How often should you wash your dog?

Apr 24, 2017 at 2:30 p.m. ET
Image: Sheknows/Getty Images

I know I have to be careful about bathing my dog. Her skin is sensitive to moisture, and if I don’t dry her off carefully, she is prone to mild irritation. She also loves long hikes through the woods, and the more mud we encounter, the better. As a result, I have spoken to my vet at great length about bath time.

Whether it is when your pooch is still an accident-prone pup, a mud puddle-loving adult or an aging senior with that “old dog smell,” our dogs go through periods where they need more baths than usual.

How often should you bathe a puppy?

Puppies get into messes. Potty training comes with stinky risks, and curious puppies get into all sorts of odorous situations.

More: Don't ignore your dog's bad smell — it could be a sign of a serious medical issue

Veterinarian Cheryl Yuill writes for VCA Hospitals that if a puppy soils itself, “there is no question that it should be bathed immediately.” If you find that your puppy requires frequent baths, however, she recommends talking to your veterinarian about the best pet shampoo for your dog’s age, breed and skin type.

How often should you bathe an adult dog?

Adult and senior dogs should be bathed when necessary, but not more than that. In other words, only wash your dog if he is dirty or starts to get that distinctive doggy odor.

Terese DeManuelle, a veterinary dermatologist, says, “it’s safe to bathe your dog with veterinary shampoo once a week.” However, there is such a thing as too much cleanliness.

More: How to help your dog avoid dry, itchy skin this winter

Overbathing, especially with human shampoos or detergents, strips the beneficial oils from your dog’s fur and can cause irritation. The pH in human shampoos, even baby shampoo, is not designed for dogs. This is why Yuill strongly recommends using a shampoo recommended by your veterinarian or a shampoo approved for use on dogs.

Some breeds require more baths than others. Dogs with oily coats, like water breeds and hounds, may require more frequent baths to keep them smelling fresh and clean and their coats healthy. Labrador retrievers, basset hounds and beagles are especially prone to greasy coats, so if you own one of these breeds, be prepared to share your shower on a fairly regular basis.

How often should you bathe short-haired vs. long-haired dog?

Your dog’s coat length doesn't really affect how frequently a dog should be bathed. Because each dog's lifestyle and coat are unique, how often your dog needs to be bathed will depend on how oily their coat is, how quickly odor accumulates and how often they get dirty. Regardless of your dog's coat length, you should try not to bathe them more than once a week without consulting your veterinarian.

More: Hypoallergenic dog breeds that will save you from a lot of sniffles

How often should you bathe dogs with sensitive skin?

Some dogs have sensitive skin. The best way to figure out how often to bathe sensitive pups is to talk with your veterinarian to make sure there is no underlying cause for your dog’s sensitive skin.

Your veterinarian may recommend a medicated shampoo to treat the cause, but regardless, it is a good idea to always use unscented dog shampoos on dogs with sensitive skin.

More: DIY Dry shampoo for dogs

So if your McStinky needs a bath before you let him anywhere near the upholstery, grab some doggy shampoo and head to the shower — just as long as you don’t do it more than once a week without talking to your vet.

This post was sponsored by Blue Buffalo Wilderness.

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