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How to give your dog a bath

The Dog Bath!

The first few times you might not even wash him. Just coax him into the tub without water, give him a treat, hug him and tell him he is a good boy. Then let him out.

Do this each day for two or three days before actually getting him wet. People and animals learn better sometimes if they do it in very small steps. A few extra days of kind, gentle, and patient teaching will be well worth it if in return you get ten to fifteen years of happy baths in your dog’s lifetime.

Prior to bathing your dog you should make sure you have completely brushed or combed him. You want to make sure he is free of mats, which will only get worse when wet. The hair between the pads needs to be free of debris. Also, rid your dog of loose hair if blowing (shedding) coat.

It’s often easiest to bathe your dog in your own bathtub. Warm up the bathroom, have all supplies needed in the bathroom prior to beginning. Can you imagine running out in the middle of the bath to find something you forgot? You’ll need shampoo, a bowel or bucket, towels, a hair dryer, Vaseline or special eye drops from the vet, and cotton balls for inside his ears.

Lay a nonskid mat inside the tub first. (If you have a large dog, consider bathing him in a large shower; just walk inside with him. But do not run the shower head as you would if you were talking a bath. Let water trickle from it, and use a large cup to pour water over your pet.)

Before you begin, use specially designed eye drops for protecting your pet while he’s getting bathed. You can ask you vet if he recommends using unscented Vaseline around the eyes to prevent soap from getting into his eyes.

For additional protection, place some cotton in each of his ears – but do not allow the cotton to go into his ear canal. It should sit just inside the opening of his ear.

Use only lukewarm water for the bath; cold water is unpleasant for your pet and hot water may hurt his skin. Whenever possible, the water should nearly reach the top of your dog’s legs.
Make certain the water is comfortably warm, and fill the tub with about 3 inches of water. Put the dog in the tub.

Rinse your dog very well down to the skin. Rinsing is the most important part of the bath. If you do not rinse well both prior and after shampooing you will not have a clean dog. Leaving shampoo in can also result in skin irritations.

(A helpful hint for shampooing your dog is after you rinse your dog add shampoo to the area(s) you will be starting with and run a little water over the shampoo prior to massaging and shampooing in.)

Use a large bowl or bucket to pour water over your dog and saturate his coat. Be sure to get the undersides, and tail wet too. Don’t get water in his eyes.

Apply a small amount of dog shampoo available at pet stores to the top of the head. Be extremely careful to keep it away from the eyes. Then lather up your dog’s neck; this will help prevent fleas from moving toward his head, which will irritate your dog and make him hate being bathed.

Shampoo well down to the skin. A little diluted shampoo goes a long way. A helpful hint for shampooing your dog is after you rinse your dog add shampoo to the area(s) you will be starting with and run a little water over the shampoo prior to massaging and shampooing in.

Lather down to the tail, including the neck and underside fur. If using a flea shampoo, leave the lather on for the recommended time.

Keep a hand on your dog, because he will want to shake the lather off. Be ready to turn your head away. As you bathe your dog, be particularly gentle around his face and muzzle. Scrub his ears gently, cleaning both sides of his earflaps. Leave the lather on for the recommended time if you are using a flea shampoo.

When you rinse his face and ears, use a washcloth so you have more control over how much water falls in his face.

A shower spray head that is removable from its mount is very handy for rinsing your dog. Just be sure that the spray is gentle. After you’ve rinsed your dog once, pull the tub drain and run the water again; adjust the temperature. Depending on how dirty he was, you might want to lather him up again. Then rinse thoroughly, as any remaining soap may lead to skin irritations.

After you have completely shampooed your dog, Rinse. Rinsing will take the most time. Your dog is not rinsed well until the water runs clear. Use the bucket to carefully and completely rinse the head first, avoiding the eyes and inner ears. Work the water toward the dog’s back and undersides. Use your hands to work the water through the suds. Make sure you rinse the dog very well, as he may have a reaction (skin rash/itching from the leftover soap you are using.

