Dog Basics: How to Wash a Dog
If you’re new to the world of dogs, you probably have an endless list of questions regarding exercise, diets, grooming, and training. Dogs are different than people, naturally, and it takes a bit of adjusting to become fully aware of how to interact with your new pup and how to best take care of him. Don’t get overwhelmed — you have plenty of time to learn the basics and to provide your dog with a happy, healthy life.
Washing your dog is a mandatory part of ensuring he stays healthy (and smells nice). While whether you wash your dog on your own will have a lot to do with how much he likes the process and his breed’s particular grooming needs, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the basic steps of giving your dog a bath to ensure you can do it safely and efficiently. Over time dogs get dirty; that’s one of the many reasons we love them so much.
With that in mind, here’s a quick guide to dog-washing success:
Prepare, Prepare, Prepare
Most dogs aren’t amazing at taking baths. They struggle, they fight, and they go careening around your house while still soaked in shampoo, ruining your furniture in the process. Once you have your dog in the bath zone (inside or outside), you’re not going to have time to go grab supplies you may have forgotten. Before you start bath time, gather all of the items you’ll need to successfully see the bath from start to finish.
Supplies include but are not limited to:
• Dog treats
Executing a bath is challenging enough without leaving your pup cold, wet, and unattended.
*Note on shampoo: All-natural, gentle shampoos are far better for your pup’s fur and skin than those made from harsh chemicals like Sodium Laurel Sulfate and such. Opt for these whenever possible.
Before you load your dog into the tub or drag him out onto the back porch, there are some things you need to handle. If you’re comfortable trimming your dog’s nails, now is the time. Additionally, brushing the tangles out of your dog’s fur (if necessary) can make the bathing process faster and more efficient. The goal here is limiting the time your dog needs to spend wet and soapy by handling all of the non-critical bathing tasks before the bath actually begins. Play a fun game with your dog to burn off some of his extra energy and to put him in a positive state of mind.
Starting the Bath
If you bathe your dog inside, place a towel or mat in the tub so he doesn’t slip and fall. If you’re outside, try to do the bath in the grass where he can stand comfortably. Load him into the bath area by offering him a tasty treat or placing him where he needs to go (this will depend on his size, of course), and prepare to start the bath. If your dog needs to be restrained during a bath due to his hatred for bath time, have a friend help keep him secure to prevent any injuries. Be sure to take it slow and award him with praise and treats for good behavior — positive associations will make bath time easier in the future.
Run the water and make sure it’s lukewarm. Dogs don’t enjoy hot showers like humans do, and cold water will naturally leave him feeling uncomfortable. Wet the dog thoroughly, being sure to get his belly, legs, tail, and under his neck. Use a cup of water to wet his head and be careful not to get water in his ears. A removable shower head or garden hose sprayer can be big assets when it comes to puppy bath time.
Suds for Pups
Apply your dog’s shampoo liberally from the neck down. Lather the shampoo by rubbing your dog with your hands. The benefit here is two-fold: Your dog enjoys being rubbed and pet by you, and using your hands to touch your dog during baths will help you spot any health anomalies like tumors, ticks, injuries, or pain points. Work the shampoo into a lather and remember to get your dog’s underside, tail, and hindquarters. Do not apply shampoo to your dog’s head; instead, wipe it clean with a damp cloth.
Once your dog has been thoroughly lathered, rinse all of the soap out of his fur. This can be a challenge for some thick-furred pups, so make sure you take the necessary time to completely clear the fur of soap. Soap left in the fur can cause dry, itchy skin. Apply conditioner if necessary or use a moisturizer to keep the skin healthy and fresh. Once you’re done, dry the dog with a few towels (one is never enough). Try to get him as dry as you can, but remember that he’ll still need to do some air drying and shaking to get all the way there. A blow dryer is also an option if your dog is comfortable with it.
Always conclude bath time with a mini-party for your dog. Give him treats and lots of praise to let him know what a good dog he was and to cement bath time as a good thing in his mind. Run around with him and play his favorite games for a few minutes so he understands that being in the bath will always end in a fun play session. Everything your dog learns is by association; helping him associate baths with positive feelings will make it much easier to bathe him in the future.
Bath time can be a hassle at first, but if you’re calm and approach the situation with a positive attitude, your dog will eventually learn to at least tolerate the process. Just remember to always reward him for sitting through a bath and he may even come to look forward to them.