if your dog sleeps on your bed, it’s probably a good idea to give them baths more often than if they didn’t.

According to the American Kennel Club, bathe your pup at least once every three months to keep their skin healthy [1]. However, according to professional groomer Beth Cristiano, "Thorough coat brushing and combing and conditioning are more integral to the pet’s health than bath time.” [1].

This means that if you want to bathe your dog less often, or your pup has very sensitive skin, brushing twice a week is essential.

However, sometimes we bathe our dogs for our own benefit. This is the case of households with allergies. If you or someone in your home has dog allergies, a weekly bathing is essential to keep dander and saliva at bay.

In general, bathing frequency will depend on you and your dog’s needs. And, of course, if your dog is full of mud, bathing is a necessity!


Dog Washing 101. What You Need To Wash A Dog

Now that you understand how frequently your dog should be washed, let’s move on to how can you bathe them. Washing a dog at home can be an easy, pain-free experience for the both of you, but you need to know how to do it properly. Before even getting your dog wet, here’s what you should consider:

  1. Coat type: does your dog have a very short, smooth coat? Or are they very furry? Do they have a double coat? On top of the actual length of the coat, you should consider the texture. Rough hair tends to need fewer baths than straight, while curly hair needs specific products.  Depending on these factors, the bathing process will look different.
  2. Grooming: if you have a dog that needs consistent clipping, it’s best to have their hair cut done before going into the bath. The less hair you have to deal with, the better.
  3. Age: as mentioned above, younger dogs need less frequent bathing than older ones.
  4. Lifestyle: it might sound basic, but if your dog tends to go out into the mud and get dirty frequently, you’ll need to bathe them more often. In contrast, dogs that go out less often and you’re on top of their brushing schedule, you’ll probably be able to go longer between baths.
  5. Frequency: depending on how often you wash your dog, you’ll need to use a very mild shampoo or not. Keep in mind all dogs have sensitive skin and cannot use strong detergents. However, there are some shampoos specifically formulated for frequent washing that are even more gentle on their skin.

Now, considering the points above, you need to gather your tools. In general, here’s what you’ll need:

  1. A dog brush. To brush your pup before and after the bath. This will help you avoid tangles.
  2. Dog shampoo. It’s important to only use shampoo formulated specifically for dogs. Human shampoo is too harsh on their skin and can lead to drying and eventually dermatitis. We’ve gathered the best dog shampoos in Australia to help you make the best choice.
  3. Dog conditioner. This one is entirely optional, and many vets recommend simply forgoing conditioning. However, some coat textures do benefit from the extra hydration from a conditioning product. However, keep in mind you should avoid silicones, fragrances and harsh ingredients to avoid irritating the skin.
  4. A bathtub. Of course, you can bathe your dog in a shower, but a bathtub makes the process easier and keeps your dog from running on you. If you don’t have a bathtub or would rather not share for hygiene reasons, try a dog bath tub. These are portable and relatively lightweight, so you can move them around and even fold them when not in use.
  5. A towel. Use an old thick towel to gently pat your dog dry. Keep it apart from your regular human towels to avoid any confusion!

Ok, you’ve selected the best products for your dog coat type and have the tools you need to bathe them. Now is time to get wet.


How To Wash A Dog At Home

1. Brush your dog

This will help you avoid matting and tangles. Water makes it very difficult to detangle your dog’s hair, so give a thorough brushing while your pup is still dry. Plus, many dogs find brushing relaxing, so it will help make bath time more enjoyable. If your dog needs a haircut, do so before bathing.

2. Get your dog wet

Fill the tub halfway or get lukewarm water going through the showerhead. Make sure the temperature is barely warm: dogs have very sensitive skin and too-hot water will burn them. On the other hand, unless it’s piping hot outside, too-cold water won’t be enjoyable either.

Once you’ve found the right temperature, thoroughly wet your dog keeping their head and ears dry. Start by wetting the legs and tail, then the body. This will help keep your dog warm.

