How often should I wash my dog?

It might seem silly, but it’s a question most of us have asked ourselves. Wonder no more.

Doggy bath time is not most people’s favourite chore and it certainly isn’t high on the hit parade with most dogs either. So if you were wondering how often you need to do it, here’s a brief rundown on accepted dog washing etiquette.

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What do you need to know?

How often should I bathe my dog?

Bathing your dog on a regular basis is important to complement their natural grooming behaviour. Dogs groom themselves to keep their skin healthy and to encourage hair follicles to grow, and giving them a regular wash will help to supplement this process. But washing your dog too often can be bad for them. It can irritate their skin, damage their hair follicles and increase their risk of infections.

So how often is too often? Well, it depends on the type of dog and the lifestyle they lead. As a general rule of thumb, most healthy dogs will benefit from a bath once a fortnight, but this is only an average and depends on the dog’s age, fur type, skin condition and how active it is.

Dogs with oily coats need to be washed once a week, while those with thick or water repellent coats don’t need to be washed as often and would benefit more from frequent grooming instead.

And obviously dogs who spend a lot of time outdoors, rolling in things they shouldn’t and getting wet and muddy at every opportunity are going to need to be washed more regularly than indoor dogs who spend most of their time on the couch.

One way to decide when it’s bath time is to smell your dog. Some dogs are naturally more “pongy” than others, so if they start to get a bit whiffy, you know it’s time to get out the shampoo.

Dogs with sensitive skin may also require more frequent washing, as bathing can be a step in the management process of some medical conditions such as allergic skin disease.

How often should I get my dog groomed?

As well as washing your dog, you should also groom it or have it groomed at a salon on a regular basis. All dogs, regardless of breed, need their nails trimmed at least once a month, while grooming regularity depends on the type of coat the dog has.

Typically, short-haired dogs only need grooming a couple of times a year, terriers every two to three months, short-haired double-coated dogs around four times a year, dogs with thick undercoats every three months or so and silky or curly coated dogs every four to six weeks.

Grooming supplements your dog’s own natural grooming tendencies and while you are brushing and combing, it is also a good opportunity to do an inspection and assess any noticeable changes in their coat or skin.

Look for changes in hair texture, missing hair, signs of parasites such as fleas and ticks, any lumps or bumps or unexplained weight loss. Grooming is also a good opportunity to examine your dog’s eyes, ears and teeth and if anything is noteworthy, be sure to tell your vet about it as soon as you can.

My dog has sensitive skin. What should I wash it with?

If your dog has sensitive skin, you should use a shampoo specifically designed for dogs (dog skin is much less alkaline than human skin) and preferably a mild preparation such as an oatmeal-based shampoo.

Dogs can still have negative reactions to some products, even those made specifically for them. Skin reactions can include red, itchy skin and hives and if they swallow any shampoo, symptoms can include vomiting, drooling and loss of appetite.

So if you’re unsure about what product to use when washing your dog, always consult your veterinarian as there are medicated shampoos available specifically designed for dogs with sensitive skin.

Should I use flea treatments?

Flea products are necessary to keep your dog free of fleas and other parasites and they can be administered either orally or applied to the skin.

It is important to remember that those applied to the skin depend on the oils in the skin to spread them around, so if your dog requires frequent washing, you might be better off using an oral method instead, as frequent washing will strip some of the oils from their skin.

There are certain non-stripping shampoos on the market, but again if you are unsure about which one to use, it’s best to consult your local veterinarian.

How often should I wash a puppy?

As a general rule, puppies should not be bathed more than once a month due to the tendency of shampoo when applied too frequently to strip the natural oils from their coats. Normal grooming with a brush and comb will help maintain their coat and keep it clean between baths.

Quick tips

And finally, here are a couple of tips to make life easier when it comes to bath time itself:

  • Always wash your dog’s body first and leave their head until last as dogs will shake themselves off once their head is wet.
  • Even if a dog shampoo claims to be “tearless”, don’t put it directly in your dog’s eyes, but rather wash around their eyes and rinse it off right away.
  • If you want wash day to go smoothly, use treats to reward good bath time behaviour.
  • If your dog is large and his (and your) patience is small, consider taking him to a dog wash facility or your local pet salon.

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Alexandra is the Assistant Publisher at for insurance. Her hobbies include reading PDS's, deciphering complicated insurance lingo, and helping people find the right cover for their needs.

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