HEALTH & CARE

How to Bathe A Dog Correctly: Washing Procedures

Dog in a bath
Wyatt Robinson
Written by Wyatt Robinson

Dog owners who shelter their pets inside are familiar with the need of keeping them as clean as possible, as this is the only way to make the air breathable. In order to understand how to bathe a dog correctly it is important to ask yourself how often you need to take it in the shower. At the same time, few people know that pets require almost no special cleaning in order to be healthy.

While some of them get stinky relatively fast, others have no such problems and may require a bath per year. This is why it is important to comprehend the needs of your pet in order to keep it happy and healthy.

Most dogs are not very keen on bathing. If you do not treat this aspect with care, your pet can get so scared of water that it will turn every cleaning attempt into a battle. The products you buy should also be selected with care. It is advisable to purchase dog shampoos, as they are based on ingredients that protect the skin of your pet. If your pet has sensitive skin, you need to purchase moisturizing shampoos. They are soap-free so it will not cause dryness or other problems. You can find out more about this subject in the following paragraphs.

Caring musts

In order to learn how to wash a dog in a correct manner, it is mandatory to understand the needs of your pet. The cleaning process is relatively complex, as it implies much more than shampoo and water. The first bathing experience is crucial, so it must be done with care. Furthermore, pet owners need to know:

  • bathing the dog too often can cause skin irritations;
  • a dog can only smell well if it is cleaned between baths;
  • during cold months, the fur needs special care;
  • the first bathing of a puppy needs to be gentle, and no sooner than five weeks old.

Dog washing can be considered a necessity, rather than a must. It is the only way pet owners can keep their friend inside the house. However, doing it too often can lead to irritations. Just like human hair, the skin produces oils that keep the coat look healthy and shiny.

If you use shampoo too often, you can alter the natural secretions, and this can ruin the balance of the organism. At the same time, it can soften the coat, reducing its insulating properties and this will expose your pet to cold and humidity.

Dogs who spend a lot of time outside (especially if there is dirt) generally require intense bathing, like every six weeks. Double-coated breeds, on the other hand, should be cleaned every four months and pets with soft coats, twice a year.

If you wish to keep your dog clean, you need to know that bathing is only the beginning. The “beauty” routine should be performed daily, and this will prevent nasty smells. To be more exact, it is strongly advisable to brush the coat regularly and vigorously. This is good not only for the hair, but also for the skin. At the same time, it is the easiest way to remove the dirt, or bugs. Intense brushing can even be performed inside, during the cold season if you use a newspaper and a wet brush. They will prevent the hair from spreading all over the house. To get you started, you should check out our list of the best dog shampoos you can find on the market.

How often infogrpahic

Dogs are sensitive during the cold season, and this can be seen in the quality of their fur. This phenomenon is clearly explained by veterinarians. The organism uses the vitamins and minerals to keep the muscles and bones healthy, thus it transmits a smaller quantity to the hair, causing it to become dry. If your dog has a small fur or grows an undercoat, it is recommended to wait for the warm season to comb it out. The skin is also sensitive, so you need to be extra careful as scratches and itches can damage it pretty fast.

Puppies are a true delight because they brighten the house with their playful behavior. In this case, bathing is forbidden until they reach the age of five weeks. It is also important to understand that if they perceive cleaning as something scary, they will feel the same thing even when they reach adulthood.

Keep in mind that they are small and frail, and everything that is too big or makes powerful sounds can be perceived as a threat. As a result, make sure that you use something smaller to clean them and do not place them directly in the bathtub. The water should be warm (not too cold, nor too hot) and the products you use must be specially designed for them.

The first bathing

The first bathing is a significant experience for you and your pet. In order to make sure that everything runs smoothly, it is important to introduce the idea of cleaning before actually doing it. A dog can only feel confident if it gets to trust a person or thing. This means that you cannot expect to trim its nails or clear the ears if you have never touched them before. These are sensitive areas, thus they require special attention.

Furthermore, it takes time until the dog gets used to this. To make things easier, you can use treats to praise the positive responses, but also to encourage a good behavior.

Bathing a puppie

If you start combing the dog without introducing it to the strange item, you will receive a bark instead of submission. This is why it is a good idea to let it sniff the grooming tools. When you see that your pet gets less timid when it faces the clippers, comb, brush and tooth brush, it is ready for its beauty session. It is a good idea to use supplements and treats to praise the positive behavior.

