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How Often Do Dogs Need Baths? Find Out Exactly How Frequently To Wash Your Dog - PawSafe

How Often Do Dogs Need Baths? Find Out Exactly How Frequently To Wash Your Dog

Photo of Tamsin De La Harpe

Written by Tamsin De La Harpe

How often should you wash your dog

Splish-splash! It’s bath time for your pup, but how often should you really be reaching for the dog shampoo and grooming gloves? A dog’s need for a bath varies as much as the breeds themselves, from the playful pups who revel in mud puddles to the laid-back loungers who’d rather skip the suds.

While most dogs don’t require daily scrubs like their human counterparts, establishing the best bath schedule for your canine can contribute to their health and happiness. So, we’ve spoken to veterinarian and expert dog groomers like Sue Dallas to really establish how often you need to wash your dog. Let’s dive into the factors that determine the perfect pampering routine, from the breed-specific needs to the telltale signs that it’s time to turn on the taps.

So, How Often Do Dogs Need Baths?

Most dogs benefit from a bath every 4 to 6 weeks. The frequency can vary based on the dog’s breed, coat, lifestyle, and activity level. Regular bathing keeps their skin healthy and coat clean but overbathing can strip natural oils, so finding the right balance is crucial for their well-being.

The frequency of dog baths can depend on a variety of factors, including their breed, coat type, lifestyle, and even underlying health conditions like allergies. A romp-in-the-dirt puppy might need more frequent clean-ups, while a short-haired, indoor pooch may not need as many. It’s not just about keeping them clean; it’s also about protecting their skin and coat health, which means being mindful of overbathing risks.

Using the right dog shampoo, especially for those with sensitive skin, is crucial. Human shampoo is a no-no as it can disrupt their skin’s pH balance. And for the after-bath routine? Knowing how to properly brush and dry your dog’s coat will keep them looking and feeling their best.

So whether you’re considering dog bath wipes for a quick freshen-up or pondering how often to bathe a long-haired dog who loves to play outside, it’s about finding the right balance. Not sure where to start? Let’s get into the nitty-gritty of creating the ideal bathing routine for your four-legged pal.

Factors That Affect How Often You Need To Wash Or Bathe Your Dog

long-haired brown dog having a bath with bubbles

So, let’s look at what determines a good bathing schedule for a dog.

Dog Bathing Schedule by Breed And Coat Type

Baths every 4 to 6 weeks can suffice for most medium to long-haired dog types. Long-haired dogs like the collie and Maltese need frequent baths every month because their long hair can trap dirt and debris. However, the standard of measuring intervals between baths doesn’t strictly go by coat length.

No matter the frequency of baths your dog needs, it’s imperative that you use quality shampoo for baths. A gentle, hypoallergenic dog shampoo and conditioner soothes dry skin and conditions your pup’s coat leaving it soft and moisturized. The highly effective yet gentle formula enables you to give your pup quality baths.

It’s not as straightforward as the shorter the hair a dog has, the fewer baths they need. Some hairless breeds like the Argentine Pila Dog and the Chinese Crested need weekly baths. These dogs lack the protection a coat provides, necessitating more frequent baths.

Dogs with oily skin like basset hounds, which some owners state tend to have more of an odor, need regular monthly washes. Dogs with thick double coats that shed like Golden Retrievers, Siberian huskies, and Labradors may also need regular brushing and baths to eliminate shed hair that traps debris.

Short-haired breeds like the Doberman pinscher and Weimaraner are quite low maintenance but need baths at least every two months. If you’re unsure about your dog’s coat type and grooming requirements, you can ask your vet or groomer during the next visit.

Here is a table giving you an idea of how often different breeds of dogs may need a bath:

Dog BreedBathing Frequency
Labrador Retriever4-6 weeks
Poodle3-6 weeks
Beagle6-8 weeks
Siberian Husky6 weeks
Bulldog4-6 weeks
Shih Tzu3-4 weeks
German Shepherd4-6 weeks
Golden Retriever4-6 weeks
Dachshund6-8 weeks
Border Collie4-6 weeks
Chinese Crested1-2 weeks
Xoloitzcuintli (Mexican Hairless)1-2 weeks

The Dog’s Lifestyle

Active dogs that engage in plenty of outdoor activities like swimming and playing in the park get dirty faster. Dogs that love the outdoors can roll in waste, dig holes, and run over muddy puddles. Watching your dog leave muddy paw prints in your house is unbearable, so they’d need more washes.

Sometimes your outdoor-loving dog stinks because of reasons other than their environment. You can find our article if you want to know why your dog stinks even after a bath, as some are medical reasons. An indoor dog can get away with fewer baths than one that goes outside and plays in the dirt.

Athletic dogs need frequent baths even if they’re not visibly messy. The baths help to eliminate the offensive odor that could result from the outdoors. How many baths athletic dogs need is more of a personal issue based on your judgment. You can wash your athletic dog when snuggle time becomes uncomfy because of the offensive odor.

