Pet bath time is an important part of your dog’s hygiene and also a pivotal bonding experience for you both. In order for your dog to maintain a healthy coat and skin, they need to be bathed regularly. It’s good to know the best way to bathe a dog so you can take care of this hygiene habit yourself rather than relying on a groomer, but it’s also good to know when you should hand over bath time to the professionals. We’ve put together a detailed guide on how to bathe your dog, what supplies to use, and when to call in your groomer for help.
How to Prepare for Your Pet’s Bath
If you decide the best way to bathe a dog is at home, you’ll need to do a little preparation. This will include:
- Choosing where to bathe your dog
- Deciding on the regularity of dog baths
- Picking the right dog shampoo
- Deciding on conditioner
- Gathering your remaining supplies: towel, brush, hair dryer, and eye wash
Consider Where to Bathe Your Dog
Choosing the right environment for your dog’s bath is the first step in creating a positive bathtime experience for your pet. Most people will bathe their dog in the bathtub, though if your dog is small enough you can also use the sink.
While outdoor baths are an option if you have a hose and it’s very warm outside, an indoor bath offers a more controlled and likely more comfortable experience for your pet. You rarely have access to warm water from an outdoor hose, and bathing your dog with cold water can be very unpleasant for your pet. Also, if you bathe your dog outside, they are probably going to want to shake and roll around in the grass or dirt immediately after you’ve washed them – which defeats the purpose.
Instead, choose an indoor spot where you have plenty of space and where your dog is going to be most comfortable. If your dog is almost too big for the sink, it’s better to go with the bathtub so they don’t feel cramped.
If you only have a walk-in shower, it might be worth investing in a handheld showerhead to make bathing your dog easier. While some dogs enjoy showering, you’re going to need to be able to concentrate water on certain areas so that you can rinse off all the dog shampoo really well. This is hard to do in a standing shower with no handheld device.
How Often Should I Bathe My Dog?
Your veterinarian will be able to tell you exactly how often you should give your dog a bath. This will vary depending on your dog’s breed, lifestyle, and habits. Obviously, a large dog with long fur who plays outside all the time will need baths more regularly than a more sedentary dog who stays inside a lot. Most dogs need a bath once a month, but your dog’s coat will also influence how often they need to be washed.
For example, some dogs, like Golden Retrievers, have natural, water-repellent oils in their coats that can be interrupted by bathing too often. Similarly, many short-haired, smooth-coated dogs like Beagles will not need very regular baths. Double-coated breeds (which should never be shaved) like Malamutes need lots of brushing, but bathing them too often can disrupt their coat health and function. Some dogs with oily coats or a lot of wrinkles or crevices in their skin (like Pugs) will need bathing more often to ensure they don’t develop skin conditions. Do some research about your breed’s needs and talk to your veterinarian to set up a customized bathing schedule for your pet.
Choosing the Right Dog Shampoo
In addition to a safe and comfortable spot to bathe your dog, you’ll need some other tools and materials to ensure that your dog’s bath is a success. One of the most important items will be a healthy, dog-specific shampoo. It’s not good to use human shampoo on dogs because they have different skin chemistry. Human shampoos can often irritate a dog’s skin and make them itchy.
In the same way, you might choose a baby shampoo for a human child, you should also choose a puppy shampoo if you have a young dog. Puppy shampoos are less likely to irritate the puppy’s eyes than regular dog shampoo. If your dog experiences itchiness or irritation regularly, you might want to consider a shampoo that’s designed for sensitive dog skin, such as our Itchy Pup CBD Dog Shampoo.
Do You Need to Condition Your Dog?
Many groomers also recommend using a conditioner because dog shampoos, like any kind of cleanser, may strip your pet’s skin and fur of their natural oils. Conditioner rehydrates your pet’s coat so they are comfortable and not dry. Especially if you are bathing your dog more regularly than once a month, a conditioner could be a crucial part of their bathing routine. A dry, brittle coat will not insulate and protect your dog the way it should. Dogs with long coats often need conditioner, as do dogs with itchy skin. Like with dog shampoo, you should choose a conditioning product that is designed for dogs – don’t use a human conditioner on your pet’s locks.
Have Access to Towels, a Brush, Hair Dryer, and Eye Wash
You’ll definitely want your towels on hand before you get started with bath time. Your dog will immediately want to shake after they exit the bath – and probably while they’re in it, too, so wear old clothes that you don’t mind getting wet or dirty. Have a few large towels on hand ready to dry off your dog and keep them warm after the bath. You also might want a hair dryer handy to help speed up the coat-drying process.
It’s also a good idea to have your brush ready to comb out any tangles in your pet’s fur. Doing this while the conditioner is in their coat can sometimes make it easier if they have significant mats or tangles. Finally, keep an eye wash on hand in case you get shampoo in your dog’s eye and they get irritated. You can find eye wash designed for dogs in any pet store and online. While a good dog washing technique can help you avoid eye irritation, it’s still important to be prepared.
The Best Way to Bathe a Dog
Now that you’re prepared, let’s talk about technique. Here are the steps for bathing your dog safely:
- Keep your dog calm and comfortable
- Get your dog’s coat thoroughly soaked
- Apply shampoo all over
- Rinse well
- Towel dry or blow dry
- Give plenty of praise and rewards
Make Your Dog Comfortable
It’s important that your dog is relaxed and comfortable before you start bath time. While it might be tempting to put them straight in the bath right after you’ve gone on a run and they’re all muddy, it’s not a good idea to put them in the bathtub when they are excited or exhausted (or both). Instead, wait until your dog has had a chance to cool off from their playtime and drink some water.
