How to bathe your dog without irritating his skin


It can be a real chore to bathe your pet. Especially when your dog doesn’t like water and you try to keep the soap out of his eyes. If it is a dog with long and thick hair, it takes time to clean him thoroughly, and instead of standing still, your pet will wiggle around and try to jump out of the bathtub. But this is part of the fun!

The good news is, dogs don’t have to be bathed every week. This is not really recommended, because the animal’s skin is naturally oily and helps to keep his hair and coat healthy.

It is important to choose a shampoo that does not dry out your pet’s skin. A shampoo that contains harsh ingredients can harm the natural balance of oils on your dog’s skin and can lead to skin irritations.

How often do you give your dog a bath?

That depends on several factors. First of all, it makes a difference if your dog mostly lives outside or if it is an inside dog.

If you have a very active dog that likes to jump into puddles or roll around in chicken poop (like our dogs sometimes do) and then comes into the house, walks on the carpet and climbs on the sofa …. well, then it might be time to put him in the bathtub. Usually, we bathe our inside dogs about once a month.

The time of the year also makes a difference. We like to wash our dogs more often in summer. It’s just easier to air-dry a dog outside on the porch when it’s warm or even soap him in outside and rinse him off with the hose.                                                  bulldog-in-garden-tub

Summer is also when fleas and other insects proliferate. You might treat your dog regularly with a special shampoo that fights fleas and ticks.

We have 2 dogs that mostly stay outside in the yard and around the porch. They get bathed mostly in summer when it’s hot, that’s just easier on them. Also, it wouldn’t be a good idea to remove the natural oils from their skin and hair since a healthy coat protects them from harsh weather.


There are various types of dog coats

Just by looking at different dog breeds you will notice that their fur can vary in length and thickness. Each type of fur also requires specific care, because not all dogs need the same amount of grooming.

Dogs with a smooth (and short) coat, like bull terrier or dachshund, are very easy to keep clean. They don’t need a lot of grooming, and after bathing, dry him with a towel and then he just air-dries on his own.

Some dogs have a double coat. It means they have a dense and soft undercoat and an outer coat with coarse, longer hair. Examples are collies, golden retrievers, huskies, Newfoundland dogs. This coat, combined with the oil their skin produces, protects the dog against harsh weather. Needless to say, this type of fur requires more grooming and every day brushing. When he gets a bath, detangler and conditioner may be necessary.

Wirehaired dogs have a coat with a coarse texture that feels kind of rough to the touch. These breeds are relatively low maintenance and they don’t need to be brushed on a regular basis. Examples of wirehaired dogs are German pointers, Scottish terrier, Fox terrier and wirehaired dachshund.

Dogs with a curly or wavy coat do not need a lot of brushing but their curls need to be clipped regularly. This type of dog hair does not develop a lot of mats or tangles, but after shampooing the dog it is recommended to use a conditioner or cream rinse to hydrate his coat. Examples are poodles, bichon frise.

Longhaired dogs can either have a coarse or a silky coat. Long hair requires regular brushing and a detangler might be necessary to get out the tangles. Besides shampoo, a conditioner is recommended. Some people recommend using a hair dryer after bathing a dog with long hair (even though I am not sure if this is really the right way to dry a dog’s hair). Examples of long haired dogs are Maltese, Yorkshire terrier, Shi Tzu.

The last category: dogs with a hairless coat. Yes, they really exist, for example the Chinese Crested, Peruvian Inca Orchid or the American hairless terrier. All they really need for bathing is soap and a soft sponge!


What shampoo to choose?

The most important thing is to keep in mind that a dog or cat cannot be washed with soap and conditioner that is destined for humans.

A dog’s or cat’s skin does not have the same pH balance than human skin, not to mention that the natural oils on our pet’s skin and coat protect them from harsh weather conditions. So, we don’t want to irritate their sensitive skin by using products that have too many harmful ingredients like sulfates, phosphates, colorants or other chemicals.

Also, we don’t want to dry out our pet’s skin because we have to bathe him, so choosing a shampoo that hydrates and nourishes his skin and coat while cleaning it at the same time is another important aspect.

Natural and organic dog shampoos and soaps are usually specifically formulated for your pet’s skin condition.

One of them is BURT’S BEES OATMEAL SHAMPOO for dogs. Its main ingredients are colloidal oat flour, honey and beeswax. Colloidal oatmeal is known to improve dry skin and soothe eczema and honey helps to hydrate hair and skin.

It’s unscented and it foams less than some other commercial products.

This shampoo is about 97 % natural, does not contain harsh chemicals and it’s cruelty- free.

If you are looking for a completely natural dog shampoo consider the line of pet shampoo made by EARTHBATH, for example EARTHBATH OATMEAL & ALOE or EARTHBATH TEA TREE OIL & ALOE VERA, formulated for dogs and cats.

These products do not contain any kind of toxins or chemicals and claim to be 100% biodegradable.

