Wondering just how frequently to bathe your furry companion? Is it just when he's smelly or dirty? Here's the scoop on how often you need to wash your dog.

By Jennifer Nelson
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Is your pup smelling a little ripe? How often and when to bathe your dog can depend on several factors. "Dogs don't need baths as often as humans," says Dr. Callie Harris, a veterinarian at Purina, who is based in Atlanta, and judge of ABC's Pooch Perfect, a new dog grooming competition show.

How Often Does Your Dog Need a Bath?

How often you bathe your dog can vary depending on his coat type, lifestyle, health conditions, and even the time of year. But a good rule is about once a month. Dr. Harris says you can let your nose make the call. "My personal gauge is when I am kicking my dog out of the bed. This usually means it's time for a bath," she says.

If you have a very young puppy, it's a good idea to hold off baths for a bit. Young puppies can't regulate their body temperature, so their first bath shouldn't be before about eight weeks old.

Long haired breeds, like Shih Tzus or collies, and double-coated breeds, like labs, beagles, and huskies, obviously need more bathing to keep long or thick coats clean and matt-free. Short hair breeds who don't get that dirty may need less washing.

What Products Should You Use to Wash Your Dog?

Dr. Harris says to use dog-safe shampoo, and for those double-coated breeds, a de-shedding shampoo can help cut down on the amount of hair they shed. "No matter what shampoo you choose, make sure you thoroughly rinse all product out of your dog's coat to prevent any skin irritation."

Doggie conditioner is probably not necessary for most breeds, but long-haired dogs whose fur can mat easily may benefit. Check with your vet or a good groomer about the best conditioners for a long-haired breed. Conditioners also come in de-shedding formulas.

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Can You Wash Your Dog Too Frequently?

You can wash your dog too frequently, and it's important not to. "Excessive bathing may cause your dog to have a dry coat or dry skin," says Dr. Harris. Similar to how humans can develop dry skin from long, hot showers, you don't want to overdo bathing your dog. If she already has dry skin, ask your veterinarian about special shampoo and conditioning products that are more hydrating and keep baths infrequent if possible.

What if Your Dog Hates the Bath?

For dogs who aren't a fan of bath time, several tricks can make the experience less stressful:

  • Use a tub that is non-slippery and comfortable.
  • Try showering with your pup. He might like it more if you're in there, too.
  • Make it calm and stress-free by placing your dog in the tub or sink gently.
  • If she doesn't like running water, fill the tub up a few inches before you put her in.
  • Use a cup to wet your dog rather than a shower sprayer.
  • Start with wetting and sudsing her back legs first.
  • Give lots of treats.
  • Smearing peanut butter, cheese, or other favorite snacks in the shower or tub can help distract.

If your pup still isn't loving the bath, establish a relationship with a groomer who is trained to bathe dogs successfully with minimal stress. Pet parents may not realize that bath time can be a great way to bond with your dog and provide positive engagement. Turning your pup's bath time into a family affair by involving the kids may help, too.

As always, consult your veterinarian about questions and concerns at your pet's next appointment.