When it comes to our four-legged friends, knowing how often to bathe them depends on many factors. While our dogs don’t need to take a bath as often as we do, they still require good hygiene maintenance and proper grooming by their pet parents – not only to keep them clean and smelling fresh, but to protect their overall health. In this article, we’ll review some helpful tips for bathing your fuzzy companion, including a step-by-step guide for first-time dog owners.
When To Give Your Dog A Bath: A Helpful Guide
As we’ve touched upon, how often you should bathe your pup depends on numerous conditions – primarily his health, breed, type of coat (i.e., long or short hair), and level of activity. In this section, we’ll review each of these factors and how they affect your dog’s grooming needs:
- Health: Depending on certain health issues, including skin allergies and other dog skin conditions, certain dogs may require a bath more or less frequently. Speak with your veterinarian or groomer if you have any concerns – he or she may suggest a medicated shampoo for your dog’s grooming regimen. Additionally, regularly brushing your dog is vital to your dog’s health, as is ear cleaning and nail trimming. While most pet owners shy away from ear cleaning and nail trimming and leave it to their professional groomer, getting into the habit of brushing your dog on a routine basis will aid in his overall health and comfort. Brushing your pooch helps distribute the natural oils throughout his coat while removing excess dog hair and dander. Regular bathing and brushing can also help pet parents who suffer from allergies, as people usually react to their dog’s dander.
- Breed & Coat Type: In addition to your dog’s health, the type of coat he has will determine how frequently he’ll need a bath. However, it’s not as simple as it may seem – while common sense would lead us to believe the shorter the hair, the less bathing is needed, it’s not always the case. For example, hairless breeds such as the Chinese Crested require a great deal of maintenance, including weekly baths. On the other hand, long-coated breeds, such as the Collie, can go 4-6 weeks, as long as their coat is well-maintained in between baths. According to experts, thick or double coats on certain breeds (such as Siberian Huskies, Labrador Retrievers and Golden Retrievers) insulate the dogs on a seasonal basis; therefore, over-bathing may strip the naturally-occurring oils from their skin and coat – and actually do your dog more harm than good. As you can see, nearly every breed has its own set of grooming needs, so it’s important to consult your groomer to determine an appropriate bathing regimen specifically tailored to your dog’s breed and coat.
- Activity Level: You’ll also want to consider what type of activities your dog is engaged in (and where) – for example, if your pal spends most of his time indoors, he’s not as likely to get as filthy as a dog who enjoys rolling in the mud. Active dogs who enjoy frequent romps in the park, digging holes, hiking excursions, swimming, and other outdoor activities will benefit from bathing, as it’s not only hygienic, but a great opportunity to inspect your canine’s coat and skin for flea and tick bites, scratches, abrasions and other abnormalities. It’s much easier to check out your dog’s skin when his hair is wet and flat against his body.
To Bathe Or Not To Bathe: When Is Bath-Time Too Much?
For anyone who’s ever owned a dog, we know our canine companions can be downright messy – rolling in poop, getting into mischief outside during a walk or finding them covered in your toddler’s leftovers are just a few scenarios you may have lived through. While bathing may seem the logical course of action, “how often?” is still an item for debate, as it really depends on the circumstances.
Because our dogs instinctively groom themselves to support skin health and facilitate the growth of hair follicles, daily bathing isn’t necessary; however, as pet parents, adhering to a regular grooming routine is essential to your pooch’s well-being. Speak with your vet and groomer to determine a regime that works for your dog – after all, too much bathing can actually be harmful to your faithful friend, as it may possibly damage hair follicles, irritate his skin, and increase the risk of fungal or bacterial infections.
Determining whether or not to give your pooch a bath is sometimes as simple as taking a whiff – if he stinks, it’s time for a soak! For especially dirty doggies, professional groomers recommend gently but thoroughly removing caked-on dried mud or dirt, preferably outside, with a dog brush appropriate to his coat (if you’re unsure, ask your groomer) and an old towel, immediately followed by a bath.
Choosing The Right Bath Products For Your Dog
- Understanding Your Dog’s Skin: As we’ve covered, our dogs require very different care as opposed to humans when it comes to bath-time – in addition to the variables their coats and breeds pose, we must also take into account the nature of their skin. While human skin is very acidic, with a pH level that usually falls under 5, our dogs have a pH level closer to a 7 – a dog’s skin is essentially neutral, which means it is neither strongly alkaline or acidic. Although we don’t necessarily need to have an in-depth knowledge of the physiology entailed, understanding that dogs have specific needs when it comes to bath products is very important, as the shampoo you may use on your own hair may be harmful to your fur baby.
- Allergic Reactions & Accidental Ingestion: When shopping for grooming supplies, be aware – just because a shampoo was made for dogs doesn’t guarantee that it will agree with your pooch’s skin. In fact, experts warn that dogs may even have adverse reactions to certain shampoo and grooming products, even if they’re specifically formulated for canines. Be mindful when bathing your dog with a new shampoo for the first time, remaining observant of any potential reactions during and immediately following bath-time. In addition, keep shampoos and soaps (particularly medicated versions) out of your dog’s reach, especially if he’s the type of dog that eats everything. Reactions may be topical (on the skin) or from accidental ingestion of the shampoo, conditioner or soap. Some clinical symptoms of a skin reaction may include red, irritated or itchy skin and hives. Ingestion of pet shampoo may cause symptoms such as drooling, vomiting, and decreased appetite. If you recognize any of these signs or symptoms, contact your veterinarian immediately for guidance.
