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Bathing a dog is one of those things like bathing a baby. There’s always a first time – so where in the world do you start?!
Well, I’ve been bathing dogs now for all but the first decade or so of my life and have learned to make this task simple, straight-forward and as pleasant as possible for all concerned!
Here you can learn common sense safety tips to keep your dog out of harm’s way and also you will learn how to make this experience as stress free as possible for both of you. So take your time – relax and browse through this step-by-step guide to getting a hygienic and huggable dog. As usual, we’ve done all the research for you and presented you with all the information you need – after all, knowledge is confidence! You get to benefit from years and years of our first hand experience.
How Often Should I Bath My Dog?
The frequency in bathing your dog should depend on the type of dog your have, and the lifestyle your dog leads.
Bathing a dog too frequently robs its coat of natural oils and could dry out your dog’s skin, causing flaky skin and itchiness. Ideally, you should look to bathing your dog no more than once every two to three months.
“Emergency” baths can sometimes be required – specially if you have a dog like our Scottie, Holly, who likes to find the deepest mud patch just hours after a visit to her groomer, Lyn! The best rule of thumb to follow is that you comb and brush your dog two to three times a week and bath her if her coat becomes rather dirty or she starts to smell “doggy”.
Where and How Should I Bath My Dog?
If you live in a fairly warm part of the world, an outdoor bath is the most convenient. However, if there is any sign of chill in the air, your dog is best bathed indoor, in strictly controlled conditions.
You could pop a small dog into a sink to be bathed, but a large dog will do better in a shower cubicle or bath tub.
Using a ladle or jug to bath your dog is just fine, though I find using the shower head is much easier. A shower head also ensures all soap suds get well and truly rinsed out of your dogs coat, as any residue will cause an allergic reaction and irritate your dog’s skin.
The Bath – A Step By Step Guide
Your dog will either love or loath bath times – and you will have to just do your best to play along! It pays to be gentle as this will calm your dog’s nerves, but do also be firm – don’t let him think he can take advantage of you – and believe me, he’ll try!
Obviously big dogs are harder to bath than little ones, but you do have to be a lot more careful with the small dogs.
There have been a few occasions when I’ve gone from bathing our German Shepherd, Cassie, straight to bathing our little Jack Russell, Lucky, when I’ve practically swept poor Lucky off her feet because I’ve used the same amount of force on her as I did on Cassie! After all this time, you’d think I’d know better!
So do be aware of the needs of the particular dog you are getting ready to bath.
The most important criteria to ensure a stress-free bath time, is preparation. Have everything in place before you bring your dog to the bath.
PRE-BATH CHECK LIST:
- A Shampoo and Conditioner specifically designed for dogs. DO NOT use our products on dogs – the pH balance of their skin is totally different to ours, thus making our products irritating to their skin. There is a huge variety of Shampoos, conditioners, finishing sprays, de-tanglers and deodorants to choose from – click here for help and advice in choosing the best products for your dog – you’ll be surprised at the difference the right choice makes!
- Mineral oil
- cotton balls
- Washcloth or sponge
- Towels (the bigger the dog, the more towels you’ll need)
- A bathing tether if you’re bathing him in a tub. (If you’re bathing him outside, a tether to a fixed point will do.)
- A non-slip rubber tub mat
- An apron for yourself if you’re bathing a small dog – or your scruffiest pair of jeans and T-Shirt if you’re planning on tackling the larger variety. You’re going to get wet and covered in hair – may as well not ruin your good clothes!
Before bathing brush your dog out thoroughly, using a de-tangle spray if necessary. Try to get rid of mats and tangles at this stage, otherwise the water will simply turn them into solid masses, which will need to be clipped out.
If your dog has managed to get something like tar or other sticky stuff on his coat, your may need to trim these out with clippers. Soaking the area with vegetable or mineral oil for a day could also help. The only problem with this is that your dog could try licking this off – which, combined with the sticky substance, would be dangerous for him. You may want to just clip the offending bits out – or speak with a professional groomer – she may have an answer to your dog’s bad hair day!
IT’S FINALLY BATH TIME!
STEP 1: Put a drop of mineral oil in your dog’s eyes to protect them from suds. I stopped doing this after I found a non-sting variety of shampoo. My dogs were much happier as they didn’t really like the eye drops either. In fact, if you’re careful enough, you can ensure you don’t get any suds in your dog’s eyes – so you don’t have to use the eye drops. I’ll leave you to decide.