Health & Skin Conditions In Dogs 

Dogs with certain skin conditions may benefit from a more frequent bathing schedule, often with the use of medicated shampoos designed to address specific issues. Here’s a look at some common skin conditions and how they might impact bathing routines:

  1. Allergic Dermatitis

Dogs with allergic dermatitis react to allergens in their environment, such as pollen, dust mites, or certain foods. These allergies can cause itching, redness, and inflammation. Medicated shampoos with ingredients like oatmeal or aloe can soothe the skin and reduce irritation.

  1. Seborrhea & Folliculitis

Seborrhea and folliculitis causes a dog’s skin to become greasy and develop scales. There are shampoos formulated to control sebum production and remove scales. Regular bathing with these products can help manage the condition and keep the skin healthy. These glands can also create cysts in the skin, so be sure to watch out for them.

  1. Yeast Infections

Yeast infections on a dog’s skin can lead to itching, redness, and a foul odor. Antifungal medicated shampoos can help reduce yeast overgrowth and alleviate symptoms.

  1. Bacterial Infections

Dogs with bacterial skin infections (pyoderma) may have sores, pimples, and crusty skin. Medicated shampoos containing antibacterial agents are often recommended to help clear the infection and soothe the skin.

  1. Parasitic Infestations

Fleas, ticks, and mites not only cause discomfort but can also lead to skin infections. Shampoos that contain insecticidal ingredients can help eliminate these parasites and reduce the risk of secondary skin conditions.

  1. Acral Lick Granuloma

This condition is caused by excessive licking of a particular area, leading to thickened, inflamed skin. Medicated shampoos that calm the skin and reduce the urge to lick can be part of the treatment plan.

  1. Mange

Mange is caused by mites that burrow into the dog’s skin, leading to severe itching, hair loss, and skin infections. There are two main types of mange: sarcoptic mange (highly contagious and uncomfortable) and demodectic mange (more common and can be a sign of an immune system issue). Medicated shampoos designed to kill mites and soothe the skin are part of the treatment protocol for mange. These shampoos can help alleviate symptoms and prevent secondary infections.

  1. Atopic Dermatitis

Atopic dermatitis is a chronic inflammatory skin condition triggered by environmental allergens like pollen, mold, or dust. Dogs with atopic dermatitis may exhibit signs of itching, redness, and skin thickening. Using medicated shampoos with anti-inflammatory properties can help manage the itchiness and discomfort associated with this condition. Ingredients like hydrocortisone or oatmeal can provide much-needed relief for a dog’s itchy skin.

When using medicated shampoos, it’s crucial to follow the vet’s instructions closely. Some products may require the shampoo to be left on the skin for several minutes to ensure the medication is effective. Always consult your veterinarian before starting any new treatment to ensure it’s suitable for your dog’s specific condition.

Owner’s comfort and convenience (pet allergies and smells)

Sometimes, you may need to bathe your dog more often for your own  health and comfort. Perhaps your dog’s odor is almost unbearable, and it’s starting to stink up the house. You’ll need to wash your dog more frequently if their smell makes you uncomfortable because you’re the one to live with them. More frequent bathing can also help with pet allergies.

It’s important to remember that dogs can’t be completely odor-free, but some breeds stink less than others. Owners claim that breeds like Basenji, bichon frise, Maltese, and Puli, among others, stink at a slower rate than other dog breeds. Baths won’t make your dog smell perfectly fresh, but they improve the situation.

Some people are allergic to pet dander or to allergens dogs bring back home from the outdoors, like pollen. Washing your dog frequently helps reduce the amount of pet dander your canine pal produces and significantly lowers the risk of allergic reactions. 

Some dogs like the bichon frise, Maltese, and the poodle are more allergy-friendly than most dogs. Such dogs shed very little, making them less likely to trigger allergic reactions than other dogs. It’s important to note that no dog is completely hypoallergenic, so the only way to know for sure is by spending time with the dog.

If you’re allergic to pet dander but own a dog, a dander-removing shampoo is your close friend. Some shampoo manufacturers claim their products remove up to 50% of dander with weekly application. The best way to know the right course of action is to consult a professional for advice.

The kind of products you use to wash your dog is arguably more important than the number of baths. Harsh products like human shampoos will have far-reaching consequences on your pup’s coat health. Mild dog shampoos with natural ingredients like oatmeal, aloe vera, and herbs maintain good coat health.

However, just because your dog can get more baths doesn’t mean they have to. Unless there’s a medical reason for the increased baths or your dog has a pungent smell, many baths aren’t necessary. Overbathing your dog with the wrong products strips your dog’s coat of its natural oils, leading to dryness.

Dangers Risks of Overbathing A Dog: What Happens If You Wash Your Dog Too Often?

