Whether your dog loves baths or puts up a fight the entire time, baths are an important part of your dog’s grooming routine. In addition to keeping your pooch clean and pest-free, a sudsy soak can help to keep his coat looking healthy; regular baths can also keep shedding under control.
When it comes to bath time, it’s important to keep the experience as enjoyable and stress-free as possible for both you and your dog. Read on for some helpful bath time tips for pet parents.
How Often Should You Wash Your Dog?
The frequency of dog baths varies depending on breed and coat type. For most dogs, though, one bath per month is typically sufficient. Dogs with longer coats tend to need baths more often, and some require trips to professional groomers for a proper dog bath.
Dogs with skin conditions may also need more frequent baths in order to avoid itchiness and irritation. Some dogs, such as those with lots of wrinkles, also need extra baths to avoid any skin problems between those nooks and crannies.
Of course, that “once per month” rule can go completely out the window if your dog loves to roll around in mud, dirt, and debris and is looking and smelling especially dirty. You may also want to give your pup an extra bath if he has recently been exposed to pests, such as fleas and ticks.
Dog Bath Products and Tools
For starters, you’ll need to make sure you have an appropriate tub for your dog. As long as the space you choose is safe, easily accessible, and fits your dog, it should do the trick. Some dogs can fit in a kitchen sink, while others need a dog-specific bathtub or even an outdoor kiddie pool. Your regular bathtub can also work just fine, but some pet owners prefer to avoid clogging the drain with dirt and dog fur.
You’ll also need a dog-friendly shampoo on hand. Because of the pH difference between human and canine skin, it’s crucial that the shampoo is made specifically for dogs. You can also opt for shampoos specific for your dog’s needs, such as a medicated shampoo, de-shedding shampoo or Pet Honesty’s Allergy Itch Relief Shampoo.
Because shampoo strips natural oils, dog conditioner is helpful for rehydrating your dog’s skin and coat. It can also help to smooth the fur and prevent tangles.
Positioning your pooch underneath the shower stream will usually prove to be difficult, so it’s helpful to have a hand-held hose, bucket, pitcher, or cup to help control the direction of the water and keep it out of your dog’s eyes, nose, and mouth.
Make sure you have plenty of towels, too: one for your dog to stand on after his bath, one to dry his fur, and maybe even one for you if there’s a lot of splashing and shaking.
A leash and collar can also be helpful to keep a squirmy dog secure, or to keep a from trying to run away mid-bath.
Of course, you’ll also want plenty of treats on hand to reward your dog for a job well done!
Preparing for Bath Time
Take your dog for a walk or play some games to wear him out before his bath. The more tired he is, the less he’ll try to resist your efforts.
Always brush your dog before giving him a bath. This can help to remove any tangles, debris, and mats, which will make post-bath brushing much easier. After all, you don’t want to tug on wet fur when it’s full of tangles. Brushing can also pick up any loose or dead fur, which will help to control how much dog hair ends up in your sink or tub.
Test out the water to make sure it’s cool or lukewarm—not too hot, and not too cold. If you’re using a shower head or hose, you’ll also want to check that the water pressure is low enough to be comfortable on your dog.
Gather all of your supplies so that it’s within reach for the duration of your dog’s bath. No one wants to realize mid-bath that they forgot to grab the shampoo or towels!
You’ll also want to wear comfortable clothes that you don’t mind getting wet and messy.
How to Give Your Dog a Bath
To make the process as stress-free as possible, choose a time when your dog is relatively calm; don’t try to give him a bath when he’s already feeling anxious and overwhelmed by other things.
Once your supplies are gathered and your dog is comfortably in the tub, begin by wetting him with the cool or lukewarm water.
Gently massage the shampoo into his coat. Start from the back of his head and go down to the tail (you can wash his face separately with a washcloth to keep water from getting into his eyes, nose, and mouth).
Rinse, and repeat if necessary—always rinse twice to remove any leftover soap. Leftover soap residue could lead to skin irritation or even be harmful if licked and ingested, so it’s best to get rid of it altogether as a precaution.
Let your dog shake if needed, and then go ahead and towel dry. Be sure to dry his ears and between any wrinkles; be extra thorough when it comes to drying heavy-coated dogs, as damp spots could potentially lead to uncomfortable hot spots.
You can also opt for a dog-specific blow dryer. While these have less heat than human hair dryers, they still have the potential to dry out your dog’s skin, so don’t spend too much time blowing hot air onto your dog’s skin and coat.
Of course, you’ll want to try to make the experience as fun and relaxing as possible. Dogs can pick up on our emotions, so try to stay as calm as possible and act like you’re having fun. Use a calm, reassuring voice to give plenty of praise to your pup… and don’t forget to reward him with treats after it’s all over!
Don’t worry: if bath time simply seems like an impossible task for you and your dog, you can always take him to a professional groomer.