But there's a lot of wiggle room between "once a week" and "never," and chances are your dog will fall somewhere in between. So we asked the experts what factors influence how often you should give your dog a good rub-a-dub-dub in the tub.
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Consider Your Dog's Health, Breed, And Habits
More frequent baths may be needed if your dog has a yeast or bacterial skin infection, allergies that cause skin itchiness, an excessively oily coat, or a very dry or dull coat with flaking skin, advises Nelson. Dogs that play outside frequently will also likely need more frequent baths; and, of course, any time a dog is exposed to a potentially toxic substance, they should be bathed.
Related: What You Should Do When Your Dog Rolls In These 3 Disgusting Things, According To Veterinarians
How often you wash your dog also depends a bit on the breed. For example, dogs with thick, double coats such as Samoyeds, Akitas, and Chow Chows do well with fewer baths and lots of brushing. You can generally bathe shorthaired dogs with smooth coats, like Beagles and Greyhounds, less often, too. On the other hand, breeds with notoriously oily coats, like Basset Hounds, may require more frequent bathing.
But overall, many experts agree that healthy dogs that spend much of their time indoors can get away with a few baths a year—or potentially no baths—if their coat is healthy and shiny, but not overly oily, and if they are free of funky odors. It's somewhat subjective, and if you ever need a second opinion, just ask your vet.
Related: 5 Homemade Dog Treats That Are Cheaper, Healthier, And Safer Than Storebought
Treat your pup with these banana-peanut butter pupsicles!
How To Pick The Right Dog Shampoo
Now that you have a better idea of how often to bathe your dog, you might be wondering what the heck you should wash him with. First, know that you should never use human shampoo on your dog. “Dogs’ skin pH is different than ours,” says Nelson, “so the use of many human shampoos on dogs can be very irritating to their skin.”
You should also consider the characteristics of your dog’s skin and coat when buying a shampoo, says Nelson:
If they have SENSITIVE skin, consider hypoallergenic and oatmeal-based shampoos. Two to try:
+ Earthbath Hypo-Allergenic Pet Shampoo ($13.54, Amazon)
+ Rocco & Roxie Calm Sensitive Shampoo ($16.97, Amazon)
If they have DRY skin, oatmeal-based or moisturizing shampoos are a good choice. Two to try:
+ Earthbath Oatmeal & Aloe Shampoo ($8.89, Amazon)
+ Rocco & Roxie Soothe Oatmeal Shampoo ($16.97, Amazon)
If they have OILY skin, try an anti-seborrhea or oil-reducing shampoo. One to try:
+ Douxo Seborrhea Shampoo ($13.99, Amazon)
If they have a fungal or bacterial infection, medicated shampoos that target those organisms are the best choice, but you should let your veterinarian help you select an appropriate product.
Related: How To Choose A Legitimately Healthy And Safe Natural Dog Food
How To Wash Your Dog
It may seem basic, but believe it or not, there is an ideal way to wash your dog:
1. Brush your dog well to remove any excess fur and dirt.
2. Wet your dog’s fur with lukewarm water and gently massage in shampoo, taking care to avoid the eyes (Pro tip: Some experts recommend washing the head last, so your dog is less likely to shake off and get you soaked).
3. Rinse your dog well with lukewarm water until all shampoo is removed—soapy residue can be very irritating to dogs’ skin, so rinsing several times is recommended. Towel off your dog and allow him to air dry, or use a special blow dryer for dogs.
4. Finally, give your dog a treat to show him that bath time isn’t so scary!