A shiny clean coat is a sign of a healthy, happy dog. Bathing helps to avoid irritations and skin problems, and keeps your furry friend fresh and fragrant.
Bath-time can be scary for dogs, and messy for their humans, but with a little knowledge and preparation, you can easily do this at home and make it a pleasure for both of you. It’s a great bonding time and can help with discipline and training, as well as keep them looking, feeling and smelling their best.
TEN QUICK TIPS
Choose a location that’s confined; a bathroom with the door shut or an enclosed area outside (on a warm day). Kiddie pools are great. Small dogs can be bathed in a sink.
Avoid anxiety by preparing out of sight and gather everything you need there beforehand. Unscrew bottles, unfold towels, pre-fill a bucket with rinse-water.
Brush your dog before washing – this is calming and helps shampooing.
Accept that you will get wet! We usually don swimwear or old clothes that can go straight into the wash. Getting wet with your dog can be great fun for them.
Put a towel in the bottom of the tub or shower so that its less slippery
Cotton balls gently placed in your dogs ears can help avoid water splashing into them
Use water that’s warm to your touch – never hot, nor cold (- especially on young dogs)
Take treats to use during the wash with a soothing voice and keep praising
Comb out the coat whilst still wet to avoid tangling
Close off access to freshly-made beds and out-of-bounds sofas, because an escapee wet dog will instantly jump on whatever you’d least like them to!
WHEN TO WASH
Bathing is undistracted ‘we-time’ with your dog that builds the bond between you. It’s a great time to check them for lumps, bites and scratches.
For most dogs, a monthly bath is a great way to keep them smelling pleasant and looking good. More often could remove the natural oils that are essential to healthy skin and coat.
Avoid washing for around 90 mins after eating, in case any bath-time wriggles create stomach issues.
WHAT TO USE
All you need is warm water and a high-quality shampoo that’s been formulated for a dog’s unique pH balance. Cheap soap, or products designed for humans, cars or dishes are NOT APPROPRIATE for a dog’s skin and can lead to complications. A dog’s dermis is only a few cells deep – much like our eyelids – so anything abrasive or astringent is really not a great idea!
ROOKIE ERRORS THAT SPOIL BATH-TIME
Don’t rinse or lather your dog’s head/snout – use a damp cloth for these areas
Don’t try to blow-dry a dog that’s not used to it
Don’t neglect paws and hard-to-reach bits as this is where bacteria lurk
Don’t leave any suds/shampoo in the fur as this can cause skin irritations
Don’t force a dog into a bath-time situation - take a different approach (see more below)
10 STEPS TO A WELL WASHED DOG
Once you and the dog are ready, here’s how get to your pooch from grubby to glam:
Fill the bath/tub with warm water to a level above the dogs heel
Remove the collar – you’ll need to wash the neck and some collars can shrink when wet, which could be dangerous
Working from neck-to-tail, rinse well. Save the head for later
Apply shampoo to the body, using your hands. For long-haired dogs, pre-mixing with water will help distribute the wash more evenly. A good shampoo will NOT create a thick lather, as this is too astringent – a gentle cleanse with few suds is much better
Work up the legs, pits and give the paws plenty of attention between claws
Use a damp cloth to clean the head and face. For dogs with folds in their skin, ring out the cloth between use in each fold
Rinse with clean water until it runs clean of the lather
Dry with a towel by laying across the back and patting. Rubbing may cause matting of longer-haired dogs. A highly absorbant / microfibre towel will be much easier than a large cotton one and is easier to wring out and dry.
If you use a hair-drier, keep the temperature on cool/low and never point it at the dog’s face
Reward and give praise when they are dry, clean, fluffy and fresh. It will make the job easier next time!
FOR DOGS WHO REALLY HATE BATH TIME
Some dogs have developed anxiety about being washed, probably because of an experience that was traumatic…. others love the attention! Here are some tips for encouraging nervous dogs to relax and enjoy it
Build familiarity with the bath - If your dog is new to your home, or terrified of the bath, take them to a dry tub (or your location) and don’t run water. Use a soothing voice and provide treats or toys to play with. This builds a positive association; work your way up to running some warm water nearby, and then over their body.
Get them used to the scent of the shampoo. A dog’s sense of smell is incredibly powerful and they can detect the aroma of their shampoo as soon as you’ve opened it. Sniffe & Likkit shampoos are made with essential oils that relax and calm your dog to make sure bath-time can be pleasurable for both of you. If you notice that your dog dislikes or backs away from the shampoo you are using, it may contain an ingredient they don’t like.
Make it a treat-time as well - have treats handy to keep them relaxed and rewarded. Hiding treats around the edge of the bath, or smearing their favourite food on nearby tiles can really help distract from being shampooed. Peanut butter works well for this, but only if your dog is used to it.