Published: December 31, 2018  

Last updated: March 3, 2022  

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 🙂

Bath Time for Muddy Dog
After playing in the mud, I think it’s time for Bear to take a bath!

1. Dog Bath Frequency 

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.

2. The Best Dog Bath Products, Tools, Accessories & Equipment

The supplies to bathe your dog are endless. I’ve chosen the best I have personally used and the most popular and highly-rated products recommend by others in the Rescue Dogs 101 Community.

  • Dog Bath Glove – Make it easy to wash and scrub your dogs coat with these gloves.
  • Dog Bath Sprayer – This attaches to your existing shower head to make it easier to rinse your dog in the bathtub. 
  • Dog Bath Towel – Quickly dry your pup with these super absorbent towels. For the longest time, we used our bath towels… these dog bath shammy’s will change everything. 
  • Dog Bathrobe – Wrapping your dog up in a bathrobe could help him warm and maybe from shaking water all over your bathroom.
  • Dog Bath Scrubber – This attaches to the hose or faucet and releases water while you are scrubbing your dog clean. 
  • Dog Bath Tub Sink for Home – Save your back with this elevated bath tub special for your dog. I don’t have one yet, but thinking I need one! I’m just wondering how I’d pick up a 90 lb dog!
  • Dog Bath System – Get an entire kit for making bath time easier. 
  • Dog Bath Dryer – Don’t want to wait for your dog to air dry? Human hair dryers get too hot and can burn your dog.
wet dog after getting bath wrapped in a towel

3. Choosing the Best Dog Shampoo

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!

If you do prefer to buy an all-natural dog shampoo, then I recommend Jax N Daisy. We use this on our dog Ginger to help with her itchy skin and it works wonders.

We also useJax N Daisy shampoo and lotion on our dog Ginger when she gets itchy from her allergies.  It’s all natural and really works. We even use the lotion on ourselves.

dog getting bath in tub
Bear loves taking a bath. He looks and smells much better without all that mud, don’t you think?

4. How to Give Your Dog a Bath at Home

  1. If your dog has long hair, brush him thoroughly before giving him a bath.
  2. Gather everything you are going to need before taking your dog into the bathtub or outside to the hose.
  3. Use only dog specific shampoo.
  4. Towels for you and your dog.
  5. Treats to reward your dog for being good in the bath.
  6. Leash to help control your dog from jumping out of the bath.
  7. Getting your dog into the bathtub or close enough to the hose may be a challenge for those with dogs that hate the bath, so lure your dog with treats to the bath. During the winter we use our bathtub, using a hand-held shower head so we can reach all over and under the dog’s body. In the summer when it’s warm outside, we use the outside hose.
  8. Stay calm, if you get upset or stressed, your dog will feed off of your energy and hate baths even more.
  9. Make bath time fun with treats, a ton of praise and love.
    dog getting bath
  10. Get his entire body/coat wet with water, saving the face for last.
  11. Using dog shampoo, apply soap and lather, starting at the neck, working your way down his back, legs and belly area.
  12. Wash his face last, as most dogs do not like water in their face.
  13. Avoid getting water inside your dog’s ears. If water does get inside the ears, dry them out after his bath with cotton balls.
  14. This is the perfect time to be inspecting your dog for ticks, fleas, and abnormalities on his body.
  15. Rinse and rinse again. It is very important to get all of the soap out of his coat. If soap is left it could cause irritation to your dog’s skin.
  16. When done rinsing, let your dog shake inside the tub. I usually hold up a towel to contain some of the water spraying the entire bathroom… not that this always works, but it helps a little. I just recently started training my dogs to shake on command, I think they’re started to pick it up.
  17. Towel dry your dog as much as you can and then let him air-dry the rest of the way. Do not use a human blow dryer on your dog, it can get too hot and burn his skin.
These puppies are too young for a bath

5. How Often to Bathe a Puppy

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 Burt’s Bees puppy shampoo comes highly recommended. It’s a brand I trust to be natural and safe for dogs and humans.

6. My Dog Hates Baths

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

Dog Bath Lick Mat

Conditioning Your Dog to Like Baths

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.

