Dogs may be the most universally beloved creatures that also rejoice in their own filth. They sniff other dogs’ butts to say hello. They gleefully roll around in mud, and many other things much dirtier than mud. They, on occasion, eat poop with gusto. Some dogs won’t hesitate to kill rabid animals and bring them into your home as a repulsive sort of souvenir.
But we love them so, and that is why we must regularly wash and groom our presumably filthy furry friends. Though there isn’t an exact science to how many times a year you should soak up your pooch, there are things you can take into account to better inform your dog washing schedule.
Three factors to consider
Since determining when to wash your dog is an inexact science, here’s one way to approach your pooch’s shampoo regimen: consider the length of your dog’s coat, its overall health, and its lifestyle.
These criteria have been set forth by the American Kennel Club, which advises different rules for different dogs. As a general rule, the AKC notes, dogs with medium-to-long coats should be groomed every four to six weeks, depending upon what kind of filth they get themselves into.
Jorge Bendersky, a pet expert and celebrity dog groomer, told the AKC:
For dogs with medium-to-large coats, a bath could be needed from weekly to every 4-to-6 weeks, as long as the coat is properly maintained in-between baths.
That said, if you’re washing your dog that frequently, make sure the shampoo you’re using is gentle. Don’t use a shampoo that’s going to strip the natural oils from your dog’s coat. Canine Journal explains that a bath once every three months is probably fine, provided your pup doesn’t smell terrible [emphasis theirs]:
At a minimum, it’s advised to bathe your dog at least once every three months. You can wash your dog as frequently as every other week (with gentle shampoo, it could be even more frequent). When in doubt, use your judgment — if your dog starts to smell, it’s probably time for a bath.
Most short haired breeds can go longer between baths. Wild Earth recommends monitoring your dog’s coat but asserts that you likely will only need to bathe your short-haired dog every six weeks to three months. Basset Hounds are an exception, however, as they’re a short-haired breed with particularly oily skin and fur.
When it comes to your dog’s health, you want to assess whether you need a special medicated shampoo. Dog skin is very sensitive, and since a dog’s proclivity for filth is high, they’re prone to everything from fungal and yeast infections to dry and itchy skin. With this in mind, it’s not necessarily that you need to wash your dog more often, but rather that you need to use the right, medically treated shampoo. Talk to your veterinarian about whether this is necessary for your dog.
As for your dog’s lifestyle, you need to consider how often your pup gets filthy. Active dogs tend get dirtier more often, so do the math when it comes to coordinating a schedule—it’ll likely be determined by a combination of all these factors.
Can you bathe your dog too much?
In a word, yes. Like humans, dogs have natural oils in their hair and on their skin that keeps them healthy. Over-washing can eliminate these oils and increase the likelihood of infection.
As Pet Plan advises:
Just like you shouldn’t wash your hair every time you shower, your dog probably doesn’t need to be given a wash the second they have a speck of dirt on their coat. While they have a natural instinct to maintain a basic level of hygiene, their idea of clean is very different to what we would call clean!
There’s no need to destroy your dog’s lovely coat with an obsessive cleaning schedule. Just monitor your dog’s coat for any kind of infections or dirt, and trust that you’ll be able to tell if your dog starts smelling bad.