Bathing Your Dog: The Essential Guide
Most dog owners will be well aware that there are a number of responsibilities that come with owning a dog. Not only do you have to feed them a healthy, balanced diet and walk them at least once a day. You also have to take care of their grooming needs. Unlike cats, dogs do not spend half the day grooming themselves. In fact, dogs love nothing more than rolling around in smelly puddles and then you’re left with the mess to clean up!
If you are new to dog ownership then bathing your dog might be a daunting task. It needn’t be so scary though, with plenty of preparation and the right equipment, bathing your dog is going to be something both you and your pooch look forward to!
Take a look at our essential guide to bathing your dog here:
The key to a success dog bathing session is to be prepared. If this is something you plan to do last minute, with little to no preparation then prepare for a very stressed dog and chaos! Make sure you have plenty of large towels, a dog brush, cotton balls, shampoo, conditioner and of course, treats!
There are lots of different shampoos and conditioners on the market, so it’s worth doing your research. However, one thing we cannot stress more is that you should never, ever use human shampoo for a dog! Human shampoo contains far too many chemicals for dogs and can cause irritation to their skin.
Which Dog Shampoo Should I Buy?
If your dog has dry, itchy or sensitive skin then opt for a moisturizing shampoo containing natural ingredients such as honey, vitamin E and oatmeal. Avoid scented shampoos as these could irritate the dog’s skin further. The age of your dog is an important factor here too. If you have a puppy then you will need a shampoo specifically designed for puppies.
How whiffy is your dog? If the odor is bad then you might want to hunt down the best deodorizing shampoo on the market! No one wants a dog smelling like garbage!
Did you know that you can buy specific shampoo for dogs with lighter fur? If your dog has a lighter-colored coat then take a look at the numerous brightening shampoos available, as these add shine to their coat and reduce any yellowing of the fur.
The length of your dog’s fur is also a very important factor in choosing the right kind of dog shampoo. If your dog has a long coat and is prone to tangles, then buying a shampoo with added conditioner, or even better, a separate conditioner will make your life a lot easier when it comes to bathing your dog.
Prepare Your Dog Bath
One of the most important factors of dog bathing is preparation. A clean and well groomed dog will be healthier and your home will become a safer, cleaner environment too. The first thing that you will need to think about is location.
Where Should I Bathe My Dog?
There may be a number of different factors to take into consideration here. Firstly, is there fine weather outside? If it’s warm outside then this could give you the perfect opportunity to bathe your dog outside, minimizing any mess inside the house. You might also want to consider bathing your dog outside if your dog is extremely dirty too, anyone who has ever experienced a dog jumping into wet mud will know exactly what we’re talking about here! Another bonus to bathing your dog outside is that you won’t have to carry your dog (still thinking about that mud!) and you can use your garden hose set on a very low pressure.
Tip – always test the temperature of the water and if you choose to bathe your dog outside during the cooler months then you will need to fill a tub with warmer water.
If you choose to bathe your dog inside then ideally you will use your tub or a special dog tub. Never fill the tub and instead use the shower hose for safety reasons.
When you’ve chosen where to bathe your dog then you are ready to prep. Take your time, act calmly, so not to stress your dog. Place your shampoo and conditioner where you can reach it with one hand and line both the tub and the floor next to the tub with a non-slip mat or towel. Have a second towel on hand for when your dog is ready to be dried.
Tip: place a handful of tasty treats in your pocket so you can give the dog positive reinforcements and also lure them into the bath and back out again! If your dog is visibly distressed then you might want to consider bathing them outside where there is more space.
Now that you have everything prepared you are ready to take on the task of bathing your dog.
Let’s do this!
Unless washing is urgent, then the first thing that you should do at this stage is to give your dog a good brush first. This will help remove any tangles and it gives you a good opportunity to remove mats in the fur. At this stage it’s a good idea to place cotton wool inside your dog’s ears to prevent water getting into them and causing an infection. Do not place the cotton deep into the dog’s ear canal, just in the entrance of the ear.
Give your dog a treat and then move them to the dedicated bathing area in a calm manner. Positive praise at this stage reinforces their good behaviour. Test the water temperature and then start to wet your dog, starting from the neck and working your way to the chest and back and sides.