PRO TIP: Bathe your dog with the bathroom door closed and keeping out air drafts. Many dogs hate baths simply because they get too cold. Baths shouldn’t last more than 10-15 minutes, and try to keep the environment as warm as possible.

3. Apply shampoo

Fight your urge to squeeze shampoo all over your dog’s body. Get some shampoo on your hands and start by scrubbing their legs and tail. Then start with the body. Remember to scrub the stomach and belly.

PRO TIP: Don’t tangle your dog’s hair! Try to scrub in the direction of the hair growth, and not necessarily in circles. Circles can tangle your dog’s hair if they have medium to long coats.

4. Rinse thoroughly

Using the showerhead or a large cup, start rinsing your dog. Try to stick to a top-to-bottom motion. This means you focus on the shoulders and back first, then, the belly, then the legs and tail. Try to rinse out all the soap from your dog. Residual soap will get to the skin, irritate your dog and even cause allergies and hot spots.

5. Wash the face and ears

Your dog’s face and ears are some of the most sensitive places. Don’t use the showerhead or cup directly on them! Instead, dampen a cloth and gently wipe them clean. Take care not to let water into the ear canal, this can foster infections and can be very painful. Just use the cloth and remove excess dirt. If your dog has really dirty ears, wait until bath time is over and use a vet-approved ear cleaning product.

6. Dry your dog

First, get your pup out of the water or drain the tub. Then, let them shake it off. Towel dry some more, and finally let your pup air dry, preferably outside in not-so-hot weather. Although many people use a blow dryer to dry off their dog, we don’t recommend it. Blow drying can be scary if you have an anxious dog that doesn’t like loud noises, and it’s very easy to use too-hot air, which can cause serious burns. In general, and if at all possible, let your dog thoroughly air dry. However, if your weather is too cold, use the blow dryer on cold to keep your pup’s skin protected.


What Happens If You Wash Your Dog Too Often?

Although the smell might bother you, it’s best to err on the side of fewer baths than too frequent ones. Just like with humans, shampoo and soap strip your dog’s skin of its natural oils. These are healthy for the skin and help to keep moisture in. However, harsh detergents and baths that are too frequent will remove those healthy oils from the skin and can dry it out.\

Related: How Often Should You Wash Your Dog?

If you keep drying out the skin without restoring its natural hydration, it can cause a myriad of issues including irritation, inflammation, dermatitis, hot spots and hair loss. Eventually, your dog can experience painful lesions susceptible to infection.

As a dog owner, these issues can be easily prevented by following a sensible bathing schedule. Once a month is enough for most pups, and brushing will help you space out baths even further.

Many dogs get a bath once every two or three months, and it’s enough to keep them smelling fresh and healthy.


Our Verdict

As with many things with dogs, the final answer to how often should you bathe a dog is, it depends. Keep an eye on your pup’s health and follow your nose: if the smell gets too strong, it’s bath time.

FAQ

Is it bad to wash your dog every week?

It depends. If you have allergies, washing your dog every week is a need to keep dander levels down. However, if your dog has sensitive skin and is not under medical treatment, once a week is definitely too much.

In general, baths will strip your dog’s skin of their natural -healthy- oils. This can lead to irritation and sensitivity, so we don’t recommend weekly baths unless you personally need to.

For most pups, a bath everyone to three months is good. Some people even wash only twice a year, so it really depends on how strong your dog smells and your needs.

References
  1. American Kennel Club. How often should you wash my dog. https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/how-often-should-you-wash-your-dog/
  2. Gentle Dog Trainers. Best dog shampoo in Australia. https://gentledogtrainers.com.au/best-dog-shampoo-australia/
Eloisa Thomas

Eloisa Thomas is a dog lover & anthropologist. She enjoys writing content that will actually help people understand their dogs better. Eloisa is able to use her expertise to write informative posts on canine behaviour and training.

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