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How to Bathe Your Dog: Our Step-by-Step Guide

Oliver Jones

Humans and their canine companions share an affectionate relationship. And if you are a pet lover, you understand how bathing and grooming your pup is a wonderful bonding experience. It’s also an emotional investment.

Although most canines will scamper on the mention of the word “bath,” a good wash plays a vital role in the animal’s skin and coat health with their canine friends.

Bathing times scare many dogs, but with a bit of know-how and preparation, it can be a fantastic experience for both of you. Whether you take to a groomer or do it yourself in your home, here’s what you need to know to make bath time tolerable and fun for your pup.divider-dog

How Often Should You Bathe Your Dog?

You should avoid washing more often than necessary. While you think you’ll be keeping a dog clean and healthy, you are stripping the coat of natural oils, leaving it dry and bare.

Bare skin is more prone to matting, dandruff, and frizzies. How often you bathe your dog depends on many factors, including the breed, environment, coat type, size, and activities.

1. Indoor dogs

canny-dog-show shih tzu - Neramitevent0-pixabay
Credit: Pixabay

Indoor dogs in apartments and condos are not so active and rarely get dirty. As a result, they only require bathing once a month.

2. Active Dogs

labrador retriever standing on green meadow
Image Credit: fsHH, Pixabay

Dogs that love playing in the yard, swimming, playing in the mud, going for walks, and training require more frequent baths at least twice a week.

3. Dogs with Oily Coats

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Credit: Billion Photos, Shutterstock

Dogs like Basset Hounds have oily coats and require bathing as frequently as once a week.

4. Short-Haired Breeds with Smooth Coats

beagle puppy chewing bully stick
Image Credit: Iryna Imago, Shutterstock

Short-haired and smooth dog breeds like Beagles do just fine with occasional baths. Other Short-coated breeds like Basenji dogs appear meticulous and rarely need a bath.

5. Dogs with Water-Repellant Coats

Great-Pyrenees
Image Credit: jathomas, Pixabay

Golden Retrievers and the Great Pyrenees dog have water-repellent coats, requiring fewer baths to preserve natural oils.

6. Breeds with Dense, Double Coats

alaskan malamute puppy
Image Credit: Phase4Studios, Shutterstock

Thick-coated dog breeds like Samoyed and Malamutes do well with lots of brushing but fewer baths. This is because they only need to get rid of dead fur and distribute the skin’s natural oils after all.

7. Dogs with sensitive Skin and Allergies

Belgian-Malinois
Image Credit: Ekaterina Brusnika, Shutterstock

Wash any dog with a medical condition or skin sensitivity according to the vet’s guidelines. The doctor will schedule bath times, recommend shampoos, and ask you to bath as frequently as possible when starting treatment.

Always talk to your family vet to establish a schedule that serves the dog best and addresses its needs.divider-paw

Where Should You Bathe Your Dog?

It would be best to determine the best place to wash your dog. First off, consider the breed’s size to ensure you have enough space in your home and determine whether to bathe the canine indoors or outdoors.

The advantage of a small breed is that you can just plop it into a sink. But if your dog is too big for the sink, you may have to use a bathtub.

Better still, get into the shower together and use a detachable nozzle.

There are times when you have to bathe your dog outside. A portable dog tub is collapsible, so you can take it outside and wash your pup in it.

Or, use a hosepipe on a filthy dog and if the weather is favorable. This option should be occasional, though, as dogs hate when you shoot a horse at them.

Best Water Conditions for Bathing a Dog

If you want to make your dog look forward to bath time, cold water on a chilly day won’t help with that, especially if you are bathing it from outside.

Always be mindful of the water temperature, the weather, and pressure when washing your pup. Whether you are using a shower head or hosepipe, use low water pressure and lukewarm temperature to wash your canine friend.

The water should be warm enough to make any dog comfortable and get the job done. Plus, colder water doesn’t clean that well anyway.

Dog-ready-for-bath_Boryanaa-Manzurova_shutterstock
Credit: Boryana Manzurova, Shutterstock

How to Prepare to Bathe Your Dog

Don’t turn the water on before you set up the bathing environment. Ensure that the environment is as comfortable as possible so the dog will associate the event positively.

You can start by prepping the coat so the process doesn’t trigger discomfort. Then rub your dog’s coat with your hand to allow it to calm down. Finally, brush it, especially if the fur is prone to tangling.

The tangled fur can form mats if you start bathing your dog without brushing, turning the would-be-good experience into an unpleasant one.

