How to Bathe a Doberman: Bathing Schedule and Guide

Doberman Getting a Bath

The Doberman Pinscher is a breed that really does offer quite a lot of perks for their owners. Dobermans are some of the best protection dogs in the world and are known for their intelligence, trainability, and loyalty. However, hidden in their course, short-haired coats is possibly one of the best perks of the breed; the ability to stay clean for relatively long periods of time.

How often should you bathe a Doberman Pinscher? For most Dobermans, a bath every 6 to 8 weeks will be plenty. However, the frequency of bathing should be adjusted based on your dog’s outdoor activity levels.

Doberman Bathing Schedules

Surprisingly, how often you should be bathing your Doberman is not an easy question to answer. Every authority on the topic of Dobermans will likely give a slightly different answer. But after owning multiple Dobermans over the years in the real world, and in an average family environment, I feel that I can confidently give the answer to this that seems to hold true for the majority of family Dobermans.

The below schedules should offer you a general guideline on how often you should bathe your Doberman. However, it’s worth noting that there are a large number of Doberman owners who only bathe their dogs when it’s needed due to a particularly dirty play day, or some other irregular reason. Owners who have allergic reactions to their Doberman may also want to bathe their dog more often to reduce skin flakes and shedding.

In other words, you don’t have to stick to any schedule if you don’t want to. Dobermans are clean dogs with short fur that doesn’t hold onto dirt very easily, so you can get away with this approach. But for those who like to have a general guideline, the below bathing schedules should give you an idea of how often to bathe your dog.

Doberman Puppies

It’s common for a Doberman puppy to get their first bath at around six to ten weeks of age. This is usually done by the breeder or soon after a new owner brings home their new puppy. They shouldn’t receive another bath until they are well over twelve weeks of age unless it’s an absolute necessity.

If you must bathe a puppy under 12 weeks of age, make sure you use nothing but very mildly warm water—almost room temperature. Coldwater will put a lot of unnecessary stress on them, while water that’s too warm could cause irritation to their sensitive skin. Also, working the shampoo into the dog’s coat should be done gently by hand on puppies this young.

For puppies older than 12 weeks, you can follow the following schedule:

Outdoor Activity Level Bathing Frequency
Light Once every 8 – 10 weeks.
Moderate Once every 6 – 8 weeks.
Heavy Once per month.

As you can see from the table above, puppies should be bathed fairly infrequently. This is because their skin is still very sensitive (much more than many other breeds) and the possibility of drying out your dog’s skin is higher at a younger age. Really, you should be bathing your Doberman puppy as infrequently, and with as mild of an approach, as possible.

Since a puppy’s skin can easily become overly dry, many owners will use various other techniques to clean their pup’s coat in between baths. A wipe down of the dog’s coat with an unscented baby wipe or just a damp microfiber towel will help more evenly distribute the natural oils in the dog’s coat and give them a gentle cleaning without the risk of drying out their sensitive skin.

Adult Dobermans

The official answer that many experts seem to fall back on for how often you should bathe a dog in general, is about once a month. If you want a simple answer that will work for everyone and every dog, that’s as close as you’ll get. However, bathing is another area where the Doberman breed is different than many other breeds.

Thankfully, Dobermans can very oven get by with fewer baths than this thanks to their short-haired coats that don’t hold onto dirt and debris very easily.

The biggest factor with Dobermans is their outdoor activity level. Dogs with a higher activity level outdoors will generally need more bathing.

Outdoor Activity Level Bathing Frequency
Light Once every 6 – 8 weeks (or less).
Moderate Once every 4 – 6 weeks.
Heavy Once every 2 – 3 weeks.

Of course, the above table is just a general guideline for your average adult Doberman that seems to have worked well for my Dobermans and others who I’ve helped in the past.

The basic, common-sense rule, is that anytime your dog gets filthy or smelly, it’s time to give them a bath. Believe it or not, some owners rarely have their dog’s venture outside and these dogs might require no more than one or two baths a year.

