chocolate labrador in a bath tub

How to… bathe your dog reading-time-icon 3 min read

Have you noticed your dog’s coat has started to smell? Perhaps they’ve rolled through mud, or perhaps it’s just bath time! 

Let’s take a look at how to bathe a dog safely and effectively, as well as why caring for your dog’s coat is so important. 

Summary: 

  • Aim to bathe your dog routinely every 3 months
  • Dogs with thick fur or skin conditions will need to be bathed more often
  • Wet your dog’s fur thoroughly, but keep shampoo out of their ears and eyes
  • Regular bathing can help manage skin conditions in dogs
  • Signs of skin conditions include itching, redness, hair loss and bleeding

How often should I bathe my dog? 

The answer depends on your dog’s breed and their coat. For example, double-coated dogs or dogs with long, thick fur will need to be bathed more often than dogs with thin, hypoallergenic coats. 

As a minimum, aim to routinely bathe your dog every 3 months. This will keep your dog clean, smelling fresh and will maintain their healthy skin condition. It’s a good idea to get your dog used to being bathed as a puppy - this will make them more tolerable of it in the long-term.

Your dog will need a bath if they roll through mud or fox poo, or if they swim in a lake or river. More active breeds such as Springer Spaniels may need bathing on a weekly basis. 

Larger dogs, such as St Bernards, may need the help of a professional groomer if they’re too big to fit in your bathtub. 

Before you start...

Before popping your dog into the bathtub, make sure you have everything you need ready:

  • A brush
  • Dog-friendly shampoo
  • A towel
  • A non-stick bath mat

You may want to brush your dog before bathing them. This will help you get rid of loose excess fur. 

Before turning on the tap, you might want to measure out the shampoo and set it to one side. 

If your dog is uncomfortable and skittish around water, try putting down a non-stick bath mat - this will reduce their risk of slipping.

happy dog in bathtub

How to bathe your dog, a step-by-step guide:

  1. Once your dog is in the tub, wet their coat with lukewarm water. Do this gently, and avoid getting water in your dog’s face and eyes. 
  2. Next, apply the shampoo and gently massage it through your dog’s coat. Take extra care to make sure no shampoo gets in your dog’s eyes or ears. 
  3. Leave the shampoo to soak into your dog’s skin. You’ll get a recommended wait time included with your shampoo, but it’s usually around 3-5 minutes. If your dog is restless, try distracting them with treats or their favourite toy. 
  4. Rinse your dog gently and thoroughly with lukewarm water.
  5. When it comes to drying your dog, let them shake off excess water, then towel-dry their coat.
  6. Reward your dog with a tasty treat!

The benefits of bathing

Many canine shampoos contain products that help to promote healthy skin, and frequent bathing can even help to manage existing skin conditions that your dog might be suffering from. 

Skin care might seem like it’s only useful for humans, but dogs and cats suffer skin trouble more often than you think. Common causes of skin problems include:

Does my dog have skin problems?

Skin problems are a common cause of visits to first opinion vets. There are a wide range of skin conditions out there, some more serious than others. 

If you suspect your dog or cat is suffering from a skin problem, contact your vet as soon as possible.

Signs of skin problems include:

  • Regular scratching, licking or chewing a particular area  
  • Rubbing their face against furniture/carpet
  • Dry, flaky, red, swollen or bleeding skin
  • Hair loss

Need more info?

For more advice on how often to bathe your dog, have a chat with your local vet. If your dog is too big to bathe at home, your vet will also be able to recommend a specialist dog groomer. 

Locate your nearest vet practice by visiting our Find a Vet page.