How often should I groom or bathe my dog?

by Dr. Tory Waxman, VMD

Dogs vary widely in their grooming and bathing needs depending on their coat type (and how often they get dirty)

There are five main coat types:
  1. - Smooth
  2. - Double coat
  3. - Wire
  4. - Curly
  5. - Long

Smooth Coats
Dogs with smooth coats (such a smooth Dachshunds, Bulldogs, Vizslas) do not need to be professionally groomed although it can definitely be a lot less messy to have your dog bathed at a grooming salon vs. in your home! Although bathing a dog with very short hair can see easy, it is important to be very careful when drying your dog and to do so very carefully as you can cause severe trauma to the skin and secondary infection if you are to dry them too roughly. They do not need to be bathed very often (every 8-12 weeks) or when they get messy. A quick brush a few times a week will remove any dead hair and help with shedding. 

Double Coats
Dogs with double coats (think Labs, Goldens, Huskies, Shiba Inus) can also be bathed at home but their thick coats require a little bit more maintenance. Brushing your double-coated dog daily or at least a few times a week will cut down the shedding and also help them maintain a healthy coat. Like smooth-coated dogs, they do not need to be bathed often (about every 8-12 weeks) unless they get dirty (as many Labs and Goldens like to do). These dogs will benefit from being brushed after their bath to prevent any matting of their fur. Even though some double coated breeds have shorter hair, it can still become matted. It’s important to slowly acclimate your dog to brushing so they readily accept and enjoy it! 

Wire Coats
Grooming a wire-haired dog (such as Brussels Griffon, Westies, wire-haired Dachshunds) can be somewhat more labor intensive that other breeds. If not properly cared for, a wire coat can become brittle or smooth and lose it’s wirey texture. If this is to happen, it can be near impossible to get their coats back to their intended look and feel. To truly maintain a wire coat, it requires hand stripping which is a special grooming technique that not all groomers are trained to do. It can be costly and time-consuming. If you don’t mind your wire-coated dog not having the most perfect coat then using a slicker brush or comb can help keeps mats under control. It is important to brush them after a bath to prevent knots or matting (make sure to wait until they are almost dry before doing so). 

Curly and Long Coats
Curly-coated dogs include Poodles, Bichon Frise; long-haired dogs include Havaense, Maltese, Bernese Mountain Dogs). Doodle coats can vary widely and often fall somewhere on the spectrum between curly and long). It is important to keep your curly or long-coated dog well groomed as their coats can easily become matted leading to painful pulling of the skin and hidden infections. Dogs with these type of coats often require professional grooming every 6-8 weeks to trim their coats although they can still be bathed at home when necessary. It is very important to brush out their coat well after a bath to prevent matting or tangling.

About the author

Tory Waxman, VMD

Co-Founder & Chief Veterinary Officer

Dr. Waxman is a practicing small-animal veterinarian.

She received a BS in Animal Sciences with Distinction in Research from Cornell University and her vet degree from the University of Pennsylvania, where she did original research at the Penn Working Dog Center. Tory completed her internship in veterinary medicine at the world-renowned Animal Medical Center in New York City where she treated an actual lame duck and saw a hungry snake that hadn’t eaten in a year.

Tory grew up outside of Chicago with chocolate labs. She’s not sure why she ever gave up her first job, which was as a dog beach attendant on Lake Michigan. Almost 5 years ago she rescued a mixed breed terrier named Mabel who is obsessed with tennis balls. Mabel is also her tireless running buddy who completed a 14-mile run while Tory was training for the Chicago Marathon. Tory enjoys dog training and competing in dog sports such as agility and dock diving.