How Often to Bathe a Dog?

Everyone knows that dogs love a good stink. They shun good smelling stuff and they relish foul smelling stuff, but we humans have sensitive noses that are easily offended by smelly dogs. We prefer our homes to have a nice fresh appeal which can be difficult to maintain when there is a resident dog or two.

Although dogs like to smell bad―probably a behavioral throwback to their wild ancestors―we all know what causes stuff to stink. Bacteria and fungi are the worst offenders. Our pooches love these offensive aromatics, but humans? Not so much.

It is not just a matter of bad smell either. It is a health issue for the dog and the people that share the dog’s home. For that reason this article is going to bust the old lingering myth that it is somehow bad to frequently bathe a dog. So, how often should a dog be bathed and what is the safest way to do it?

Bathing Frequency

  • How often really comes down to four main things:
  • Length and type of hair coat (breed traits)
  • Outdoor work and play (activity and environment)
  • Health (yours and your dog’s)
  • Habitat (your home)

Hair Coat

The dog’s coat length and density is a big factor. It stands to reason that a long haired dog is going to be higher maintenance than a short haired dog. Also, it is equally important to check for parasites, lumps and bumps on short haired dogs as routinely as it is done for long haired dogs.

The typical Afghan may need daily brushing, weekly baths and monthly trips to the groomer. The typical Beagle on the other hand may only need occasional brushing, monthly or bimonthly baths and only annual trips to the groomer. Still though, the active outdoors short haired dog needs to be checked over each day.

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Outdoor Activity

Any dog that is outside a lot is naturally going to get into more dirt and smelly stuff than an indoor dog that only goes out to do his business.

If that outdoorsy dog sleeps and eats in the house, then he needs to be clean. Do not be afraid to bathe that dog regularly or as often as he needs it.

The old school thought was that dogs should not be regularly bathed. The thinking was that frequent bathing washed away the dog’s natural, protective skin oils. However, that reasoning has pretty much been debunked by everyone in the dog care world. And, make no mistake, this is founded on good health practices. It is not about providing services and products, it is about every dog’s well being.

Sporting dogs are especially at risk of parasites and polluted waterways. If you have Hounds, Retrievers, or Pointers you should always inspect, bath and towel dry your hard working companions after every field outing.

All dogs taken for a walk, whether around town, at a dog park, or in the woods are going to get dirty. On wet days they are going to get muddy. Pavement and street pollution is especially hard on their feet. The pavement can be hot and dirty in summer, cold and muddy in winter. Always inspect their feet after a walk and wipe them clean.


For all the reasons given above it is clear that keeping your best friend clean is paramount to the health of the entire household. No one wants their dog to suffer the agony of fleas, ticks, fungal infections and disease. Likewise, none of the house occupants should have to live with dirty dog smells.


No one wants to see their floors and furniture soiled or stained by a dirty, smelly dog. It just stands to reason that keeping your dog clean by regularly bathing him or her will, in turn, help to keep your home clean. Every dog’s bathing needs are different depending on their coats and daily activities, but a clean habitat for people and pets is good for everyone in the home.

How to Bathe a Dog

Choose a Good Location

On a warm day, outside is fine, but always use warm water not a cold water hose faucet. Warm water simply cleans the dog better than cold without the risk of overly chilling the dog. On a cold or windy day, the bathtub is best. Dogs do not do showers so you will need to get a dog bath tub if your home only has showers. There are faucet attachments available at any pet store of your choice. These will make the job easier on you, less scary for the dog and a lot less messy.

Brush First

Always brush out your dog’s coat first to remove any debris, matted hair, dried mud, etc. Special brushes and combs are great for this. This is a good time to check for ticks, injuries, or anything unusual.


Always use a veterinary approved, scentless dog shampoo. Never use human soaps, gels, or shampoos. These often contain scents and compounds that may cause skin dryness, allergies, irritation and hair loss in some dogs. Wet the dog thoroughly before applying the shampoo according to the label directions.

Time to Dry Off

The dog is going to shake water and it is going to be messy. Deal with it and have fun. This is a great time to bond with and enjoy your dog, so laugh and set you dog at ease.

Some dogs are okay with a blow dryer but many are not. If it scares the dog, then do not use it. It is always best to use two or three soft, old towels to thoroughly dry your pooch. Towels are soft, quiet and will not scare the dog. If you do use an electric dryer, then be sure to use it only after the tub is fully drained of all water. Only use a low heat and fan setting. To avoid a severe shock, never touch your wet dog with the plugged in blow dryer.

In Conclusion

Sadly it is true dogs can sometimes stink. When your dog gets dirty and smelly, it is bath time. Do not worry if it has not been a month or more since his or her last bath. That does not matter, it will not hurt the dog. Just be sure to do it properly and safely. Make it a fun bonding time for you and your pooch.