Besides the tools, noises like running water or drier can also sound threatening. As a result, you need to encourage the dog to get near the sink through verbal praises and a calm behavior. At the same time, it is better to use blow driers that are specially designed for pets as they meet the needs of the animals.

Stage #1 – pre-bath preparations

Though most people take the dog from outside straight into the bath, it is important to understand that this may not provide the expected results, especially if you have a pet with large and thick hair. It is a good idea to brush it in order to remove mats and tangles, as it will be harder to do when the fur is wet. Just make sure that you proceed with caution, so you prevent nicking the dog’s skin. If you notice any foxtails or ticks, remove them carefully with tweezers.

Some pets can be very playful and may get into sticky substances like tar, paint or pine sap almost as soon as they get out of the house. They can be easily removed with mineral or vegetable oil if you soak the area for 24 hours. By no means should you use toxic substances like solvents or concentrated detergents as you will harm your dog. If the oil-technique does not work, you will need to trim away the stained fur.

Grooming a dog

The grooming place needs to be very well delimitated. As a result, you need to choose a room where you can close the door, preferably the bathroom, rather than the kitchen. You also have to remove all the items that the dog could reach, as they may cause injuries. In order to enjoy a successful bathing experience it is important to get everything ready before bringing your dog. The bathing kit is pretty complex, and it needs to include:

  • old and comfortable clothes, as you will get wet and even covered in wet dog hair;
  • cleaning supplies: comb, shampoo (only choose products that are formulated for dogs, as human shampoo has a different pH that is not good for the hair and skin), moisturizer, brush, sponge, towels and cotton balls;
  • soft brush for the area around the paws;
  • treats, in case the pet gets agitated;
  • a nylon collar (and muzzle if needed), to replace the regular collar, so you can control the dog during bath time (caution: avoid using leather, as it can shrink when it gets in contact with water).

If you feel like saving some money on the bathing process, why not consider making your own homemade dog shampoo?

Agitated dogs can scratch the tub, or even you while bathing. This is why it is better to trim the nails before cleaning. In order to protect the eyes, you can use mineral oil or petroleum jelly. You need to apply them before taking the dog in the cleaning area. The ears are also sensitive, but you can protect them with cotton balls.

Earthbath All Natural Dog Shampoo

Just make sure that they are large enough so they do not get stuck in the ear canal. In order to make your dog feel more confident in the tub, you can use a nonskid rubber mat, so it will not slip.

You can make the bathing experience more delightful for you and your dog if you teach it how to get in and out of the tub by itself. To do it, you need some delicious treats, like small pieces of cheese or chicken. In this case, there are  various commands that you need to teach your pet:

  • you first need to show the dog the treat and let it smell it;
  • tell it to get in, and toss the treat inside the tube (or other bathing spots you choose);
  • when the dog gets in, encourage it and approve the behavior by giving it another treat;
  • when the dog seems accustomed to the bathing place, encourage it to get out by itself by going further and keeping the arms wide open;
  • do not give the dog a treat when it gets out, as you need to convince it that it is better to get in, rather than out;
  • repeat this exercise for about 10 times, twice a day, and after a couple of repetitions, your dog will automatically jump  into the tub as soon as it sees it.

Stage #2 – bathing time

When you bathe your pet, make sure to constantly check the water temperature and level. It must be warm, and no upper than the knee level. By this time, you should have taught the dog to get in and out of the tub by itself. If it is really stubborn, be careful to lift it cautiously, to prevent hurting your back. The best way to do it is to place an arm under the chest and the other one behind the back legs.

In order to avoid scaring your pet, you need to start with spraying the back and shoulders. Also remember that the sprayer needs to be kept on low. The dog requires time to accommodate, so you need to work gradually.

You must avoid washing the head if your dog is not relaxed. By no means should you spray it straight into the face. For the sensitive areas, like nose, eyes and mouth, it is better to use a washcloth. You need to apply shampoo along the back and gently massage it down to the skin. It is advisable to start with the body, and leave the head last. To make things easier, you can try a rubber brush. In order to avoid tangles, remember to adapt the moves in the direction the hair grows. Once you are done with the back, you can continue with the neck, tail, legs and paws.

Bathing time

You can keep your dog steady if you give it treats. Once scrubbing is done, you can proceed with rinsing. You can make things easier if you add a detachable spray nozzle. The water temperature needs to be lukewarm, and the intensity must not be too high. It is a good idea to check the spray before actually aim it towards the dog. In this case, you need to start with the face and head. You need to cover its eyes and nose during the process.

