Dog Grooming Basics: Bathing Your Dog

This post is part of the series Dog Grooming Basics

Other posts in this series:

  1. 5 Dog Grooming Basics you can do at home.
  2. Dog Grooming Basics: Brushing Your Dog
  3. Dog Grooming Basics: Bathing Your Dog (Current)
Bathing your Dog Photo Credit: Andrew Vargas

Once you’ve got all of the tangles brushed out, now it’s time to head for the bath. Bathing a really tangled dog only make it worse, and you end up cutting more off than brushing the tangles out. Believe me, I speak from experience.

We bath all of the dogs in residence here at least every other week. But if your dog doesn’t spend a lot of outside, and has short hair, you can probably bath them less often. Your nose, or hands, will often tell you when your dog needs a bath. Or in our case, when they come back to the house covered in mud, leaves and whatever else they managed to dig up and roll in.

Making bath time a less stressful time for both you and Fido is important.

Choosing a Dog Shampoo

Choosing the right shampoo when bathing your dog is important. Make sure you use a gentle soap on them, especially if you’re bathing them often.

Do your research on any flea and tick chemical shampoos you’re thinking of using. There have been many cases of them causing health issues for some dogs. And try to avoid using any shampoos that have tea tree oil in them, as it can cause problems in some dogs.

We prefer to use an oatmeal dog shampoo for most of ours. It’s soothing on their skin, and leaves them smelling nice and fresh.

Although dogs with skin issues, like our Snuggie, can be washed with an antibacterial/anti-fungal shampoo to help clear up the yeasty, bacterial, or fungal skin issues. Most of the shampoos have to be left on the dog for 5-10 minutes to get their full benefits.

For flea infested dogs, or dogs that are very dirty, I like to use Dawn dish soap, but it must be the original blue Dawn. It’s not good to use for weekly, or even bi-weekly bathing, because it strips the skin of it’s natural oils. But it is great for fleas, and really long term dirty dogs.

Dog Conditioners

Is conditioner really necessary when bathing your dog? For short coated dogs, probably not. A conditioner might make them a little shiner, and maybe smell better for longer. But it’s all in preference.

For longer coated dogs, a de-tangling conditioner is a good thing to invest in. It will help keep your dog tangle-free for longer.

Leave in conditioners can also be applied between baths when needed for tangles, or stinky dogs.

Where to Bath Your Dog

Now that your dog is brushed, and you’ve got your dog shampoo and conditioner, if needed, all ready to go, it’s time to get Fido in the tub.

For our smaller dogs, and foster puppies, I like to use the kitchen sink. The built in sprayer really helps get them rinsed good, and there’s less room for them to try and get away from me. And it’s a lot easier on my back.

For the larger dogs, as I don’t have a utility sink big enough, we just use the bathtub. Luckily, we have a handheld sprayer that pulls down from the shower that makes it a lot easier.

If neither of these is an option for bathing your dog, a lot of car washes have dog bathing facilities.

Bath Time

Wet your dog down getting him thoroughly soaked, starting up at his head, but making sure not to get water in his ears. Some people use shower caps over the dogs head and ears to avoid getting water in the ears. I just like to be careful.

Make the sure the water is warm enough not to chill him. But not too hot that it will burn him.

Once he’s all soaked through, apply your shampoo. I like to dump it in my hand and get it lathered up a bit, then apply to the dog, starting at the neck and working down the back and then down the legs. Make sure to get him lathered up sufficiently.

Some shampoos, such as the medicated anti-bacterial, or anti-fungal, need to be left on for 5-10 minutes. Make this a fun time for your pooch by having lots of treats on hand, or by giving them a nice massage while you wait for the shampoo to do it’s thing.

Use a clean wet wash cloth to clean your pooch’s face, no soap should be used near his eyes.

After the shampoo has been on the required length of time, it’s time to rinse. This is when a handheld sprayer comes in the handiest. It helps get the shampoo out so much faster than using a cup to dump it over the dog. Start at your pooch’s head and rinse dog along the back and legs, finishing up with the underside.

Once all signs of lather are gone, use your hands to rub the water out of your dog’s coat before pulling him out of the bathing area. Ninety-nine percent of the time, he’s going to try and shake the moment you quit touching him, if not before.

When there’s no water left dripping, grab the towel and towel dry as best you can.

Blow Dry or Air Dry

If it’s summer, and one of the short coated dogs, we let them go. They air dry pretty fast. If it’s cold out, or one of the longer haired dogs, the blow dryer comes out. Always use the blow dryer on the low heat setting and keep it sufficiently back from your dog to avoid burns. Brushing through with a wide tooth comb to help get him dry.

And voila, bath time is over. Now it’s time to check Fido’s ears.

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