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A Guide to Washing Your Dog

Contrary to popular belief, washing your dog isn’t as simple as getting your dog wet, scrubbing some soap into their fur, rinsing the dog, and leaving it to dry. Bathing your dog is actually far more complicated than that. While there are some simple general rules for how you should wash your dog, how often you wash your dog and the tools you need to wash your dog vary depending on your dogs breed and type of coat.

Before we go into the different types of dog coats and the proper care for these coats, let’s look at the general rules of washing a dog.

Brush your dog’s coat

While the type of brush you use when washing your dog will change, the need to brush your dog’s coat won’t. Before you get out water and soap, you first need to brush your dog to get rid of tangles and matted fur. Matted fur can absorb water and irritate your dog’s skin, brushing your dog before a bath is the easiest way to prevent this.

Use Lukewarm Water

Your dog’s skin is much more sensitive than your own. Don’t use water hotter than what you would use on an infant. Also take note that large dogs tend to be even more sensitive to overheating than smaller dogs. Before bathing a dog test the water and make sure it’s temperature is appropriate for your dog.

Speak Calmly To Your Dog

Many dogs do not like water and will hide if they think it’s bath time. You can combat your dog’s fears by talking calmly and soothing them when they’re scared.

Use Dog Shampoo

This may seem obvious, but many people will use their own shampoo on their dogs. This can cause rashes and irritation for your dog, so make sure to use the shampoo that was designed for them.

Rinse Your Dog

Rinsing is just as easy as it sounds, but when rinsing, you need to make sure to get all the soap off your dog to prevent irritation and itchiness.

Dry Your Dog

This is the other major way in which dogs differ. Some dogs can simply be toweled dry and then left to air dry. Other dogs will need you to take a dog hairdryer and brush and dry their fur. I emphasize the words “dog hairdryer” because a human hair dryer can again overheat and dry out their skin.

Reward Your Dog

The final step in bathing your dog is making sure to give him or her a treat for their good behavior. Rewarding your dog is a great way to help your dog get over their fear of baths.

Now that we’ve covered the basics of giving a dog bath, Let’s look more closely at what each type of dog coat entails.

Smooth Coat

Smooth coats require very little care and lie close to the body. Dog’s with smooth coats only need to be bathed 3 to 4 times a year if they are given quality washings. When brushing a dog with a smooth coat use a bristles brush and go against the lay of the hair. These dogs need to be towel dried after bathing and then can be left to air dry. An example of a dog with a smooth coat is a dachshund.

Double Coats

Dogs with double coats have a soft undercoat and a tougher upper coat. These dogs can have short or long hair and require more attention than smooth coat dogs. For a dog with a short hair double coat use a slicker or pin brush and brush the undercoat out from the skin. Then brush the top coat with the lay of the coat.

For a dog with a long hair double coat take sections of the coat and separate them by hand before brushing with a slicker or pin brush. Brush out from the skin. After you have done this, use a wide toothed comb to comb the top coat and comb outward. Dogs with a double coat need to be washed around once a month. Rottweilers and Collies have double coats.

Wire Coats

Dogs with a wire coat require a slicker brush and stripping comb. The stripping comb should be gently run along the back of your dog to thin out its coat. By thinning out the coat, you will prevent your dogs coat from getting tangled. After you use the stripping coat, brush the coat in layers from the skin outward with the slicker brush. Dogs with wire coats should be bathed every 6 to 8 weeks. Terriers and Airedales often have wire coats.

Curly Coat

Curly coats require a soft slicker brush. You should brush the coat in the direction it grows. When you are finished bathing a dog with a curly coat you should fluff dry the coat with a hair dryer and a slicker brush. How often you bath a dog with a curly coat depends on the breed. An example of a dog with a curly coat is the poodle.

Long Coats

Long coats need to be washed every 2 to 3 weeks and can be silky or coarse. In both cases, you will need a slicker brush or pin brush and a smooth bristle brush to get rid of matted and tangled hair. Dogs with long coats should be have their fur dried with a hair dryer and brushed out after drying. Maltese and Shih Tzu dogs have long coats.


Just like it sounds a dog with a hairless coat has no or very little hair. Hairless dogs require no brushing and only bathing. These dogs should be bathed every 1 to 2 weeks and require sunblock after being bathed. An example of a hairless dog is a Mexican Hairless.

Every dog deserves proper care and attention. Grooming is just one important way that an owner can take care of their pet and improve their comfort and health. The question “How often should I bath my dog?” is an important one that often goes unnoticed or unasked. Knowing how to bath your dog, how often they need to be bathed, and how to properly do this is invaluable and something all dog owners should think about. And if you simply don’t want to do it yourself, consider hiring a professional mobile grooming service on Petworks.

About the Author

Nikki Musko started Nikki’s Collar Club LLC (NCC)  Cleveland, OH in 2014. NCC is a local company with the highest standards of quality, integrity and customer service. Nikki wanted to raise the standards for dog walkers and pet sitters, to show that it’s possible to have and maintain higher standards in this industry.