*This post may contain affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases.
Meta: Dogs, as much as we love them, can really start to stink after a while. Bathing them too little can make their scent unbearable, but bathing too much can be harmful to their health. So, how often should you give your pooch a bath? What products should you use, and how can you help them enjoy getting clean?
Washing Your Dog: How Often, What to Use, and More
Every dog is different, but most agree that bath time is on their list of least favorite things to do. While they might enjoy rolling around in filth, you know that they need a gentle scrubbing every now and again to stay healthy. How often should you wash your dog, though?
The general rule of thumb differs from person to person. Some say every month will suffice, while others believe that every other week or once every couple of months is the way to go. Is there an actual amount of time in-between cleanings that works for every dog, or is it a little more complicated than that? Here’s what you need to know.
The Self-Cleaning Ritual
Have you ever noticed your dog grooming itself? They might seem as though they love all things dirty, but dogs do enjoy “bathing” themselves quite a bit. They do so to help their hair grow and keep their skin healthy, much like your moisturizers and shampoos do for you.
Despite a dog’s best efforts, their tongue simply cannot compare to a suds and hot water. While they might not willingly jump into the tub, a regular bathing schedule is essential to keeping odors at bay and debris off of their fur.
Bathing too much, however, can lead to a multitude of problems. A dog’s skin may become irritated, their hair follicles damaged, or they may be at an increased risk for infection when cleaned too often.
So, how often should you wash your dog? Well, that depends on a wide variety of factors specific to your dog’s health and habits.
Factors that go into bath time frequency include:
• General health
• The breed
• Type of coat
• Their activity level
• And the kinds of activities they partake in
For instance, a dog who enjoys rolling around in the dirt outside is going to need a bath more often that one who prefers to lounge around inside. This is the easiest way to determine when they need to de- stink…because rolling around in who knows what outside is going to let your nose know they need a good scrubbing. For the less active, they’ll start to stink eventually.
That brings up an excellent question, though. How stinky is too stinky? Dogs do have a natural odor that increases with age, but you’ll know that your pooch needs some soap and water if you can smell them the minute they enter the room.
As for the breed and type of coat, each animal is different. German Shepherds have a dual coat and thick hair, which means they might need a bath more often than a shorter-haired Boxer or Dachshund. You’ll have to use your nose and eyes to determine when their coat needs to be cleaned.
A dog’s general health is another critical bath time guide. Sometimes, your vet may prescribe a certain bathing schedule as part of a treatment plan for different conditions. This is almost always accompanied by specific shampoos designed to help with things like bacterial or fungal infections.
You should also bath your dog if you notice any fleas or ticks, making sure to use a shampoo designed to target those pesky insects. If you are unsure as to whether or not the bug you saw on your dog was a flea or tick, it’s probably best to bathe them anyway.
Using the Right Products
All too many dog owners make the mistake of using their own shampoos on their pets. It seems to makesense. Why wouldn’t the same product that cleans your skin and hair clean theirs as well? The reason that dog-specific shampoos exist is that a dog’s skin is very different from your own. While a simple glance shows you that it looks different, there’s a lot more going on than what meets the eye.
Acids, Neutrals, and Bases
As humans, our skin generally falls around a pH level of five. That means that your skin is somewhat acidic compared to a dog’s general pH of 7. Water also has a pH of 7, making a dog’s skin as neutral as they come.
Since your shampoos are designed for more acidic skin, that means they could be irritating or even harmful for your pets. Using regular shower products could leave your pooch with hives or itchy skin and be especially dangerous if ingested. Furthermore, the chemical compounds found in regular shampoo could damage their eyes.
Which Shampoo to Use?
Most veterinarians recommend an oatmeal-based shampoo for optimal cleaning and health benefits. You may also want to look for a tear-free option but remain cautious about contact with your pet’s eyes. Depending on your dog’s medical history, you might also need a specific type of shampoo to help treat a different condition.
There are multiple products on the market designed to work with your pet’s acid mantle (their skin’s pH balance) as well. Always make sure to read the label, though. Just because a product is labeled for dogs does not mean it is always ideal to use.
For instance, artificial fragrances or added colors can irritate sensitive skin. Natural scents like lavender or chamomile, however, are perfectly okay to wash your dog with. Products with natural moisturizers such as vitamin E, aloe vera, tea tree oil can help soothe your pet while nourishing their coat, too.
Organic and natural dog shampoos are usually best, but it is still important to read the label. You should also be aware of any allergies your dog has, as some natural ingredients might cause them severe discomfort.
If you are unsure about what products to use, it never hurts to ask your veterinarian. They’ll help you by providing multiple options that are safe for your dog and provides for its specific needs.
Top Tips for Bathing Your Pooch
While they might not like it, bathing is an important part of a dog’s overall health. Now that we’ve answered how often should you wash your dog, here are some helpful tips to make bath time a little less stressful for you and your pet.
While choosing the right shampoo is vital, so are a few other safety items. A non-slip bath mat can help your dog keep their footing on an otherwise slippery surface, which will help to avoid any unnecessary injuries from hitting their head off of the tub. Cotton balls can also be useful in keeping water out of their ears.
Brushing your dog before a bath can help detangle any hairs and remove the ones they’ve shed. This step is essential in caring for breeds with longer fur, but short-haired dogs can benefit from a light brushing as well. Opting for a gentler brush will help to exfoliate their skin before bath time.
A Familiar Place
Getting a bath can be a stressful experience for your pet, but keeping their grooming rituals in one place can help ease their fears. Try to cut their toenails, brush their teeth, and everything else in the bathroom. This can help them associate this space with cleaning time.
Smaller dogs can also be washed in the sink, or you could purchase a tub specially designed for bathing animals. Whichever you choose, make sure to designate that space for all of their grooming needs.
Within Arm’s Reach
When bathing your dog, make sure you have everything you need nearby before getting them wet.
You’ll have your hands full once bath time begins, so keep their towel and bathing essentials within arm’s reach to make things easier on yourself. You might want to keep a treat nearby to help them associate getting a bath with good behavior.
Everyone cleans a little differently, but chances are you clean a room from top to bottom. For dogs, you want to start from the bottom and work your way up when lathering on their shampoo. This targets their dirtier areas first while keeping their soap away from their eyes.
When it’s time to rinse, start from the head and work your wait to their tail. That helps keep the suds away from their eyes as well, but also allows soap and dirt to wash away more easily.
If you aren’t a fan of getting drenched when your dog shakes water all over the place, cover them in a towel. This helps give you the time to dry them off before they make a mess, but also helps to retain their body heat. If they have long hair, you might want to consider using a blow dryer on its coolest setting to help get the job done.
How often should you wash your dog? That’s up to you and their habits, but these tips are guaranteed to make bath time a little bit easier on the both of you.