Folk wisdom says that once a month is average for a dog to get a good scrubbing down. The ASPCA recommends at least once every three months. Your veterinarian is also a good resource to ask, as there are many factors to weigh when answering this question.
Often the answer can be summed up quite easily. Your dog needs a bath when you think your dog needs a bath. Set up a grooming schedule where you can control your dog’s body odor and ensure the health of its coat. For some breeds this may be once or twice a month, while others may need a bath only once every few months. Beyond this basic schedule, if your dog needs some baths in between, they rely on you and your judgement.
There are the obvious cases, like when you can barely stand to be in the same room as your dog because of the stench! Perhaps their body odor has blossomed into something truly outrageous or they rolled in something unsavory, in which case it’s best not to dwell on the specifics. Don’t overthink it. It’s time for you and your pooch to bond over bath time. If your dog’s coat has become so dirty or matted that it can’t be cleaned by brushing, break out the suds and spruce your dog up.
Beyond the obvious, it’s important to ask a few more questions. For example, where does your dog live? A dog who lives and works on a farm may go long stretches without a proper lathering. Outdoor dogs should be washed only occasionally. On the other hand, a dog who spends most of their day inside might need to be bathed if they become too adventurous when they go outside to run or play, rolling in the mud or jumping in puddles, depending on how tidy their owner keeps their house. If the dog sleeps in bed with you, you may want to bathe him or her as much as once per week.
You may be wondering if bathing your dog that frequently will dry out your dog’s skin. Their skin is far more delicate than human skin, and dogs have natural oils that give them a nice shiny coat. Again, it is important to consider the breed of your dog as you formulate their grooming schedule.
A dog with oily skin might need to be washed more while others with less oily skin will dry out easier, developing itchy skin, rashes, or mats in their coat if their natural oils are diminished too greatly. However, if your dog has dirt and grime on their coat, this too can cause skin problems. A dog with a lush, thick coat can use more frequent brushings and only occasional baths.
Still, you might be worried, asking yourself if you are overdoing it. Dr. Rob Sharp, a country veterinarian, was asked “It is true that you shouldn’t wash a dog more than once a month?”
He answered, “We’ve all heard the conventional wisdom that too many baths can dry out a dog’s skin, but in my many years as a veterinarian, I’ve never seen a pup with health problems caused by being too clean. It just doesn’t happen.”
Still, it can’t hurt to use a pet shampoo that retains the dog’s natural oils. Avoid dandruff-removing and medicated shampoos unless your veterinarian recommends them, as they will further dry out a dog’s skin. However, even if your dog does not need a special medicated shampoo, your vet should be able to recommend a high-quality shampoo that will dry out or irritate your dog’s skin as little as possible.
Bath time is a great time to build a bond with your dog. Start them out early and be sure the water temperature is just right. Remember, regular baths are an important part of your dog’s overall health, so they should be a part of your regular routine.