The Star-Herald

Bathing your dog

“How often should I bathe my dog?” is a question every dog owner asks from time to time. There is no simple answer.  It depends on a variety of factors ranging from breed to health to lifestyle.  If your dog absolutely hates bath time, you may want to go longer between baths, but how long is too long?  How often is too often to wash your dog?

For many dog owners, this is the simplest solution. If you have an indoor dog that stays fairly clean and has relatively short hair, he may only need to be bathed once or twice a year.  A good brushing and running over their body with a grooming wipe can help extend the time between baths. If you have a dog that loves to roll in mud or poop or has a significant amount of hair, you’ll want to bathe them more frequently.

Dogs with hair that grows continuously need regular haircuts anyway and should be bathed when they get their hair cut. The bath is usually included when you take your dog to a professional groomer, but you’ll still want to wash your dog first if you groom them at home. Clean hair cuts better and results in a better haircut.

Bath time is also a great way to notice anything unusual about your dog or his skin condition, such as irritation, bumps, or parasites.  

PetMD says: “The best bath frequency depends on the reason behind the bath. Healthy dogs that spend most of their time inside may only need to be bathed a few times a year to control natural ‘doggy odors.’ On the other hand, frequent bathing is a critical part of managing some medical conditions, like allergic skin disease.”

1 – Brush BEFORE the bath: Your dog should be really well brushed out before they get into the tub, as water will make tangles (called mats) worse. Matted hair can also trap water and shampoo next to your dog’s skin, which can cause irritation.

2 – Use lukewarm water. PetMD says, “Dog skin is different from ours, and hot water can burn dogs more easily. Bath water should never be hotter than what you’d run for a human baby. Keep it even cooler for large-breed dogs, which can easily overheat.”

3 – Use dog shampoo: Dog skin has a much different pH than human skin, so human shampoo is extremely drying for dogs. It may also contain toxic chemicals or irritating perfumes. Stick with moisturizing shampoos formulated specifically for dogs.

4 – Save the head for last. Mari Rozanski, of Plush Pups Boutique in Huntingdon Valley, PA, told PetMD: “I always bathe the body first and head last, as dogs tend to shake once their head is wet.”  A cotton ball (or half of a cotton ball for small dogs) placed in your dog’s ears before the bath will help prevent water from getting into the ear canal, which can trigger ear infections.

5 – Rinse well: Soap residue can irritate your dog’s skin and make them itchy. Once you think you’ve rinsed out all the shampoo, go ahead and keep rinsing to be on the safe side.

6 – Avoid hot dryers: Unless you want to invest in a dryer designed for dogs (a high velocity dryer can help blow out undercoat and reduce shedding), you should either allow your dog to air dry or use a low heat setting at least a foot away from your dog’s skin. Heated dryers can burn your dog or cause them to overheat.

7 – Reward your dog afterwards:  Since most dogs hate bath time, they should be rewarded with praise, play time, or a special treat to reward them for tolerating the bath.

The Central Aroostook Humane Society is open Tuesday through Saturday, 10:00 to 4:00, closing for lunch 12-12:30. Please check out our Facebook page for the latest news on our pets.  Please be responsible, spay and neuter your pets.

“We can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals.” ~ Immanual Kant

Gloria J. Towle is the secretary and a member of the Board of Directors of the Central Aroostook Humane Society.

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