How To Wash Your Dog: Simple Tips & Tricks

Everybody loves a clean dog. But suggest a bath to yours and she'll insist she is just fine and dandy skipping it—when push comes to shove she actually enjoys smelling like the offensive thing she just rolled in. Many dogs resist bath time tooth and nail if they think there is the remotest chance this strategy will let them off the hook.

How often should you undertake the dreaded dog bathing routine? And can you make it any more pleasant for all parties involved, yourself included? We have answers to these questions and more; read on for bath time tips to make the ritual of dog washing as simple and painless as possible. And who knows? You and your dog might even come to enjoy it.

Quick Tip: Bad news for the bathing-averse dog—science has upended the old notion that frequent baths damage her skin and coat by stripping away natural oils. It’s safe to give her a bath whenever she needs one.

How Often Should I Bathe My Dog?

How about now? It's really a matter of personal preference: if you want her smelling freshly scrubbed all the time, once-weekly bathing is probably sufficient. If your dog leads an active lifestyle that includes rolling in unmentionables or taking regular dips in lakes, rivers, and puddles, routine bathing is a necessity. And if she has skin allergies or a minor skin infection, a regular bath can help her avoid antibiotics. But once-monthly bathing is often enough for most dogs, and manageable for most of us who are willing to undertake the chore of dog washing at home. If nothing else, use the sniff test as the ultimate bathing barometer: when your dog stinks, she needs scrubbing, stat.

Bath Time Benefits: Three Excellent Reasons To Scrub Your Dog

  1. Regular bathing helps keep her skin free of dirt and parasites.
  2. Bathing your dog helps her allergies and yours.
  3. Bathing also helps her if she suffers from yeast infections of the skin, dandruff, or other skin conditions.

What Dog Washing And Grooming Supplies Do I Need?

Must-Have Dog Bathing Supplies:

  1. A brush
  2. A favorite dog toy and some small treats for the bath resister
  3. A leash or tether to lead an unwilling dog to water
  4. A cup or bucket if there's no hose or sprayer
  5. A wash cloth
  6. Cotton balls or gauze pads
  7. At least three clean towels
  8. Dog shampoo—human shampoo contains fragrances and other ingredients that can irritate a dog's skin. Choose one that smells good. Use a soap-free or moisturizing formula for weekly baths. A dog shampoo with tea tree oil is excellent for skin infections. Finally, consult your vet about therapeutic shampoo for a specific skin problem.
  9. A single amazing, delectable treat for the end of the bath

Nice-To-Have Dog Bathing Supplies:

  1. A detangling comb or slicker brush
  2. A tick key
  3. Small scissors for dense mats
  4. Rubber scrubbing/massaging tool
  5. Dog-formulated conditioner if you wish; this can make post-bath brushing easier on dogs with long hair
  6. Povidone iodine to disinfect and treat skin sores; prepare a mild solution ahead of bath time
  7. Ear cleaning solution
  8. Colloidal silver if your dog has tear staining; it's widely available and safe for dogs
  9. A hair dryer if she'll tolerate it

Gather your dog bathing supplies in one accessible spot near the tub or shower (or sink if she is compact), and make sure you can reach them all, including her towels—leaving a soggy dog standing in the tub while you sprint down the hall for them is a sure recipe for a watery mishap.

Now Prep Your Dog, Yourself, And The Bath:

