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To Bath Or Not To Bath: For Stinky Dog Owners This IS The Question

Updated on April 3, 2018

Bath? We don't need no stinking bath.

Lab cross Sasha with Windy as a kitten and Houdini peeking round the corner
Lab cross Sasha with Windy as a kitten and Houdini peeking round the corner

A dog's coat has several very important jobs. It acts as a natural insulator and cooling system, it protects the skin from injury, sunburn and insects and, for many breeds, it also helps to repel water. Dogs that fall into the general category of retrieving, hunting and herding dogs often have what is known as a double coat. This is a coarse, thick and rather oily outer coat that covers a softer, finer and denser inner coat. The inner coat provides both insulation and cooling and also helps to protect the skin.

These dogs include breeds such as the:

· Labrador Retriever

· German Shepherd Dog

· Irish Setters

· Golden Retrievers

· Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever

· Border Collies

· Shetland Sheepdog

· Newfoundlands

· Australian Shepherd

· Australian Cattle Dog

· Akita

· Great Pyrenees

And the list goes on and on. These dogs, when the coat and skin are healthy, have beautiful, shiny and glossy coats regardless if their outer coat is long or short. It is also important to note that most of these dogs shed moderately to little during the majority of the year when the coat and skin is in good condition. They do tend to "blow their coat", which is a very heavy shed of the inner coat, usually once in the spring and once in the fall.

The outer coat of the double coated dogs has natural oils that allows water to bead and roll off the coat instead being trapped in the inner hair next to the skin. This oil can sometimes be felt on the dog's coat, depending on the breed. Terriers often have a very noticeable oil on their coat which can contribute to a more doggy smell than some people prefer. Labs, Collies and Welsh Corgi breeds can also have this issue. However, bathing your dog because he or she has a bad odor creates serious health issues for your dog.

Odie and Amos

We have NEVER had a bath and are proud of it!
We have NEVER had a bath and are proud of it!

The Damage Of A Bath

For oily coated dogs a regular or routine bath is a recipe for disaster. The shampoo that you use, no matter how gentle, natural or hypoallergenic is stripping all those natural oils from the dog's coat. After all that is what a shampoo does. This leads to two problems. The first is a very dull, dry and brittle outer coat that doesn't provide any protection for the dog. In addition if you are using a product with a perfume you may be contributing to skin allergies and possible hot spots over the dog's body.

The second issue is that it actually promotes shedding year round. This is because the hair follicle is eventually damaged over as the coat becomes brittle and dry. The dryer the coat gets the more shedding occurs.

Please No Bath Today

Annabelle hates water
Annabelle hates water

Get Off The Bath Cycle

A better option to bathing your dog once a month or on a regular schedule is to bathe only when necessary. Believe it or not many dogs never need a bath provided they are kept in a clean yard and don't have any nasty habits of rolling in anything dead or stinky that they find. Keeping a "roller" on a leash when you are out of the yard is a good way to prevent this from becoming an issue.

You can also use the technique of "spot cleaning" (no pun intended)! A simple solution I have found that really effectively takes most smells away is:

  • 1 cup of 3% hydrogen peroxide
  • ½ cup baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baby shampoo

Mix in an open bowl. Don't be worried but this will really fizz up. Do not mix in a bottle and shake as it will build up pressure really fast and explode! I am saying this from personal experience here folks!

Rub this mixture into the smelly area of the coat. Rinse thoroughly with warm water. This is even good to remove skunk odor and it is much easier than a full bath or trying to find enough tomato juice to wash a 120 pound dog (again from personal experience!).

You can also use a dry shampoo between full baths. This is a powder you sprinkle on and groom through the coat. Cornstarch is a good homemade option and it doesn't seem to cause any skin reaction on most dogs. Try a small area first to make sure it doesn't irritate.

If you do want to bathe your dog on a routine basis try to make it every other month or three or four times a year if you if you can. Make sure you use a product that does not contain soap, perfume or a lot of chemicals you can't pronounce. Some dog friendly shampoos are made with oatmeal, aloe vera and other natural ingredients. Be careful to read the entire label, not everything that is "natural" is really what the label indicates.

Use a good quality conditioner after the shampoo if your dog has dry skin or coat problems. Do NOT use a hairdryer if your dog has naturally oily coat, has dry skin, skin allergies or has a history of unusual shedding. The high heat will definitely lead to damage which can lead to a dry, lifeless looking coat.

Adding a bit of fish oil, Omega 3 oil or olive oil to your dog's food may also help if the dry coat is a result of a dietary imbalance. It is a good idea to talk to your vet if you think a nutritional issue is the cause since dry coat and excessive shedding can be a symptom of a variety of different health conditions.

The Black Dog Gang

We go swimming in the pond almost every day but then again we are country dogs!
We go swimming in the pond almost every day but then again we are country dogs!


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    • Mardi profile image

      Mardi Winder-Adams 6 years ago from Western Canada and Texas

      Thanks Eiddwen for you kind comments. Hopefully it will be of help to over-bathed pooches everywhere!

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 6 years ago from Wales

      A brilliant hub and I have to vote up.

      This will benefit many dog owners.

      Take care and have a great day.


    • Mardi profile image

      Mardi Winder-Adams 6 years ago from Western Canada and Texas


      Thank you for your comment. Some dogs are just phobic about bathing and getting wet in general. Of course the Labs are cool with anything to do with water, but Annabelle the hound cross hates water of any type. She even walks around little puddles -- the exact opposite of the rest of the crew!

    • natures47friend profile image

      natures47friend 6 years ago from Sunny Art Deco Napier, New Zealand.

      What an informative hub!

      Our dogs used to shake at the sight and hearing the word 'bath' I never realised. Not bathing would have saved stress, still they both lived for more than 17 years. Voted up

    • Mardi profile image

      Mardi Winder-Adams 6 years ago from Western Canada and Texas

      Thanks for you kind comments Peggy. My vet is the opposite of yours, he doesn't recommend bathing unless absolutely necessary. I guess everyone has their own opinion on this subject!

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 6 years ago from Houston, Texas

      You have made some excellent points here Mardi. My mother's Pomeranian dog Skippy (now ours, since she died) is due for a grooming. That is normally the only time he gets bathed. Our vet thinks he should be given a bath weekly or bi-weekly...and we disagree. Once or twice I have bathed him outside of the regular grooming and have used a special oatmeal bath.

      Your photos are great! Looks like they are having a lot of fun together. Up and useful votes.