On the other end of the spectrum, you shouldn’t really ever wash your Doberman more than once every two weeks, unless they are undergoing a specific treatment recommended by a veterinarian. This is because Dobermans tend to have sensitive skin and it’s very easy to remove their natural oils, dry out their skin, and cause skin irritation.

Elderly Dobermans

The average lifespan for a Doberman Pinscher is ten to thirteen years. Therefore, these dogs are considered to be “seniors” after about the age of eight. An older Doberman can have different needs when it comes to the frequency of their bathing.

For Dobermans eight years of age or older, you can use the following schedule, depending on their needs.

Outdoor Activity Level Bathing Frequency
Light Once every 2 months.
Moderate Once every 4 – 6 weeks.
Heavy Once every 3 – 4 weeks.

In most cases, you won’t need to bathe an elderly Dobermans as often as a younger one. They’ll probably be less active and better at staying clean (something Dobermans love doing anyway). They’re also a bit more likely to suffer from skin irritations.

Of course, it’s a different story if your dog has any special health or skin related problems. Obviously, the advice of your vet should be followed closely in these cases.

How to Bathe a Doberman

Believe it or not, there is a unique way to bathe a Doberman that is different from bathing many other breeds. I know this is hard for most people to understand, but Anna Browning of Windsor Dobermans explained this concept in great detail in this DPCA article after she learned about this process during a dermatology lecture at the Western States Veterinary Conference.

The main issue is the Doberman’s sensitive skin and propensity for allergic reactions to various compounds that are not a problem for most other dogs. Because of this, there is a specific way to wash a Doberman to make sure they are thoroughly cleaned, oils evenly distributed in their coat, and to minimize the chance of a reaction.

Items You'll Need to Bathe Your Doberman

What you’ll need:

  • Three towels.
  • Leash.
  • Two large cotton balls (optional).
  • Handheld spray head (optional, but very helpful).
  • Hypoallergenic or PH balanced dog shampoo.
  • One or two microfiber cloths.

My list of specific brands and products I use and recommend for bathing can be found here.

It’s a good idea to make sure everything is within reach while bathing your dog, especially if they aren’t used to being bathed and may react negatively to it. For this reason, it’s a good idea to try to work quickly and avoid turning your back on the dog.

You may want to get a second person to assist you in bathing your Dobie to help calm the dog and make sure he (or she) does not try and jump from the bathtub and make a mess or get hurt in the process.

Step One: Preparing the Water and the Dog

My hand checks the water temperature form the spray head.

It’s good to run the water beforehand for the dog to see since running water will scare some dogs. Get them used to it a bit before trying to bathe them if they aren’t already.

Make sure the water is at approximately room temperature. This is one big difference when bathing Dobermans. Do not bathe your dog in warm water. The reasoning for this is that warm water will open your dog’s pores and increase the chances of a reaction to the shampoo you’re using. Keeping the temperature room temperature avoids this issue.

“Do not bathe your Doberman in warm water. Room temperature water is ideal for the Doberman.”

John Walter (DobermanPlanet.com)

A showerhead can be used, but keep it turned down to a low-pressure setting. If your tub has a slick surface that might cause your dog to stumble during bath time, lay down a towel first to provide some traction.

Now place a leash on your dog to help you control him and place him in the tub. Take a minute to make sure they’re calm and relaxed in the tub, with the water running. Optionally, you may now place one large cotton ball in each ear. Be careful not to go too deep, just put the cotton ball in the pocket of the ear, far enough to prevent water from getting all the way in.

Step Two: Apply Shampoo and Lather

Wetting and lathering my Doberman with shampoo.

Wet the dog thoroughly and gently from head to toe. When applying the shampoo, use the minimal amount of shampoo recommended. You may want to dilute down the shampoo a bit with water before applying.