- Speak With Your Vet: When in doubt, consulting your trusted vet is always the best course of action, even when it comes to bath products. Because your vet knows your dog’s medical history, he or she can provide professional recommendations based on your pet’s specific needs, particularly if he suffers from a preexisting skin condition or other health issues. Specifically, if your dog requires a medicated shampoo, experts recommend obtaining it from your vet and following the instructions carefully in order to avoid inaccurate administration.
How To Bathe Your Dog: 7 Tips For A Clean Dog
Now that it’s time to bathe your dog, we’ve compiled a helpful guide for getting your pooch squeaky-clean. Read on for helpful tips to refer to during your pup’s next bath-time:
- Purchase Dog-Friendly Shampoo & Supplies: Before you begin, you’ll want to have all of your supplies at hand – after consulting with your vet and/or groomer, shop for the recommended dog-formulated shampoos, conditioners and grooming products needed. You may want to consider all-natural and hypo-allergenic products to reduce the possibility of skin irritation and dry skin. Next, buy a rubber bath mat just for your dog’s bath routine – it will help your dog from slipping and sliding around in the tub. Finally, grab a bag of cotton balls if you don’t already have them on hand – placed gently in their ears, they’re a great way to keep water out of your pup’s delicate ear canals.
- Brush Your Pup: Although it may seem like a no-brainer, brushing your dog before bath-time is one of the most crucial steps for proper grooming. In addition to detangling (especially in the case of long-haired breeds), it also removes excess hair and dander, prepping his skin for a good thorough shampooing. If you’re unsure which type of brush is best for your dog, consult with your groomer or favorite pet supply store for recommendations.
- Stay Consistent: When it comes to keeping your pup clean and calm, consistency works wonders for frightened pooches. For many dogs, bathing is not only an uncomfortable routine, but downright terrifying. Ease your dog’s anxiety by choosing a spot – and stick to it, each and every time.
Although the bath is an ideal location, it may not be feasible depending on your living situation. If you reside in an apartment and have a small breed, the sink may be an option to consider; there are also free-standing bathing tubs designed especially for dogs that can be ordered online or at a pet store. If you live in a home with yard access, bathing your dog outside (only when it’s warm) may be a good option, but be sure that it’s on a clean, sturdy, flat surface, such as a concrete patio or deck – after all, there’s no sense in washing your dog if he’s standing in a soon-to-be muddy yard!
- Get Organized: Bathing your pooch can often be a hectic and sometimes messy experience, so having all of your supplies at arm’s reach will make the process go much more smoothly. Line all of your shampoos/conditioners up, along with a clean towel, a large cup or plastic pitcher for rinsing (if necessary), and treats for afterward (or during to reward/reinforce good behavior – this can be especially helpful for younger “dogs in training” who are still getting accustomed to the bath-time ritual).
- Draw Your Pup’s Bath: Once you’re all set, run your bathwater – make sure the bath is not too full, but more importantly, adjust the temperature carefully so that it’s lukewarm. Too cold and you won’t be able to rinse the lather off properly or loosen dirt; too hot and you risk the danger of scalding your pooch’s skin. When it doubt, think of what would be best for your child – neither too hot nor too cold! It’s also imperative that you never leave your dog unattended in the tub – and if you’re bathing your dog outdoors, be sure he is on a leash.
- Shampoo The Pooch: When it’s time to shampoo your pooch, experts recommend cleaning your dog from bottom to top, making sure never to get shampoo or conditioner near your dog’s eyes. Follow the instructions as indicated on the shampoo bottle, and be sure to pay special attention to their paws and other crevices/areas prone to dirt and grime. If you begin with their feet and work your way up, washing their face last, it helps to prevent soap from dripping into their eyes & ears while reducing shaking. When you’re ready to rinse, begin at the head and work your way down your dog’s torso until the stream of water runs clear of dirt and lather.
- Dry The Dog: Depending on how well your dog tolerates his bath-time ritual, he’ll (hopefully) stick around long enough so that you can properly towel him off! Covering him up immediately after he gets out of the water not only reduces the chance of shaking water all over the house, but helps to keep him warm, protecting him from a draft (especially important for older dogs). If it’s chilly out, or if your dog has longer hair/a coat that takes more time to dry, you may want to invest in a dog blow-dryer to expedite the process.
By creating a sense of familiarity in location and repetition in your ritual, your dog will eventually get used to bath-time. Speak to him in reassuring tones and be as gentle and nurturing with him as possible – once he understands that it’s for his own benefit, he should eventually become acclimated to the regimen. If bathing your dog continues to be difficult or impossible, you may wish to consult a dog trainer for behavior modification (or simply leave it to a professional dog groomer). However, with patience, love, positive reinforcement and repetition, most dogs can be trained to take a bath as part of their regular routine.
- Cornelius, Sadie. “How Often You Should Bathe Your Dog (Plus 8 Bathing Tips).” Canine Journal.com, May 3, 2018, https://www.caninejournal.com/how-often-to-bathe-a-dog/. Accessed January 30, 2019.
- Lotz, Kristina. “How Often Should You Bathe Your Dog? Groomers Weigh In.” AKC.org, May 25, 2018, https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/how-often-should-you-wash-your-dog/. Accessed January 30, 2019.
- Newell, Wendy. “Wondering How Often to Bathe a Dog? It Depends on These Factors.” Dogster.com, August 13, 2018, https://www.dogster.com/dog-grooming/how-often-to-bathe-a-dog-depends-on-these-factors. Accessed January 30, 2019.