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Any pet owner knows that dogs don't mind being smelly and dirty. In fact, many dogs delight in rolling around in all sorts of substances we may think of as disgusting, or tearing through brush and mud puddles. At some point, your dog is going to need a bath. How to bathe your dog, and how often, depends on a few factors.

How Often Do Dogs Need a Bath?

golden bath

Bath frequency depends on how much time your dog spends outdoors and what he does once he's out there, but most experts recommend bathing as infrequently as possible to preserve natural oils and avoid drying out his skin. As a rule of thumb:

  • Short-haired breeds, like Weimaraners or Beagles, need to be bathed less frequently.
  • Oily-coated breeds, like Basset Hounds, may need a bath as often as once a week.
  • Breeds like Golden Retrievers, that have water-repellent coats with a lot of natural oils, should be bathed less often.
  • Dogs with thick double coats, like the Alaskan Malamute, need fewer baths but a great deal of brushing.

Types of Dog Shampoo

Most important, do not use a shampoo meant for people; it doesn't have the right pH level for dogs' skin. There are many types of dog shampoo on the market, including:

  • Natural organic formulations like Ark Naturals Neem Protect Shampoo.
  • Heavy-duty dog shampoos and dry shampoos, like Dalvia No Rinse Dry Shampoo.
  • Oatmeal shampoos: some groomers recommend shampoo containing oatmeal for itchy skin.
  • Dog shampoos with anti-bacterial qualities, or a shampoo with citrus oil or pyrethrin if your dog has fleas.

Tips for Bathing Your Dog

in the tub

  • Brush your dog thoroughly before washing to remove loose hair, dirt, and other debris.
  • You're going to get wet, so dress accordingly.
  • Gather everything you need, dog included. This includes shampoo, a washing brush if you're using one or a washcloth, towels (many towels), cotton balls, and mineral oil.
  • After making sure the water is warm, but not hot, put your dog in the tub or washbasin and fill it about knee-high.
  • Protect your dog's eyes with a few drops of mineral oil and put cotton balls in his ears to keep water out.
  • A detachable shower spray nozzle makes bathing much easier. If you don't have one, use a large container, like a pitcher.
  • Wet your dog and then lather him with shampoo, and work the soap through to the skin. Some pet owners start at the rear and work towards the front, washing his head last. Others prefer to do the reverse.
  • If your dog has long hair, work the lather in the same direction as his coat grows. This will help avoid tangles later on. A rubber washing brush works well on dogs with short hair.
  • Make sure to wash everywhere: his belly, under his tail, his legs and paws, under his neck, and around his ears.
  • Rinse him gently with warm water, starting at his head and face. This may take patience since you want to remove all traces of the shampoo.
  • You know with certainty that he'll shake himself off rigorously after this, so you might want to stand back a bit. Then, rub him vigorously with a towel, or three, to get him as dry as you can. Some pet owners like to use a blow dryer on their dogs to dry them more thoroughly. If you do, don't use the hottest setting on the dryer, and hold it at least one foot away so you don't burn his skin. Then let him hang out in a warm sunny room until he's completely dry.

Aside from being a necessary part of grooming, bathing your dog can be a bonding and trust-building experience. It's messy and time-consuming, but it can also be an enjoyable time spent with your canine pal. Check out some more dog grooming tips to give your dog a great bathing experience!
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This article was originally published in AKC Family Dog magazine. Subscribe today ($12.95 for 6 issues, including digital edition) to get expert tips on training, behavior, health, nutrition, and grooming, and read incredible stories of dogs and their people.
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