Bathing Your Dog: How Often Is Enough?

A young dog standing in a galvanized tub getting a bath.

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How often you should bathe your dog really depends on a few different factors.

A good rule of thumb is to bathe them every three months, but sometimes they may need it a little more or less often than that.

Keep an eye out for when they look and smell dirty, and use your best judgment to decide when they need a bath.

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Factors to consider in how often to bathe your dog

There are a few things you should take into account when deciding how often to bathe your dog.

Your dog’s coat type

The type of coat your dog has plays an important role in deciding how often to bathe your dog.

Dogs with long coats generally will need to be bathed more often than those with short coats. Though there are exceptions to this rule. It’s important to know your dog’s breed and take into account that breed’s specific needs.

Dogs with long fur will generally need regular baths as often as every 4 to 6 weeks. Short-haired dogs, like labrador retrievers, can get by with less frequent baths, but should still be bathed at least once every 3 months.

Hairless dogs, on the other hand, will need the most frequent baths. They typically need weekly baths to keep their skin healthy. Be sure to ask your vet for tips on caring for the skin of your hairless dog.

Your dog’s skin condition

You also have to consider if your dog has any skin conditions or allergies that might require special care. Depending on the skin problems or allergies, you may need to give your dog either more or less frequent baths.

If your dog has any health conditions, it’s important to discuss with your vet the proper care of their skin and fur. The last thing you want is to make the condition worse by giving your dog baths either too often or not often enough.

Your dog’s lifestyle

Lastly, consider your dog’s activity level. A dog that spends a lot of time outside playing in the dirt will need baths much more often than a dog that spends their day being a couch potato.

And even for those that are outside often, how dirty they get will vary. Luna gets significantly dirtier in the spring, or as we call it “mud season” than she does in the summer once the grass has all come back.

Are frequent baths bad for dogs?

The short answer is yes, frequent bathing can be bad for dogs.

Dogs produce natural oils, just like humans, that they need to keep their coats and skin healthy. If you bathe your dog too frequently you risk stripping their skin and coat of these oils.

This can lead to skin irritation, like dry, itchy skin, and an unhappy dog. 

If your dog is one that loves to get dirty and needs to be bathed frequently you could try just a water bath or use a sensitive shampoo. And check with your vet to make sure they maintain healthy skin.

The exception to this is if your dog has any health issues that require frequent baths. In that case, follow your vet’s advice on the proper procedure to keep your dog healthy.

Brush your dog’s coat between baths

It’s a good idea to brush your dog in-between baths. Regular brushing is especially important for those dogs with long coats.

A good brushing not only helps remove dirt and debris but also spreads natural oils throughout your dog’s fur keeping their coat healthy and shiny.

Plus, it’s a great way to bond with your dog!

At what age can you bathe a new puppy?

So far we have talked about how often to bathe a dog, but what about puppies? How soon can they have a bath?

Most puppies can be bathed once they are old enough to go home with you, at about 8 to 12 weeks old. If you have a puppy younger than this, check with your vet before bathing them.

For those over 12 weeks, bathing frequency is similar to adult dogs, with one additional thing to consider.

A puppy’s experience with bathing will set their feelings about baths for life. You may be able to change their feelings with training, but it won’t be easy.

Regular bathing, even without shampoo, will help a puppy get used to having a bath.

For baths that are specifically to get your dog used to the bath, go through all the steps of a regular bath, but skip the shampoo. Go through the motions of lathering them up, but just use water.

Then, when they need a full bath, they should be more comfortable getting one. This will make baths as an adult much easier, especially if you have a large breed puppy.

How do you get a puppy (or dog) to enjoy bathtime?

Bath time doesn’t have to be a dreaded event for either of you. There are a few things you can do to make it more enjoyable.


The number one way to get most dogs to enjoy bathtime is to use treats. Give them treats for getting into the tub.

And treats for letting you get them wet. And for shampooing. And especially when they are done. You want them to associate bathtime with treat time.

Just make sure you are giving your dog small pieces of the treat. Enough for them to be excited they got a treat, but not so much that they get a tummy ache from too many treats.


You can also try adding a toy to the bath to try to distract your dog. This may not work for all dogs, but if your dog loves their toys it might be worth a try.

Or you can combine the two, and get a bath buddy for your dog.

Add some fun after the bath

Once you are done bathing your dog make sure to add some extra fun to the end. This could be a game of fetch or playing tug-of-war.

Or you can just have some extra cuddle time. Whatever you do, make sure they know that bathtime isn’t the end of the world and that there is still fun to be had.

Tips for bathing your dog

A dog getting rinsed in the bathtub.

Now that you know how often to bathe your dog, here are a few tips to make bath time more enjoyable for both of you!

Use dog shampoo

When it comes to shampoo, don’t use your own. Dogs have different skin pH than humans, so human shampoo can actually do more harm than good.

There are a variety of dog shampoos on the market for different needs. You can find everything from hypoallergenic to de-shedding to flea and tick shampoo.

Choose the right one for your dog based on their individual needs.

Brush your dog before their bath

Brushing your dog before their bath will help remove any dirt and debris from their coat. It will also help avoid matting when their coat gets wet.

If you have a long-haired dog, this step is especially important.

Gather your supplies

Before you start the bath, make sure you have everything you need. This includes shampoo, a cup or pitcher for pouring water, a towel (or two), and treats.

This may seem like a no-brainer, but if you have to stop in the middle of the bath to go find something you forgot, it will only make the experience more stressful for both of you.

