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You are here: myPetSmart.com > Pet Care Library > Articles > The Beginners Guide To Bathing Your Dog

The Beginner's Guide to Bathing Your Dog


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Keeping your dog clean is part of keeping him healthy. If you choose to bathe your dog at home yourself, here are some tips to help make the job easier.

Should I brush my dog first? 

Keeping your dog clean is part of keeping him healthy. If you choose to bathe your dog at home yourself, here are some tips to help make the job easier.

Should I brush my dog first? 

Yes. Once you have thoroughly brushed your pet and removed all mats, you're ready to gather your supplies and begin the bathing process.

How often should I bathe my dog?
How often a dog should be bathed is different for each breed. Breeds prone to skin conditions, such as Cocker Spaniels, benefit from regular bathing about every six weeks. Double-coated breeds only need bathing about 3 or 4 times a year. Bathing a dog with an undercoat more often than this will cause the coat to soften and reduce the coat's insulative and waterproofing qualities.

What kind of shampoo should I use?
That depends on your pet's coat and any specific needs you have, like moisturizing the skin. Always use a shampoo specially formulated for dogs. Human shampoos are harsher and are formulated with a different pH than what a dog needs.

The bathing process from start to finish

  • Gather all supplies and keep them within arm's reach. Everything you need should be right next to the bath. Placing a rubber non-slip mat on the bottom of the tub keeps your dog from slipping around on a slick surface and will put him more at ease. Pets can get very nervous if they lose their footing, and they may try to jump out.
  • Protect your pet's ears. Place one or two cotton balls in each ear as a barrier should any water accidentally get in the ear canal. If the pet has floppy ears, press the ear leather against the ear to help keep the water from soaking the cotton. If the pet's ears stand up, cup your hand over the opening of the ear while wetting and rinsing.
  • Protect your pet's eyes. A drop of mineral oil in your pet's eyes prior to bathing will form a thin coating over the eyeball to help keep soaps and chemicals from irritating the eyes. A tiny drop in the corner of each eye is all you need to provide a barrier against irritants. Mineral oil is not harmful to the pet's eyes.
  • Properly lift your dog to avoid injury. If you need to lift your dog into a tub, avoid possible injury to both you and your dog by using proper lifting techniques. Place one arm under the chest in front of the dog's front legs, and place the other arm behind the rear legs, just under the tail. Keep your upper body upright and lift with your legs, not with your back.

    If your dog is heavy, always ask for help. The person in front places one arm under the chest in front of the dog's front legs, and the other arm under the chest, just behind the front legs. The other person places one arm behind the rear legs, just under the tail, and their other arm is placed under the dog's body, just in front of the rear legs. Both people stand up at the same time, remembering to lift with the legs, not the back.

  • Wet the coat. Turn the water on slowly and adjust the temperature and water pressure before ever turning the water on the pet. The temperature should be lukewarm, not hot and not too cool. Shampoo works best with lukewarm water, and your pet will be more comfortable if the water is warm.

    Hold the spray nozzle as close to the coat as possible, about one inch from the coat. This way the pet is not frightened and you get the deepest penetration of water into the coat. Completely soak the pet's coat to the skin. Start with the hindquarters and work to the front of the pet.

    The head should be the last thing you wet. The flow of water must be gentle, and it should never be sprayed directly into the pet's face. Slightly lift the face so that the water runs down the back of the head instead of into the eyes or nose. Use your fingers to help move the water around the eyes, nose, and mouth.

  • Shampoo the coat. Being systematic ensures you thoroughly cover the entire pet. Start with the hindquarters and work to the front of the pet, leaving the head for last. A tearless shampoo should be used on the face.

    Make certain you work the shampoo through the hair to the skin. Don't just wash the top of the coat. A rubber brush can be used on breeds with shorter hair to help work the shampoo down into the coat. If the pet has especially long hair, massage the coat in the direction of hair growth so the hair doesn't tangle.

  • Wash areas that need special attention. Areas that are often neglected are between the pads, under the stomach, under the tail, under the neck, in facial wrinkles, and the ear leather (flap). A rubber brush can help remove feces or any other matter that may be clinging to the hair.
  • Rinse very well. Again, check the temperature of the water. When rinsing, start with the head and hand rinse the soap from the face. Continue to rinse the rest of the pet, using your free hand to knead the soap out of the coat. Any soap left in the coat will dull the coat and cause a skin irritation.
  • Apply a moisturizer, if needed. Moisturizing treatments are designed to seal in the moisture from the pet's own skin. These can be used on a regular basis for pets that are prone to dry skin or dandruff. In most cases, the solution is massaged into the skin after bathing and left on the coat.
  • Dry the pet. Once the pet has been bathed, squeeze the excess water out of the coat with your hands. Blot the excess moisture from the coat using a clean towel. Do not vigorously rub the coat of a longhaired dog. Shorthaired dogs can have their coats towel dried in a circular motion. Remove the cotton from the ears and use the towel to absorb any moisture in the ear.

    Many breeds with kinky coats or with long, flowing coats will have a better look and texture to the hair if they are fluff dried. These include the Poodle, Bichon Frise, Old English Sheepdog, Afghan hound, and Maltese, for example. Use a blow dryer on the low setting. When working on the head, never direct the flow of air into the pet's face.

Read more on brushing tips for your dog. 

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04 Feb 2011 6:20 pm

chance53 said:

Helped a lot on how often to bath, and ear and eye protection. Thanks

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