  1. Take your dog for a run, a long walk, or engage in an extended, active play session with her. A bath will feel great when she's tired and hot, and she'll have less energy to resist you.
  2. Encourage her to do her “doings” outside before bath time.
  3. Wear old clothing or a smock: prepare to be soaked to the bone when you bathe your dog. (You might even wind up in the tub or shower with her.)
  4. If your dog is large, consider wearing a lumbar brace to save your back during potentially awkward moments helping her into the tub.
  5. If you intend to bathe her outside, check the temperature of the water coming from the tap: it may be too chilly for your dog even on a warm day.
  6. Block the tub’s drain with a piece of steel wool to keep her hair from clogging it.
  7. Place a towel in the bottom of the sink, tub, or shower, carefully avoiding the drain: slippery footing will stress a bath-anxious dog even more. The towel provides stability.
  8. If you’re using the tub, fill it with three or four inches of lukewarm water, about the same temperature you’d use for a human infant. Use caution with big dogs in particular, who are prone to overheating.
  9. Gently detangle your dog’s coat and pick apart mats with the comb or slicker brush; use the small scissors to carefully cut out mats you can’t detangle and brush out. Quick Tip: You will never be able to detangle densely matted hair once it’s wet. Always do this when your dog is dry.
  10. Brush, brush, and brush your dog some more to remove loose dirt and hair and reduce bath time shedding. Look for ticks and use the tick key to remove them.
  11. Gently place a cotton ball inside each ear if your dog will let you. They’ll help keep water out of her ears, potentially diverting a secondary bacterial ear infection.

How To Bathe A Stinky Dog: Getting Down And Dirty

This is an excellent time to use her favorite toy and a small treat or two to lure your dog to the bathtub. If she resists, leash her and gently lead her to the bath. But never use anger to motivate her: she'll hear it in your voice immediately and learn to loathe bath time. Likewise, she can sense when you're anticipating an ordeal. Instead stay calm and positive, and use treats as rewards—you want her to associate her bath time with pleasure. And bring a water toy into the tub to distract her if you think it will help. Note: Always close the door once you're in the wash room—she may escape the tub, but will at least stay confined to a smaller area.

Start Scrubbing:

  1. Help her into the tub or shower and climb in with her if you must; leave her collar on to use as a “handle”—this is an excellent strategy to maintain control if you need it. If you have no hose or sprayer, make sure your cup or bucket is where you can reach it. Wet her thoroughly all over, carefully avoiding her head and face. Then begin shampooing and scrubbing at the base of her skull. Use a body bar to scrub her directly, or dispense liquid shampoo into your hands and work it into her skin and hair, creating a soapy lather. This soap “barrier” you’ve created will keep fleas and ticks from migrating towards her ears.
  2. Continue scrubbing, working down her shoulders, around to her throat and chest, her front legs, and her front feet, using the rubber massaging tool or your own fingers. This should feel divine to her. Quick Tip: Liquid shampoo applied directly to a long-haired dog can lodge in one spot. Diluting it with a little water ahead of time will help you distribute it more evenly.
  3. Play with your dog some during her bath, speaking in a calm, reassuring voice. Continue to reward her with small treats for being cooperative.
  4. Keep scrubbing, now moving to her back and belly. Apply more shampoo as needed and massage it into your dog, gradually working towards her back end.
  5. Finish with her rump, tail, and rear legs and feet.
  6. Moisten the washcloth with clean water and gently wipe her face, getting between the folds of skin if she is a wrinkly dog; do not wash her face with soap, and do not pour water over her head and face.
  7. Drain the dirty bath water; the steel wool will catch loose hair and debris.
  8. Using the cup or bucket, or sprayer or hose if you have one, begin rinsing, avoiding her head, face, and ears. Gently hold her muzzle and tip her head upward, so the rinse water will run down her neck and away from her head and face. Rinse, rinse, and rinse, until the water runs clear. This can take some time for a long-haired dog, but it's important: soap left to dry on your dog can irritate her skin and make her itchy.
  9. Finally, dry her. If she's new to bathing or detests the hair dryer, use towels and be as thorough as you can. If she's wrinkly, make sure to dry thoroughly between the folds of her skin, including her face. Use a hair dryer on its lowest heat setting if it does not bother her, or consider buying a dryer made for dogs: they're quicker and more efficient than yours. Importantly, don't take her outside until she dries completely—she'd still rather roll in something stinky than smell sweet.

Finish your dog's bath time with an amazing, delectable treat: offer the same irresistible prize every time so she ultimately connects her bath with this trophy. And if she never thrills at the notion of a bath, strategic planning and a calm demeanor on your part can at least help get you both through the dog wash with minimal fuss. Bath time can be enjoyable—wash your dog clean, but never wipe the winsome grin off her face.

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