  • Day 1: Start by enticing your dog with treats into the room that you will be bathing him. Don’t be afraid to use lots of treats. Walk away and repeat 2-3 times throughout the day.
  • Day 2: Treat your dog for coming into the bathing room, and then entice your dog with treats to enter the bathtub. No water, just the dry tub. Repeat again throughout the day.
  • Day 3: Fill the tub with an inch of water before bringing the dog in. Then repeat the steps from day 2.
  • Day 4: Repeat day 3, and add turning on the water after the dog is in the bathtub. Do not spray him yet, just get him used to the noise of the water running.
  • Day 5: When your dog is comfortable with all these steps, it’s time to give your dog a bath. Don’t be afraid to continue using treats.

7. How to Give a Dog a Bath Without Water

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.

  1. Bath wipes are a great for a quick clean up.
  2. Dry shampoo can be used for a freshen up between regular baths.
  3. A vinegar and lemon juice mix can be sprayed on your dog. Following up with a good brushing, spreading the vinegar and lemon scent through his coat. Use this sparingly, as it could irritate your dogs skin. In fact, I recommend testing a small area on your dog before applying on his entire body.
  4. Baking soda can be sprinkled along your dog’s fur and use a towel or brush to rub it in. Some people say this can help with itchy skin, but I’ve never tried it.

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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About the Author

Debi McKee

Debi McKee is the expert behind Rescue Dogs 101 where she guides you in your journey of adopting and raising a rescue dog every step of the way. She is a mom of 3 human kids and 4 dogs and volunteers for a local dog rescue and Humane Society. Click here for more about Debi and her passion for helping you and your dog.

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  1. Thanks for letting me know that I should only use dog-specific shampoos for my pet's bath. My boyfriend and I just adopted a puppy weeks ago and his fur has started to smell, so we're thinking of bathing him in a few days. I'm also hoping that I can buy a vegan pet shampoo bar that can help him grow his fur.

  2. lol I’m up here in the Pacific Northwest. We may get some snow (like this year, nearly a foot at my house) Doggos LOVE IT! I could barely get them to come in.

    however, we tend to have a ‘rainy’ season. it’s about 9 months long. It isn’t rain like other areas get, we’re not talking inches at a time. More like .5 inch is a wet day. But it falls ALL DAY LONG. We rarely dry out during the ‘rainy season’

    My 3 doggos (big guys/gal) have destroyed anything resembling a lawn in our backyard. We’ve tried to reduce the mud/dust by covering nearly the entire yard in cedar chips. Alas, after 5 months of this wet damp moss producing weather, the chips have taken a beating. Barely recognizable as cedar chips, barely contains the mud, and some spots are straight up mud pits.

    I’ve given up trying to keep things clean. I sweep daily, I at least mop the kitchen now and again.

    What I have found, is if you just let the dogs dry, then give a vigorous brushing, they’re practically clean again. Maybe this is something with their breeds. (Mostly GSD, a bit of Husky and ACD)

    Maybe come the precious short dry season I may try to ‘bathe’ them outside….

  3. Even dogs with short, low-maintenance coats need regular brushing, bathing and nail trimming. Dogs with longer coats may also need clipping and hair trimming. While you may wish to schedule regular appointments with a professional groomer – especially when it comes to clipping and trimming your dog’s hair – these seven tips will help you establish an at-home grooming routine with your dog.

  4. My son is gone for a year. I haven’t bathed him. He is at least 85 lbs. I am older, have not had a pet. I don’t know if i can handle him.

  5. My dog sheds year round, she ie a very sweet laid back Chihuahua. My grandson is so allergic to her. We live with my daughter and family. Welcome any suggestions. She is 7 years old.

  6. Thank you for all the helpful information. I have 4 dogs that I love very much and on a fixed income, is a challenge. I will try your at home remedy for ear infections the next time my dogs have an ear issue. My biggest issues with my Cocapoos is itching and chewing their paws. One is on Apoquil and one is on Benadryl but it only helps a little. The one on Apoquil has stained her face from chewing her paws so much. Any suggestions on this?
    Continue to help the dogs as best you can…they need help from humans that don’t care. ❤

    1. Hi Pam, Have you tried a limited ingredient diet? The chewing of paws is usually a sign of allergies. Have you talked with your vet about the staining?

      I’m working on writing an article about our Gingers allergies. But basically, I stripped her diet down to 2 ingredients, fish and sweet potatoes. I cooked this food so I knew there were no hidden ingredients. She was on this diet for about 2-3 weeks until she stopped itching. Then I slowly introduced new proteins to see if she started to itch again. Long story short, we now feed her a fish based, limited ingredient dog food. I have also found that coconut oil, fish oil and honey help as additives. Make sure you subscribe to our newsletter so you can be notified when the article on allergies is published.

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