You know your dog needs frequent baths, but how often is “frequent” exactly? Here's how to craft a bathing schedule fit for your pup.

By Madison Pincombe
August 24, 2020
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We understand if bathing your dog leaves you wondering, How often do I really have to do this? Washing your pup can be messy and time-consuming. However, regular bathing is essential for removing dirt or debris buildup and preventing skin conditions from developing.

Have no fear, there’s no need to clear everything from your schedule. Washing your dog too often (on a weekly or even biweekly schedule) can strip their skin of oils, damage hair follicles, increase risk of bacterial or fungal infections, and disrupt natural insulation. According to Jesse Sondel, DVM, owner and veterinarian at Sondel Family Veterinary Clinic, “When you bathe dogs, depending on the soap, you’re leaching the oil out of the fur which gives them their normal defenses against the world.”

Sondel says you can determine how often to wash your dog based on these factors:

1. Lifestyle or Activity Level

“I have a little Boston terrier at home who gets himself into the grossest stuff, and I feel like I’m throwing him into the bath a couple times a month,” Sondel says. “I also have a 150-pound mastiff who is a couch potato and goes on his walks but doesn’t roll in gross stuff. I don’t think I’ve given him a bath in the last year.”

Bathing frequency is largely based on activity level and where those activities take place. “If your dog gets into something gross, if it rolls in poop, no matter what you bathe it,” Sondel says.

2. Type of Coat

Understanding your dog’s breed and coat type can also help you determine how often you should wash your dog.

Sondel provides two examples: “Vizslas have a really short tan coat. They are hunting dogs and get bathed pretty often. Whereas, a husky is an arctic dog and has a thick undercoat of fur that has evolved to keep them warm. If you get that coat wet, it’s really hard to dry it out. Those dogs barely get bathed,” he says. 

Less hair does not mean less bathing is required. In fact, hairless breeds are actually very care-intensive. Short-coated breeds typically require more baths than medium-coated breeds, but the type of fur—soft and oily or hard and dry—is important. Medium-coated breeds usually only need to be bathed when they are dirty or smelly. Grooming long-coated breeds requires more time, work, and upkeep. 

The seasons also impact your dog’s coat. In the winter, more frequent baths can cut down on dryness and itching. Some dogs shed seasonally. In the spring and fall, when they usually shed, regular baths can help remove their dead hair.

3. Health 

Dogs may develop various skin conditions. Health issues such as fungal infections, bacterial infections, allergies, parasites, and dry skin necessitate more frequent bathing. “Any skin issues can be helped by medicated bathing,” Sondel says.

Dog owners who suffer from allergies can try to combat the problem by bathing their dogs more often to wash away dander. “By bathing your dog who has a lot of dander, you decrease their allergic shed,” Sondel says. However, he points out, the benefit is pretty minimal. You can’t bathe away all your dog’s allergy-inducing dander. 

Grooming for Overall Health  

In general, let your eyes and nose be the judge. “If it’s just a normal bath, I wouldn’t do it more than once a month,” Sondel says. The ASPCA recommends at least once every three months. However, Sondel points out that a conversation with your veterinarian is a good place to get recommendations, since your vet will understand your pup’s specific needs.

A grooming regimen is an important way to keep your dog healthy. Learn how often your dog needs to be bathed and how to wash them well. Use baths as a chance to check your pup for any unusual scratches, bumps, fleas, or other abnormalities. Like people, dogs require more than baths to remain healthy and hygienic. Don’t forget to supplement bathing with regular coat brushing, haircuts, nail trimming, and teeth brushing.