How Often Should You Wash Your Dog?

adult golden retriever dog getting a bath in a tub

How often should you wash your dog for optimal coat condition and cleanliness? It might not be as often as you think. Baths can of course be beneficial for your dog. They help to reduce shedding, keep your dog smelling nice, and can be soothing if they’ve come home caked in mud.

But over-washing is just as bad as under-washing. And getting the right balance depends on a whole bunch of factors including your dog’s coat, lifestyle, and skin condition.

So, read on to find out more about how often you should wash your dog.  

General rules for how often you should wash your dog

There are a few instances in which the “general rules” might not apply to you. Perhaps you have a purebred dog with special grooming needs, for instance. And for some dogs and humans, baths are more about keeping allergies and dermatitis at bay. But more on those exceptions to the rules later.

Generally speaking, you should wash your dog about once every four to six weeks. It’s probably less than you expected, but most dogs don’t really need washing if they’re healthy and aren’t dirty. That said, a semi-regular bath’s a good way to ensure they stay clean without drying out their coats or causing skin irritation.

No matter how often you wash your dog, always use the right products. Stick to a shampoo formulated especially for dogs, and keep the water lukewarm so you don’t scald or freeze them! It’s important to dry your dog off properly too. This lessens the amount of licking they do and means their coat doesn’t stay wet for a long time, both of which can cause irritation.

Bath time is also beneficial for another reason you might not have thought of. Lathering, rinsing, and scrubbing present a good opportunity to check your dog over for any unusual lumps, bumps, or scratches. As well as to check for ticks and remove them if needed. Make sure to run your hands over their whole body and check there’s nothing new or different.

So that’s the general idea. But how often should you wash your dog according to external factors like breed, season, and skin issues?

brown bulldog being washed in bath

Dog breeds and how often you should wash them

Different dogs have different grooming needs. And if you’re wondering how often you should wash your dog, it does depend quite a bit on their coat.

For dogs with healthy short coats like Dachshunds, Boston Terriers, the Pug and similar, washing should only be when they get dirty. Or once every six weeks or so. They tend to have very few grooming needs as they don’t pick up as much dirt and dust as long-coated breeds, nor do they get tangles or hotspots easily.

Of course, if your dog has a particularly oily coat they might need more regular washes as the dirt will “cling” to them. The opposite is true for dogs with dry skin or coats.

Breeds with long hair and/or curly hair tend to need more frequent washing too. So if you have something like an Afghan Hound or a Poodle, you’ll probably have to spend more time lathering than other dog owners.

And obviously, season plays a role in how often you should wash your dog too. When dogs shed their coats as the weather gets warmer, more regular baths can help to loosen dead fur. This makes your dog more comfortable…and means you have less vacuuming to do.

Lifestyle considerations

Just like humans, some dogs simply require more regular cleaning than others. Anyone with more than one human child can attest to the fact that often one seems to be a dirt magnet while the other stays tidy. We’re not sure how or why, but it’s true.  

And the same goes for activity levels. People who run or play sport all day need more showering than those who prefer to spend Saturdays couching. If your dog goes out a lot, likes to play in muddy water, or roll in suspicious-looking things, you’ll probably need to bath them more often. Nobody wants a stinky dog sharing the bed with them!

Let common sense guide you on this. If your dog is very muddy or dirty, wash them even if they had a bath two weeks ago. On the flip side, if you took a walk with five dogs and only one of them came back filthy, the others don’t necessarily need a bath.

Another thing to keep in mind is that dogs who regularly swim in pools or the sea might need more regular bathing. Chlorine and salt can irritate the skin, especially in breeds like the Golden Retriever or Labrador who are prone to skin issues and known to love water. That said, you can often get away with just rinsing the salt water or pool water off your dog rather than giving them a full-on bath.

While we’re talking about problems associated with swimming, read more on how to keep your dog safe at the beach.

How often you should wash a dog with skin conditions?

You might think a dog with skin conditions such as itchy skin, allergies or rashes would need regular bathing. And it’s true that if your dog’s problems are caused by contact allergies (e.g. grass irritation) then a bath can help ease itches.

But washing your dog too often can exacerbate the problem. It can remove healthy oils from the skin and fur (which dries everything out), damage hair follicles, and can even increase the risk of them picking up bacterial or fungal infections.

So what’s the answer? Usually, it’s best to consult with your vet. They may be able to recommend a special medicated shampoo and conditioner, and help you with a bath schedule. They can also advise whether your dog’s skin problems are likely to be improved or worsened by regular washing.

person washing a small brown terrrier dog

Pet insurance for strange lumps and bumps

If you do notice anything strange as you’re bathing your dog, or realise they’re developing skin problems, a vet visit’s due. Luckily, with a dog insurance policy you won’t have to worry about treatment and consultation fees breaking the bank. Instead, you can focus on getting your dog healthy and happy.

How would you, like to proceed?

How would you, like to proceed?