Does your dog seem to go out of his way to roll in every inviting mud puddle that comes his way? Or does he care for himself meticulously, with all his fur perfectly in place? Your dog's lifestyle and personality will determine how often he needs your help keeping clean. Before you fill the bathtub with suds, consider how often you should give your dog a bath.
Your dog's bathing frequency involves several factors, as demonstrated in the examples above. Active dogs who seek out opportunities for one-on-one full-body contact with the great outdoors will need baths more often than those who prefer indoor activities with less chance of encountering dirt, mud, sand and other fur-marring elements. Other factors that influence how often you should wash your dog include his activity level, coat length and breed, as well as whether or not he has a medical condition that affects his coat or skin. You will likely be able to tell if your dog needs a bath just by his appearance--or his odor. If you can smell him (you know, that "dog smell"), it's time for you to bathe him.
But what if he doesn't smell? Should you bathe him weekly? Bi-weekly? Most groomers agree that if your dog doesn't have a medical reason for frequent baths (such as a skin condition that requires treatment with medicated shampoos), less baths are better than more. Too many trips to the tub can remove natural oils from the dog's coat, which can reduce the fur's shine and potentially dry out the dog's skin.
If you want to set your dog up on a regular bathing schedule, let common sense be your guide. Start at monthly or every six weeks, and re-evaluate the condition of your dog's coat regularly. For further guidance, ask your veterinarian or your dog's breeder how often a dog with your pet's coat type and length typically needs to be bathed.
With a bathing schedule in mind, there are some tips you can follow to make actual bath time a success for you and enjoyable for your dog. Before you even run the water, gather your supplies. You'll need a brush or comb, shampoo formulated specifically for dogs, conditioner (in some cases), and a towel (or two).
Next, brush your dog thoroughly. This process will remove dead hair and prevent any tangles from "setting" into snarls that become virtually impossible to remove.
Fill your tub with warm water (think about the temperature you would use for a small child). Rinse your dog's fur thoroughly, avoiding the head until the end of the bath. Lather your dog with the shampoo (again, be sure it is formulated specifically for dogs), and rinse until the water runs clear from his fur. When his body is clean, wash the fur on his head, taking care to avoid his eyes. And be prepared! Dogs typically shake their heads when wet.
Some experienced dog bathers use a bit of dog-formulated conditioner on the fur to make the coat easier to comb, and this may work well for your pet if he has longer hair. You will want to make sure to rinse this thoroughly from the fur, too.
While your dog is still in the tub, run your hands down his body to help squeeze water from his fur, then help him out and do your best to towel him off (he will likely shake more to remove even more water). On warm days, your dog can "air dry," or you can use a blow dryer on the lowest, coolest setting to gently dry the fur. Hold the dryer at least a foot from your dog, and gently comb through the fur as you dry him.
Keep your dog in a warm, dry place until his fur is completely dry, then enjoy his soft, shiny coat!