Golden Retriever Bathing – What You Should Know

Written by Cory Eckert

All dogs need baths, it should be part of their grooming routine; but are all dogs the same in how often should they should get a bath?  

Do you know the who, what, when, where and whys? For those who have or will be getting a Golden Retriever the answers are important . . . 

Not all dogs are alike, and yes, goldens are a special breed who have special needs.  Let’s look at a few things before getting to all the important stuff!

The WHO - Golden Retrievers are “water dogs” and are known for their long double coat. They are happy being clean and tidy indoors as well as being wet and dirty outdoors.

WHAT to do? Occasional bathing is going to be necessary to help keep your golden retriever happy and healthy. Bathing your golden should be just another task to check off in the grooming routine you set for your pet.

WHEN to bathe? There are different thoughts on when to bathe your Golden Retriever, but the basis for the different thoughts is this… You 100% CAN bath a golden retriever too often. Be careful you are not doing more harm than good by irritating their skin, washing away important oils, and causing painful skin issues down the road.

It’s also important to mention here that you should start getting your pup use to a bath early on. The more comfortable they are with the routine, the easier it will be when they are older.  

WHERE to bathe?  Where to bathe your golden retriever is something only you can answer. Location, space, and physical access are all things you will need to take into account. 

The most common place would be at home in the shower or tub, maybe a sink for a pup.  However, if you are out and about, and your dog gets muddy – I would say the closest hose!

If you are uncomfortable doing this at your home, look for reputable groomers in your area with the proper pet grooming setup to make the job easier.

WHY bathe?  Every dog needs a bath, it’s part of a healthy grooming routine and it helps keep them from smelling like a pig pen. 

Some dogs need to bathe more often than others depending on their lifestyle and environmental factors.

Now that we briefly touched on the who, what, when, where and why – let’s look at some specifics you should know more closely.

It’s always best to start introducing bath time to your pup as early as possible.  More than likely it will be at about six (6) weeks, if it is needed.


Guidelines to Bathing a Golden Retriever Puppy:

For the sake of bathing, we’ll consider a golden retriever a puppy if they are 9 months of age or younger.

  • Give your pup a bath when it needs one. Your nose will know!
  • Limit continuous baths to prevent drying out of the skin. No more than once per month unless you absolutely need to.
  • Brush daily to keep coat clean and healthy, as well as reduce the number of baths needed.
  • Keep the house warm and use warm water  to prevent chills.
  • Do “spot” cleaning instead of full on baths to prevent chills when puppies are under 16 weeks old.
  • When they are a little older, bathe them in the sink with warm water.
  • Do not use dish soap or human shampoo, buy puppy or dog shampoo safe for puppies.
  • Do not use flea shampoo on pups younger than 12 weeks of age.
  • Look for oatmeal or sensitive skin formula shampoos to help prevent skin irritation.

Pro Tip: Keep a towel just for your pup! If you don't want to ruin your own family towels, it's a great idea to keep a towel around just for your golden.

Here's the one we have for our Annie!

You can introduce a “fake” bath, using only water, at around six to eight weeks to get your pup accustomed to the process and get over any fear.  You can give your pup a “fake” bath every two to three weeks until you feel they are comfortable with the process. Hopefully by then your pup will either love getting a bath or at least tolerate it pretty well.

Guidelines for Bathing an Older Golden Retriever:

Guidelines for bathing an older golden retriever are very similar to a puppy with a few key differences. Let’s look at the guidelines now...

