Golden Retriever Baths: How Often and How Best To Do It


As a Golden Retriever owner taking proper care of your dog is part of the job. Good grooming and care ensure your Golden Retriever remains healthy and happy. A vital component of that good care is bathing your Golden Retriever. 

However, many owners are unsure how often they should bathe their Golden Retrievers and how best to do it. 

How Often Should I Bathe My Golden Retriever?

As a first step in bathing a Golden Retriever, it is important to determine the frequency. Overbathing is not ideal, so pet owners need to understand how often they should bathe their Golden Retriever.

As a general rule, Golden Retrievers should be bathed once every four to eight weeks, unless the dog is overly dirty or muddy. Golden Retrievers have double coats, which act as natural insulation. Over bathing strips essential oils from the skin, so consider rinsing them with water if dusty or after swimming.

When it comes to a Golden Retriever, a good rule of thumb is an occasional bath is a good and necessary thing. However, doing it too often can become problematic for your dog.

While bathing once every one to two months would be problematic for humans (and smelly), this is not the case for Golden Retrievers. Unlike brushing a Golden Retriever, which should be done daily or weekly, they do not need frequent baths to remain healthy. 

On the contrary, over bathing may become problematic for Golden Retrievers. Why? 

Golden Retrievers possess a double coat.

The double coat acts as insulation and helps keep the dog dry and warm, especially when getting wet such as when swimming. In addition, Golden Retrievers were bred to retrieve downed waterfowl from water, and their double coats help in this regard. 

For breeds with double coats, over bathing strips the essential oils from the skin and disrupts the natural insulating process. In addition, over-bathing can cause itching, flaking, and dryness on the dog, leading to scratching so much that it causes wounds or hot spots. 

According to VCA Animal Hospitals, “hot spots are usually caused by self-trauma when a dog scratches an itchy spot so vigorously that he creates an open wound.”

As a result, we must minimize itchiness, something that over-bathing can cause. 

Most people associate self-grooming with cats. Yet, dogs self-grooming as well. Similar to cats, it’s a dog’s nature to self-groom, and your Golden Retriever will groom itself by licking its skin and fur.

Commonly, they lick their paws and groin areas when cleaning, but this should not be excessive (if it is, there could be other issues). 

Dogs also groom themselves to keep skin healthy and facilitate the growth of hair follicles (source).

So considering your Golden Retriever will do some self-grooming, and over bathing can strip oils and cause issues such as dryness, itchiness, flaking, and possibly lead to hot spots, it’s advised to refrain from bathing too often. 

Okay, you got it. Bathing too often can be bad. But, how do you know when it’s appropriate to wash your Golden Retriever? When is dirty too dirty or not dirty enough? 

How Do I Know It Is Time To Bathe My Golden Retriever?

Determining when to bathe your Golden Retriever is an essential step in not over bathing your dog. However, unless the dog is filthy, that is not as easy as it might seem. 

It is time to bathe your Golden Retriever if it is muddy, extremely smelly, or is soiled with urine, feces, or blood. If the dog is dusty or swimming in a lake or pool, showering the dog off with water is adequate. If none of those apply, then bathe every 4 to 8 weeks from the date of its last bath. 

If your Golden Retriever is kept clean, put a recurring reminder on a calendar. For example, I have a regular date every six weeks.

So I put it on my Google calendar and have it synced with all my electronic devices. This way, there is little chance of forgetting. 

I designated six weeks because it allows for a two-week buffer either way. If life gets busy and the bath gets delayed for two weeks, my Golden Retriever still gets his bath at the 8-week mark.

On the other hand, if I’m a few weeks early due to scheduling conflicts, 4 or 5 weeks would still be reasonable and not over bathing. 

However, every four to eight weeks is not always doable. Golden Retrievers are dogs, and dogs like to get into things they shouldn’t.

So whether it’s playing in the mud, rolling around in cow dung, or getting covered in something else, sometimes a bath is needed before the designated day. 

However, if your Golden Retriever is just dusty, then hold off on the bath. Instead, a quick rinsing in the shower or with the hose (in the summer) should suffice.

The same applies to swimming. Whether a lake, pool, or river, just rinsing off with a shower or hose should be enough to remove any chlorine or dust while not stripping the oils that shampooing would. 

A quick rinse after swimming or if dusty is often all it takes.