Diluting the shampoo is a great way to retain the cleaning properties while making it milder for a Doberman’s sensitive skin. With Dobermans, the shampoo can almost not be too mild.

Now start working in the shampoo with your fingertips starting from the head and working down throughout the rest of the body. Make sure you never use your fingernails to work in the shampoo, only the pads of your fingers.

Important Note: Do not rub the shampoo in against the grain of the hair. Always work in the shampoo in the same direction as the fur lays on your dog’s body.

Focus on These Areas:

  • Around the neck.
  • Underneath the chest.
  • Legs.
  • Paws.

Clean thoroughly underneath the dog, down their legs, and around their paws. These areas tend to get the dirtiest. Also, focus on the area around their neck as this is the only area on a Doberman where they have a second layer to their coat. Since the coat is thicker there, you will need to work the shampoo in a little more.

Be careful not to get too close to their eyes or mouth to avoid irritation. Check the bottle of the specific shampoo you’re using as some dog shampoos will require you to let the shampoo sit for between 1 to 4 minutes before washing it out.

Step Three: Rinse

Rinsing my Doberman during a bath.

Once you’re finished working the shampoo in, and you’re ready to rinse, do so with the same room-temperature water. Make sure you’re using a gentle water flow to do this.

Start from the head of the dog and rinse down the body taking care not to get water in the dog’s eyes, mouth, or ears. It’s important to make sure not to leave any shampoo behind since it can irritate the dog once it dries. So rinse more than you think you need to.

When you’re done rinsing you can go ahead and remove the cotton balls from the ears.

Step Four: Drying and Brushing

Using a towel to dry my Doberman after his bath.

Luckily, the Doberman’s coat holds very little water. So drying is pretty simple; start by simply running your hands over their coat with medium pressure. Your hands will act as a squeegee and be able to get most of the water out from their coat. Then use a towel to gently rub their coat (making sure to go with the grain of the hair). After ten seconds or so, their coat should be fairly dry.

“Using a brush with long, sharp, or stiff bristles on your Dobie’s coat immediately after a bath may irritate the skin. I prefer to use a microfiber cloth and simply wipe down the dog’s coat.”

– John Walter (DobermanPlanet.com)

Many owners like to take the time immediately after a bath to brush their dog. I’ve found the best way to do this gently on a Doberman’s coat as to not irritate the skin is to simply use a microfiber cloth and rub in the direction the hair naturally lies. This helps to more evenly distribute the natural oils throughout their coat, reduce shedding by removing loose hair, and prevent irritating the skin.

If your Dobie suffers from chronic dry skin, this would be a good time to apply a hydrating spray to the dog’s coat, if you choose to do so.

Giving a Doberman Puppy Their First Bath

When you give a Doberman puppy their first bath, it should be a very limited bath.

Your main goals for your puppy’s first bath should be:

  1. Acclimating your puppy to the bathing process.
  2. Provide a very light and gentle cleaning as to not irritate their skin.

A new puppy is easily frightened by new experiences that are very different from what they are used to. For this reason, you really should focus on gently acclimating your pup to the bathing process in a non-frightening way.

Here are some things you can do to help acclimate your puppy to the bathing process:

  • If bathing in a bathtub, put a towel down inside to provide extra traction so your puppy isn’t falling while trying to stand up.
  • Use only a gentle flow of water, and avoid using a showerhead with a strong spray.
  • Let your puppy sit and watch the running water for a few minutes before putting them into the bathtub.
  • Show the puppy the water isn’t something to be scared of by gently playing with the water using your hands for a few minutes before the bathing begins.
  • As you begin wetting your pup, start with their feet and progress to their back. Keep the water flow away from their face.
  • Use a wet washcloth to clean near the face. Avoid pouring water directly onto their face.

The cleaning itself should also be about as gentle as possible because a Doberman puppy has very sensitive skin that is easy to irritate. Irritated skin on a young puppy can cause red bumps, itching, dryness, and other discomfort. These are things you definitely want to avoid if you’re trying to keep your pup as comfortable as possible while they get acclimated to their new home.

