How to bathe a dog: these 5 essential hacks will make a dog bath easy as pie

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While it may sound straightforward, learning how to bathe a dog is important. To learn how, read this guide! Read more

New dog owners know how stressful it can be to bathe a dog for the first time. While some dogs are more well-behaved than others in the bath, most dogs find the experience stressful.

If your dog is panicking and struggling to get out of the tub, it can easily injure itself. Not only can it be dangerous and leave the dog feeling anxious, but it will also be almost impossible to wash the dog’s skin and coat if you are not bathing them right.

Given that the right bathing techniques will keep your dog’s coat dirt-, fungus-, odor-, and tangle-free, it is imperative to learn how to bathe a dog the right way. Luckily, we are here to help with our three-step method!

Not only will we explain the right way to bathe a dog, but we will also offer tips and tricks you can follow for the best results. So, let’s learn how to get your furry friend’s coat clean and smelling great!

How to Prepare for Your Dog’s Bath
3-Step Method for Bathing a Dog
5 Essential Hacks for Bathing a Dog

How to Prepare for Your Dog’s Bath

dog bath
Dog expecting great time

Before we get into our step-by-step instructions for bathing your canine companion, we will explain how to prepare before you bring your pup to the tub.

This will make the entire process easier and help keep your pup calm. First, decide where you want to bathe your dog and get the water ready. A hard-plastic kiddie pool is an excellent option for bathing your dog outside. A bathtub will work best if you prefer to bathe your dog indoors; however, a clean sink will also work if you have a toy breed or a small puppy.

Assemble the supplies you need, including dog-friendly shampoo that is life-stage appropriate for your dog. Just like human babies, puppies need a milder shampoo than adult and senior dogs. If you need help finding the correct type of shampoo, we recommend reading PetCareRx’s informative guide – How to Choose a Dog Shampoo.

You will need a pitcher or large cup that you can use to wash the shampoo from your dog’s coat. It is also a good idea to have a few dry towels handy. Use towels that you are not overly attached to, as they may get scratched or chewed.

Once you have everything ready, you can fill the tub or kiddie pool with a few inches of water. Ensure the water is lukewarm rather than hot or cold, as this will be far less shocking for your pooch. You do not need to fill the warm water too high, as you will be scooping it up with your pitcher and pouring it over your dog rather than submerging them.

You are now ready to get started!

3-Step Method for Bathing a Dog

1.  Brush Your Dog

Before your dog even steps foot in the water, you need to brush its coat thoroughly. Not only will this help to remove and loosen up tangles, but it will also pull excess hair from the coat.

 Removing this dead hair from your dog’s coat made it much easier for the shampoo to penetrate down the undercoat and skin level. This will help eliminate those pesky odors that can get trapped within a dog’s coat. It will also help the shampoo clean the surface of the dog’s skin, which will help remove dead skin, trapped bacteria, dirt, and various irritants.

 Brushing and de-tangling the coat before the dog gets into the water will also help shedding. This step is particularly important if you have a long-haired, double-coated breed, like a golden retriever or Nova Scotia duck tolling retriever.

 Make sure you own a high-quality dog brush suitable for your dog’s specific coat type. If you need help choosing the right dog grooming tools for your particular breed, we recommend reading this informative guide from Hartz – Choosing the Right Brush for Your Dog.

2.  Wet and Shampoo the Dog’s Entire Coat

Now it is time to introduce your dog to the water. Rather than dropping your dog into the water, slowly introduce them to the water with plenty of positive reinforcement. Remember, this can be a somewhat intimidating process for a confused and anxious dog, so it is essential to take this step slowly and offer plenty of encouragement.

 Once the dog is in the water, slowly and calmly wet the dog’s entire coat using the lukewarm water in the tub, kiddie pool, or sink. Again, make sure that you double-check that the water is not too hot or cold.

 After the dog’s coat is sufficiently wet, meaning the water has worked its way beneath the outer coat, you can apply the recommended amount of dog-friendly shampoo. Make sure you read the label ahead of time, as it will tell you how much shampoo you should use based on your dog’s weight, coat type, and age.

