Condition Your Dog's Coat Between Baths

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How to Bathe a Dog (Part 1): Preparing Your Dog for a Bath

dog wrapped in a towel after getting a bath

Any dog owner will tell you that giving your pup a much-needed bath can be fun, but it can also turn into an ordeal if your dog doesn’t like water or isn’t properly prepared for bathtime. Particularly if your dog is younger or this is your first time giving them a bath, taking the time to prepare your dog for bathtime is a key part of ensuring bathtime is a success.

Successfully getting your dog ready for a scrub includes several steps:

  • Deciding when it’s time to give your dog a bath (hint: it’s not as often as you might think!)
  • Taking care of your dog’s basic grooming needs before you get them in the water
  • Preparing a nice, dog-friendly bath for your furry friend
  • Making special accommodations to keep your dog safe and comfortable during bath time
muddy dog carrying a stick
If your dog likes digging holes, picking up sticks, or chasing backyard animals, baths may happen more frequently in your house.

Decide When to Give Your Dog a Bath

Your Furry Friend Doesn’t Need the Same Bath Schedule as the Rest of the Family

To start off with, you don’t need to give your dog a bath all of the time.

If they went outside and got covered in mud or other less savory materials, then obviously it's a good time to break out the shampoo. But in any other scenario you don’t want to bathe your dog more than once a month depending on the breed of the dog.

Certain dogs will need to be bathed more than others, but you definitely don’t want to overbathe them.

The reason is because their skin produces natural oils that care for their skin and their coat. If you bathe them too much you will strip them of these oils and it can cause them to have dry itchy skin.

(If your dog does seem to have some skin irritation, a dog-friendly conditioning spray can help soothe their skin and keep their coat looking shiny between baths)

However, once a month is just an average. If you have a dog that is outside all of the time you might want to bump it up to every other week. If your dog is indoors except when using the bathroom then you can probably cut it back to every other month or less.

dog being brushed and dried after a bath
Brushing your dog before their bath means you won’t have to spend extra time detangling their fur during bathtime.

Take Care of Your Dog’s Basic Grooming Needs

Taking Care of Nails and Brushing Your Dog’s Coat in Advance Will Make Bathtime Way Easier

Once you know your dog is in need of a bath, it's a good idea to do some basic grooming prep first. This would include things like making sure you have their nails trimmed and short. You don’t want them to have long nails when they get in the tub because it can cause them to slip and suffer injuries.

Similarly, it's a good idea to run a brush through their coat first. This will help collect and sort of debris and loose hair from the coat reducing how much ends up running down your drain and clogging it. It also helps remove excess hair and allows the soap/shampoo to clean deeper and more thoroughly.

dog being brushed to prepare for bath time
One your dog is brushed and has had their nails done, they are ready to get sudsed up.

Prepare the Bath for Your Dog

Gather Supplies and Set Up Your Dog’s Bath Area Ahead of Time

Once you have your dog ready for the bath, it's a good idea to get the bath ready for the dog.

This mostly requires getting the water to the right temperature. Whether you are bathing your dog in the bath tub or outside with a hose, you will want to make sure you have both hot and cold water running in order to bring it to a temperature that feels warm but not hot to you.

Dog’s skin is more sensitive than humans so it can be easy to burn them. Similarly you don’t want the water to get too cold as this can cause them to get shivery and sick, particularly if it's in the winter months and they like to go use the bathroom right after a bath.

A general rule of thumb is that you want it like bath water you would prepare for a human baby.

For dogs that are prone to overheating you can go a bit cooler. Long hair dogs who are covered in thick fur are particularly likely to overheat even from moderately warm water.

wet dog in a bath tub looks happy because he was prepared for his bath
Just like you don’t want to slip in the tub, you want to make sure your dog has a safe and slip-free bath, too.

Special Accommodations for Doggy Bath Time

Dogs May Need Some Extra Supplies for a Comfortable Bath Time Experience

In addition to the water, it is a good idea to supply your dog with something they can gather traction on. This is especially true of big dogs in a tub.

Big dogs' hips are prone to injury so by using a bath mat or a towel, you can give them something to stand on that will help stabilize them and make slipping and sliding less likely.

If you’re giving your dog a bath outdoors, cement or grass should have enough traction for your dog to feel comfortable and bathe safely, but smoother surfaces like stone or tile may get too slippery.

woman hugging two samoyeds
Following these prep tips when giving your dog a bath can ensure your furry friend has a safer and more positive bath experience overall.

Washing your dog doesn’t start when your dog hits the water -- it actually starts before then. By making sure your dog is thoroughly prepared, you make bath time much easier on them and on yourself.

Once your dog is all ready to scrub-a-dub-dub, make sure you check out the second part of our guide and learn what to do once it’s actually bath time for your dog.

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