Necessary Supplies for Bathing a Dog

  • Casual Clothes

You may want to dress in comfortable casual clothes that you wouldn’t mind messing up because, mate, prepare to get soaked.

  • Dog Brush

Brushing is crucial before and after bath time. However, your pup’s coat determines the type of comb or brush you settle for. The brush should help to detangle and de-shed the dog’s fur, so it would be best to understand the type of brush that’s best for your dog’s coat.

Excellent examples of brushing items to use on your dog include the CHI Double-Sided Ball Tip Pin & Bristle Dog Brush. You can also use a comb such as Andis Steel Pet Comb to detangle the coat.

  • Dog Shampoo

AVOID using human shampoos because their acidic levels are not suitable for your dog’s skin and coat. Also, don’t use dish soap unless your vet recommends it.

Instead, use a dog-designated shampoo that has a proper PH balance for your canine friend.

You can use concentrated shampoo such as Envirogroom Shampoo. You will only need to use it a little at a time, lasting you a long time.

  • Conditioner

Although conditioners are optional, they greatly help with detangling the knots on the coat and softening it. Using a conditioner after shampooing also helps to moisturize the skin and coat.

Avoid using human conditioners as they can disrupt the dog’s PH balance and irritate the skin.

  • Ear cleaner

It’s vital to check your dog’s ears after bathing it. A vet can recommend the best ear cleaning solution for your pup.

  • Towels and Blow Dryers

You don’t want a soaking wet dog running all over your home. Super absorbent towels like the Microfiber Shammy Towels will ease things for you. You can also use blow dryers as long as they are in a low heat setting.

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How to Bathe a Dog

You can now go to the main thing-bathing your pup. Try as much as you can to get your dog to want a bath. But, here’s what to do even if it doesn’t like it.

1. Brush Before You Bath It

Matted fur holds water and prevents shampoo from penetrating the skin. Brushing allows you to detangle and trim mats and prevent you from wasting water and shampoo.

This process will also allow you to ensure that the water is lukewarm and talk to your pet in a calm and reassuring tone.

2. Apply Shampoo

Now that you have a calm pup, apply shampoo on the dog’s coat before you wet it. Rub it in and add a little water to get a nice lather. Ensure that the shampoo is dog-designated and can penetrate the skin easily.

Proceed and work through the thick using your fingers or a soft rubber brush. Get the shampoo to your dog’s most forgotten areas like the paws, armpits, stomach, and tail.

Don’t get the shampoo to the pet’s face and eyes, though. You can use a dog-friendly “face wash” or a dampened cloth instead.

3. Rinse Thoroughly

Rinse the dog’s coat thoroughly after shampooing by running clean water through the fur. Ensure that the water runs clean of dirt and shampoo bubbles no longer form.

Start by rinsing at the neck’s back, between the front shoulders, and work downwards to the feet. Ensure you don’t leave the shampoo in the armpits, belly, and between the toes.

Also, remember to cover your dog’s ears when rinsing to prevent water from getting in the ear canals. You can use cotton balls to cover them.

4. Air-Dry

Dry your dog’s coat after washing it because trapped moisture can cause itching, infections, and hot spots. Also, damp hair gets matted quickly.

You can use a dry towel for a smooth and single-layered dog coat. However, a blow-drier is the best option for dense-coated dogs to ensure they dry completely.

5. Remember to Brush Again

Now that your dog’s coat is dry run the brush through it to remove extra-dead hair and help detangle it. You can also run the brush through the fur while brushing to save time.

6. Reward Your Dog

Bath time takes a toll on any dog. You can calm it down by praising, rewarding it with treats, or playing with it.

You can help your pup vent its frustration by playing games like tug of war using a towel or allowing it to run through your yard. This way, it’ll associate bath time with pleasantries and always look forward to the next session.

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Summary

Few dogs love bath time. Your pup will only play nice and calm to allow you to scrub it clean for the treats and praises. This experience causes stress and anxiety for most dogs, prompting the dog to get defensive and hurt you in the process.

So, if your canine friend can tolerate bath time just for you to scrub its coat and run water through it, the best you can do is get it right. Make bath time a fantastic experience using the correct tools, water temperature, and the proper bathing procedure.

Don’t forget after-bath treats too!


Featured image credit: 135pixels, Shutterstock

Oliver Jones

Oliver (Ollie) Jones - A zoologist and freelance writer living in South Australia with his partner Alex, their dog Pepper, and their cat Steve (who declined to be pictured). Ollie, originally from the USA, holds his master's degree in wildlife biology and moved to Australia to pursue his career and passion but has found a new love for working online and writing about animals of all types.