STEP 2: Some people use cotton balls in dog’s the ears. If you use cotton balls, make sure they’re the right size for your dog’s ears; if they’re too small, they may slip down the ear canal. Also do ensure you don’t push the cotton balls too far down your dog’s ear canal. Here again, I would recommend using these the first few times you bath your dog. Once you’re comfortable with the process, and you’re confident you won’t get water down your dog’s ears, you can stop using the cotton balls too.
STEP 3: If you’re using a tub, fill the water to the level of your dog’s knees. The easiest way to determine the water is at the right temperature is to remember that your dog’s temperature is higher than yours. Therefore, if the water is comfortable for you to touch, it will also be comfortable for your dog.
If you’re using a shower, better still. Just ensure the temperature is regulated correctly by running the water on your hands BEFORE you run it on your dog’s coat.
Place a non-slip rubber bath mat in the bottom of the bath. This will reduce the chances of your dog slipping and hurting himself in the bath.
STEP 4: Pop your dog into the tub or shower cubicle – depending on his size, this may be easier said than done! With our German Shepherd, I’d climb into the tub first and she’d happily follow me in! If you have a bathing tether, attach one end to his collar and the suction cup to the bathtub. Pour the warm water gently over him, talking to him in a soothing voice all the time. If you use a spray, use it on low and hold it gently against his coat as he may not like the feel of the spray if he is unaccustomed to it.
STEP 5: When he’s thoroughly wet, apply the shampoo on his back and work it gently through the coat for about 10 minutes. I always find the shampoo easier to use if I first diluted a portion of it in a jug containing warm water. It was then easier to pour it evenly over my dogs and work up a good lather.
Start with your dog’s back and stomach, then progress to his neck, then do his legs, paying special attention to his paws and claws. Then do his tail, leaving his nether regions for the very end! Work up a good lather – your dog will love the massage!
Don’t go anywhere near your dog’s face or mouth at this stage. Not only will this keep them calmer, but they will not get the irrisistible urge to shake uncontrollably, soaking you and everything else around them!
STEP 6: Time to rinse. This is where the shower comes into its own. Remember to use it on low and hold it gently against his coat as he may not like the feel of the spray if he is unaccustomed to it. Rinse, rinse and rinse again. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is that all soapy residue is rinsed out of your dog’s coat.
If you are using a bath, drain all the water out and refill with water of the right temperature – this can be a bit tricky if your dog is standing in it, unless you have a mixer tap. If you don’t have a mixer tap, the safest way is to place a largish bowl in the tub, let both taps run into it till it overflows – the overflow will be properly mixed, so you will get an even temperature all the way through.
Rinse your dog thoroughly – then drain the tub and repeat the process at least a couple more times. It is tedious work – but well worth the effort as it will save your dog from an uncomfortable allergic reaction to any soapiness left back in his coat.
STEP 7: Ahhhh – now for the bit your dog least likes! Dampen the face cloth or sponge and clean and rinse his face, paying special attention to his eyes and ears. You dog will not like this so get ready for some fidgityness and fuss! Just be gentle but firm and get the job done. This is another reason why it is well worth starting this entire process fairly early in your dog’s life (but not before 4 weeks at least) – he’ll just be that much more accustomed to it.
STEP 8: Gently run your hands over your dog’s coat and squeeze out as much excess water as you can. Then step back and let him shake himself as much as he wants to! This process is so funny to watch – and it always amazes me how they can appear to shake each part of their body on demand!
Remove the cotton from your dog’s ears and finish drying him with the towels. If you use a hair dryer, keep the heat and blow force on low. Remember to dry his ears with cotton balls or a soft clean cloth. Do not use a hair dryer on your dog’s ears – you could do him a severe damage.
I always lay out a couple of large fluffy sheets or towels for them to roll on and wipe themselves. There will be a burst of pent-up energy at this stage – so I always keep my dogs confined to a particular room, thus saving our beds, sofas and carpets from all being used as drying aids!
When your dog has finally quietened down again, brush his coat once more – and you’ll have a happy, healthy, shiny dog!
Keep your dog away from any drafts until his coat is completely dry.
Keeping your dog well groomed will benefit all of you in so many different ways.
Of course there is the great health advantage to your dog – he will be kept parasite free and you will notice changes to his skin or coat condition long before they become serious.
But perhaps one of the greatest benefits of this close contact with your dog is a psychological one. Your dog feels loved and cared for – you form a closer bond with him and, as a bonus, grooming also establishes your dog’s place in the pecking order of your family – what more can you ask for, than a dog who is clean and wholesome AND knows his place in life!