Using your wet fingers, work the shampoo into the coat from the dog’s neck down to the end of the tail. Ensure you are thorough, as you want to ensure the shampoo can penetrate the coat. At this point, avoid getting shampoo on the dog’s face, particularly around the eyes, mouth, and ears.

 Pay extra attention to the dirtiest regions, like the paws and underbelly. Once every other part of the dog’s coat and body have been shampooed, rinse your hands and apply a small amount of fresh shampoo to your fingers. You can now shampoo the snout, top of the head, and under the chin. Again, avoid getting shampoo in your dog’s eyes and inner ears. Getting water in your dog’s ear canal can lead to an ear infection, especially if they need frequent baths.

3.  Thoroughly Rinse Your Dog

Using one hand, cover the dog’s eyes and wash away the shampoo from the face with your pitcher. Be very gentle and offer encouragement and other forms of positive reinforcement.

 Once all traces of shampoo have been cleared from your dog’s head and neck, continue to work backward until you get to the tail. It is crucial to fully remove the shampoo from your dog’s coat and the surface of their skin, as leftover shampoo residue can dry out the fur and skin. This can lead to itchiness, flaking, and excess shedding.

 Congratulations, you have now successfully bathed your dog. Help your pooch out of the water and ensure they do not slip, especially if you have a tub raised off the ground.

 From here, all you have to do is dry your dog’s coat. It is much better to towel dry the dog rather than using a blow dryer, as the hot air can irritate your dog’s skin and leave the fur brittle and more susceptible to excess shedding.

 To learn how often you should bathe your dog, we recommend reading the American Kennel Club’s guide – How Often Should You Bathe Your Dog?

5 Essential Hacks for Bathing a Dog

how to dry a dog after bath
Dry your dog thoroughly after bath

Now that you know how to bathe a dog, we can get into a few tips and tricks that will make the entire process easier.

1.  Put Down a Non-Slip Surface

A non-slip rubber bath mat will go a long way to keep your pooch calm and injury-free during bath time. Your dog will become much more panicked and anxious if it feels it cannot get a good grip on the tub.

 Preventing slipping also helps your dog avoid painful muscle and joint injuries, which is particularly important for senior dogs, as they are far more susceptible to joint pain and tend to have poor balance.

2.  Peanut Butter Is Your Friend

A distracted dog will be far easier to shampoo and rinse than a dog that is hyper-focused on what is happening. Even a small smear of peanut butter on one of the edges of the bathtub or a reachable wall will keep your dog busy and distracted.

 Dog bath toys can be filled with peanut butter to make things even easier!

3. Block the Drain

If you want to make things easier for yourself, make sure that you are blocking the drain with a hair catcher. If you do not want to buy one, you can stuff the drain with a piece of steel wool, which can sit beneath the plug.

 As you can imagine, dogs shed a significant amount during baths, especially breeds with long, thick coats, and you don’t want that loose fur going down the drain.

4. Dry Your Dog Thoroughly After the Bath

While some breeds are drawn to the water, like Labrador retrievers and Newfoundlands, others despise being wet. To help calm your dog after you are finished with its bath, make sure you take the time to dry its coat.

 This may involve using several towels, so you may want to invest in large, absorbent beach towels if you have a larger breed. Not only will taking the time to dry your dog help calm them, but it will also prevent your dog from rolling around in the grass and dirt after you have just put all that time into cleaning them.

5. Give Your Dog a Treat Before and After the Bath

You want your dog to associate being bathed with positive feelings. Offering a reward at the start and finish will help to train your dog to enjoy the bath.

 You should also avoid raising your voice or punishing your dog in any way while they are near the bath, as positive reinforcement will be drastically more effective than negative reinforcement.

 Your life as a dog owner will be far more enjoyable if your dog learns to enjoy taking a bath! 

What to do next?

Do you need help training your dog to get used to baths? Check our guide to training dogs. If you’re looking for flea and tick prevention methods, our article lists all types to help you pick the most useful ones.

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Agnes is the owner and Editor-in-Chief of PetCareLink, website dedicated to first time pet owners looking for help in looking after their animals. Agnes is a pet enthusiast and a devoted owner of Cookie the ragdoll cat. She combines her passion for improving pets and their owners' lives with her background in medicine and research to promote responsible pet ownership.

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