How Often Should You Wash Your Dog? What Science Says

Written by Angie Menjivar
Updated: June 14, 2022
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You love a good-smelling pup, but how often should you wash your dog? Spoiled pups that sit on your lap most of the time don’t get as dirty as adventurous pups that follow their owners on trails all day. How often you wash your dog depends on his coat, lifestyle, and skin conditions (if any). Learn how to create a customized bathing schedule for your best furry friend by understanding why dog baths are important, when you’re bathing him too much, and how to keep his coat healthy between baths! We also share our favorite oatmeal shampoo, waterless shampoo, and one for dandruff! You’re a great dog owner for inquiring and we’re happy to offer some guidance.  

Why Dog Baths Are Important

Bathing your dog on a regular basis is a must to help him keep a clean and healthy coat. With regular baths, your dog’s skin is well maintained, and you get the extra perk of having him smell oh-so-good. While that extra perk is awesome for cuddle time, regular baths are important because they help your pup form a defensive shield—their skin, like yours, is the largest organ on their bodies and they require good care.

Regular bathing is especially important for dogs that spend a good deal of their time outdoors. This could be because due to you having a loyal hiking buddy or because you have a large backyard where your dog spends most of his time. Sometimes, dogs get mischievous, and they love to roll in the dirt or if it’s after a good storm, into the mud. It’s a delight for them but a little bit of a problem for you, especially when they want to track all that mud indoors. Lapdogs, like toy breeds and some small breeds, may not have this problem so much as larger dogs that crave the great outdoors but either way, your dog does require your careful attention when it comes to bathing.

How Often Should You Wash Your Dog?

There isn’t one standard suggestion when it comes to how often you bathe your dog because it depends on several different factors. For example, like humans, dogs have different lifestyles. Someone who frequents the gym and spends a lot of time doing a lot of gardening or yard work requires more frequent bathing than someone who tends to live a more sedentary lifestyle, quietly working behind a desk. Therefore, it’s important to consider the type of life your dog leads and make a bathing determination based on that.

Another crucial factor to consider is your dog’s coat type. Dogs with longer coats require more regular grooming, including baths, while dogs with shorter Coats don’t get as much dirt and dander trapped in their fur. Some dogs seem to have a natural propensity to repel dirt while other dogs with different types of coats seem to attract dirt like a magnet. Depending on their coat type, you may need to bathe your dog more frequently.

A third consideration when it comes to how often to bathe your dog is if he has any skin conditions. For example, if your dog develops a specific skin condition, then he may require more frequent and careful attention. In fact, you may need to pick up a medicated shampoo to help your dog heal from the skin condition. Frequent bathing may be required around two times per week if this is the case but regularly, a dog should be bathed at least once a month. Remember, regular bathing doesn’t replace brushing. Especially if your dog has a longer, tougher coat, you should be brushing regularly to stay on top of his skin and coat health.

Different Coat Requirements

If your dog has a medium or long-haired coat, then it’s expected that you bathe him every four to six weeks. Dogs with short coats can be bathed every month and you can even stretch it up to every three months. This is because their coat type makes it so that they don’t collect as much dirt, debris, and dander. Although coat type is something you need to consider when it comes to how often you bathe your pup, this isn’t the only factor you need to look at. The texture of your dog’s coat is by far more important than the length. For example, dogs like poodles tend to have softer coats, which makes them super attractive to dirt particles. Another type of dog with a coat that loves collecting dirt is a Yorkshire terrier. These types of dogs need more frequent bathing to ensure that they maintain a fresh smell and a lustrous coat.

Although on average, once-a-month bathing is suggested, there are breeds that require weekly baths. These dogs are the hairless variety or those with oily coats like Labrador retrievers. Weekly bathing can help to keep their skin protected from bacteria and other toxins. Dogs with longer fur naturally tend to shed these pollutants but dogs with oily coats or those that are hairless require a little extra help. Especially with hairless dogs like the American hairless terrier, you can help to prevent dermatological issues by keeping up with their weekly bathing routine.

Care for Different Skin Conditions

There are occasions when your dog may develop a temporary skin condition that requires you to pay meticulous attention to his bathing routine. If you have been prescribed a special shampoo by your veterinarian, you may need to bathe your dog a little more often than usual. If this is the case for your pup, then the more frequent bathing should have an end date. Make sure to speak with your veterinarian to ensure that you are thoroughly following bathing instructions.

Lifestyle Considerations

Lifestyle plays a big role in how often you bathe your dog. Lifestyle plus coat type is ultimately what determines how often you need to set your dog up for bath time. Dogs with shorter coats can usually get away with a damp cloth rub down after a long day at the park or on the trails. Now, if you let your dog jump into the ocean, play in mud puddles, or spend time with other dogs during playtime, then you do need to ensure you incorporate regular bathing to clear any dirt and debris from your dog’s coat.

Your dog’s coat may also be able to hide dirt and debris, so you may not initially notice when your dog needs to have a bath. One of the most obvious signs that your dog needs a little TLC is when he starts to stink up the room as soon as he walks into it. It shouldn’t take you this long to recognize when your dog needs a bath but when there is a smell emanating from him, you know it’s definitely right about that time!

Can You Bathe a Dog Too Much?

Yes, it is possible. There are occasions when you’re going to be bathing your dog more frequently at the direction of your vet alongside a medicated shampoo. And yes, we understand that you want your dog to be smelling so fresh and so clean all day, every day. However, that’s just not the reality for pups. If you tend to bathe your dog too often, you should know that you could actually damage their overall coat quality by stripping their natural oils and causing irritation to their skin.

If you notice that your dog is pawing, biting, or licking at his skin excessively, his skin may be irritated. If you have been bathing your dog more often than recommended, then this may be the issue. Also, be sure to never use human shampoo on your dog. Dog shampoo is formulated specifically for pups to improve their coat health and nourish their skin. Human shampoos can be way too harsh on dogs, so it’s always worth investing in a high-quality dog shampoo.

How to Keep Your Dog’s Coat Healthy Between Baths

No matter what, between baths, your dog is going to need some grooming assistance from you. Regular brushing is the way to go to keep your dog’s coat healthy and help clear it of any dirt. Not only does brushing help to clear it of any dirt and dust, but it also helps to remove loose hairs and dead skin cells. As you brush, you help to distribute your dog’s natural skin oils across all of his hair follicles. Aim for brushing your dog multiple times a week— If he allows for a daily brush session, that’s even better. Just be sure to invest in a premium dog brush that is designed specifically to handle the type of coat your dog has.

Best Oatmeal Dog Shampoo

The Earthbath oatmeal and aloe, fragrance-free dog shampoo comes in a 16-ounce bottle and is specially formulated to address the needs of pets with dry, itchy, and sensitive skin. The colloidal oatmeal along with the organic aloe vera work synergistically to combat skin irritation, promote healing, and add extra moisture to your dog’s dry skin. It has a luxurious texture and it’s completely soap-free. It’s pH is balanced perfectly to clean and deodorize your dog’s skin and coat safely and thoroughly. What you get is a dog that smells better than ever with a brilliantly clean coat and soft skin. This oatmeal dog shampoo is formulated specifically for your dog’s skin and coat, so be sure to keep it away from his eyes. The ingredients list is simple containing purified water, renewable plant-derived, coconut-based cleansers, colloidal oatmeal, organic aloe vera, vitamins A, B, D, and E, panthenol, allantoin, and a preservative.

Check out some of our other top oatmeal dog shampoo picks here.

