There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to how often you should bathe your guide, hearing, or service dog; it’s mostly a matter of how often she needs it. Because many assistance dogs go outside frequently and perform physically demanding work, they tend to need cleaning more often than pets. On top of that, it’s one of an assistance dog handler’s responsibilities to keep their partner looking and smelling clean as a courtesy to other people when taking the dog to public places.
Don’t neglect this important part of skin and coat care and overall hygiene. But keep in mind that too much bathing can be drying and irritating to the skin and coat. As a general rule, bathe your assistance dog once every one to four week, and intermittently as needed. Again, it’s a judgment call each handler must make.
One important part of bathing your service, hearing, or guide dog is choosing the right canine shampoo. Using a quality product helps ensure she gets properly cleaned and doesn’t develop an unpleasant odor, and that it doesn’t irritate or dry out her skin and coat. Dry, cracked, itchy, or otherwise irritated skin isn’t just uncomfortable for your assistance dog, it can also prevent her from focusing on her tasks. Plus, excessive scratching or licking can lead to wounds and infections.
So, here’s some helpful advice about choosing the right canine shampoo.
Tips for Choosing the Right Canine Shampoo
- Ask your veterinarian or groomer for product recommendations tailored to your dog’s skin, coat, and general bathing needs.
- Stick to a cleanser made specifically for dogs. It’s not that human shampoos are toxic to dogs (though certain medicated human shampoos pose risks), but more that canine shampoos are the least likely to trigger any negative skin reactions. Ingredients in human products added for color or fragrance can be irritating to dogs. Also, using a shampoo made for another animal species may have dangers.
- Since you probably bathe your assistance dog relatively often, opt for a gentle, moisturizing, non-drying, non-irritating formulation made for dogs with dry skin—even if yours doesn’t suffer from it—to reduce the risk of causing skin problems.
- Natural ingredients that soothe and moisturize are good. Look for a dog shampoo that contains aloe, vitamin E, oatmeal, and/or honey.
- Unscented shampoos are less likely to cause irritation. It’s also considerate to avoid fragrances because your assistance dog probably spends a significant amount of time around other people in public, including in close spaces.
- If your hearing, guide, or service dog tends to develop a noticeable odor fairly easily, you might need to upgrade to a deodorizing shampoo. Because they’re often a but harsher, these are best used on an as-needed basis, rather than regularly.
- Play it safe by avoiding canine shampoos that contain synthetic dyes and fragrances, as some of these are linked to headaches, cancer, and other health problems.
- Also steer clear of products containing these potentially irritating or damaging ingredients: mineral oil; stearalkonium chloride; Sodium laureth sulfate; DEA, cocamide DEA, and lauramide DEA; and parabens such as methylparaben, propylparaben, ethylparaben, butylparaben benzyl-parahydroxybenzoic acid (p-hydroxybenzoic acid), parahydroxybenzoate (p-hydroxybenzoate)
- Occasional use of a gentle canine conditioner helps keep your assistance dog’s coat soft and healthy. It’s especially beneficial for longhair breeds, and can make it much easier to deal with tangles.