How Often Should You Bathe Your Dog?

Dogs get dirty. The love running and playing outside. They dig in the dirt. They splash in ponds. They might even roll in poop. Love it or hate it, your dog is going to need a bath at some point.

How often should you bathe your dog? According to the ASPCA, your dog needs a bath every 3-4 months. According to us, the answer can vary. I bathe Polar Bear when he is visibly dirty (he’s a white fluffy guy) or when he gets that notorious doggy odor.

What Causes the Dog Smell?

I bathe Polar Bear whenever he gets that doggy smell. What causes the doggy smell? Bacteria, yeast and skin secretions. Healthy dogs shouldn’t have an overwhelming odor, but they can have a unique smell. If your dog is extra smelly, a trip to the vet is in order. Malodor can be a sign of infection (especially if it’s coming from the ears or bottom area), allergies and other treatable conditions.

How to Bathe Your Dog

There are many ways to bathe your dog. You can bathe your dog in the kitchen sink if he’s small enough, a utility sink or in your bathtub. Even though Polar Bear is only about 12 lbs, I bathe him in the bathtub.

When I bathe my dog, I simply fill the tub with a few inches of warm water. I’m careful to use water a little warmer than lukewarm — anything much warmer will be uncomfortable for your dog and can dry his skin out. I only use a few inches of water to prevent mess.

Bathing Polar Bear is easy. He doesn’t mind bathtime and he’s calm and relaxed in the tub. When I bath him I use the following simple steps:

  1. Fill the tub. Like I mentioned above, I just use a few inches of water a few degrees above lukewarm.
  2. Put him in the tub: Polar Bear is a little guy, so I can just pick him up and place him in the tub. If your dog is bigger, you might want to try coaxing him with treats to reward him for getting in the tub. Remember positive reinforcement training?
  3. Fash his face. Polar Bear is white and he has allergies. This means he gets eye goop and tear stains. Before I use any shampoo, I wash his face with a clean, damp washcloth. This gets the goop off and doesn’t get soap in his eyes.
  4. Get him wet. Just like when you wash off, you want to rinse your dog with clean water before you shampoo him. You can use the shower, get s sprayer nozzle for your spigot or you can do what I do: just use a small bucket or big cup to dump water over your dog’s body to wet him. Be careful not to get his ears wet. Water and dampness in the ears can lead to bacteria or fungal infection in the ears.
  5. Lather him up. I use a gentle oatmeal shampoo on Polar Bear. I’m not particular about brands, so I use Target’s Up and Up 4-in-1 shampoo. It has good reviews online and it works well for us. I use a good about of shampoo to really lather him up, a squirt about the size of a silver dollar.
  6. Rinse him off. After he’s good and lathered, I rinse Polar Bear off using the same bucket method I used to get him wet. Again, I’m careful not to get it in his ears.
  7. Dry him off.  It’s a fact: dogs like to shake to remove water from their coats. I close the shower curtain and let Polar Bear shake off in the tub a few times before I wrap him up in a fluffy towel straight from the dryer (did I mention he was spoiled?). I rub him a few times with the towel to get the excess water from his fur.
  8. Brush him out. I brush Polar Bear while he is still damp. This makes sure he doesn’t have any tangles.
  9. Bring out the blow dryer. After I’ve removed a lot of the water from his coat and gently brushed him, I blow dry Polar Bear. I use the coolest setting on the same hair dryer I use on myself to finish drying his coat. I brush him while I blow dry to make sure his hair is going on the right direction and to keep him tangle free.
  10. Let him run around. When I bathe Polar Bear at home, he gets a case of the zoomies after his bath. He runs around, doing figure eights through the living room, bouncing up the stairs and ricocheting off the couch. It looks like fun, so I let him enjoy.

These are the steps I follow when bathing Polar Bear. You might varying them to best suit your dog’s needs.

Baths at Home vs. Baths at the Groomers

I bath Polar Bear at home for the most part. But it also might be wise to consider leaving it to the pros. Baths at the groomer mean less hassle and less mess for you. You might consider letting the groomer bathe your dog when:

  • His nails need trimmed. I’m afraid to cut Polar Bear’s nails at home. Each time he needs a trim, I let the vet do or groomer do it. They are experienced and have all the right tools (trimmers, Dremel).
  • His anal glands need to be expressed. It might be the grossest part of dog ownership. Dogs anal glands produce a stinky fluid used to communicate with other dogs. This fluid and built up and lead to impacted glands. If your dog is scooting on the carper, he might need to have his anal glands expressed. While this can be done at home, I like leaving it to the pros.

Baths at home can also have benefits. Reasons why I choose to bathe Polar Bear at home include:

  • It keeps me familiar with his body. Dogs can get strange lumps and bumps, which often need attention from the vet. I like to bathe Polar Bear at home because it lets me closely examine his skin and body for anything that might need medical attention.
  • It saves money. Where I live, a bath at the groomer costs $35-45 dollars, plus tip. Bathing him at home keeps that money in my pocket.

Polar Bear gets a professional bath quarterly. In between clean ups are at home. Even though the ASPCA recommended quarterly baths, Polar Bear gets bathed every 4-6 weeks.

Keeping Clean Between Baths

Because dogs don’t bathe daily like we do, the need some attention and grooming between baths. Here are a few ways you can keep your dog clean and healthy in between baths:

  • Brush daily, or at least weekly. I brush Polar Bear’s fur every Sunday afternoon, or more often if there’s visible debris in his fur. It keeps him soft and tangle-free and distributes the oil in his skin.
  • Use doggie wipes as needed. Grooming wipes can be a godsend when your dog gets dirty between baths. Simply wipe him off as needed to keep him clean and smelling fresh.
  • Wash his face as needed. Polar Bear has allergies, so sometimes he gets eye goop. I simply wash his face with a damp washcloth when needed.

How often do you bathe your dog? Let us know in the comments.

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