Poodle dog with soap in fur having a bath

Overbathing your dog can lead to several health issues, impacting their well-being and comfort. Understanding these risks can help you strike the right balance in your dog’s grooming routine:

  1. Dry, Itchy Skin – Bathing your dog too frequently can strip their skin of natural oils, leading to dryness, flakiness, and itchiness. This not only causes discomfort but can also make your dog more susceptible to skin infections as they might scratch and injure the skin.
  2. Skin Fold Pyoderma – Dogs with wrinkles or skin folds, such as Bulldogs or Shar-Peis, are at risk of developing skin fold pyoderma if bathed too often. The excess moisture in their folds can create an environment conducive to bacterial growth, leading to infections. Always dry off their wrinkles after a bath.
  3. Dangers for Older Dogs – Older dogs, especially those with existing skin conditions or a weakened immune system, may find that frequent baths exacerbate their issues. Their skin can become more fragile and prone to tearing or infections.
  4. Ear Infections – If water gets into the ear canal during a bath, it can lead to ear infections, especially in breeds with floppy ears. Moisture creates an ideal environment for bacteria and yeast to grow, causing discomfort and potentially serious infections that require veterinary care.
  5. Impact on Topical Treatments – Overbathing can wash away topical flea and tick treatments before they have a chance to be effective, leaving your dog vulnerable to parasites.
  6. Natural Coat Oils – The natural oils in a dog’s coat serve as a barrier against dirt and parasites. Removing these oils not only affects the skin but can also leave the coat dull and more prone to damage.
  7. Allergies and Sensitivities –  Dogs with allergies or sensitivities can experience worsened symptoms from overbathing, as their skin barrier is compromised, allowing allergens easier access to the skin.

How Bathing Your Dog Too Much Affects Their Skin Microbiome

Adding to the concerns about overbathing your dog, recent research highlights another crucial aspect to consider: the impact on your dog’s skin health at a microscopic level. A study focused on Labrador Retrievers showed that bathing them every day with a mild dish soap solution changed the mix of tiny living things on their skin. Even though we can’t see them, these tiny creatures, or microbes, are important for keeping your dog’s skin healthy.

This research found that after bathing the dogs daily for two weeks, there was a big change in the skin’s microbial community. The variety of microbes increased, which might sound good, but it actually included a rise in some not-so-common ones, while the usual helpful ones decreased. This means the soap didn’t just wash away dirt; it also washed away some of the good microbes that help protect your dog’s skin.

So, what does this mean for your pup? Just like overbathing can dry out their skin, cause itchy patches, or even lead to infections, it can also mess up the natural balance of skin microbes that keep their skin healthy. This could make their skin not as good at protecting them against germs and other bad stuff.

To avoid these issues, it’s important to adhere to a bathing schedule that suits your dog’s breed, lifestyle, and health conditions. Always dry your dog thoroughly after baths, pay special attention to drying their ears, and use only dog-specific shampoos and conditioners that match their skin type. If in doubt about how often to bathe your dog or if you notice any skin issues developing, consult with your veterinarian for guidance tailored to your dog’s needs.

Signs Your Dog Needs a Bath

While finding the perfect balance in your dog’s bathing schedule is crucial, there are unmistakable signs that indicate it’s time for your furry friend to hop into the tub. Keep an eye out for these cues:

  1. Unpleasant Odor: If your dog starts to emit a noticeable smell that stays even after they’ve left the room, it’s a clear sign a bath is overdue.
  2. Visible Dirt and Grime: Mud splatters, dust, or any visible dirt on their coat not only make your dog uncomfortable but can also lead to skin issues if not cleaned.
  3. Excessive Scratching: When dogs scratch more than usual, it could indicate discomfort due to dirty skin or the presence of parasites that a good bath can help alleviate.
  4. Dull or Oily Coat: A healthy dog’s coat should be shiny and smooth. If it appears dull, oily, or feels sticky, it’s time for a wash.
  5. Matting and Tangles: Especially in long-haired breeds, mats and tangles can form quickly if not regularly groomed and cleaned.
  6. Flakes or Dandruff: Noticeable flakes in your dog’s coat can be a sign of dry skin that might benefit from a moisturizing bath.

How To Dry Your Dog After A Bath

Corgi dog being dried off with towel after bath

Drying your dog thoroughly after a bath is crucial, not just for their comfort but also for their health, especially for dogs prone to hypothermia, like very small puppies, teacup breeds, or elderly dogs. Here’s how to ensure your dog is properly dried and cozy post-bath:

  1. Towel Drying 

Start by using a highly absorbent towel to gently blot and rub the excess water from your dog’s coat. For dogs with long fur, you might need a couple of towels. Pay special attention to drying around the face, but be gentle around the eyes and ears.

