Bathing your dog can be a bit tricky.
Not all dogs love water. Even the ones who do love water can dislike having their fur soaped and washed.
As hard as it is to resist those sweet puppy dog eyes, bathing your dog is a must. This post gives you and A-Z of the things you should know about bathing your dog.
Click on the links to jump on the topic you wish to read.
- Learn Good Dog Bathing Habits
- Bathing Your Dog Preparation
- Bathing Your Dog The Right Way
- Grooming Your Dog After A Bath
Learn Good Dog Bathing Habits
Bathing your dog isn’t that complicated but it’s not quite as simple as a shampoo and rinse.
Keeping your dog clean is one of the best ways to keep him healthy and free from parasites, but bathing your dog too often could also lead to illness and skin irritations.
It’s important to find a balance and develop good bathing habits.
There are four things to consider before bathing your dog:
- Your dog’s breed,
- Type of coat,
- And activities.
In this post, you’ll learn about important habits to establish about dog bathing.
How often should you bathe your dog?
For most dogs, a good bath once a month is more than enough.
There is usually no reason to bathe your dog more often than this, unless he or she smells really bad, or something out of the ordinary has happened.
Washing your dog too often affects the natural oils in the coat and skin – they dry up and the skin becomes irritated. A monthly bath is typically enough to keep a dog smelling pleasant. If you bathe him or her more than that, your dog may develop a skin irritation and scratch a lot.
Some dog breeds require more bathing than others
Although bathing your dog as little as possible is the best way to go, some dog breeds need more washing and grooming than others. For example a Poodle or Bichon Frise would require more baths than some smooth-coated dogs since their fur is curly and mats as the hair grows, or if it is neglected.
Dogs who go on outdoor adventures such as the Labrador Retriever only need a shampoo-less wash to remove mud and other things that may get stuck in his or her outer coat. It is not necessary, or advisable, to bathe them every time they get muddy.
Just make sure to brush your dog’s coat often. This will help keep him or her clean between baths.
While brushing is good for your dog’s skin and coat, your dog may also enjoy the rubbing and scratching of the brush!
If your dog has a skin infection of any kind, please take him or her to the vet before bathing as any chemicals in the shampoo could aggravate the condition.
My dog doesn’t really like baths. What should I do?
Bath time can be scary for dogs – especially those who aren’t used to it.
The best way to address this is to get him or her accustomed to bathing as young and as soon as possible.
To ease your dog’s bath time worries and make bathing your dog a positive experience, try the following:
- Place your dog in an empty tub.
- Do not fill it with water yet and speak to him or her in a soothing, calm voice.
- Give him a couple of treats or toys to play with. Giving treats and toys should help him associate bath time with something he loves doing.
- Slowly, work your way up to running warm water over his body.
- Every time you bathe your dog, give him or her a treat.
You can get a puppy as young as 5-weeks-old used to the bath. Getting your puppy to see bath time as a pleasant experience will make it easier for him to enjoy baths when older.
What shampoo should I use when bathing my dog?
Choosing the right shampoo is very important when bathing your dog.
A mild shampoo formulated especially for dogs is the best choice. Make sure that the dog shampoo you’re choosing for your dog has a neutral pH balance – around 7.
It’s also best to avoid artificial fragrances as these can irritate your dog’s skin.
Never use a human shampoo or detergents since they’re often too harsh for your dog’s skin. Dogs’ skin has a different pH balance than human skin, and using a human shampoo on your dog can disrupt the balance. A Disrupted pH balance can make your dog’s skin a breeding ground for bacteria, parasites, and viruses.
Oatmeal shampoo is a good choice for most dogs and if you’re not really sure what to pick, it’s a safe shampoo to start with.
If your dog is scratching, tea tree shampoo may help. It does improve some skin irritations but make sure to avoid getting it into the mouth as tea tree oil is toxic when consumed.
There are also some shampoos that can help prevent flea infestations such as those containing pyrethrin, pyrethrum, or citrus oil.
The best way to know which type of shampoo is best for your dog, consult with your vet.
What should I do with my dog’s anal sacs a bath time?
Unless you know how to properly express your dog’s anal sacs, it’s best to leave them alone.
Your dog’s anal sacs are the small sacs on his behind at the edge of his anus.
Some dog groomers do offer to “express,” or squeeze, the anal sacs during cleaning and grooming.
You can do this yourself if your vet approves and you know how to do it safely. Otherwise, leave them alone.
If you notice your dog’s anal sacs are inflamed or irritated, please take your dog to the vet.
Bathing Your Dog Preparation
Preparation is also important when bathing your dog.
