bathing a dog

8 Tips For Bathing Your Dog

How to Give Your Dog A Bath

Are you comfortable giving your dog a bath? As pet parents we should all take an active part in this basic step to dog care.  Bathing and grooming adds to the overall health of your dog. 

The benefits of bathing can include cleaning the skin and coat which helps to remove loose hair, scale and debris and improve the hair coat’s shine.

Working with your dog to make sure they are not stressed or have fear associated with grooming and bathing is a critical step.

How often should I bathe my dog?

Baths can do more than simply make your dog smell better.  Most dogs will benefit from an occasional bath as part of basic hygiene.  Regular baths can reduce itching or treat skin conditions and are part of an overall routine to keep your dog healthy.  Depending on your dogs’ breed and any health issues they may have, time between baths can vary greatly. 

Speak with your dog’s veterinarian for a specific recommendation, but for an otherwise healthy dog, once a month (not including professional grooming appointments) can be a good frequency.  Keep in mind too much bathing will remove essential oils on the skin, making their skin itchy, and be damaging to the skin.

Prepare your dog

If you are bringing a puppy into your home, you can be the first influence on their exposure to grooming. That is the best case.  However, many of us adopt older pets, myself included. No matter the age of your pet you will want to be a calming presence for your dog and help your dog learn to associate bathing with positive rewards, treats and or toys they love

Do not rush so they can feel comfortable and relaxed with the process. Grooming and bathing should be approached calmly.  Be sure to give your dog an abundance of praise and reward them as you go.  Do they like peanut butter or squeeze cheese?  You can smear that on the side of the bathtub to keep them pre-occupied and enjoying a favorite treat while you do the work.

Training Tips

  • Reward & Praise. Introduce them slowly to the bathing area place toys in the tub and gently pat and touch all the areas you will be bathing. Practice lifting paws as well.  Use treats that are most enticing and reserve these high value treats for bath time, nail trims, ear cleaning, ect.
  • Promote calm behavior. Continue to reward & praise when your dog allows you to manipulate the body for cleaning. The goal is to help make the experience pleasant for your dog and associate bathing with positive things.  
  • Introduce bath equipment:  Hand shower adapter, shampoo containers, towels and the very important non-slip mat. You can start to run the water as well.  Introducing your dog to items for bathing slowly and in a positive, calm manner is the best way for a positive outcome.
  • Reduce energy before the bath. Take your dog on a walk prior to bathing.  This will help expend some energy and help them to relax during the bath.

Now you are ready to bathe your dog.  With positive associations to the bathing location and equipment you can bath your dog, with continued praise.  Go slow and reward with their favorite treats.

Prepare Bathing Supplies

Have everything you need for bathing gathered before you bring you dog into the bathroom.

  • Non-slip mat
  • Cotton balls
  • Treats
  • Towels for the floor (catch drips and easy clan up) & absorbent drying towel 
  • Brush
  • Shampoo & conditioner

Types of Shampoo

Choose a shampoo that is formulated for dogs.  Your veterinarian can help you select the right product.  If your dog is having skin issues it is doubly important to have your dog checked by their vet to properly diagnose any condition and prescribe the correct treatment, that may include a medicated shampoo.

The pH of a dog’s skin is different in humans.  You should never use human shampoo to wash your dog. After shampooing, you can also apply a gentle rinse-out conditioner which helps minimize dryness.

Where to Bath Your Dog

dog getting a bath
A bathtub is the ideal place to bathe your dog.

Pet parents have a few choices when it comes to bathing their dog: outdoors, sink, bathtub, dog tub, or self-service bathing location.

Depending on the size of your dog, the bath tub is the ideal place.  Petit dogs, the less than 10-pound variety can do nicely in a large sink (if they are properly restrained or are not at risk for jumping).

Some pet parents will choose to bathe outdoors.  As you cannot control the temperature of a garden hose, I don’t recommend it.  If clean-up is pushing you towards outside, I highly recommend a self-service grooming facility.  They supply most of what you will need and your bathroom remains clean.

8 Quick Tips on Bathing:

  1. Brush – always brush your dog first.  Brushing removes excess hair, loose dirt and removes mats or tangles.
  2. Eyes & Ears – protect both. Place one cotton ball in each ear to prevent water from getting into the ear canal.  Wash from the neck down to avoid the eyes.
  3. Water – use warm water. A dog’s normal body temperature is a bit warmer than ours. It should not be too hot or cold. Wet their fur starting at the neck and work towards the tail.
  4. Shampoo – after the body is a wet, chest to tail, apply dog specific shampoo between the shoulder blades and work towards chest and legs.  If running low more to above the tail and work down the hind legs and across belly.
  5. Treat – be sure to reward with praise and treats as you go.  Positive reinforcement makes regular bathing a happy experience.
  6. Rinse – gently rinse with warm water and ensure all shampoo is rinsed.  Be sure to double-check the underside (between front and hind legs and belly as shampoo rinse to these areas.
  7. Conditioner – a dog specific conditioner will leave the coat even more soft and can be applied at this time.  Use the same technique as for shampooing & Rinsing.
  8. Drying – after final rinse use a moisture wicking towel to get as much of the water off your dog as possible.  It is best NOT to use a blow dryer, but if you choose to, keep on a low setting and plenty of distance from the dog.

As regular bathing plays an important role in your dog’s overall health you have the opportunity to spend one-on-one time to not only bond with your dog but assist in maintain their health.

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