Never use the shower hose on your dog’s head, instead use a face cloth to gently wipe their face clean. Just use a little warm water (no shampoo!) and avoid their mouth, nose eyes and ears. Think of your dog like a baby when bathing them, as this will help you to stay calm and careful.
When your dog’s face is nice and clean you get then get to work with the shampoo. Squeeze a little amount into your hand and add to your dog’s coat, massaging into their skin and starting from the back and sides. Massage the underneath of your dog last as this area is particularly sensitive.
When finished, rinse the shampoo, ensuring there is nothing left on the skin, as this can cause irritation. Add a good hypoallergenic conditioner, leave on for a few minutes and then rinse again.
It’s now treat time!
After giving your dog a treat, it’s time to gently dry your dog with a large towel. In most circumstances it’s better to allow your dog to air dry. However, if they have a particularly shaggy coat and need a little help then use your hair dryer on its lowest and coolest setting.
How Often Should I Bathe My Dog?
Generally speaking, dogs don’t need to be bathed often, but this largely depends on the type of dog that you own and their individual needs. As a rule of thumb, dogs only need bathing if necessary. Which is to say, when they are dirty or have an unpleasant odor. All dogs have a normal ‘dog smell’ but if Rover has been rooting through the garbage or rolling in something he shouldn’t have, then a dog bath is essential! If your dog has a persistent bad odor then a trip to the vet is probably needed.
Bathing your dog can make their coat shine and smell amazing but if you bathe them too often then you’re likely to dry out their skin and cause irritation, so only bathe when necessary.
Tip: allowing your dog to swim will minimize any need for bathing as the water will act as a natural bath. Please make sure your dog only swims in shallow water and is supervised at all times.
How Can I Train My Dog To Enjoy Bathing?
It makes sense to train your dog to enjoy bath time. This ensures that they remain relaxed during the process and your life is easier too!
To encourage your dog to enjoy bathing you must first get them used to being handled. There are different rules with older dogs and rescue dogs but if you have a puppy then you can start this process young. Pet your dog regularly and pat them on different parts of their body, so they get used to being touched. Always give them a treat afterwards and give them plenty of praise.
Take your time and don’t start stroking them on their legs and stomach immediately. Start from the head and gently pat them on the chest, sides, back and shoulders. The next stage is to gently pat their legs and see if you can lift your dog’s paw. Use positive praise and treats!
Once your dog is used to being handled then you can slowly start to introduce them to the bathing equipment. Let them step into the bath when there is no water inside and use treats to praise them for their behaviour. Let them get familiar with the towels, buckets and shampoo bottles on a number of ‘dry runs’ and then when it comes to bathing day, nothing should feel unfamiliar.
There are a number of ways that you can familiarize your dog to the water.
Try running the tap when they are stood in the bathroom, or using the hose near them when you’re both out in the yard. The sole purpose of this activity is to get your dog used to these things and to not see them as a threat. The more familiar they are with the bathing process, the calmer they will be on the day.
How Do I Maintain A Healthy Dog?
After successfully bathing your dog, you are going to want to keep their coat looking and feeling healthy as long as possible.
How can you do this?
Although dogs do groom themselves, it’s not on the same level as cats and therefore they often need a little help. Make sure that you regularly brush your dog. Not only does this remove mats and knots but it distributes the natural oils and keeps your dog’s coat nice and healthy. It can also remove dirt and therefore minimize the need for dog bathing.
Did you know that dog brushing creates a positive relationship between dog and owner? That’s right, this is an important bonding experience too. How often you need to brush your dog depends on the breed and fur length but as a rule, brush whenever needed to maintain good coat condition.
Regularly check your dog’s paws and remove any debris from their footpads. Keep their nails trimmed but please ask advice before attempting this yourself as it can be very painful and dangerous if done incorrectly.
Get into a habit of checking your dog’s eyes, ears and teeth. If you suspect something isn’t ok then book an appointment to the veterinary clinic.
Your dog is your best friend and it’s your responsibility to keep them happy and healthy. Grooming and bathing a dog shouldn’t be a stressful experience. On the contrary, you can use this time for valuable dog/owner bonding time.
We understand that every dog is different and can present their own issues. We cannot stress how positive reinforcement and treats can help your dog to feel safe and calm during the bathing experience. Practice makes perfect and if it just isn’t working for you then feel safe in the knowledge that there are professional dog groomers out there that can happily bathe your dog for you if the challenge is too much!