How Often Should You Bathe Your Dog?

Surprisingly, the answer depends on the type of fur, not the length. 

All dogs secrete oils in their fur that can become greasy and smelly over time, creating an unhealthy environment for the skin, and leaving a distinct odor on bedding. These oils are meant to protect the skin and to waterproof outdoor sporting breeds and snow dogs. Regular brushing removes dander and dirt, but also disperses fresh oils for a sleek, glossy coat. Some online research reveals these recommendations for certain breeds:

  • Short, rough fur (Basset Hound, for example) secretes a lot of oils. Bathe every 1-2 weeks.  
  • Short, smooth coats (Beagles, for one) are the easiest to maintain. Bathe monthly. 
  • The thick fur of snowy-weather dogs (Huskies, Malamutes, etc.) has oils with water-proofing benefits. These dogs need very little bathing, but lots of brushing.
  • Long and short haired Retrievers and other hunting/sporting dogs have hardy, water-repellent coats. Preserve their natural oils by bathing only every 4-6 weeks. Sporting breeds with long fur also grow an additional short, dense undercoat that can foster skin allergies and hotspots. Make sure their skin is dried thoroughly after washing.
  • Hairless breeds or dogs with extremely short hair, such as Dachshunds, need more attention to skin care than fur care. Weekly bathing just to moisturize the skin is not out of the question. 
  • Poodles don’t have fur, but they have a type of hair that grows out and needs to be trimmed, according to the American Kennel Club. They can be bathed every 4-8 weeks with gentle human shampoo or very gentle dog shampoo. Trims should be done by a professional groomer, using electric clippers. Hair growing in their ears also needs to be carefully groomed.

Some suggest making the home bath a fun experience by getting your dog used to playing in the dry tub first. Add his toys, and praise him. Gradually introduce some mildly warm or tepid water, and splash around with him. Use a pH appropriate shampoo formulated for dogs. An oatmeal based shampoo can be soothing to irritated skin.

It’s important to make sure your dog’s face doesn’t get sprayed or drenched, especially the ears. Use a washcloth with warm water to gently wash his face separately. 

The best way to dry your dog is to towel-dry him vigorously and then let him shake off the rest. After he has air-dried, check to be sure that his skin is dried all over. Some spots may need a little help with the hair dryer on a light setting.

After he has dried, brush out his coat and perhaps spritz a little doggie coat conditioner.  Both of you will appreciate the improvement that a bath can make.