How Often Should Dogs Get a Bath

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Most dogs don’t like baths. Some, like mine, are terrified of baths. Along with the dog not enjoying the bath, many owners don’t enjoy giving them a bath either.

It’s messy and time-consuming. And no one likes putting their dogs through something they don’t enjoy, especially if it can be avoided.

How often do dogs need to be bathed?

Unfortunately, the answer is: That depends.

It depends on your dog, and in some ways you as well.

An active, long-haired dog that loves to play outside and roll in whatever they find, will need bathing more frequently than a short-haired dog that enjoys spending their day on the couch.

As for you, if you don’t mind the wet dog smell you can put off the bath a little longer than someone that can’t stand the smell of wet dog.

According to Canine Journal, a dog should be bathed at least every three months and can be bathed as often as every other week.

I would recommend checking with your vet if you plan on bathing your dog more often than once a month.

Are frequent baths bad for dogs?

The short answer is yes, bathing your dog too frequently can be bad for them. Unless your dog has specific health issues that require frequent baths. In that case, follow your vet’s advice on the proper procedure to keep your pet healthy.

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

This can lead to 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 their skin stays healthy.

At what age can you bathe a puppy?

Most puppies can be bathed once they are old enough to go home with you, 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.

Frequent baths, even without shampoo, will help a puppy get used to having a bath.

This is probably my biggest mistake with Luna. I had read not to bath a puppy unless they were visibly dirty. Since we got Luna in February, with snow covering everything, she didn’t get dirty. So she didn’t get a bath until she was 7 or 8 months old.

By then, it was too late, she was terrified of having a bath. Now she is an 85-pound adult and refuses to have a bath. 

To avoid this, give your puppy a bath, without shampoo, at least every couple of weeks. Use the shampoo as needed, monthly or less often, but at least get your puppy wet. 

Expose them to the tub and water at a young age so they won’t be fearful. Especially if you have a large breed puppy.

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

The easy answer? Treats. Treats for getting in the empty tub. Treats for getting in the tub with water. Treats for letting you get them wet. Lots and lots of treats. 

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

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

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 farther in the tub. I spread it along the back edge, far enough in that Luna had to get in the tub to get the peanut butter. Continue doing this for several days. 

If at any point your dog resists, step it back. Also, consider what they may be afraid of. We found out that Luna refused to get in the tub until be put a towel on the bottom of the tub. Once we did that she had no problem getting in the tub without 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 shampoo.

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.

One option is you can try taking your dog to a professional groomer. Some dogs do better for a groomer than their owners. Morgan always does fine at the groomer, unless they kennel her first. I haven’t tried with Luna yet. 

A second option is you can try a waterless shampoo. I’ve used one on Luna a few times and it seemed to work alright. Though it wasn’t the easiest to rub in her coat, mostly because she is just sooo big. 

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…

What can be done to make baths less needed?

The one thing that can make baths less needed is frequent brushing of your dog.

Brushing often not only gets rid of the loose fur, but it also helps get rid of some of the debris your dog picks up by playing outside.

If your dog gets dirt or dead grass in their fur, a good brushing may be all that is needed. 

Final Thoughts

If you have a puppy, the best thing you can do to make bath time easier is to get them used to the water. Many dogs will never love bathtime, but by exposing them to it at a young age, they may tolerate the bath better.

Also, treats are your friend during bathtime, especially when exposing a puppy to the bath. And if your dog is absolutely terrified of the bath, ease them into it and try alternatives like waterless shampoo. Does your dog like the bath?

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