  • Brush your Golden Retriever regularly for a healthy coat and to reduce tangles and mats. How to Remove Mats
  • Bathe your golden only when necessary. No more than once monthly is recommended.
  • Giving baths too frequently will cause dryness and irritation to your golden’s skin.
  • Avoid bathing your pet if you just applied flea medicine.
  • Bathe your pet with warm water.
  • Place a towel or anti-slip mat on the bottom of the tub/shower so your dog will not slip.
  • Have the warm water running before placing your dog in.
  • Start bathing your dog from the front to the back, starting at the head.
  • Do not pour water on your dog’s face*; use a washcloth to clean the face and ear area.
  • Do not get water in your golden’s ears**; some recommend putting cotton balls in your golden retrievers ears before bath time to prevent water from getting in. Taking Care of Your Golden Retrievers Ears
  • Golden’s have double coats so you will need to saturate the fur so that it is completely wet before adding shampoo. This is harder than it sounds, when you think your dog is wet all the way to the skin, soak them some more!
  • Scrub clean, starting from the front to the back then rinse thoroughly getting all of the shampoo out. It’s very important to rinse clean to avoid skin irritation.
  • While in the tub/shower, use a towel to dry your golden before lifting/getting out.
  • Have a towel on the floor so your dog will not slip and continue to dry the fur.
  • Have doors to room shut, watch out – your golden will shake off whatever water is left and you will wear a good portion of it.
  • Some may choose to blow dry their golden’s hair to make sure they are completely dry (use if part of grooming routine). This also helps prevent hot spots if your golden has shown a tendency to get them from having a damp coat.
  • Double check the ears to make sure there is no water and ears are dry.

*/** - Goldens are prone to ear infections, it is best to keep their ear canals free from water

Use an ear cleaning solution to properly clean your golden retrievers ears.

Bathing is part of a healthy grooming routine for you Golden Retriever.  Let’s look at what lifestyle or environmental reasons may influence the frequency in which you give your golden a bath.

  • Amount of time spent outdoors. If your golden loves the outdoors – rain or shine, the amount of dirt and mud, may influence the number of baths.

  • Water - Lakes, ponds, creeks.  Your golden is a “water dog” and more than likely would look forward to swimming in any available pond, lake or stream.  Frequent swimming could lead to a dirty and unpleasant smelling coat.

  • Type of living environment.  Those goldens living in the country (rural) will probably need a bath more frequently than a golden living in the city due to all the outdoors activities available.

  • Parasite issues.  This issue can be prevalent in the city or rural areas.  It is best to check with your vet or local websites to see if there is a parasite outbreak.  Frequent bathing and grooming may be needed to address this issue.

We have shared reasons why there may be an increase in baths for your Golden Retriever.  Here are a few reasons why bath time should be limited.

  • Too many baths can strip your golden of the natural oils or protective coating that gives your golden’s coat its sheen.

  • It may dry your dog’s skin, causing skin irritations, dandruff and possible infections

  • Some goldens react to even the mildest dog shampoo, this can cause dryness or skin irritations

Other than the reasons listed above, there is no clear-cut answer on when to give your golden a bath.  Some say once a month or every six (6) weeks, others say eight (8) weeks for an older dog and others say two (2) times a month if the weather is really hot, less when it’s colder. 

You are the best judge; you know what your Golden Retriever wants and needs and you have to live with them rather they stink or not!

Tips to Remember

  • Start your bathing routine when your dog is still a pup

  • Brush your pets coat frequently, this will reduce baths

  • Limit baths, bathe only when necessary to prevent stripping of natural oils, dry skin, and potential irritations

  • Do not use human shampoo or dish soap to bathe your dog

  • Bathe from front to back starting at the head, using warm water

  • Use a washcloth for the face and protect ears from water and possible ear infections

  • Wash and dry thoroughly due to your golden’s thick double coat

  • Be consistent and make sure to include bathing as part of your Golden Retrievers grooming routine

Did we miss anything? Comment below and give us your best bath time tips for your golden retriever!

About the author

Cory Eckert

Cory is the co-creator of and a life long dog enthusiast. From training livestock dogs as a child to working with obedience classes as an adult, it's hard to imagine Cory without a dog. Currently enjoying being a dog parent to Remi (a chocolate lab) and Annie (a golden retriever).