The smell can be an issue too. If your dog is exceptionally smelly, to the point where it is difficult to tolerate, then a bath is in order. 

How Do I Bathe My Golden Retriever?

Bathing a Golden Retriever at home is not difficult nor complicated. However, before describing how to wash a Golden Retriever, let me preface that discussion by stating the importance of making bath day a positive experience from day one.

Prepare yourself for bath day, and make sure you are in a patient and understanding frame of mind. 

Getting a Golden Retriever used to a bath is best started in puppyhood, but regardless of age, always be patient, understanding, loving, and keep it positive. Make it as fun as possible. 

It’s best to get your Golden used to baths as a puppy.

Future bath days will be much more complicated if the experience becomes negative for you and your Golden Retriever. Fortunately, most Golden Retrievers have a cooperative temperament and love the water, so that should make it much more manageable. 

To start, change into some swimwear or shorts. Prepare to get wet. I prefer to get into the tub or shower with the dog. It just makes it so much easier. Chances are you will get wet, so embrace it and have fun. 

Then prepare for the bath by getting your shampoos and supplies ready, so you have everything handy once the dog is in the tub. Finally, have some treats available to reward throughout bath time.

Providing treats when your Golden is doing well shows the dog that it is positive and rewarding. I usually start with a treat and end with one. Make the treat something they really love: the more value, the better. 

Consider brushing your Golden Retriever before its bath. Brushing will remove much of the loose hairs and dirt beforehand.

Next, get your Golden in the tub or shower. Have your dog sit and reward it with a treat. Then, warm the water up, ensuring that it is not too hot and cold. Tepid water is what you want.

Start wetting your dog. At this point, you are soaking your dog with water, not shampooing – that comes next. Massage the fur and skin while soaking to further loosen dirt and hair.

Start wetting your Golden Retriever from the back and working to the front of the neck. Or from the neck towards the back. Leave the head for last.  

Why leave the head for last? Two reasons. It gives the dog time to get used to the water before moving to the sensitive head area (eyes, ears, and nose). Plus, dogs will “shake” when their heads get wet. Leaving the head to last usually minimizes the shaking until the end. 

When the body and legs are adequately soaked, go ahead and start wetting the head.

Use your free hand (the one not holding the shower nozzle) to gently guide your dog’s head downwards if it doesn’t look down by itself. This prevents water from getting into the eyes and the nose. Also, if water gets into your dog’s nose, it can choke, so having him look downwards prevents this. 

Also, it’s important NOT to get water into your Golden Retrievers’ ears. Goldens can be prone to ear infections, and getting water in the ears may be an issue.

Instead, you can place cotton balls in the ear or run the water on the outside of the ears while keeping them down and then use your wet hand to wet the inside of the ear. 

Now that your Golden is adequately wet, it’s time for a shampoo. 

Consider using a shampoo that has been designed for your Golden Retriever. Ask your vet for recommendations and inquire if they sell a shampoo specific to your Golden Retriever’s needs. The key is to get one designed for dogs with a double coat. 

Work the shampoo into the coat in the same fashion you wet your dog – either from the back to the neck or from the neck to the butt, from the legs to the top of the dog. The head will be left until last, and be careful of the eyes.

Pay special attention to the paws and tail, often the dirtiest areas. 

Once your Golden is adequately shampooed, it’s time to rinse it off. Make sure you spend extra time giving your dog a good rinsing. You want to make sure that the shampoo is thoroughly rinsed out to prevent itching and scratching, which leads to hot spots (open sores). 

Often bathing in the home is not ideal. In those cases, you can find designated dog bathing stations. Often car washes have a bay dedicated explicitly to cleaning a dog, as do pet stores.

You can also utilize the services of a groomer, and some pet stores will offer this service as well. Many doggie daycares bathe dogs as well. All of these cost money, though. 

We usually use our doggie daycare for our bathing services. Bailey attends daycare weekly and often plays in puddles. The facility is set up for baths, so it makes sense for us, although the cost is $35, so it is costly versus doing it yourself. 

Fear not, I have included a video of Bailey the dog getting a bath. Of course, this is not our Bailey, and that’s not me, but it’s a perfect video of what a bath entails. It takes about 7 minutes, so baths should not take long. 

How Do You Dry a Golden Retriever After a Bath? 

Once you are done getting all the shampoo out of the coat of your Golden Retriever, it’s time to use a towel to pat the dog dry gently. Again, it’s best to do this in the tub or shower. Expect a shake or two or three. That’s fine.

