Golden retriever in the bath, looking just to the right of the camera

How often should you wash your dog?

You may be tempted to think that a dog’s coat needs to be washed as often as we wash our own hair. But, in fact, dogs are better left without being washed for as long as possible.

Dogs have sensitive skin and cleaning them too often can really dry out their coat and can cause skin irritation. 

Unless they get dirty or roll in something a bit gross, it’s best to leave the natural oils in their coat do all the hard work – they’re pretty great at self-cleaning.

If you use drop on flea and worming treatment, this will also be washed away every time you bathe them.

Note: If your dog has a skin disease, speak to your vet. Treatment shampoos may be needed on a more regular basis depending on the skin disease.

Dog shampoo

It’s best to use special dog shampoo or, as an alternative, you can use baby shampoo which is a lot gentler on skin than other human products.

How to wash your dog

Begin by getting your dog’s shampoo ready and, if you choose to brush your dog through while they’re in there, have your brushes at hand too. Have a towel ready to hand – mostly to help with the after shower shake off.

Before you begin, pop a collar on your dog that you don't mind getting wet. This will help to steady and secure them in the bath.

Note: Make sure that your bath has a non-slip mat so that your dog can safely have all four paws on the ground without worrying about slipping.

Step one: If your dog is light enough for you to lift on your own, gently lift them into the bath by placing one arm in front of their front legs and the other around their back legs, under their bum. Get someone to help you if your dog is too heavy to lift on your own.

Step two: Test the water to make sure it’s not too hot – it needs to be lukewarm for your dog

Step three: Begin to shower your dog down. Be very careful around their ears and eyes – keep water out of these areas so as not to cause your dog any discomfort.

Step four: Get your dog shampoo and use enough to get a good lather going - avoid their face

Step five: Rinse them clean of any shampoo. Turn off the shower and gently squeeze water from their fur by putting gentle pressure on their body, rather than pulling on their fur.

Step six: Get the towel and towel them dry before scooping them back out of the bath

Step seven: If it’s a nice, warm summers day, you can allow them to dry off in the garden naturally. Otherwise using a hair drier on a low heat and low speed setting will get the job done nicely. Just be sure to give them lots of praise and treats so that they know not to be scared and, if they do look worried, stop drying them and allow them to dry naturally.

Bath training

For big dogs, or dogs who are particularly nervous around bath time, it’s helpful to have someone else with you who can reward them while you get on with washing them down. Some dogs really panic and struggle if it’s their first time or they don’t like it, so an extra pair of hands can make all the difference.

Here’s how to make their time in the bath a little more enjoyable for them.

  • Slowly introduce your dog to the bath by bringing them into the bathroom with you and giving them lots of praise and treats
  • Once they see the bathroom as a fun place to be, you can begin to pop the shower on as background noise while you reward them
  • Don’t place the shower on them the first time you pop them in the bath. Just have it running on their paws and give lots of treats as reward.
  • Work the shower up their body so that they get used to the sensation on their body – rewarding as you go
  • Repeat this until they look more comfortable in the bathtub. If you start training them at a young age, they will hopefully see this as a positive experience.

Top tip: If your dog is still struggling at bath time, you can smear xylitol-free peanut butter over the bathtub. Your dog will be nicely distracted licking this off while you give them a shower.

— Page last updated 25/05/2023