How to Bathe Your Dog
Have you ever had to wrestle your 60 lb. dog in the bath only to end up completely soaked with a wet mop of fur running around loose inside your house? Or maybe you have a teacup chihuahua who will sprint under the nearest furniture every time she sees you grab her shampoo bottle?
Yep… I’ve been there, too. In fact, I’m still there! My dog Leroy absolutely hates baths and gets terrible anxiety whenever I prepare to wash him. This is partly due to the fact that he despises water in any circumstance (rain, puddles, sprinklers… if he’s wet, he’s not happy). However, this is mainly because his owner neglected to give him enough positive experiences with water… *crickets*
Nonetheless, if there is anything I have learned through my research with top trainers here at NYP, it’s that consistency and creating positive associations are key aspects of any pet training. The best part? It’s never too late to start training your dog to have a better bath encounter. These tips will help puppies, adult dogs, rescues, seniors, and pups of any breed, background, or age. Keep reading to discover what steps you should take to give your dog a proper bath.
How often should your dog be bathed?
Answers to this question depend on breed, coat type, activity level, medical necessities, and skin sensitivity. Consider each of those aspects to figure out the best routine and equipment for your dog’s fur. Chemicals used to clean the skin can be harsh and drying, so keep track of your pet’s grooming routine to avoid overbathing. Consult your veterinarian for the most accurate answer.
In general, you can refer to these guidelines from dogtime.com:
- “Bathing once a month works for most dogs.
- Dogs with oily coats, like Basset Hounds, may need bathing as frequently as once a week.
- Many short-haired breeds with smooth coats, such as Beagles and Weimaraners, do just fine with less frequent baths. Short-coated Basenjis are fastidious in their personal hygiene and rarely need a bath.
- Breeds with water-repellent coats, such as Golden Retrievers and Great Pyrenees, should be bathed less often so as to preserve their natural oils.
- Dogs with thick, double coats, such as Samoyeds, Malamutes, and other Northern breeds, do best with fewer baths and a lot of extra brushing, which gets rid of loose, dead hair and helps distribute natural oils that keep your dog’s skin and coat healthy.”
Where should you bathe your dog?
If your dog can fit, the kitchen sink is a great option. If not, you can use your bathtub instead. You can also use a shower and a detachable nozzle. Be careful that your dog doesn’t get their paw stuck in the drain, especially with small dogs. There are also portable doggy tubs that you can purchase. In a pinch, you can use an outside hose, but make sure the weather is pleasant and warm. One cold bath is still enough to create a negative association with bathing/water. Furthermore, washing your dog outdoors gives them the perfect opportunity to get dirty all over again!
How do you bathe a dog?
1. Brush your dog. You should always brush your dog before you wet their fur. If there are mats or tangles, those areas will retain moisture that will likely irritate your dog’s skin. This step will also help to loosen dirt, dead skin and loose fur to be washed away.
2. Use gentle pressure and lukewarm water. Your skin is very different from your dog’s. Theirs can burn easily, so dogtime.com recommends that your dog’s bath water “never be hotter than what you’d run for a human baby.” You should also keep your dog’s size in mind. Large breeds should have an even cooler bath to prevent overheating.
3. Maintain a calm demeanor. Some dogs will always hate baths. Nonetheless, you should always try to create the most pleasant experience possible for them. Talk to them in calm, short phrases for reassurance. Avoid displays of irritation or forceful tactics.
*Bonus Tip! Use a smear of peanut butter (or doggy puree/paste/wet food) on the wall of your bathtub to keep your dog entertained and distracted while you proceed with their bath.
4. Use shampoo for dogs. Never use people shampoo on your dog. It can be extremely drying for their skin and may cause irritation. Use a shampoo designed for dogs that will complement their coat. Gently lather your dog in shampoo. Be cautious around the head, ensuring that no soap gets in their eyes.
5. Thoroughly rinse. Completely rinse all shampoo from your dog’s fur. Any remaining soap residue can aggravate the skin once dry. If you don’t have a nozzle/hose, use a cup or bucket to rinse hard-to-reach areas.
6. Air-dry, use a towel or a dog dryer. Dry your dog with a towel or let them air dry. You can also use a dog dryer, but don’t try using a human blow dryer. Just like with hot bath water, air from a human hair drier can be damaging to your dog’s skin. It’s better to have a damp dog that takes a bit longer to dry than a dried-out ball of dandruff fluff for a pet!
7. Praise your dog. When the bath is over, spoil your dog with well-deserved praise and play. They will probably have a burst of energy following their wash, so let them use that to express their annoyance with bath time through an exhilarating game of fetch, chase, or tug-of-war. This will also help to reinforce the idea that the bath isn’t all that bad.
There’s no way to guarantee that your dog will ever be okay with baths. Some dogs just do not like water; that will never change. But you can practice creating positive associations with water that will encourage a more comfortable bath time for both of you. Always use a dog-safe shampoo and handle your pet with care. Record how frequently you bathe your dog and don’t dry out their skin. If you simply cannot get your dog to tolerate a bath, it might be time to visit a professional groomer. They are trained to care for animals and do so daily! They also have the finest tools to work on our furry friends.
Thank you to the following sources: