How often should you wash your dog

As a dog owner, keeping your pet clean and smelling fresh is probably a top priority for you. But you may wonder: exactly how often should you wash your dog?

The reality is, the answer varies depending on a number of factors, including: 

  • Breed and coat

  • Dog’s health

  • Home environment

  • Lifestyle

Use this handy guide to help you decide how frequently to wash your pet. This article explores the above criteria, followed by dog washing tips and FAQs. Get the basics on how to determine when your dog needs to be washed, how to make washing your dog easier, and when it might be wiser to hire a dog washer for professional help.

Dog Breed and Coat

If your dog has a long coat that attracts dirt, you may need to wash your dog frequently. That doesn’t necessarily mean a full shampoo but your dog may need to be hosed down and gently washed to keep dirt and other substances from working their way to the skin and to keep your home clean.

Some dogs also produce more oils than others. Whilst those oils are meant to offer natural protection to your dog’s skin, sometimes they can attract dirt or sit on the skin for too long. If your dog starts to give off an unpleasant smell, that’s a sign it’s time for a bath. You may notice this every couple of months or more. Many pet owners also find the change of seasons to be a good time to think about giving the dog a bath.

Health of the Dog

Your dog may have health issues that require more frequent bathing. This is typically the case with allergies and skin problems. Talk to your vet to learn how often you should wash your dog in this instance, but be aware that regular mild washing with calming products may help with itching, self-biting, and hot spots.

Home Environment

Does your dog live outdoors? You may think that gives you a break because without your dog traipsing dirt into the house, you don’t have to bathe it as often. But if your dog is exposed to manure around the stables or pond algae, for example, you may need to offer washing just as frequently as if the dog lived indoors.

Dog Lifestyle

Even inside dogs need frequent washing if they go to the beach regularly or if they play in the mud. Consider giving your dog either a good wash or a full shampoo if:

  • The dog swims in the ocean.

  • Your dog plays in your chlorinated swimming pool.

  • There is mud, sand, or garden dirt clinging to the coat after play.

  • Your dog is a working dog that could possibly be exposed to hazards like chemicals or toxic substances.

Tips for How to Wash Your Dog

Get Everything Ready in Advance

Have you ever started washing your dog and then realised you didn’t have all the supplies you needed? There’s nothing less fun than trying to deal with a wet dog when you have to leave the room to get a bottle of shampoo. Keep your dog washing supplies next to wherever you wash your dog so you’ll always have everything ready. This includes shampoo, a scrubbing cloth or sponge, and towels.

Do a Light Grooming First

Before washing your dog, do any grooming necessary to remove foreign matter from the coat. Check for things like burrs and seeds that may be stuck to the hair, and remove them with your fingers or a comb. If your dog is very small or fine haired, sometimes cat grooming tools work better. Insider tip: a great place to find grooming supplies for larger breeds is at the horse tack shop.

Whilst you can do more physical checking of your dog for any lumps or bumps once a shampoo is underway, the grooming step is an ideal time to check for and remove insects that may have hitched a ride on your pet.

Make the Experience as Stress-Free as Possible

Although some dogs love being bathed, others find it less than fun.

  1. Try to be as casual as you can about the whole process to keep your dog calm. If you can, do it in the same location every time; this will help.

  2. Enlist a partner to help you. One of you can hold the dog still whilst the other does the washing. Two is better for lifting also.

  3. As efficiently as you can, thoroughly wet your dog and then apply a small amount of shampoo, working it to a lather, like washing your own hair. Then, rinse your dog and commence with drying.

  4. Avoid getting soap in your dog’s eyes. Dogs that don’t like getting their heads wet can have their faces and ears wiped with a wet washcloth.

Check Your Water Temperature

Whenever possible use warm water, checking it first on your own arm to make sure it’s not too cold or too hot (scalding water from the tap can burn your dog). If you're washing your dog outside and your dog doesn’t like cold water, one option is to fill a trough or bucket with warm water first and use a cup to wet and rinse your dog.

Don’t Forget About Drying

Your dog will need drying afterwards. Short-haired dogs usually dry in a jiffy after a light towelling, but long-haired pups may need a hair dryer set on low or time in the sun to dry fully. Avoid bathing your dog on cold, windy days if possible. If you need to use a hair dryer, get your dog used to the sound of it first before bath time.

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Dog Washing FAQs

Is it possible to wash your dog too often?

Yes, you can wash your dog too frequently and irritate the skin. If your dog doesn’t need washing for the reasons listed above, give your dog a bath about every three months. For more frequent washing, consider a mild shampoo.

What if my dog doesn’t need a full bath?

Sometimes your dog doesn’t need a full bath with a shampoo or even to get wet all the way to the skin. In that case, there are several options: Special made-for-dogs wipes that remove surface dirt and grime Light hosing to remove dirt or salt that hasn’t made its way to the skin Paw cleaning with a bucket by the door

How can I make the experience better for my dog?

In addition to the tips above, there are ways to make washing your dog more enjoyable for both you and your pet: If your dog needs frequent washing because of your lifestyle or environment, consider installing an indoor or outdoor dog washing station (it could double for humans and boot washes too). Little dogs may feel more comfortable being bathed in the kitchen sink. Get younger dogs used to bathing as soon as possible and they won’t think anything of a dog wash. Make a game out of it and offer treats or toys for good behaviour.

What if washing my dog is too much for me?

Sometimes DIY dog washing is just too difficult for one or both of you. Fortunately, there are professional dog washing services available to take the burden off your shoulders and make the experience more pleasant for your pet. Airtasker offers a list of dog washers in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, and many other Australian communities, so you can find just the right person for your dog. Check out these experienced dog washers and never let washing your dog be a stress again.

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