Many people choose to start and end bath time with treats so their dog associates the experience with rewards and positivity. Some people even smear peanut butter onto the sides of the tub or sink to keep their pooch occupied and content while bathing. Speak to your dog soothingly and be gentle as you place them into the tub or bath. If your dog demonstrates stress signals before you have even started bath time – such as panting or whining when you place them into the bathtub – you might want to consider a professional groomer.
Wet Your Dog’s Coat First
Before it receives the shampoo, your pet’s coat needs to be fully soaked and saturated with water. This might take some time, especially for a dog with a thick coat. Starting with a wet coat will ensure you can get a good lather and clean every part of your dog’s body. It’s important to use warm water, not hot, and keep your dog comfortable during this process. Many people choose to fill up the tub or sink halfway so their dog is partially submerged in warm water during the bath.
Apply Shampoo and Lather All Over
You can apply the shampoo directly to your dog’s coat or put it in your hand and rub it in. Make sure to get every surface of your pet nice and lathered with soap. Pay special attention to areas that might be easy to overlook, such as between the toes and on the pads of the feet, behind the ears, and under the armpits. Don’t forget your dog’s face, but keep the shampoo away from their eyes and nose. You can just use a little water to scrub around their snout and forehead.
This can be a really pleasant experience for your dog, especially if you utilize some dog massage techniques during the bath. If you use appropriate pressure and keep the water warm, the soap application can feel like a spa treatment for your pampered pooch!
Rinse Off All the Shampoo
Rinsing is a crucial step in a healthy, successful bath time for your dog. It’s very important to get all the shampoo out of your dog’s coat and off of their skin so that no residue remains.
Some groomers and veterinarians recommend that you do a secondary shampoo application after the first. If you choose to do this, you don’t need to be as thorough with the rinse in between shampoos. It’s the final rinse that is most important. A handheld shower head makes rinsing much easier because you can target specific areas with water. If you don’t have a handheld, a cup should do the trick. Don’t be afraid of overdoing it during the rinsing phase – it’s better to take the extra time to rinse your dog’s coat well than risk leaving any shampoo on their body.
Towel Dry or Blow Dry
Always towel dry well to start the drying process and get your dog nice and warm after bath time. If they are shivering excessively, you might want to use a blow dryer on low heat to speed up the process, though many dogs find blow dryers scary. Brush your dog intermittently as they air dry to remove excess moisture and untangle any mats in their fur. Be sure to keep your dog warm as they dry off and watch them closely for shivers until their coat is completely dry.
Always Praise and Reward Your Pet After a Dog Bath
Bath time should always end with plenty of praise and treats. Even if your dog likes getting a bath, it can still be a chore and there are often some uncomfortable moments even with the best bath time experience. Reward their patience and good behavior with lots of verbal praise and treats. If your dog is worked up after bath time, it might be a great opportunity to give them their daily amount of CBD in the form of a tasty turkey-flavored soft chew to help them calm down.
When to Consider a Professional Groomer Instead of a Home Dog Bath
There are times when your dog will benefit from professional care. Some dogs simply won’t be able to enjoy a home bath, so it’s important to know when to let the groomer handle your pet’s washing needs. Consider making an appointment if:
- Your pet has other hygiene needs
- Your dog is stressed by home baths
- Your dog is especially large or energetic
- You don’t have the space, tools, or time for a dog bath
If Your Pet Has Other Hygiene Needs
If it’s time for a nail trim or haircut, you might just want to pass off bath time to the groomer this week or month. Groomers have all the tools and experience needed to ensure your pet gets excellent care. While some owners can trim their pet’s nails and even give them a haircut at home, many dogs need special grooming techniques that are hard to recreate in a home environment. If your dog is due for other hygiene services that would be more easily completed by a professional, you can let them handle bath time and get it all done in one appointment.
If Your Dog Has a Negative Relationship with Bath Time and Water
If the bathtub or sink, or water in general, causes your dog stress, then you risk doing more damage than good by insisting on an at-home bath. It’s important that your dog trusts you and feels safe with you. If you force them to engage in behavior that makes them nervous or scared, it might threaten your relationship.
If your dog reacts very strongly to the proposal of bath time, you might consider a calming CBD wellness routine to help them relax and maintain their chill demeanor. But if they still freak out about bath time, even with a standard daily amount of CBD and calming ingredients, you should schedule an appointment with your local groomer. Groomers have techniques and tools that can help your dog relax while being bathed. And even if the experience is still unpleasant, your dog will be relieved when they can come home to you.
If Your Dog Is Especially Large, Hairy, or Crazy
Some dogs have a specific type of coat or especially thick and long hair that will be difficult to care for properly with an at-home bath. Some dogs are also just especially large and crazy, which can make bath time a serious chore for everyone involved. If you don’t think you can properly clean your dog – either because they are too hyperactive or their coat is too dense – you should take them to a groomer.
You Don’t Have the Space or Time
Giving your dog a bath can be a wonderful bonding experience, but only if both of you enjoy it. If you are stressed out by the chore, or you simply don’t have the time and tools you need to make it a success, it’s going to be unpleasant for both you and your pooch. You might want to bond with your dog in other ways and leave bath time to the professionals – and that’s just fine.
Your Dog’s Bath Should Be Fun and Easy
The best way to bathe a dog is by being prepared and knowing when to hand it over to the professionals. If you have all the tools and space you need, pet bath time should be a fun and enjoyable experience for both you and your dog. If it’s not, don’t be afraid to hire a groomer for your pet’s hygiene needs. The most important thing is that your bond with Fido stays strong, and his coat and skin stay healthy.