We all know that things can get pretty wet and messy when bathing a dog, especially when he or she isn’t used to it. Preparing things in advance of the soaking wet battle is important.
1. Where should you bathe your dog?
If your dog is small, you can choose to give him or her a bath in the laundry or kitchen sink. Do note that the bottom of the sink can get slippery, so to make sure that your pup doesn’t slip, put a towel on the bottom of the sink.
For larger dogs, you’ll need a larger area. You can bathe larger dogs in showers, bathtub, or outside if it isn’t too cold. Tubs and showers can also get slippery. Use towels, a rubber mat, or nonslip adhesive pads at the bottom to help prevent your dog from slipping. Make sure to close the bathroom door if you use the bathtub to prevent the great wet dog escape.
If you choose to give your dog a bath outside or somewhere else, try to choose a confined location in case your dog gets anxious or upset during his bath and tries to escape. If you’re washing your dog in the garden a fenced area is best so your dog can’t run away.
2. Get your dog ready before you give him or her a bath
Before bathing your dog, prepping him is a good idea. Brush your dog’s fur thoroughly before getting him or her wet. This is especially important if your dog has a thick, shaggy, or double coat. Make sure to remove any tangles or matted areas too.
If your dog has any ticks, make sure to remove them first. You can either see the vet to have them removed or remove them yourself.
If your dog has sticky substances like paint, tar, or something else stuck in his fur, rub it off with petroleum jelly or vegetable oil and let it sit for 24 hours. Using a liquid dish soap may also help.
3. Trim your dog’s nails
If you dog’s nails are too long, you should trim them before you give him a bath as this will help keep him or her from accidentally scratching you in case he gets scared and panics.
Make sure not to cut your dog’s nails too short as it can cause bleeding and infection.
If you aren’t sure how to trim your dog’s nails, many groomers and veterinarians will do it for a small fee.
4. Make sure you have everything you need before bathing your dog
It is a good idea to gather all the things you need before washing your dog. You don’t want to be looking for supplies and trying to control your dog at the same time.
You will need towels, cotton balls, dog shampoo, treats, and a washcloth or sponge.
If you don’t have a hose, you will need a bucket or a dip for rinsing. Uncapping your shampoos and other bottles beforehand also helps.
If your dog doesn’t like baths very much and he or she tends to be nervous, you may want to have a helper. The helper can keep your dog steady while you do the washing.
5. Place cotton balls in your dog’s ear before washing
Putting cotton balls in your dog’s ears before washing him prevents water from getting inside the ear. When dogs’ ears get wet, they can develop ear infections.
Just make sure not to push the cotton balls too far down.
6. Take off your dog’s collar
Remove your dog’s collar before giving him or her a bath so you can get the neck area clean.
If you need a collar to keep your still dog while bathing him, you should use a nylon collar. Leather collars can shrink when wet, and could choke your dog.
Bathing Your Dog The Right Way
Washing a dog may sound easy, but bathing your dog the right way takes knowledge. Making it a pleasant experience for both you and your dog is essential.
Here’s how you should bathe your dog.
1. Make sure the water’s the temperature is just right
Just like humans, dogs are sensitive to hot water. Check the water temperature before you pour it on your dog. It should be warm, but never hot.
Cold water can give your dog a chill and bathing a dog with cold water is dangerous – especially for puppies.
2. Pour water on your dog
Once you have made sure the water temperature is perfect, it’s time wet your dog.
Wet your dog from the neck down to the tail. Make sure his coat is fully wet through. This can take a while for dogs thick coats.
If you’re using a hose or detachable showerhead, make sure the water pressure isn’t too high as it could startle him.
It’s not recommended that you wash your dog’s head or face because you can end up getting water inside the ears. Soap or shampoo can also get into your dog’s eyes and sting them.
If you’re using a bucket or pitcher, avoid pouring water over his head.
3. Apply and rub the shampoo all over your dog’s body
If your dog has thick or long coat, you may want to pre-mix some shampoo with water in a small cup to get an even lather throughout the coat. For dogs with smooth or short dogs, just pour a strip of shampoo down the body.
Gently massage the shampoo into his coat. It’s better not to use a washcloth or sponge to apply the shampoo. Use your bare hands instead. This way, you can check your dog’s body for any unusual bumps or inflammation in the skin.
Do not apply shampoo on your dog’s head or face. If your dog has a dirty face, just use a damp washcloth to gently wipe away any dirt.
If your dog has a very long coat, massaging the shampoo in the direction of the hair growth is a good idea because this will help prevent tangling.
4. Massage your dog’s body
To clean your dog’s body, massage the shampoo onto the whole body except for the head. Rub the armpits, stomach, tail and groin area, and paws as well.