Earthbath Oatmeal & Aloe Fragrance Free
  • Specially formulated for pets with dry, itchy, or sensitive skin
  • Contains colloidal oatmeal and organic aloe to soothe irritated skin
  • Promotes healing and adds moisture
  • pH balanced to clean and deodorize your pup safely and thoroughly
  • Leaves your dog's coat clean and its skin soft
Check Chewy Check Amazon

Best Dry Dog Shampoo

Not all dogs comply when it comes to bath time. Sure, there are those that enjoy the warm water, the bubbles, and the extra attention they get from their favorite human bestie. However, if your dog tends to hide and whine when it comes to bath time, you do have other options. WAHL pet-friendly, waterless, no-rinse shampoo for animals is perfect for providing your dog with a waterless bath. It contains lavender and chamomile to make the experience extra soothing and helps you cleanse, condition, detangle, and moisturize your favorite canine. This is a hypoallergenic formula, but the manufacturer recommends you do a little spot test before using it the first time just to ensure your dog can tolerate all of the cleansing agents included. Once you’ve worked this no-rinse shampoo into your dog’s coat, simply dry him with a towel and follow up with a good coat brushing session.

For a list of some other amazing dry dog shampoos, check out this list.

Best Overall
Wahl Pet Friendly Waterless No Rinse Shampoo

•Easy use, foaming, waterless shampoo for dogs

•Multiple scents

•Natural ingredients

Check Amazon

Best Dandruff Dog Shampoo

Sometimes dogs suffer from dandruff. To help tackle that ultra-dry, flaky skin, you can use this 5-in-1 oatmeal dog shampoo and conditioner. It’s the perfect defense against dandruff, allergies, and itchy, dry skin. It’s available in a 17-ounce bottle or a 128-ounce bottle. This formula features ingredients like aloe vera gel, organic almond oil, oatmeal, and vitamins A, D, E, and B12. As you work through your dog’s coat, you’ll see it works as a detangler to make after-bath brushing even easier. With this formula, you can give your dog the much-needed relief he needs. It’s designed to thoroughly moisturize your dog’s skin and help to keep his skin cells healthy.

Although our top favorite, we do have a few other notable dandruff dog shampoos we recommend. Check them out here!

Overall Best
Organic Oatmeal Dog Shampoo
  • Soap and detergent-free formula
  • Made with natural ingredients
  • Environmentally friendly product
  • Scented without fragrance
Check Amazon

The photo featured at the top of this post is © /

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About the Author

Angie Menjivar is a writer at A-Z-Animals primarily covering pets, wildlife, and the human spirit. She has 14 years of experience, holds a Bachelor's degree in psychology, and continues her studies into human behavior, working as a copywriter in the mental health space. She resides in North Carolina, where she's fallen in love with thunderstorms and uses them as an excuse to get extra cuddles from her three cats.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Can I wash my dog once a week?

Unless your veterinarian has suggested that you bathe your dog frequently due to a skin condition, you may want to space baths out for longer than one week. However, lifestyle is an important factor, so if you regularly go out with your dog and he gets all dirtied up, then more frequent bathing is in order.

Is it OK to wash your dog once a month?

This is usually the average for many dogs, but your dog’s coat type, skin conditions, and lifestyle can alter this frequency. If you notice that your dog is a little more smelly or dirtier than usual, then you can certainly bathe him before the month’s end. However, keep in mind, that unless your dog needs it, over bathing can irritate his skin. Dogs need their natural oils to keep their skin and coat healthy and if you are bathing too frequently, you may be stripping those natural oils, which causes uncomfortable irritation.

Can I let my dog air dry?

Typically, it is not recommended that you allow your dog to air dry after a bath. This is because with air drying, fungus can grow underneath your dog’s armpits or even between his paw pads. Failing to dry your dog completely may also contribute to conditions like ear infections. It’s always best that you start with a thorough towel drying session after a bath. Make sure that you press and squeeze throughout your dog’s fur to allow the towel to soak up as much moisture as possible.

The right dryer setting can increase airflow with a cooler temperature so that you can thoroughly dry your dog after a bath. Both short haired and long haired dogs need regular brushing and after bath time is the best time to get that grooming session in. If you let your dog air dry, you may be contributing to knots, tangles, and mats. However, if you towel dry thoroughly and use a blow dryer at the right setting, you can then move onto brushing to keep your dog’s coat tangle-free.

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