Here are some things you can do to help make sure your puppy’s skin does not get irritated from their first bath:

  • Don’t use a strong shower head or nozzle to clean your pup.
  • Keep the water as close to room temperature as possible. Overly warm water will open the pores of your dog’s skin and increase the chances of an adverse reaction to the shampoo.
  • Use a gentle shampoo that is safe for your puppy. I have recommendations available for shampoos and other bathing gear on my Best Hygiene and Grooming Products page.
  • Avoid using a brush. Even the most gentle of brushes can cause irritation on a young Doberman puppy. Instead, use a wet washcloth and give their coat a wipe-down. Make sure to wipe with the direction the fur naturally grows on their coat.
  • Don’t use human shampoos, adult dog shampoos, flea shampoos, or any product with harsh chemical additives.

As mentioned before, a puppy usually doesn’t need a full bath until at least twelve weeks of age, and they shouldn’t be put on a standard bathing schedule until three months of age. As for location, a large bathtub is probably the safest and most comfortable place for a first bath.

Bathing a Doberman in Heat

In general, bathing a dog in heat does not present any real problem. You can use the same methods that you would normally use, but you should try to be a little extra gentle with your dog. She is probably a little more sensitive right now, so take that into account.

There is likely to be some dried blood around the vaginal area, so make sure to get rid of that during the bathing. This area is also probably going to be swollen and tender, so proceed with care and caution. A female Doberman can sometimes be quite feisty when her boundaries are violated or if she’s in one of her moods, so be cautious not to overly irritate your dog.

You may want to allow your dog to sit in warm water for a while, as this is known to relieve the cramping and bloating that is often associated with this phase of the reproductive cycle. But keep in mind that warm water will open up pores of the skin, making skin irritation more likely. So avoid this if your dog has sensitive skin. And if you do decide to do this, do it at the end of the bath after all the shampoo is rinsed away and don’t brush your dog after.

Bathing Too Often

This might surprise you, but Dobermans are known for having sensitive skin, and too much bathing can actually be bad for them. If your dog is washed too often, their hair and skin will be stripped of natural oils that help to protect them from damage. This leads to dry skin, increased shedding, hair loss, and all kinds of other problems.

Surprisingly, certain colors of Dobermans are more prone to these skin and hair issues than others. Below is a list of the Doberman colors from the most likely to suffer from skin and hair sensitivity related issues to the least likely.

Doberman Colors Most Likely to Suffer From Skin and Hair Problems

  1. White (or albino)
  2. Blue and Rust
  3. Fawn and Rust
  4. Red and Rust
  5. Black and Rust

If you want to learn more about the various colors of Doberman and their unique characteristics, see my article on all the Doberman Types and Colors here.

Dobermans as a whole are a little more vulnerable to skin and hair problems than most other breeds, partially due to their short coats. One example of this is a condition called follicular dysplasia. Researchers have determined that this breed is at an increased risk of developing this condition, which can cause significant hair loss. Often this condition can be worsened by over-bathing once your Doberman has it.

“When in doubt, try bathing your Doberman less often. They’re generally clean dogs and it’s common for owners to bathe their Dobermans too frequently. This is especially the case if they are suffering from dry skin or dandruff.”

– John Walter (DobermanPlanet.com)

Of course, there are some rare cases that require you to bathe your Doberman more than usual. For instance, allergies and skin conditions might cause a dog to require more bathing (or less). Color Dilution Alopecia (CDA) is common in the diluted Doberman colors (the fawn and blue colors), and a canine dermatologist might recommend more frequent bathing with special shampoos or creams to treat the symptoms of CDA.

Some other allergies and skin conditions might also mean you’ll need to use a special shampoo or other product during bathing. If your Doberman has any particular health problems (especially skin and hair problems), you should definitely ask your vet or, even better, a canine dermatologist about your dog’s specific issues.