Let the shampoo stay on your dog for as long as the instructions say. Some shampoos also contain mild flea repellents, and they may need to stay on for a certain period of time to be effective.
5. Clean your dog’s face
Wipe your dog’s face with a damp washcloth. Never use the same cloth to clean inside his ears because this can get the ears too wet and cause infection.
Some dogs have a skin infection on their chins called furunculosis, which looks like small pimples or red bumps. If your dog has it, check with your veterinarian on how to properly clean the area properly. he vet may suggest a disinfecting shampoo or ointment.
If dog has skin folds on the face, be sure to use the washcloth to clean in between them.
6. Rinse your dog’s body
Rinse your dog to wash the soap out of the fur until the water fur runs clear. It’s important to rinse all of the shampoo residue from your dog’s coat to avoid irritations and maintain pH imbalance.
Do note that rinsing a thick-coated dog may take a while.
Remember not to pour water over your dog’s head and face whether you’re using a hose or a pitcher, or bucket. Never wash your dog’s face with a hose or sprayer.
7. Dry your dog
After bathing your dog, make sure to dry him or her properly as well.
A highly absorbent microfiber towel, makes the drying your dog quicker though a regular bath towel will work just fine.
Lay the towel over your dog’s back and body and pat your dog dry.
If your dog has a long or curly coat, do not rub the towel against his or her body as this can cause matting.
Prepare yourself for a lot of splatters. Remember that it is a dog’s natural instinct shake himself dry.
To help your dog’s coat dry quicker, you can use a hair dryer. Just keep the heat setting on low or cool to avoid burning your dog. Also, never point a hair dryer at your dog’s face.
8. Comb your dog’s coat
If your dog has a long or shaggy fur, comb it out while wet to avoid it tangling. A detangling mist may also help.
9. Reward your dog with a treat after his bath
Rewarding your dog after a bath is a great idea to make sure your dog has positive associations with bath time.
By giving your dog a treat and praising him every time you wash him, you are helping him associate positive thoughts about bath time so he (and you) can enjoy the next one.
If your dog is nervous during baths, you may even give him a little treat during the washing process.
Grooming Your Dog After A Bath
Grooming your dog after a bath is essential to keep the coat, ears, and other parts of the body in good condition.
Wipe away your dog’s tear buildup
To avoid irritation and bacteria, it’s best to keep your dog’s eyes clean and wipe away the extra tear buildup.
You may use any of the following solutions to clean your dog’s eyes.
- Colloidal Silver – This it is safe to use around the eyes. It comes in spray or liquid drops form. Apply it to a clean cotton ball and wipe your pet’s eyes.
- Coconut Oil – Dabbing a small amount of coconut oil beneath the eyes where the tear stain often “tracks” can help keep the skin around your eyes from getting irritated.
- Tear Stain Cleansers – There are many tear stain cleansers and even pre-saturated pads on the market. These products are very easy to use. Just make sure that the product you buy for your dog is hypoallergenic and that it does not contain tylosin tartrate since this antibiotic is not approved for use on dogs or cats.
Some dog breeds like Poodles and Shih Tzus have a condition called distichiasis – a condition where the eyelashes grow inward instead of outward. This can cause eye irritation and excessive tearing.
Make an appointment with the veterinarian if you notice that your dog has frequent tear buildup.
Never ever use apple cider vinegar, hydrogen peroxide, makeup remover, human eye drops, or milk of magnesia to clean your dog’s eyes.
Cleaning your dog’s ears
If you put cotton balls in your dog’s ears to prevent them from getting wet prior his bath, take them out of your dog’s ears. You should always keep the ears free from excessive earwax to help avoid irritation or infection.
There are several over the counter ear cleaners you can use like Veterycin Ear Rinse. You can also use witch hazel, hydrogen peroxide, or a mixture of equal parts organic apple cider vinegar and water.
Put a few drops of the ear cleaner of your choice on a cotton ball. Don’t use cotton swabs as they can damage your dog’s eardrums if inserted too far.
Rub the cotton ball around the inside of your dog’s ear and check it for waxy residue.
Once you see that there are no more residue on the cotton ball, your dog’s ears are clean.
You may also use a soaked cotton ball to clean the dog’s outer ears – or the large flappy part called the pinna.
Try not to pour, drop, or spray the ear cleaning solution directly into the dog’s ears as your dog may develop negative feelings or associations with this.
If your dog has hairs growing from his or her ear canal, talk to your vet on how you can properly clean them since some breeds can develop tangled ear hair, which can lead to ear infections.
Give your dog another treat
Now that your dog is all clean, what better way to reward him than with praise and treats! Your pooch has been a very good boy or girl and he or she deserves it!