Splish Splash.. Does a Dog Need a Bath? | Blogs

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Splish Splash.. Does a Dog Need a Bath?
Blogs, Pets
Splish Splash.. Does a Dog Need a Bath?


New puppy owners often ask how often their pup should be bathed.  Humans like CLEAN dogs, but how much is too much, when it comes to bathing?  The answer depends on a number of factors.  

How dirty does your pup get during an average day/week/month?  If you take your pup to wet, muddy areas to romp, a bath might be necessary more often.  

What type of coat does your dog have?  Puppies and dogs with non-shedding, curly coats can develop mats close to the skin resulting in the need for a very close haircut next time they visit the groomer.  Bathing and using a conditioning rinse, followed by a comb-out or full brushing can help keep mats from developing between grooms.

How healthy is your dog’s skin?  Dogs with sensitive skin sometimes benefit from a soothing oatmeal bath; however, some dogs with dry skin, allergies or other skin issues cannot tolerate bathing as often as owners would like.  Bathing can strip the skin and cause an overproduction of sebum (oil) to compensate, leaving the dog with a greasy-looking coat.  

As the owner of two adult Labs, one of whom has skin allergies galore, I am a huge fan of rinsing vs. bathing.  My dogs get rinsed with the hose while standing in a kiddie pool after almost every outing involving excessive dirt, mud and/or water.  Rinsing with warm or cool water gets rid of the dirt and also helps eliminate bacteria that may cling to their coats and skin from ponds, brooks and ocean water they’ve been mucking around in.  We bathe our dogs with shampoo maybe three or four times per year at a maximum.

Exposing and socializing your new pup to the bathing experience is an important learning lesson, especially for those pups who will be seeing a groomer regularly.  Start slowly and make it a positive experience.  Feed treats and use praise liberally during the bath.  It may not be necessary to use shampoo each time you bathe your pup, especially if you are bathing weekly, as you don’t want to strip their coat/skin of necessary oils.

If your pup has a stinky odor you find displeasing, pay attention to exactly where on his/her body the smell originates.  You may find that the sour/tangy scent is coming from eye discharge which discolors many light-colored dogs’ faces.  In that case, focus your cleaning efforts there and avoid overshampooing other areas.  

You may note that your dog is having some difficulty staying clean in the butt area, causing excessive odor.  If that is the case, consult with your vet about the healthy functioning of your dog’s anal glands and your choice of dog food.  Firm stool helps keep the anal glands functioning well.  Dogs who drag their butts on the floor or ground or who have consistently loose stool or other digestive issues may have blocked glands which need to be expressed (emptied) by the vet.  Washing the butt area with an antibacterial soap, rinsing well and patting dry should help return a dog with well-functioning anal glands and just a dirty bottom to good health and smell.


For some owners, it’s actually the dog’s MOUTH rather than their body that has a  yucky smell.  In that case, invest in a dog toothbrush and toothpaste FOR DOGS (not the people kind) and start brushing regularly.

This time of year when the weather is heating up and our dogs are exposed to water a lot, it’s important to DRY them very well, especially around the “hot” areas of the body (neck, ears, arm pits).  Hot spots (wet dermatitis) love to develop on the hot/wet skin of dogs especially in humid weather.  One of my Labs seems to be a delicious host for hot spots, so we wash her with antibacterial soap in the hot months, especially after exposure to water that may contain bacteria (standing water that heats up as summer progresses, for instance).  And we MUST dry her extremely well.

Your dog likely doesn’t need a bath as often as you’d like to give one.  In the early months of puppy ownership, the goal is to socialize your pup to the experience to increase comfort and compliance with bath rituals.  Later in life, bathing helps to remove dirt and excessive oil built up in the coat and can also help remove shedding hair from the coat.  Here at the puppy school, I often see puppies and dogs rolling in the dirt or rubbing their necks into the ground (usually there’s a dead worm involved) because they want to REMOVE the scent that humans have applied to their coats.  Striking a happy balance between cleanliness and dogginess seems best.

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