EARTHBATH shampoos work wonders on your pet’s itchy skin and I also like the fact that each variety has it’s own natural fragrance, for example a fresh citrus scent if you go with EARTHBATH DIRTY DOG SWEET ORANGE OIL or vanilla and almond scent for EARTHBATH OATMEAL & ALOE.                                puppy-in-yellow-bath-tub

Flea shampoos

Even if you are treating your pet for fleas, sometimes you still find those pesty little critters in your dog’s or cat’s fur. Then bathing your dog with a special formulated shampoo can help to get rid of insects fairly quick.

If you are worried about DEET or other synthetic pesticides on your pet’s skin and coat opt for flea shampoos that repel fleas with natural ingredients, safe for adult dogs and cats and safe for puppies and kitten.

If you are more hand-on and you don’t like shampoo bottles, then DERMAGIC SHAMPOO BARS might the right thing for you and your pup.

DERMAGIC are handcrafted shampoo bars with all natural ingredients like a variety of essential oils. Choose the one with DIATOMACEOUS EARTH in it, a natural powder that eliminates fleas (if you want to know more about the wonderful properties of diatomaceous earth see my article “Natural ways to repel fleas and ticks“).

Besides getting rid of fleas and providing some anti-microbial protection this soap is gentle and soothing on your dog’s skin and also has a pleasant smell.

DERMagic Certified Organic Shampoo Bars                                                          click here         


NATURAL CHEMISTRY NATURAL FLEA & TICK SHAMPOO WITH OATMEAL is another great product that uses essential oils like cinnamon, clove oil and cedar oil. It not only nourishes and hydrates your dog’s skin and coat, it also kills fleas and ticks and is supposed to be effective for up to 7 days.

These are just two examples of flea shampoos made with natural ingredients, but of course there are more great products out there. By the way, most of these flea shampoos can be applied if even your dog has been treated with a topical flea product.


Waterless shampoo

For the days when you are on a tight schedule and you don’t feel like going through the ordeal of giving your pet a bath, there is “bath in a bottle” waterless shampoo. This is for spot-cleaning only and of course does not replace the more thorough ritual of bathing with water and soap.                                                                                                          

SHOW SHEEN waterless shampoo by ABSORBINE does not only clean without rinsing, it also helps to condition and detangle long and short hair such as horses, llamas or dogs.

ABSORBINE is a well-known company that started out with making tinctures with blended herbs and essential oils to relieve joint and muscle pain in horses. Since then, this company has developed many innovative products not only for horses.

ABSORBINE waterless shampoo is fortified with vitamin E to keep the animal’s coat shiny. Otherwise, I am not sure which the exact ingredients are, since there is nothing listed on the label. It does say that the product is combustible, that makes me think that it may contain alcohol.

Nevertheless, we love ABSORBINE products and we always have them in the house, and not only because we own horses.

If you prefer something 100% natural and alcohol-free, try BODHI DOG WATERLESS SHAMPOO. It’s non-toxic and gentle and works for very sensitive pups, cats, kittens, guinea pigs … for all kinds of animal fur.

This product comes in different scents like lemongrass or lavender and besides putting it on your dog’s coat it can also be sprayed on upholstery and bedding to freshen up.


Wash your dog, yes, but only when necessary

If you own a longharired dog or one with curly hair, it is important to brush him every day, because this helps getting the tangles out of his coat and get rid of dust and loose dirt.

When you clean your pet, don’t use detergent, shampoo or conditioner made for humans. It’s ingredients can damage the sensitive balance of oils on your pet’s skin and dry it out. In general, I recommend using a gentle soap/shampoo with natural ingredients, one that can sooth and relieve dry and itchy skin and keep your dog’s coat soft and shiny at the same time.

If you are on the go and you need to freshen up your dog, a waterless shampoo will do the job temporarily.


                                           Otherwise: Happy bathing!


Affiliate disclosure – I am an affiliate of many products promoted on this website and may earn a commission if you purchase something.

4 thoughts on “How to bathe your dog without irritating his skin”

  1. We bathe our dog at least once a month. As you say terriers dry off on their own.

    He pretty well rubs himself into the carpet to dry himself off.

    We did have a flea collar for him but my daughter was allergic to it, so we had to get rid of it. I will look at some flea shampoos to take care of it.

    1. Thanks for commenting on my post.
      I think every dog likes to rub on the carpet when they are wet. Or they roll on the ground, it’s pretty funny to watch.
      If your daughter is allergic to the flea collars, I would definitely try a flea shampoo that has all natural ingredients.
      There are also different ways to fight fleas naturally.

  2. I’d never heard of Bodhi waterless shampoo. I like that it’s all natural and LOVE that I can spray it on the upholstery to help freshen up the house too! I had a German Shepherd/Husky and he had that wonderful soft undercoat of hair that got everywhere. I brushed him frequently and for his coat I would use an all natural oatmeal bath. He loved it too and it made him smell so clean without a harsh scent.
    Thanks for the new brands for me to try out for my terrier:) I’m sure he (and I) will love them:)

  3. Thanks for the information! I have a cava – poo so I do notice that his fur isn’t as shiny as he’s aging – I will start using the conditioner you recommend! I had no idea that there was water-less shampoo, I’ll have to give this one a try as well 🙂 It sounds so convenient!

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