Use proper water temperature

Warm water should be used when bathing your dog. You don’t want to use cold or hot water as these can be uncomfortable for your dog.

Test the water with your hand before you start pouring it over your dog to make sure it isn’t too hot or cold.

Don’t get water in their eyes or ears

Dogs generally don’t like getting water in their eyes or ears. And many dogs that get water in their ears will start shaking their head, making it almost impossible to get them bathed without a mess.

To avoid getting water in your dog’s ears, use cotton balls gently in their ears. This should prevent water from getting into the ears. You can also try using a washcloth to over their eyes to prevent water from getting in them as well.

Or you can just avoid pouring water over their head. Use a damp washcloth to wipe their head instead of shampooing and rinsing the head.

Dry your dog off

Once you are done bathing your dog, make sure to dry them off completely. It is especially important to make sure dogs with double coats are fully dry as their fur is slow to dry without help.

A towel can help with drying your dog. But if you have a long-haired or double-coated dog you may need to use a blow dryer set on low or cool to avoid matting.

Just make sure to keep the hair dryer moving so your dog doesn’t get too warm in one spot.

Make it a positive experience

The most important thing to remember when bathing your dog is to make it a positive experience.

This means using treats, being gentle, and making sure they are dried off completely when you are done.

If you can make bath time fun for both of you, it will be a much less stressful experience.

What can be done about an adult dog that is fearful of baths?

A German Shepherd licking peanut butter off a bathtub.

The best thing to do with a dog that is fearful of baths is to take it slow. Start by just getting them in the bathroom. Give them treats for going in the bathroom and stop there. Do that for a few days.

Then progress to getting them up to the tub. Put peanut butter, or another spreadable treat, on the edge of the tub for them to lick off. Don’t go farther than the edge and repeat for a few days.

Next, put the peanut butter further in the tub. Continue doing this for several days. 

If at any point your dog resists, step it back. Also, consider what they may be afraid of. Is the tub slippery? Or are they afraid of the water?

Next, you continue with the peanut butter on the back edge of the tub but have a little water in the tub. Continue for a few days like this and slowly add water to the tub.

Then progress to washing with a washcloth while giving treats. Eventually, you may be able to progress to washing with water and then adding in shampoo.

Depending on your dog’s fear, this can be a long process.

Luna is terrified of baths, but after months of working with her, we can now mostly rinse her off. She still struggles with water on her back, but she at least lets us rinse her legs and get her side wet.

I don’t know if we will ever make it to the point of being able to give her a full shampoo, but any progress is better than where she was.

She used to refuse to even get in the bathtub. And at over 120 pounds, if she won’t get in, she won’t get a bath.

What can be done if your dog still refuses to take a bath?

There are a couple of options if using treats doesn’t work for your dog.

Professional groomer

For some dogs that are afraid of baths, going to a professional groomer may help. I don’t know why, but some dogs just do better with a professional groomer than they do with their owners.

If you decide to go this route, make sure to find a groomer that has experience with difficult dogs. You definitely want a groomer that knows how to handle stressed dogs. Otherwise, your dog may get banned from the groomers due to biting.

Want to know how I know that? Morgan got banned from the groomer. Though, to be fair, it wasn’t her fault. They never told us she was kennel aggressive there, so we didn’t know to ask for her to not be kenneled before the grooming.

Then, the groomer was an idiot. He wanted to get her out of the kennel, and instead of trying to coax her out with a treat, he reached in. She was scared.

They knew she could be aggressive, but he still stuck his hand in the kennel with a scared dog. And got bit. Then they blamed her and banned her from coming back.

So I repeat, if you decide to take your dog that is scared of baths to a groomer, make sure it is one that knows how to handle a scared dog so no one gets hurt.

And make sure they are willing to call it quits if the dog is too scared.

Waterless shampoo

If you’ve tried a groomer and it didn’t work, or you prefer not to try it, waterless shampoo may be an option.

Waterless shampoo is exactly what it sounds like. It is a shampoo that doesn’t require water.

It can be a little more expensive than regular shampoo, but it may be worth it to avoid a fight with your dog.

To use waterless shampoo, put the required amount on your dog’s coat and massage it in. Then wipe it off with a towel or brush your dog afterward.

I’ve used waterless shampoo on Luna a few times and it seemed to work alright. It wasn’t the easiest to rub in her coat but that is more due to her size than the shampoo itself. 

Skip the baths

Finally, you can just skip the baths. If your dog doesn’t get too dirty, and you can stand their smell, this could work.

It may not be the best for them, but if it’s no bath or risk getting hurt, I will go with skipping the bath.

Luna is so big and so terrified of getting wet, that she will hurt me, not on purpose, if I insist on bathing her.

This is where option 2 comes in handy. The waterless shampoo at least lessens the stinky dog smell…

Final Thoughts

So, how often should you bathe your dog?

The answer to that question depends on a variety of factors. You should try bathing your dog every three months but bathe them more often if they look and smell dirty.

If your dog is afraid of baths, there are other options available, such as professional groomers or waterless shampoo.

And if all else fails, you can skip the bath if your dog is too scared. But if you start young, and follow these steps, bathing your dog will be a walk in the park!

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Pin image for how often do dogs need a bath with a dog getting rinsed off in the bathtub.

1 thought on “Bathing Your Dog: How Often Is Enough?”

  1. My wife and I just got a new Alaskan Eskimo and I’m wondering how often we should take him to get groomed and bathed. Thanks for mentioning how you should bathe a dog at least once every three months. I’ll have to find a grooming place that can also bathe him on a regular basis.

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