Abstract Staphylococcal pyoderma occurs commonly in atopic dogs. Some studies have suggested that adherence of staphylococci to corneocytes of atopic dogs and humans is higher than to corneocytes of healthy individuals. This hypothesis and possible differences resulting from the presence or absence of pyoderma, the severity of pruritus or the effect of treatment or gender, were studied. Adherent bacteria (Staphylococcus intermedius) were quantified by computerized image analysis on corneocytes collected from healthy or atopic dogs using double-sided adhesive tape. The adherence of S. intermedius to the corneocytes of atopic dogs was significantly greater than to those of healthy dogs (P = 0.005). Furthermore, adherence was significantly greater in dogs with high levels of pruritus compared to those with low scores. No significant differences were found between atopic dogs with no history of pyoderma, atopic dogs with a history of pyoderma and atopic dogs with pyoderma at the time of sampling (P = 0.068), suggesting that factors other than adherence are necessary for clinical pyoderma to develop. Treatment did not generally influence the adherence of S. intermedius to corneocytes of atopic dogs and there was no gender difference in adherence in either healthy or atopic dogs.