  1. Drying Wrinkles

For breeds with wrinkles or skin folds, like Bulldogs or Shar-Peis, it’s essential to dry these areas thoroughly. Moisture trapped in wrinkles can lead to infections or irritation. Use a soft, dry towel to carefully pat these areas until they’re completely dry.

  1. Ear Care

Ears need special attention, especially for breeds with floppy ears. Moisture trapped in the ear canal can lead to infections. Gently dry the outer part of the ears with a towel and, if recommended by your vet, you may use a cotton ball to lightly dab the visible part of the inner ear. Never insert anything into the ear canal.

  1. Using a Hair Dryer

A hairdryer can be used on a low heat setting and held at a distance to avoid burning the skin. Continuously move the dryer back and forth, never concentrating on one spot for too long. Monitor your dog’s reaction to ensure they’re comfortable with the noise and sensation. This method is particularly useful for long-haired breeds to prevent matting and ensure the undercoat is dry.

  1. Avoiding Hypothermia

Small, young, or thin-coated dogs can quickly become chilled after a bath. Ensure these dogs are dried rapidly and kept in a warm environment until fully dry. Avoid drafts and consider using a doggy sweater for extra warmth if needed.

  1. Final Check

Once you think your dog is dry, give them a final check to ensure no damp spots are left, especially under the belly, around the neck, and in the armpits. A dry, warm dog is a happy dog.

  1. Brushing

After your dog is completely dry, a thorough brushing will help remove any loose fur and prevent tangles, keeping your dog’s coat looking its best.

Remember, the drying process should be as stress-free as the bath itself. Patience and gentle handling will ensure your dog feels comfortable and safe throughout the drying process.

Bathing Your Senior Dog

Senior dogs may not require baths as frequently as their younger counterparts, primarily because they tend to be less active and thus, less likely to get dirty. However, the general rule of thumb for bathing a senior dog is every 4 to 6 weeks, adjusting based on their lifestyle and health condition.

For older dogs, it’s important to consider their skin’s sensitivity and potential health issues:

  • Gentle Shampoo: Use a mild, moisturizing dog shampoo to avoid drying out their skin, which can be more sensitive as they age.
  • Joint Comfort: Senior dogs may have arthritis or joint pain, so make bathing as comfortable as possible. Consider using a non-slip bath mat and ensure the water is a pleasant, warm temperature.
  • Quick Drying: Older dogs may feel chillier after a bath, so dry them thoroughly with towels or a low-heat hairdryer.
  • Health Checks: Bath time is a good opportunity to check for any new lumps, bumps, or skin changes that aging dogs are prone to. If you notice anything concerning, consult your vet.

Remember, the aim is to keep your senior dog clean and comfortable without overdoing it. Always monitor their response to bathing and adjust as necessary to accommodate their health and comfort levels.

How Often to Bathe a Puppy?

Puppies are bundles of joy and mud! Generally, puppies don’t need frequent baths, with once every 3 to 4 weeks being adequate unless they get particularly dirty. Bathing too often can strip away natural oils from their developing skin. Use a gentle puppy-formulated shampoo to keep their skin and coat healthy, and always ensure the bath experience is positive and stress-free.

How Often to Bathe a Short-Haired Dog?

Short-haired dogs typically require less frequent bathing, with a schedule of once every 4 to 6 weeks being sufficient for most breeds. These dogs tend to maintain their cleanliness better than their long-haired counterparts. However, if your short-haired dog enjoys rolling in the mud or has gotten into something smelly, an extra bath might be necessary.

How Often to Bathe a Long-Haired Dog?

Long-haired dogs often require more frequent bathing, about every 4 to 6 weeks, to keep their coats free from tangles, mats, and debris. Regular grooming and brushing are also crucial for maintaining their coat’s health between baths. Using a conditioner or detangling spray can help keep their fur smooth and manageable.

Can I Bathe My Dog with Human Shampoo?

It’s not recommended to bathe your dog with human shampoo. Dogs have a different pH level in their skin compared to humans, and using human shampoo can disrupt their skin’s natural balance, leading to dryness, irritation, or infections. Always opt for a dog-specific shampoo that’s suited to your dog’s skin and coat type. If your dog has sensitive skin, look for a hypoallergenic or oatmeal-based formula to soothe and protect their skin.

Final Thoughts 

Most dogs do well with monthly baths for optimum coat health. You can stretch the intervals between baths to 2 to 3 months but don’t exceed this time as that would be under bathing your dog. Breed coat type is an essential determinant of the frequency of baths, with long-haired dogs needing more baths.

Dogs suffering from skin issues require more baths following a vet’s prescription of medicated shampoo. People suffering from allergies may wash their dogs more frequently with a dander-removing shampoo. You risk stripping your dog’s coats of vital natural oils if you over-bathe them with harsh products.

Meet Your Experts

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Tamsin De La Harpe


Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.

Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.