There's no definitive answer to how often you should bathe your dog. In most instances, it's basically just a question of how frequently you want to get her into the shower. The process can be difficult -- wet and wild, even -- especially with puppies who aren't yet used to it. And, while keeping your pet clean is important, your perception of her smell will tell you when it's time to lather her up.
A fairly standard rule of thumb -- and one endorsed by the ASPCA -- is to bathe your dog once every three months or so. Some dogs need to be showered more often, and others can get by with less frequent bathing. A number of factors affect your dog's bathing needs -- the time of year, her typical daily or weekly activities, the health of her skin, the type of coat she has, her breed and the strength of her natural body odor. Ask your veterinarian for a recommendation for bathing frequency, since he's in the best position to weigh the individual factors. He'll also suggest a canine shampoo, conditioner and other bathing and grooming products that are well-suited to your pet's particular needs.
Your dog might need a shower more than once every three months if she has a strong smell or if she gets noticeably dirty. Hot weather or a long trek through the woods may necessitate more frequent baths or just an extra one here and there. If your dog tends to roll around in the mud a lot, a cleansing once every three months probably won't cut it. If you're having a dinner party and you don't want your dog's funk to overshadow the food and wine, a bath is probably a good idea. Stay flexible and play it by ear. Be willing to break your normal bathing schedule when necessary. As a pet parent, it's more important to be attentive to your dog's ever-changing needs than to simply adhere to some bathing routine.
Skin and Coat Conditions
The health of your dog's skin and coat are also important considerations when deciding how often to bathe her. Bathing can be significantly drying on the skin. So if your dog naturally has dry skin, bathing as infrequently as possible is beneficial. Or, she may just be susceptible to dryness in the winter, so you might do best skipping the shower altogether during the cold weather. On the other hand, if your dog suffers from itching, an oily coat or other symptoms of seborrhea, frequent baths with an appropriate medicated shampoo will likely improve your pet's quality of life. Develop a plan to manage your dog's skin or coat condition with your veterinarian.
Whether you put your dog in the shower once every week or month, once every three months, or even less often, perform important grooming and health maintenance tasks between baths. Regularly inspect your dog for fleas, ticks and other external parasites. If your dog's hair is long, frequent brushing or combing helps keep it from tangling and matting. Keep an eye out for minor injuries and infections; clean and tend to the former and consult your veterinarian if you suspect the latter. Common signs of infection include discharge, redness and swelling around a wound. As you bathe your pet and during grooming activities, feel for bumps or lumps and look for any changes to your pet's appearance. Consult your veterinarian about any abnormalities or concerns.
Eric Mohrman has been a freelance writer since 2007, focusing on travel, food and lifestyle stories. His creative writing is also widely published. He lives in Orlando, Florida.