Between rolling in the dirt, digging in the garbage and roughhousing with other dogs, your dog lives a pretty dirty life.
Sure, he licks himself clean when he feels like it, but what about the spots he can’t reach? And his concept of “bad BO” seems to differ pretty wildly from yours.
So when the grime and the stink become too much to bear, you have to take your dog’s hygiene into your own hands. Yep, that’s right, and it’s bath time!
But how often should your beloved pup get bathed? Should bathtime be reserved for only the smelliest occasions, or are you better off following a regular bathing schedule to maintain that pristine clean?
The answer depends on several factors: your dog’s coat type, activity level and health.
Things to Consider When Deciding How Often to Bathe Your Dog
Coat Considerations: Length, Density, Texture
Your dog’s coat plays a huge role in his overall cleanliness. Simply put, some coats are naturally cleaner than others, so your dog’s bathing schedule will depend heavily on his coat.
How Often to Bathe Hairless and Short-Haired Dogs
Short-haired dogs with thin single coats generally require the least bathing. The fine hairs don’t trap much dirt or grime, making tongue baths more effective and reducing the need for baths.
For these dogs, baths may only be needed once every three months — the maximum recommended interval for all dogs.
However, this doesn’t apply to hairless breeds. You’d think that without hair, these dogs would need bathing even less frequently than short-haired dogs, but hairless dogs are more high-maintenance than they appear!
That’s because hairless dogs are more prone to skin conditions like acne, blackheads and rashes. Weekly baths are necessary to keep their skin clean and healthy.
How Often to Bathe Medium- and Long-Haired Dogs
As coat length and thickness increase, so does the frequency of bathing. Longer hair has a greater capacity for storing dirt, and dogs with double coats may have trouble getting themselves totally clean.
That’s not to say that bathing should be a daily occurrence for medium- and long-haired dogs. Bathing these dogs too often could strip their skin of oils and prevent their lush coats from fulfilling their purpose: insulation against the cold.
Weekly baths may be necessary for the thickest coats, but you shouldn’t bathe your dog more frequently than that. Most medium- and long-haired dogs should be bathed every two to six weeks, depending on the other factors we’ll discuss shortly.
How Often to Bathe Dogs with Textured Coats
The sleek, straight hair that most dogs have is easier to keep clean than wavy, kinky, or curly hair. Because of this, you’ll need to consider coat texture when deciding how often to bathe your dog.
Dogs with textured coats should be bathed every two to four weeks, with a few exceptions. The Puli, for instance, has a unique corded coat that doesn’t get as dirty as you’d expect, so baths are only needed every one to two months if that.
Activity Level Considerations: Environment and Intensity
If your dog is a couch potato, he probably stays a lot cleaner than dogs who spend all day outdoors. Depending on your dog’s work and play levels, more frequent baths may be necessary to keep him looking, feeling and smelling good.
Environmental Factors in Bathing Frequency
Where does your dog spend most of his time?
Does he spend his days lounging on your patio or does he prefer to take his afternoon naps in the grass?
Do his walks take him down smooth neighborhood sidewalks or through dense, wild woods?
Is he the type to jump into puddles, ponds and lakes whenever he can? Or would he rather stick to cleaner surfaces to protect his precious paws?
If your dog likes exploring different environments or performs a job outdoors, he’s probably dirtier by default than dogs who aren’t so nature-oriented. Thus, he needs more frequent bathing — around once a month if he’s short-haired or up to once a week if he’s got long hair.
Activity Type and Intensity Levels
It’s not just the environment that dictates how dirty your dog gets — it’s what he does in it.
Suppose you take him to a meadow and play a game of frisbee with him. He’ll be on his feet for most of the game, so the rest of his body won’t get too dirty.
But suppose instead of playing frisbee, you meet up with another dog owner and let your pups roughhouse together. All that is rolling around in the dirt, plus the extra dog slobber, will make for a stinkier, dirtier dog.
Similarly, a leashed walk on a cleared trail through the woods will result in a cleaner dog than an off-leash romp through the dense, uncleared forest. And, of course, the longer your dog stays outside, the dirtier he’ll be.
Active dogs who perform the longer or more intense exercise will need bathing every one to four weeks. But if your dog only partakes in intense physical activity once in a while, you can likely get away with bathing him every four to six weeks.
Health Considerations: Parasites and Skin Conditions
Certain health conditions may require you to bathe your dog more or less frequently. The two most common are parasites and skin conditions.
How Often to Bathe Dogs with Parasites
Fleas, mites, and other external parasites make your dog itchy and uncomfortable. Thankfully, baths are a great weapon to use against these pests.
Parasite-related bathing should be performed as needed, and the exact schedule will depend on the shampoo you use. Some heavily-medicated shampoos can only be safely used once every couple of weeks, while gentler shampoos can be used multiple times a week or as a routine preventative measure.
How Often to Bathe Dogs with Skin Conditions
Certain skin conditions, like allergies, can be exacerbated by bathing. And excessive bathing itself can cause irritation and rashes due to overdrying and ingredient sensitivities.
On the other hand, conditions like acne can be controlled with frequent bathing and special shampoos.
If your dog has a skin condition, consult your vet or a professional groomer to determine how often you should bathe him. Generally, dogs with skin allergies can be bathed according to coat type as long as gentle shampoos are used, and acne responds well to weekly bathing.
When In Doubt, Smell It Out
Still not sure how often to give your dog a bath? Just let your nose guide you!
Dogs may not naturally smell like roses, but they shouldn’t smell bad, either. If you can smell your dog when he enters the room, or if he smells particularly pungent or grungy, it’s time for a bath.
And if he’s gotten himself into a stinky situation — rolling in poop or offending a skunk, for example — get him in the tub ASAP! Even if he just had a bath, it’s better to get him clean right away, even if it means that he has dry skin afterward.