Are you bathing your dog too frequently? The chances are you might be but does it really matter? Yes, it does. You could be doing more harm than good.
How much bathing is too much and what should you be doing when it comes to good doggie hygiene? Let’s discuss dog bathing frequency for a healthier, happier dog.
The cons of over bathing your dog
If you grew up in the 70s and 80s your family dog probably only got a bath if they rolled in something terrible. These days though it is not unusual to meet dog owners who bathe their dog every week. Maybe we are all more house and doggie proud now but whatever the reason for this change, are our dogs really thanking us?
A dog’s coat should be shiny and glossy, tangle free and free from odours. But you don’t need to keep bathing your dog to achieve this. Quite the opposite in fact.
Over bathing your dog, even with gentle and mild shampoos, can strip your dog’s coat of important natural oils. This can leave their skin vulnerable, sensitive and even itchy. It can also leave their fur looking dull and unhealthy. And here is the real rub – in this stripped back state, your dog’s skin and fur is now more likely to end up greasy and smelling of dog.
How often should you bathe your dog?
I have shared my entire life with dogs and all of my dogs have had a bi-annual bath in the spring and autumn. I have always had lots of comments on how well my dogs look, with healthy coats and no doggie odour.
Last year I was asked onto a TV show to talk about giving dogs a bath. The presenter commented on how beautifully soft my terrier’s fur was. When she asked me how often I bathe him I replied “Twice a year”. She almost fell off her chair. Her face was a picture of confusion. She assumed my dog must therefore smell but when invited to sniff my obliging little dog, she was amazed to find that he smelt of nothing in particular and certainly didn’t smell of anything bad.
Brushing your dog
The key to an odour free dog with a shiny healthy coat is brushing, not bathing.
Just because you are only bathing your dog twice a year, doesn’t mean you can let other aspects of coat care go out the window. It is just as important, if not more so, than ever. Turn some of the time you save from bath time into brushing sessions.
A daily brush of your dog is a great habit to get into. It frees up and removes any loose fur and old skin cells, and helps to distribute healthy natural oils through the fur, leaving your dog’s skin tingling with health and their coat gleaming. Even short or wiry haired dogs massively benefit from a daily groom. This can be done with a bristle or rubber dog brush to really get the circulation going and get all the detritus removed.
Don’t turn the daily grooming session into another chore or a time of anxiety, chasing your dog around the house in a frenzy. Use this time as a bonding session, petting and stroking your dog as you brush them and having a few moments when it is all about the two of you. Most dogs love being brushed along their back and top of their bottoms so start there and they will soon be looking forward to their daily grooming session.
Just a few minutes to stimulate the skin and fur and remove any tangles is all it takes. Your dog will soon be gleaming, feeling great and lapping up compliments.
What if my dog gets muddy?
I meet a lot of dog owners who over bathe their dogs. When I ask why they will often say that their dog gets wet or muddy on walks so they need a bath when they get home. So what do you do in this situation?
Give your dog a rinse with plain water and dry them thoroughly with a towelling or microfiber towel. A lot of mud will easily come off a wet dog in this way. Muddy paws can be cleaned with plain old tap water too (no shampoo required). If your dog has very fluffy paws that act like a mud magnet, try a specially made paw cleaning device that uses fresh water and a rubbery bristle action to get doggie’s paws mud free. The online website D for Dog https://www.dfordog.co.uk sells a great range of dog care items including drying coats and towels, Mudbusters and more.
If your dog only picked up some mud here and there, simply let it dry and brush it out. Job done.
When to use dog shampoo
People over use shampoo. If you think about what soaps and shampoos were invented for, that should tell you when its use is necessary. Shampoo is a detergent that is used to remove sweat, oils, stains and odours. At this point you may be thinking that your dog does smell and is greasy so you need to use shampoo but remember what we said at the start of this article – a dog with a healthy coat that hasn’t been stripped of oils won’t get over greasy or odorous because the coat will be in balance.
If your dog has rolled in something really stinky, a bath may be necessary. You can even get special fox poop shampoo, but whatever you use, make sure it is gentle on your dog’s skin and coat.
At the groomers
If your dog has the type of coat that necessitates a trip to the groomers every 6-8 weeks, what can you do? Speak to the groomer. Ask if they can do the cut without a bath. If they insist on bathing your dog, ask for a mild shampoo to be used and no perfumes. You can even research your own and take it with you. Or find a groomer who understands your over-bathing concerns.
Using scents, sprays and perfumes on dogs
Take care with this kind of thing. Perfumes and sprays are all about what scents humans find pleasurable. Dogs do not like the same kinds of smells as we do. Dogs don’t hanker for perfumed fur or a floral scents. In fact dog detest all that flouncy pong. Dogs find perfumes just as offensive as we find the smell of something gross like fox poop. What is pleasant to us is not necessarily pleasant to them.
Imagine how you would feel if someone kept spritzing you with eau de fox poo. Not pleasant. You would immediately try to get rid of the smell. Ever noticed how, after a bath or a spray with perfume, your dog will go straight outside and rub around in anything they can to try to negate the flowery or musky scents. They don’t like it.
Why do dogs like nasty smells?
What smells nasty to us smells very acceptable to a dog. It could be evolutionary. Blazing a trail of strong distinctive scent is not going to help a dog to avoid predators or catch prey. Smelling of the great outdoors or even better, smelling of your prey, is very helpful.
Now their love of stinks starts to make more sense.
Washing dog bedding
It is of course important to keep your dog’s bedding clean and to wash it when it gets dirty or whiffy but don’t go over the top. Your dog’s bed doesn’t need a weekly clean for no reason other than it is Saturday again.
When you do wash your dog’s bedding, use a non-biological laundry detergent that is less likely to cause irritation and don’t add fabric softeners, especially scented ones. A clean dog bed doesn’t need to smell of flowers, white musk or any other artificial scents. A nice neutral smell that is fresh and clean will be acceptable to everyone and won’t offend your dog. It is their bed so let them have a place that smells how they like it to smell.
So there you go, that is everything you need to know about washing the dog. Why not give it a try. Put down the dog shampoo and pick up that brush.
Give it a few weeks. Your dog’s coat needs to recover and get back in balance, which can take time. But before you know it you will be getting comments like “Your dog looks great. What products are you using?” I get it a lot with my dogs, so take it from someone who knows.
Author Jenny Prevel, D for Dog https://www.dfordog.co.uk
Jenny Prevel is a lifelong animal lover and dog owner. She grew up with dogs, cats, pigs, chickens and rabbits, to name a few. Wanting to help dogs in her adult life, Jenny started adopting needy rescue dogs in 2003. After adopting a deaf dog and wanting to share what she had learnt, Jenny started her website D for Dog in 2004 and has helped many dog owners by writing articles on a number of topics including pet loss and end of life, dog adoption, dog care and health issues.