How to Bathe a Dog

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When you ask, “Ugh, what’s that smell?!” or, “Who tracked in all this mud?!” – and the answer is your dog, it’s time for a bath! While your pooch may enjoy taking a dip in the lake or even sticking his paws in the pool, chances are water and shampoo and being held down is not his idea of a good time. Here are some tips to make bath time more manageable – for both of you!

Rub a Dub Dub – Does My Dog Need to Get Into the Tub?

If your dog’s covered in dirt, mud, debris, or smells of eau de skunk or…well, dog, a bath will help clean him up – and make him a much more enjoyable pal to have around the house. Other than that, most dogs do well with just one bath per month. Before you fill the tub, though, think about your pet’s coat and skin. Things to consider:

  • Double-coated dogs, such as malamutes, Akitas, Samoyeds, Chow Chows, and other Northern breeds, don’t need to be bathed as frequently. But they make up for it by requiring extra brushing (and lots of it)!
  • Your dog may have a water-repellent coat (golden retrievers and Great Pyrenees do). To preserve the natural oils in their fur, you can skip monthly battlesbaths.
  • Many short-haired dogs with smooth coats (beagles and weimaraners) don’t need as many baths either.
  • Is your dog dealing with dry skin? Fewer baths can keep it from drying out further and causing irritation.
  • If you own a pet with an oily coat (basset hounds, spaniels, terriers), you’ll probably need to bathe more than once a month. Sometimes, your pet may need weekly baths.

But don’t worry: whether your dog needs a plunge in the suds every few months or every week, we have some tips to help.

Introducing Your Dog to the Bath

You could tackle your dog with a hose and hope for the best. But you want to teach your dog that a bath is no big deal. Maybe it’s not as good as meal time or a trip to the dog park, but it’s ok. To do this, take some time to introduce your dog to the idea of a bath.

  • Several days before the big event, take your dog to the bathroom. Put him in the tub and give him some treats.
  • After a day or two of repeating this simple step, take your dog into the bathroom and turn on the water. This’ll help him get used to the sounds so he’s not as frightened on bath day. And don’t forget the treats after!

Do this for two to five days to normalize the process and relieve anxiety. Now it’s time for the bath.

  • Gather your supplies. You’ll need a good shampoo, a pitcher for water (or a detachable spray nozzle), towels, treats, and, if you have one handy, an assistant!
  • Fill your tub with a few inches of warm water.
  • Don’t call your dog. This teaches him that, when he comes, he gets hosed down! Instead, approach him calmly and lead him to the bathroom. Once there, close the door. You don’t want an escapee!
  • Brush your dog. This removes loose dirt and debris.
  • Test the water. It should be lukewarm. You may like a nice, steamy bath, but your dog does not!
  • Get wet! Gently pour or spray water onto your dog’s shoulders and body. When he’s calm (may need a treat first), carefully wet his head. As you’re doing this – and throughout the entire bath – speak to your dog in a gentle, calm voice.
  • Apply shampoo. You can apply a line of shampoo along his spine and then work it in. Don’t forget the backside, tail, underside, legs, and paws.
  • Rinse (with lukewarm water). Start with the head. Use your hand to deflect water from his eyes and nose. Work down the body and rinse until the water runs clear.
  • Dry off! Use your hands to wring excess water from your pet’s fur. Then wrap him a large towel. Some people use hair dryers (set on lowest setting) to help speed up the process. If your dog tolerates this, more power to you! If not, just use the towel – and let him shake the water off.
  • Treat time! Give him his favorite tasty treat and lots of praise.

And that’s all there is to it. Until next time! Just remember to work slowly to introduce your dog to baths, stay calm, and stock up on his favorite treats.