Recommended Products

There are a lot of herbal shampoos and conditioners on the market that might contain anything from lavender to watermelon. If you go with one of these, test it on a small area of your dog’s exposed skin. If you see a rash, redness in the next few hours or day, throw it away. When there are random fruits and plants in your shampoo, there is a greater chance of an allergic reaction.

Many Doberman owners who have dogs with very sensitive skin (not uncommon for this breed) like to use oatmeal-containing shampoos to help soothe the skin and provide some relief. Typically though, if your dog has sensitive skin, less bathing is a better place to start as that will resolve many dry skin issues.

Some owners of other breeds like to use leave-in conditioners on their dog but this isn’t necessary for a Doberman. With such short hair, there just isn’t a need for this.

I’m always testing shampoo’s, brushes, and other bath products to find what works best. I think I’ve narrowed it down pretty well to just the best items for this breed currently out there. Feel free to see my list of products I recommend for Dobie bathing here: Best Hygiene and Grooming Products for Dobermans.

Washing a Doberman’s Bedding

This one will vary a lot according to your dog’s habits. If your dog doesn’t spend much time outside, then this can be done pretty infrequently. If you have a particularly lazy, couch-potato Doberman who spends most of their time in the house, then this can be done fairly infrequently.

If you have a Tasmanian-devil Doberman who’s running and digging outside, then you may need to do this quite often. In general, just wash the bedding when it appears soiled, discolored, or has any bad odors coming from it. Pretty simple.

Below is a general guideline for how frequently you should consider washing your Doberman’s bedding as it related to their level of outdoor activity.

  • Light Outdoor Activity – Wash monthly.
  • Moderate Outdoor Activity – Wash every 2 to 3 weeks.
  • Heavy Outdoor Activity – Wash weekly.

Obviously, if your dog has any “accidents”, or tracks any mud in and onto their bedding, then you’ll need to wash it immediately.

Also, it’s good practice to avoid using dryer sheets in the dryer with your dog’s bedding since these leave chemicals and harsh smells in the bedding (harsh to the dog anyway). This can make them uncomfortable at night or even irritate their skin.

Final Thoughts

In my experience, the biggest mistake made by new Doberman owners is believing that they need to bathe their dogs too often. Remember, Dobermans are naturally very clean dogs who like to stay that way, and they’re good at it!

Many Doberman owners won’t bathe their Doberman for many months at a time without any issues. A simple, quick wipe down with a baby wipe from head to food on occasion is usually more than enough to keep them clean, happy, and their coat looking good.

Simply put, Dobermans have a single layer coat that consists of short, thick hairs that simply don’t hold onto dirt very easily. They also just instinctually prefer avoiding dirty situations. So there’s no reason to go crazy with bathing your Doberman unless there are special circumstances that make it necessary such as a vet’s recommendation or when they’ve had an exceptionally dirty play day.

Related Questions

What product should I use to reduce Doberman shedding? Supplementing your Doberman’s diet with omega fatty acids and giving him a weekly wipe-down with a damp microfiber cloth will help reduce shedding and improve the overall health of his coat.

What’s the best way to reduce dandruff on a Doberman? Ensuring your Doberman is not having an allergic reaction to something in their environment, diet supplementation with omega fatty acids, and a weekly wipe down of the dog’s coat with a baby wipe will greatly reduce dandruff levels for most Dobermans.

What’s the best way to moisturize a Doberman’s skin? The best way to moisturize a Doberman’s skin is to ensure a proper diet with plenty of omega fatty acids, use a gentle oatmeal shampoo, and consider supplementing with vitamin E. Seek a veterinary dermatologist for a personalized plan for your dog.

John Walter

I'm the founder of Doberman Planet. I live in the Sacramento area of California and love spending quality time with Cooper, my 6-year-old Doberman Pinscher.

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