Dogs are a part of a lot of modern families. But just lik young children that are part o four families, dogs also require a lot of attention and care. This ranges from everything from fresh food and water everyday to taking quality time to play with them, to basic grooming and training. One of the most important ways you can groom your dog is also one of the most difficult.
While brushing a dog’s coat and cutting their nails are relatively routine tasks, giving a dog a bath can be a much more involved experience. If you just got a new dog, or have had your pet for a while, take a look at the article below and discover how to properly bathe a dog.
Step One: Prepare the Dog for the Bath
And Prepare the Bath for the Dog
If you want your dog to enjoy (or even just not mind) getting a bath, proper prep is key. Properly preparing your dog for bathtime can make them feel more relaxed and make the whole bath experience better for them and for you.
This can involve several steps:
- Taking care of your dog’s other grooming needs
- Gathering your bath time supplies
- Getting the actual bath ready for your pup
- Accommodating your dog’s needs
It’s actually such an important step that we wrote a whole article on how to get your dog ready for bathtime like a pro. If you haven’t already, be sure to check it out for our top tips for successfully preparing your dog for a bath.
Step Two: Giving Your Dog the Bath
Lather, Rinse, But Don’t Repeat
Alright, now that you and your dog have had a chance to prepare, it’s game time. And by that, we mean bath time. To give your dog the best bath, you’ll want to make sure you follow these steps:
- Gauge your dog’s reaction
- Reinforce good behavior (and discourage bad behavior)
- Lather and rinse
- Dry them off
Gauging Your Dog’s Reaction to Bath Time
Once the bath is ready you can go ahead and put your dog in the tub, or tie them up by the hose depending on where you are bathing them. And now that they're in the bath you are probably quickly going to find out if it's going to be an enjoyable experience or not for both you and them.
Reinforce Behavior with Treats and the Tone of Your Voice
🐶 Dog being a good boy or good girl? Even if it's their first time in the bath it's a good idea to keep some treats on hand. Treats are useful when bathing a dog because they can help soothe a dog that is acting out because of the bath, as well as a means to reward a dog that is behaving very well in the tub.
🐶 Dog acting up? If you do notice that your dog is misbehaving during the bath try talking to them in a calm and relaxing voice. You might have to dial this up to a more commanding voice if you can’t get them to listen, but remembering that starting out you want to calm them down and reassure them. You want to teach them the bath is a relaxing place to be and that they are a good dog for being there.
Scrub-a-dub-dub, Puppy Dog in the Tub
Once you have your dog actually situated in the bath there are a few options for getting them wet:
- If you are outside with a hose or using a tub that has a detachable shower head you can simply spray them down.
- If you are just in a tub with a normal faucet it's a good idea to have a bowl or large glass with you that you can fill with water and dump over your dog.
No matter which option you go with, be sure to start up at the top of the neck and wet them down to the tail.
Avoid getting water in your dog's ears, eyes, and nose. Not only do you not want to make them uncomfortable, you don’t want to choke them with water in their lungs or leave their ears soaking wet for fungi to form in. You can simply use a damp washcloth if you really feel they need to have their face cleaned.
After you have your dog thoroughly wetted down with water, it's time to start applying the soap/shampoo. This is an instance where you will want to be careful because dog's skin is different than human skin, so make sure you are using products specifically meant to be used on a dog. This way you can avoid your dogs skin being irritated or causing an allergic reaction.
Similarly to how you did with the water, you will want to start at the top of their neck and work the soap down to their tail. Be sure to get their belly and their legs but avoid getting too much soap on their private areas as you don’t want to cause any irritation.
Be sure to follow the instructions on the bottle and only use as much as is recommended and don’t leave it on for any extra length of time past what the bottle recommends.
Once you have your pup all sudsed up you can begin rinsing them. For this you can follow the same procedure you used to get them wet in the first place. If you have a way to spray them down, spray them down from neck to tail. If you don’t have a way to spray them just fill up your container with water and start rinsing them off.
Be sure you rinse them out really thoroughly because any excess or extra soap can cause dandruff and irritate their skin and then you’ll just be back to square one and they’ll need another bath!
Once your dog is all rinsed off, it’s time to dry them off. And this is where being outside with the hose really comes in handy because your dog IS GOING TO SHAKE.
There are no ifs ands or buts about it. If they are a canine they are going to shake all about when you get them wet from head to toe.
So if you are outside just let them start shaking. But what about if you are indoors?
I could always trick my dog into waiting to shake until I had closed the shower curtain by keeping the water running riiiiiiiight up until I was going to close the curtain. They always seemed to think the bath was continuing up until the water was off. Once it was off they would shake immediately, so if you trick them into thinking the bath isn’t over by letting the water run as you start to close the curtain, you can get them to wait to shake out their coat until the shower curtain is actually closed and hopefully save yourself from getting drenched.
Once they have shaken out all the water they can get, it's a good idea to grab a towel and wipe down any excess water you can get to that is left over.
The best option from here is really just to let your dog air dry. If you are in a hurry, they do make hair dryers specifically for dogs so you may want to invest in one if this is something you think you will want to do. A regular human hair dryer won’t work for dogs. They get too hot and can burn the dog's skin. So either use your hair dryer on cold the whole time or get one specifically designed for dogs.
Step Three: Wind Down After Doggy Bath Time
Reward Your Dog for Getting Squeaky Clean
After the bath is over and you have them as dry as you can it's a good idea to reward them with a bowl of food or some of their favorite treats.
Or heck, maybe even give them a new toy if this was their very first bath.
The important thing is to reward the dog for taking the bath. You want to build a positive association in their brain between the bath and being rewarded so that next time they need a bath they will be well behaved, or even more well behaved than they were the first time.
Either way, it's useful to teach your dog that the bath is a rewarding experience and is by no means meant to serve as a punishment. They need to take a bath just like every other member of the family, or pack, needs to take a bath.
Well there you have it, all the tips, tricks, and tools of the trade to make sure you know how to properly bathe your dog the next time you give it a try.
The most important things to remember are that a dog’s skin is more sensitive to heat than ours so be careful with hot water and hair dryers. You also need to avoid getting water or soap in their ears, eyes, and nose. And that you need to make sure to rinse thoroughly.
If you follow all the steps in this article though not only will you have an easier time bathing your dog, but hopefully you can teach your dog to behave better for all of their future baths!