One of the most common questions new dog owners have is, "How often should I bathe my dog?" This is a valid concern as there are problems with bathing too frequently as well as bathing too infrequently. There are different factors that can influence your dog's bathing schedule. Things like fur length and type, activity level, and any allergies or other skin conditions your dog may or may not have.
How Frequently Should My Dog Get a Bath?
Truthfully, unless your dog has an underlying skin condition, they don't actually need a bath unless they are smelly or especially dirty. On average, most dogs only need to be bathed on a monthly basis. You can bathe them less frequently, but it is not recommended to bathe any less frequently than every three months. You can also bathe them more frequently, but it is not recommended to bathe any more frequently than every other week. Giving your dog a bath more frequently than every other week can cause dryness and irritation of the skin as well as stripping of the natural oils in your dog's fur.
Obviously, every other week to every 3 months is a huge window so narrowing it down to 'once a month on average' is allowing for a big swing in either direction. How can you know if monthly baths are too frequent or infrequent for your dog? One thing that can effect bathing frequency is your dog's normal activity. Does your dog spend a lot of time outside? Do you take your dog hunting or have them participate in field trials? You may need to bathe dogs romping around in the woods and underbrush more frequently than a dog that spends most of their time inside. Does your dog shed a lot or are they considered to be a hypoallergenic breed that doesn't shed? Brushing can help pull out loose fur from your dog's coat to prevent shedding, but bathing can really help pull all that loose fur out. If it's the middle of shedding season, your shedding dog may need more frequent bathing.
Different Coats Require Different Care
Not all dog breeds have the same type of coat. Dogs with medium to longer fur coats may require baths as often as every other week up to every four to six weeks. Properly maintaining your dog's hair coat by brushing and combing can help you keep your dog's coat clean between baths. The natural oil stripping that can occur from over-bathing can be especially problematic for double-coated dog breeds. These natural oils work to waterproof your dog's coat, allowing for better insulation against the cold and elements.
There are some dog breeds that have bathing requirements that can actually be a bit surprising based on their coat. Believe it or not, hairless dog breeds, such as the Chinese Crested, the Xoloitzcuintle (pronounced show-low-eats-QUEENT-lee and sometimes called Xolo for short), and the Peruvian Hairless dog can require just as much grooming care as breeds with long fur. These breeds are the exception to the 'no-weekly baths' rule. Due to the oils produced in these breeds' skin, regular bathing is required to prevent oil buildup.
Dogs with a corded coat, such as a Puli or Komondor don't require as much bathing as you may think. Regular bathing is actually not required for these dogs as the cords repel water and it is incredibly difficult to completely rinse out the shampoo and to completely dry the cords. Maintaining the dreadlocks of these breeds does require time and effort, but bathing is definitely not warranted for these breeds.
Different Skin Conditions Require Different Care
If your dog has a healthy skin and coat and does not have any underlying or concurrent allergies or skin conditions, you can simply use a gentle, over-the-counter pet shampoo. If your dog does have any allergies or a skin condition, your vet may recommend a specific shampoo or even prescribe a specific shampoo for you to use. If you take your dog to a groomer to get professionally bathed, you can bring your dog's specific shampoo with them for your groomer to use.
Human skin, in general, is much less sensitive than your dog's skin. Therefore, a lot of shampoos made for people may be too harsh and irritating for your dog.
Bathing is a requirement for almost every dog. For more information on how often you should bathe your dog and what shampoo you should use your dog with, talk to your veterinarian.