How often should I bathe my dog isn’t the same as how often do I want to bathe my dog? If I slipped my dog into the shower or ran him a bath every time I thought he smelled, well, like a dog, then he would be the squeakiest cleanest puppy on the planet. It’s not his fault really. He’s old and tends to have bad breath. He lays with his head tucked into himself and that raunchy breath smell gets all over him. Within days I want to give him another bath. So why not?
Dogs have essential oils on their coats. They call them essential because that is exactly what they are, necessary oils for the dog’s warmth and buoyancy. Some dogs have very thick oils. You can tell because when you wet them, they don’t get very wet. You have to wet their coats, use a little soap, and then wet them again to really get a good lather going. This is because those oils are there to help them be the master swimmers that they are.
Some dogs create these oils faster than other dogs. Most dogs can handle a good scrub down once a month. Even dogs with dry skin can fair well provided you use an oatmeal based shampoo and conditioner. I always thought conditioner was pampering a dog in a way that wasn’t necessary. But, I was wrong. It actually does a lot to help prevent dry, itchy, irritable skin. Some dogs have skin that is so sensitive that giving them a bath without a specialized conditioner can cause them to scratch mercilessly for days or until their human is kind enough to fix the problem, which usually requires an additional bath.
Using the once a month ideal as a guideline, most dogs smell as though they could use another bath long before that. This is usually intentional. A dog’s own aroma is part of his calling card, his identity. The fru-fru smelling shampoo you slopped all over him just isn’t part of who he is, and he is going to find way to cover it up. The most glaringly obvious example is the dog who launches out of the bathtub and straight to the backyard, where he has no problem finding some horrific smell to roll in. Less obvious examples are the more subtle attempts to get the smell of fruits and flowers off their backs. Rubbing up against their humans and lying on their backs ‘scratching’ along the carpeting. Even that constant licking they do when they get over the fact that their bath really did just happen to them is an attempt to rearrange the smells lingering all over their fur.
Since dogs prefer their dog smell to the more attractive smells humans try to impose on them, dogs are more likely need a bath more than once a month. Many dogs carry the same offending odor within a week. This can become a very frustrating game, especially if the dog sleeps in your bed and you wake up in the morning to that stale dog breath odor that clings to yesterday’s clean sheets. If you live in an apartment or small house, it won’t take long before the dog aroma has taken over your domicile, and the first thing you notice is the smell of your pooch from the front door.
Dogs with very healthy coats can handle a bath about once every two weeks, provided it’s done on a short term basis. Eventually, you will dry out their skin and their coat. However, if you have a particularly active water mongrel throughout the summer months, how often should I bathe my dog turns into why can’t I bathe my dog every day?
Even when your dog has a healthy coat and seems to be undisturbed by the extra bathing he may receive in the warmer months, you can’t expect his skin to hold out. After all, bathing a dog is a human element, not a dog’s natural tendency. In the wild, the most a dog may get is a splash through a stream and the work of his own tongue. His skin isn’t designed to handle the harsher soaps we use without considering their chemical make up. Expect some drying, and expect to select your shampoo cautiously.
In the meantime, there are a few things you can do to help control what he considers to be his best aroma. First of all, wash his bedding weekly. This may annoy him, but he will get over it. Freshly washed bedding has a way of ‘imprinting’ their more pleasant smell on the dog, even if it’s only for a short time. Again, be cautious of the chemicals you are willing to use. I can always tell when a member of our household has gotten enough of the dogs smell. For about twenty four hours our dogs have a wonderfully fresh clean, straight from the dryer scent to their heads. Of course, they think we’re out of our minds the way we like to sniff their heads during that time.
There are a handful of dry shampoos on the market designed specifically for ‘spot’ cleaning (forgive the pun) in between regular baths. These are different than dry shampoos used to replace conventional shampoos at bath time. These simply help to absorb odors that otherwise will linger everywhere.
Do not spray perfumes, colognes, or household air fresheners on your dog. You can cause serious skin irritations if you choose the wrong can of smelly stuff. While your frustration over the limited times you can scrub down Fido is warranted, you shouldn’t inflict him with products that are not designed to be safe for him. So, how often should I bathe my dog? Technically the answer is about once a month, a little more often during the summer months, and not nearly as often as the human world feels it’s necessary.