Golden Retrievers dry off fast. Their coats were made for the water, so it’s not an issue to let your Golden Retriever dry off naturally inside. You can blow dry your Golden, BUT if you do so, keep it brief and keep it at a low heat setting. 

A blow dryer that is too hot and left on the dog for too long can cause heatstroke. Yes, that’s true.

Dog’s sweat only through their paws and pant to regulate body heat. Often, their cooling mechanism is not sufficient to keep up with the heat of a too warm and prolonged blow-drying. 

I wrote a detailed article on what temperatures are too hot for a Golden Retriever. The article discusses the causes and signs of heatstroke and what to do. Take a few minutes, if interested, to read that article found here: Golden Retrievers In Hot Weather: Keeping Them Cool.

Alternately, if you want to air-dry your Golden Retriever, that is fine. We forgo the blow dryer for the air-dry option. Golden Retrievers are made for the water, so why not let them dry off the way nature intended. If you give them a good towel dry, they will dry off quite quickly. 

If the weather is cold outside, allow them to dry off inside. Or, this might be the one instance when blow-drying might be warranted but be careful again of the heat setting. 

If you’re interested in when it’s too cold for your Golden Retriever (and how to keep it safe in the winter), consider reading this article: Winter Safety for Golden Retrievers: What’s Too Cold?

Oh, and expect your Golden Retriever to roll around in the grass and dirt again shortly after a bath. It’s a natural thing dogs do to get a more “natural” scent back on them. 

What if My Golden Retriever Is Afraid of the Bath?

Even though most Golden Retrievers love water, being bathed is not the same as playing in a lake. Just like your child may enjoy time in the pool but hate bath time, your Golden Retriever might be similar. 

As a whole, the earlier the age you can get your Golden Retriever accustomed to bathing, the better chance that it will be less afraid. It is also essential to remain calm, patient, and understanding and make the experience as positive and fun as possible. Use treats to reward your dog for a job well done.

So, rule one in bathing your Golden Retriever is ALWAYS keeping it positive. Keeping the interaction as positive as possible will ensure that your dog’s anxiety levels remain as low as possible. 

To keep bathing positive, have a helper available. It’s always easier with a second person. One person does the bathing while the other acts as a calming presence to pet and calm the dog while reassuring them. 

Two is better than one – consider a “helper” when bathing your Golden.

Treats are a great way to make the experience positive, so have some of on hand and reward generously before, during, and after, especially while your dog is relaxed and calm. The goal is to teach the dog, “Hey, this isn’t so bad, and there’s nothing to fear.” 

Don’t be afraid to get wet. Get in there and have fun. If you’re having fun and not tense, that energy will translate to your Golden Retriever. Losing your temper, yelling, or aggressively restraining or handling your dog is almost guaranteed to make your Golden Retriever fear bath time. 

Consider a rubber mat if bathing in the tub or shower. Often the dog can not stand firmly in a porcelain tub or a shower with tiles. A rubber mat prevents slipping and feeling unbalanced and uneven. 

And don’t forget a lot of “good boys” or “good girls.” Reassure, reassure and reassure. Talking to your dog in a gentle and reassuring voice is one of the best things you can do to keep it feeling that there is nothing to be fearful of. 

Giving Your Golden Retriever a Bath

It is essential to bathe your Golden Retriever to ensure they stay clean and do not get too smelly over time. However, the key is not to wash unless the dog needs it.

Most often, you will be able to tell (or smell) when it’s time to bathe your Golden. Remember, though, with Golden Retrievers, less is more, so refrain from bathing unless the dog needs it. 

Here are a few final tips when bathing your Golden Retriever. The last tip is especially important and often neglected.

  • Do you use a gentle shampoo made for your Golden Retriever
  • Don’t use dish soap or human shampoos, or other commercial cleaners. 
  • Do a brush before bathing to remove excess hair and dirt. 
  • Don’t get water into the ears, the nose, or the eyes. 
  • Do spot clean your Golden Retriever regularly to keep baths to a minimum, such as rinsing off with water if dusy or after swimming.
  • Don’t over bathe your Golden Retriever. Every 4 to 8 weeks is a good range. 
  • Do check your dog for rashes, lesions, injuries, or parasites while bathing. Bathing is a perfect time to do a spot examination.

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