Your dog should be clean now. Run your hands over the entire dog to release as much water as possible.

Turn off the water. While your dog is still in the tub, let him shake excess water off his fur.

Drain the water from the tub and dry the dog with towels from head to toe. Concentrate on the areas of thickest fur and between his toes.

The entire time you bathe your dog, it’s helpful to praise him (even when he wiggles all over the place, making you crazy). Take the time to scratch his favorite spots as your shampoo him. Offer him a treat when he’s all clean and dry. If you do these things, he may dread bath time less and be more cooperative in the future.

Towel-dry your dog from head to toe, absorbing as much water as possible. Make sure the area you dry him in is nice and warm. The more water you soak up, the less will soak you and your surroundings when your pooch gets the urge to shake.

For dogs with long hair or undercoats, it’s best to use a special dog hair dryer. The top setting on your hair dryer is too hot for your dog’s sensitive skin, so use your own hair dryer only if it has a warm setting and doesn’t scare him. Dry your dog as thoroughly as you can. Be especially careful not to hold the dryer head too close to the skin, in the ears, etc. Your dog may snap at the hair dryer if you hold it too close to his face.

Do not comb or brush your dog when their coat is still very wet. Turn on the hair dryer to a medium setting, testing the heat with your fingers. Aim first for the thickest hair, running your fingers or a comb through it until it is just slightly damp. Keep the hair dryer approximately 6 inches from the skin to prevent burning and overdrying.

Keep your dog inside until he’s completely dry so he doesn’t get chilled – or dirty from rolling on the ground. Check his skin under the thickest part of his coat to be sure he’s dry before you let him out.

Towel dry the inside of his ears, but do not stick your finger or towel deep down in the ear canal. Just dry the inside base of his ears, because many ear problems are caused by allowing moisture to settle near a dog’s ears.

As you dry your dog, brush him down.

If your dog hates being bathed, try a dry shampoo between major washings. You can buy powdered shampoos in pet supply stores; just brush them onto your dog’s coat and brush out thoroughly, removing every trace of the powder.

Do not bathe your dog more than is necessary, as this may sap his skin of its natural oils, causing dry skin, rashes, and a dull coat.

After the bath is a good time to trim his toenails as they are still soft from the bath, it’s easier to find the quick (blood vessel inside the nail), and they less likely to split. Some people prefer to cut the nails with dog toenail clippers, some will use the clippers then the grinder and yet others only use the grinder. (Note: If you use a grinder be very careful not to catch the hair in the grinder. To prevent this you can stick the toenail through some old pantyhose prior to grinding.)

Regular nail trimming is important to your dog’s health and well being. Never use ordinary scissors to trim your dog’s nails. Hold the dog’s paw firmly, and cut off the tip of the nail with a single stroke. Be very careful to stop short of the blood vessel inside the nail. Follow up by filing your dog’s nails with a dog nail file.


The bottom line:

  • Assign this job only to adults or responsible older children
  • Trembling is not uncommon for a dog during a bath
  • Your bathtub is a good place to bathe your dog, though small dogs may feel more secure in a
    sink or small tub. (On a warm, windless summer day, you can bathe your dog outdoors in a baby pool or portable tub.) Whatever venue you choose, give your dog secure footing by putting down a nonskid mat or towel. And be prepared to get wet yourself.
  • Isolate the dog in the bathroom before running the water.
  • If using the bathtub purchase a rubber maid type of drain covers to cover your drain and prevent the hair from clogging your drains
  • If using the shower or spray, make sure you don’t have the water pressure on too hard. The water should be soft and calming, not hard, or it could scare the dog and it could get hurt.
  • When washing a dog that shakes a lot, strip down to a bathing suit or less. It makes your clean-up easier and gives you more freedom of movement when washing the dog.
  • Talk to him gently, saying, “Good dog.”
  • Follow bath with a cuddle and a treat.

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