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How Often Should You Wash Your Dog?

“If your dog is stinky or looks dirty, wash ‘em!” Plus more pro tips from LA dog groomer Jess Rona.

by Madeleine Aggeler | expert review by Jess Rona
October 19, 2021
A dog getting a bath
ManuPadilla / Adobe Stock

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Ever since ancient humans and wolves first set aside their differences and decided to start cohabitating, humans have looked at their lovely, wild, stinky canine companions and wondered: “How often should I be bathing this thing, exactly?” 

“It just depends on the dog,” says Jess Rona of Jess Rona Grooming in Los Angeles, who has been dubbed the Vidal Sassoon of dog beauty — by Katy Perry, no less. She has some clients who bring their dogs into her Larchmont Blvd. salon once a week because they like them to be extra clean or “extra fluffy,” while others bring them in every other month. Ultimately, she says, the appropriate amount of washing and grooming is “really up to the person and how clean they want their pet,” adding that every dog, whether they’re a long-haired Lhasa Apso or a short-haired Pit Bull mix, benefits from regular, professional groomings.

Book professional dog grooming services monthly

Rona generally recommends a monthly grooming appointment for all dogs, regardless of their size or coat length. These regular appointments are essential, not just for your dog’s hygiene, she explains, but also for their health — each grooming is an opportunity for a professional to take a look at your dog’s skin, coat, and mouth, make sure everything looks healthy, and identify potential issues before they progress.

If you’re on a tighter budget, Rona says you can alternate appointments: “One month, do a bath and a short-ish haircut, then the next month do just a ‘bath and tidy.’” Bath and tidy appointments are generally less expensive and less time consuming, and should include getting your dog’s nails trimmed and having their teeth brushed. “It’s not just a wash and dry,” she explains. “There’s someone looking your dog over and making sure they’re okay.”

An important, if not overly graphic word of advice: “You should never get your dog’s anal glands expressed at a groomer,” Rona says. Though it has been a fairly common practice in the past, the service is actually outdated now, and that regular squeezing of the anal glands can actually tear the surrounding muscles and create problems for the dog. Dogs generally express their own anal glands naturally when they poop, Rona says, adding, “If your dog is scooting a lot, it does not always mean there’s an anal gland problem — they might just have an itchy butt.”

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Tips for at-home grooming in between appointments

Sometimes, financial constraints or a particularly messy day at the park mean that an at-home grooming is in order. If you’re overseeing your dog’s bath time, Rona’s two biggest tips are: (1) always condition your dog after bathing and (2) get a big slick brush with long, tightly packed metal pins that can easily penetrate into a dog’s undercoat, and help remove matted hair. 

As for the order of operations, Rona recommends brushing your dog down with the slicker brush first, then giving them a bath, then conditioning them, and then letting them fully dry before brushing them again. “Don’t brush a wet coat,” she warns. “Slicker brushes have pins, so you can accidentally scratch the skin if it’s wet. There’s no buffer between the brush and the skin.”

Rona also notes that you can do the majority of bathing at home, and still occasionally go and get some a la carte touch ups done on your dog that you might not feel as comfortable doing yourself, like an ear cleaning or a nail trim.

Trust that you’ll know when it’s time to wash your dog

Dog cleanliness is not rocket science. If you take your dog to the park and they roll in a bunch of mud, you probably want to treat your dog to a bath when you get home, both for the dog’s sake, and for the sake of your furniture. “Honestly, use your judgment,” says Rona. “If your dog is stinky or looks dirty, wash ‘em!”

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madeleine aggeler

Madeleine Aggeler

Madeleine Aggeler is a freelance journalist and copywriter in Austin, Texas. Previously, she was a writer at New York magazine’s The Cut. She lives with her dog, Cleo, who works primarily as a foot warmer.