The body is next, and the legs come last. You have to let the water flow until it runs clean, and you can spot no soap residue on the coat. If you are not careful, they can cause irritations and even allergic reactions. You may also spray a moisturizer for easy combing.

If your dog has certain skin problems that require frequent baths, why not take a look at our article on oatmeal baths for dogs?

Stage #3 – post-bathing

Before you get the dog out of the tub, you can get it dried easier if you squeeze the water from the fur with your hands. This means that you must to start with the paws and tail. You can use a large towel as it absorbs the water better (preferably made of cotton). Heavy rubbing is out of the question as this can make the hair tangle. Remember to remove the cotton balls from its ears and towel the remaining water, otherwise it can cause serious infections. After completing all these steps, let it shake the fur and remove any water left.

Post bathing

According to your preferences and budget, you can use a normal blow dryer, or one that is specially designed for pets. If your dog has long or frizzy hair, it is better to opt for it rather than towel drying. The air must be just warm, not too hot (because it can dry out the skin), and you must avoid aiming at the pet’s face.

Automated dryers can be a feasible option, but they must be handled with care. To be more exact, you need to check the temperature every 15 minutes. After you are done you need to allow the fur to dry completely, so letting it outside is out of the question (especially if it is cold).

What things you need to avoid?

Once the dog gets used to bathing, the process can turn out to be fun for both of you. However, this requires time and patience, and no matter how hard it may be in the beginning, you must not give up. On the other hand, there are certain things that can scare your dog, thus make cleaning a painful process. As a result, pet owners need to avoid:

  • some professional groomers claim that it is necessary to express the anal glands, as part of the cleaning ritual. This is both painful and scary;
  • avoid using shampoo in the area around the eyes, as you can hurt your dog;
  • when you bathe the dog for the first time, and it is agitated, avoid pouring water on its face as it can make it even more nervous;
  • bathing the pet daily can cause skin irritations.

With patience and a bit of training, every pet owner can turn bathing into a pleasant activity. In order to get the expected results, it is mandatory to understand the needs of your dog, and to avoid pushing its limits. You need to handle this process with care, and to encourage your dog with treats and a positive attitude. It is a wise idea to choose pet-dedicated products, as they can prevent skin irritations and can leave the fur shinny and healthy. The cleaning process can be very complex, but done on a regular basis can keep away nasty smells.

About the author
Wyatt Robinson
Wyatt Robinson

Wyatt Robinson had a great 25-years career as a veterinarian in United Kingdom. He used to be a member of British Veterinary Association and worked in 3 pet hospitals in London and Manchester. He is shining when he sees his pets healthy and full of energy and it is his duty to help other dog owners to keep their best friends full of life.

  • Jane Lewis

    Bathing our dogs have always been a stressful affair, so much so that I’ve taken to just having them groomed professionally! This article gives me some hope that with patience, our dog’s bath time can be an enjoyable (not to mention, less stressful!) experience. I’ve never considered using hair dryers, but I’ll definitely try, as was suggested here.

    • Wyatt Robinson

      We’re glad to help you out, Jane! During the first few sessions, bathing can be troublesome and tiring. But you’ll learn to have a plan and eventually have an enjoyable moment in no time.

  • Emily Parks

    Is it ok to bathe a female dog during its heat cycle? Some readings indicate otherwise, although most articles I’ve read says there’s no problem giving her a bath during that time. Any ideas?

    • Wyatt Robinson

      I would recommend bathing the dog after the heat cycle. While there is no associated evidence of any adverse effects when bathing during this cycle, it makes the dog really agitated at times which can make the bathing session more of a burden for both the pet parent and the dog.

  • Amy Chase

    Bathing the pooches is easier when you have non-slip mats in the tub and if you unplug the drain (otherwise it makes them ‘feel like they’re drowning’). It’s what worked for me so far, and not many even mention it! The tub (if you bathe your pooch there) can be very daunting for the dogs since it doesn’t give them a reasonable amount of purchase, our dog himself was quite anxious because of this very thing. A few non-slip mats and copious treats later, we can now bathe him without too much trouble. It’s now a half-way relaxing part of our pooch’s routine.

    • Wyatt Robinson

      This is a great safety reminder (which is often forgotten) to pet parents when bathing their dogs. Non-slip mats are actually really helpful and keeps you and your dog from slipping. It also makes the experience more secure and not all over the place.

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