Baths can be a love or hate relationship for your dog. Some dogs love the water and will jump right into the bathtub, while some dogs will run at the first sight of the soap bottle and fight all the way to the bathtub! I’ve got one of each 🙂
How often does my dog need a bath? The short answer, your dog will never NEED a bath, other than for medical reasons. But you may want to bathe your dog after swimming in a lake, rolling in a mud puddle (like Bear in the photo above), or if he just stinks.
If you dog is smelly all of the time, he may have a yeast infection. I recommend calling your vet to have him checked out for any medical issues.
So we all know every dog is different. But certain breeds may need more frequent baths, dogs that have very oily skin for instance. Other dogs need to keep their natural oils to protect their skin.
Daily brushing for long hair dogs helps keep their coats clean and healthy and will help relieve the need for frequent baths. When in doubt, ask your vet for her opinion.
In general, it’s recommended to give your dog a bath once a month, and no more than once a week. This is up to your preference, if your dog doesn’t generally get dirty, and doesn’t smell, you can go several months without a bath.
During the summer we have been giving our dogs a bath every week after swimming in the lake at our dog park, simply because we don’t want them to smell like lake water.
Then in the winter, when they aren’t getting very dirty, we will go for 2 months or so without bathing them.
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Every situation and dog is unique. Your choice of dog bath soap will be different for a dog that has dry skin, allergies, or maybe fleas.
Make sure to choose a shampoo that is specifically designed and formulated for dogs. DO NOT use baby shampoo or anything other than something that is made for dogs. Many years ago, we would use our shampoo on our Samoyed. I cringe at that thought now but we live and learn.
If you are interested in making homemade dog shampoo, make sure to read our article with 5 different DIY dog shampoos!
Avoid dog shampoos that have artificial fragrances, as they can be harmful to your dog’s skin, and trust me, your dog does not want to smell like flowers!
Ever notice that your dog rolls around in the grass after a bath? They do this to try and get the clean smell off their bodies! So choosing a little to no fragrance soap is ideal.
My favorite shampoo right now is an oatmeal shampoo. Oatmeal is a natural conditioner and this particular shampoo lathers nicely and is easy to rinse out. But if your dog has any yeast infections, do not use oatmeal!
We have also used Jax and Daisy shampoo and lotion on our dog Ginger when she was battling her allergies. We’ve since eliminated certain foods which relieve her itching considerably. But if your dog itches a lot, this shampoo is awesome. It’s all natural and really works. We purchased the shampoo and lotion combination but honestly didn’t use the lotion all that much.
Puppies have unique requirements. You should not give a puppy younger than 6 weeks a full bath. If your puppy is less than 6 weeks old, then use a warm washcloth to wipe them down if needed.
Puppies 6 weeks and older can have a full bath, but I recommend only bathing them when necessary. Puppies have natural oils to protect their skin, which can wash away with a bath.
It is, however, important to get your puppy used to the process of a bath, the water and getting wet. This will ensure when he gets older he is not afraid of the bath.
Using a puppy specific shampoo is also important. This puppy shampoo comes highly recommended.
You can use high-value treats to convince your non-bath-loving dog that the bath is not so bad. Bring in a bag of treats and offer a treat every few minutes to get your dogs mind off the terror of the bath.
Our yellow lab, Bear, that LOVES the water and taking baths. Bear will even run up the stairs to the bathroom and jump into the tub!
Then we have Ginger, our German Shepherd mutt, that loves to go swimming but hates baths! We have to carry her into the bathtub. Not even treats will amuse her when it comes to bath time.
If you dog is food motivated, check out this lick mat from Chewy.
You can condition your dog to like baths if you have the patients. Make bath time fun! I have broken down these steps by days. If your dog doesn’t get stressed, feel free to move onto the next step on the same day. Do not force your dog, and if he is showing any signs of stress, stop and wait for the next day.
Occasionally there are circumstances when you need to give your dog a bath without water. If your dog recently had surgery or has been neutered or spayed, they can not have a bath until your vet says it is okay. Or maybe your dog rolled in poop and you need to get to work.
P.S. Leave a comment below to tell me if you struggle giving your dog a bath. I always reply to comments, so let’s start a conversation… it could help someone else with the same problem or question.
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Debi McKee is a mom of three kids, three dogs and the creator of Rescue Dogs 101... where she guides you in your journey of adopting and raising a rescue dog every step of the way. She also volunteers for a local dog rescue and Humane Society.