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How Do I Wash My Dog? Advice for Pet Parents

If you're a pet parent who has wondered, "how often should you wash your dog?"—you're not alone. Unlike humans, however, washing your pup depends on a variety of factors including your canine's breed, hair length, activity level, and special health conditions they may have.

Aside from your pet's defining characteristics, knowing the reason for a bath is also important. Washing to control odors, remove residual dirt, or manage a skin sensitivity all have different bathing frequency recommendations. For example, canines who spend their day’s hunting, playing in the mud, or in the ocean, require more baths than dogs who primarily remain indoors.

In general, dogs should be bathed no more than once a month. Bathing your dog too frequently can strip their coat of its protective oils. You should consult your pet's veterinarian or a professional pet groomer to come up with a personalized cleansing plan specific to your four-legged pal's needs. They can recommend a hygiene schedule, dog bathing supplies, and care instructions for any special conditions.

Have more questions about bath time with your canine? Keep reading to find answers to the most common things pet parents want to know, and if you still have questions, contact your nearest Petco Certified stylist to learn more.

Creating an Ideal Bathing Environment

The key to getting your pup accustomed to bath time is to make it enjoyable. Both you and your pet should see bathing as an opportunity to bond and connect. By creating a welcoming environment, whether it be outdoors, indoors, or at a self-dog wash station, you'll help ease them into the process.

Here are the pros and cons of bathing in these three different locations:

  Indoors Outdoors Self-Dog Wash

Handheld showerheads help with controlling water

Small dogs can be bathed in a kitchen sink

The great outdoors provides a lot of space and saves you from cleaning your bathtub or shower post-bath

All you need is a hose and, ideally, something that can function as a tub with a nozzle for rinsing

Good option for pet parents who don't have a spacious tub or backyard

Most self-dog washes provide professional grooming tubs, dog shampoo, conditioner, towels, aprons, combs, brushes, and blow dryers

The mess stays behind


Bathing a dog in a regular bathtub can get messy and is often hard on your back

Water may be too cold making it important to bathe on a day the weather is nice

Depending on your landscape, your pet could quickly get dirty all over again

Travel time can be difficult if your dog doesn't like car rides

5 Steps to Prepare Before Bath Time

Now that you know where you want to bathe your pup, it's time to prepare! By performing these five steps and having the right bathing supplies on hand, you'll avoid some unsuspecting pitfalls.

  1. Brush and remove mats — Before any washing takes place, brush your dog and check for mats. Long-haired or double-coated dogs need to have mats or excess loose hair brushed out before bathing. If not, the mats become tighter and more difficult to remove and may have to be clipped out by a professional.
  2. Prepare the washing area — Cover the bottom of the bathing area with a non-slip surface such as a bath mat. Make certain the sink, tub or shower is clean and free of soap or other residues.
  3. Find the right shampoo — Make sure the shampoo you have selected is right for your dog's coat. If you're using a spot-on flea product, avoid flea shampoos and read the label to ensure the flea protection won't wash out with shampoo. You may need to re-apply after the bath, once the coat is dry.
  4. Get your dog situated — Keep a leash on your pet so they can't take off when bath time is underway. This could turn into a mess, or even a danger with a slippery, wet dog on the loose.
  5. Clean your canine's ears — Using an ear cleaner gently wipe around the perimeter of the ear. Do not go down into the ear canal as you risk injuring your dog. Let your dog shake their head a few times and put cotton balls in both ears to help prevent water from getting down into the canal.

Can You Use Human Shampoo on Dogs?

It's no secret that getting your pup ready for bath time can be a task on its own. This makes having their supplies on hand a must. But what if you come home to find your four-legged pal rolling around in the trash and realize you don't have their supplies? Can you use human shampoo on dogs?

The quick and easy answer is that it's best not to. While human and dog products may seem interchangeable, the different pH balances in our skin play into how dogs are affected by human products. Human skin has a pH balance that is on the acidic side of the acidity-alkalinity spectrum which means using human shampoo on your pup, whose skin has a more neutral pH balance, could expose them to parasites, viruses, and bacteria. It can also cause dry and irritated skin making it essential for you to select a dog shampoo formulated with them in mind.

Aside from human shampoo vs. dog shampoo, there is a wide assortment of products with specific benefits for your pet to consider. For pets with white fur, there are shampoos that restore fading coats, while plant-based products soothe dry skin, and flea and tick treatments assist in removing pests. By being in tune with your furry pal's needs you'll best select a product that's right for them.

Now that you know what you need and how to prepare, bath time should be less of a worry. If you're in need of dog bathing supplies, stop by a Petco location or shop Petco online, to scoop up all your pup's bath time essentials!

Don't forget this shopping list when you head out to pick up everything your pet needs!

  • Brush/ FURminator and comb
  • Treats
  • Non-slip surface
  • Waterproof collar and leash
  • Ear cleaner
  • Cotton balls
  • Shampoo and conditioner
  • Towels

Prefer someone else handle the messy job? Learn more about Petco’s professional pet grooming services including a full service baths!