7 Myths About Dog Baths — Busted!

If you think dogs hate baths or that using a water hose is a perfectly fine way to wash your pet, read this article to separate fact from fiction.

By: Oleg
Dogs don’t hate baths. By: Oleg

Knick-knack paddywhack, give the dog a bath.

Most dogs feel better and their coats stay healthier if they are bathed every month or so. Dogs are not cats. They can’t do all their own maintenance.

Spring is when I tiptoe around telling my clients their dogs are a dirt disaster. Many people think baths for dogs are a seasonal occurrence. “Time for his spring bath,” I hear. But what if he’s been dirty since October? Pig Pen needed a fall bath, a winter bath and now, yes, a spring bath.

Here are 7 myths about dogs and baths:

1. Dogs don’t need regular baths.

Yes, they do. There is no pat-and-dry answer as to how often you need to bathe your dog. Different breeds, different coats, different lifestyles require varying degrees of canine coiffing.

One answer is clear, however: In cold climates such as New England, if the last time you bathed Maple was in a kiddie pool when it was warm enough, it has been too long.

A rule of thumb is a bath every 1–3 months, depending on the dog. Dogs with skin conditions or allergies require more frequent shampoos. Rolling in dead fish or coming home wearing and smelling of unidentifiable substances requires immediate bath attention.

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2. Dogs get a good bath with a hose.

No they don’t. Cold-hose water is not ideal for rinsing off shampoo. And freezing-hose baths are appreciated by most dogs only on warm, sunny days.

3. Dogs can get good baths only at the groomer’s.

A professional bath is wonderful once in a while, but most folks can give a great DIY dog bath at home.

There are exceptions, of course. You may have a huge or uncontrollable dog, have no help, be physically unable, or have no tub or a shower with a handheld shower head.

Get your puppy used to baths from the start. Another hint for the lap pups: Small dogs fit in sinks.

4. My flea shampoo gets the job done well enough.

How’s that? Flea shampoos have chemicals that are not needed for a general cleansing bath. Even if your dog has fleas, a flea bath is not sufficient for treating a flea problem effectively. For a general happy bath, use an all-around pet shampoo.

By: Donald Kilgore
Hose water is not the best option for baths. By: Donald Kilgore

5. The dog has to be dried with a dryer.

In the ideal world, professional drying is nice, but all but the intensely thick-coated pups will dry in a few hours in a warm home. If your dog could talk, she would tell you how much she hates the cage dryer at the groomer. They are noisy and scary.

6. Bathing removes natural oils from the coat.

This is both true and not true. You really have to overdo bathing for this to be a problem. Depending on the dog, frequent bathing (such as once a week) may rid the coat of natural oils. Dog conditioners help restore these oils.

So back to the once-a-month rule to keep a dog clean. If you have a mudpuppy who is dirty all the time, rinsing with warm water between shampoos should help keep your little rascal presentable.

For allergic dogs or dogs with specific skin conditions, many dermatologists are recommending frequent baths. Bathing may be one of the safest and most natural ways to keep allergies and conditions such as seborrhea under control. So if your dog has specific skin conditions, consult your veterinarian about the proper medicated shampoos and frequency of bathing.

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7. Dogs hate baths.

They may act like they hate baths, but when my dog talks to me, he tells me he loves how he feels after his tubby time. The majority of dogs run around, do the rub-a-dub-tub gymnastics routine on your favorite carpet and, if allowed, run right outside to breakdance in the dirt.

Clean puppies feel so good, they’re ready to make a commercial for all their dirty dog friends: Take a bath! You’re worth it.

Don’t let them near the hair care aisle, though. Once Petunia starts highlighting, there’s no stopping her.

Dr. Debora Lichtenberg, VMD

View posts by Dr. Debora Lichtenberg, VMD
Dr. Debora Lichtenberg, VMD, is a small animal and exotics veterinarian who has split her time between a veterinary practice in Pelham, Massachusetts, and her studio in New York City. Dr. Lichtenberg is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine with 30 years of experience. Her special interests are soft tissue surgery and oncology.

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