Even the cleanest dog is bound to get smelly after a while, and even the shiniest coats will become dull and overgrown in time. Unfortunately, there are almost as many types of coats as there are dog breeds, and the fur, hair, or skin of some breeds can be particularly sensitive — even when it comes to being washed. As a result, the answer to the question “how often should you bathe your dog?” is not as cut and dry as you might believe. Luckily for you, we have done all the dog-diligence needed.
How often should you bathe your dog?
A general rule is to bathe your dog once a month — but the specific answer depends entirely on your dog's breed and habits.
Different dog breeds have different types of fur. Some don’t even have fur at all, they have hair. And among these many different types of fur are extremely different bathing needs. Some dogs can and should go a long time between baths, while others should be bathed more frequently, while some should never be bathed unless absolutely necessary, because it dries out their skin.
Here's a bit more insight into how often dogs should be bathed, based on breeds:
Short-haired dog breeds like dachshunds, German Shorthaired Pointers, etc. can go a rather long time between baths, and they probably should. These short-haired breeds shed regularly and that shedding works to naturally remove excess dirt and oil. So unless your weenie dog got into the garbage can, you can probably hold off on a bath for a while.
Retrievers and several other dog breeds have water-resistant coats. These coats tend to be longer, softer, and oilier than short-haired breeds. And while a good bath every now and then is a great way to keep your furry buddy from becoming overly smelly, be mindful of overbathing. Bathing will wash away your dog’s natural oils, while a simple brushing every few days should keep them clean.
Double coated breeds
Akitas, Chow Chows, and American Eskimo Dogs all have double coats full of natural oils. These breeds are bred to keep warm and be fluffy, but their thick coats are still full of oils essential for healthy skin. These oils help the dogs maintain a sleek, soft, cuddly coat. They require brushing more than bathing, which will help distribute the oils more evenly without wicking them away.
All dogs have oils on their skin, but some breeds are greasier than others. Oilier breeds, like Basset Hounds or Bloodhounds, might need more bathing than you’re prepared to give. Because many of these breeds are short-haired, a nice brushing won’t do much to redistribute the oils, so while these oils do protect the dog’s skin from overdrying, they can carry a pretty pungent odor.
Why do you need to bathe your dog at all?
There are many reasons why you might need to give Fido a bath — for example, if your dog got into the garbage, rolled in some mud puddles, had an unfortunate encounter with a local skunk, gotten fleas, or contracted a nasty parasite. Or, maybe your dog’s breed requires that they be bathed more often as we mentioned above.
The environment is a factor too. If your dog has been outside a lot recently and is carrying a bit of a funk, it could signify bath time. Perhaps they are just one of those breeds that smells a bit doggy after a while. You know, the kind that gets all corny-chippy smelling after a few months.
How to choose the right pet shampoo
Just as with breeds, there is no single “one-size-fits-all” shampoo. The Central California SPCA recommends using a gentle shampoo or baby shampoo for normal dogs. Most modern pet stores sell natural, sulfate-free varieties of canine shampoo as well. Oilier breeds might need a stronger shampoo, however, and any dog suffering from a skunking or a flea or tick infestation will require specialty products.
Can you overbathe your dog?
You sure can! Bathing removes dirt, yes, but it also washes away essential oils on a dog’s skin, oils which they need to maintain a healthy coat. Overbathing can cause dry skin and excessive itchiness in your poor pup. They might smell clean, but they are bound to be pretty uncomfortable.
As mentioned above, a good rule of thumb is to bathe your dog about once a month, unless they seem smelly or dirty (in which case they may need more frequent baths), or you notice bathing overdries their skin (in which case they may need less frequent baths). Even if your dog gets a little smelly within those 30 days, try to resist giving them a full bath.
When is it time to call a professional groomer?
No matter what the reason may be, your dog isn’t going to tell you when you need to bathe them. Frankly, they would probably be happiest never having a bath. Small dogs can be bathed in a sink or bathtub with ease, but even those tiny guys won’t always sit still for it. As for big dogs, some of them are strong enough to pull the whole tub or kiddie pool down mid-bath or to soak the area and you along with it. In the case of particularly skittish or misbehaving bathers, it might be best to call in an expert.
Groomers are well-equipped for any breed of dog, and many expert groomers might even have enough knowledge and experience to know what your particular breed of dog needs in terms of bathing. Just do some research into highly-rated local groomers before making your decision. A little research can save time, money, and headache in the long-run.