Common Bath-Time Mistakes Pet Owners Make
It might sound like a pretty straight-forward task, but bathing a dog can be a daunting task for first-time owners, and even canine veterans are prone to the odd mistake or oversight. Properly grooming your pet is essential to ensure they have a happy, healthy life. Bathing your pooch or feline does a lot more than keep them looking clean and smelling fresh, it also keeps a range of infections at bay, helps to treat skin conditions, and removes potentially hazardous substances from your pet’s coat.
Bathing also gives owners a chance to thoroughly check over their dog for any signs of ill-health. With so many benefits, proper bathing is important. Below, we run through some of the most common mistakes owners make when bath-time rolls around, so you can avoid them and give your pet the best bath possible.
Bathing Too Often
The first mistake that many owners make is putting their pet in the bathtub too often.
Many animals have immaculate grooming routines, and won’t require bathing unless they become very dirty. Cats, for instance, rarely need human assistance when it comes to cleaning themselves. For dog owners, though, a little more thought is required.
Although it’s important to help your dog stay clean, washing them too often can cause more harm than good. Excessive washing runs the risks of stripping away the natural oils your pet’s coat, which not only makes for a dull appearance, but can also increase the risk of bacterial and fungal infections.
How often you should bathe your dog will depend partly on their lifestyle. Active dogs who swim and play in the mud will need to be washed more often, while more sedate animals can skip the odd bath.
Your dog’s breed should also influence how often they get a good scrub:
- The average dog
All told, the average dog will need a bath about once a month, but this requirement will also vary depending on what they’ve been up to. Jumping stagnant water, playing in mud, and other unsavory canine activities can all mean that your dog needs a bath. As a rule of thumb: if you can smell your dog, it’s time to give them a wash.
- Oily coats
Certain breeds possess an oily coat that requires more frequent bathing. This includes Basset hounds, Labrador Retrievers, and Newfoundland dogs. Each should be bathed every week or two.
- Short-haired smooth coats
Beagles, Weimaraners, and certain Daschunds all have very short and smooth coats. This type of hair makes it difficult for dirt to stick around, so owners can get away with bating them less frequently – every two to three months.
- Water-repellent coats
Certain types of dogs were bred with water in mind. These include Golden Retrievers and Great Pyrenees. To preserve the oil that keeps their coats water-proof, they should only be washed once every two months or less.
- Thick, double coats
Finally, dogs with double-layered coats, such as Malamutes and Samoyeds, should have few baths combined with plenty of brushing.
Forgetting To Brush
Some owners forget that grooming means more than just a bath. Brushing your pet’s hair is an important way to keep them healthy and comfortable.
This is especially important for rabbits and cats, who can develop hair balls if excess hair isn’t regularly removed.
For dog’s too, brushing is an important part of the grooming routine. How often you brush your pet will depend on the length and thickness of their coat.
Thick, long coats should ideally be brushed daily, while shorter and finer hair can benefit from less frequent brushing.
Whatever type of coat they have, regular brushing brings a range of benefits:
- Gentle brushing helps both you and your pet to relax
- Brushing is a great way to build a bond of trust with your pet
- Stripping away your pet’s excess hair means that less falls around your home
- Brushing removes dirt and debris from your pet’s coat
- Regular brushing prevents harmful matting that can compromise circulation
- Brushing your pet gives you a valuable chance to check for parasites and skin conditions
Going Too Fast
Many animals find the bathing experience a little intimidating, so it’s important to ease them into it to avoid stress and forge positive associations for the future.
Introduce your pet to the idea of being washed slowly, getting them comfortable with petting over most of their body before you attempt to put them in the tub.
During their first bath time, be sure to offer plenty of praise and encouragement to let them know that it’s nothing to be afraid of – and can even be enjoyable.
Providing your pet with a few treats throughout their bath is another great way to keep them happy and distracted in the tub, while linking bath-time to something obviously positive.
Whatever you do, don’t rush your pet. Bathtubs are slippery, and a distressed animal can lead to accidents, as well as putting them off the idea of bath time in the future.
Letting Your Pet Lose Their Grip
Bath-time can be surprisingly risky, so it’s important to take precautions and avoid any accidents.
When washing a dog, for example, slippery tubs can lead to falls, sprains, and all-round upset. You can minimize the risk of your dog slipping around by placing a rubber mat into the tub, or onto the bottom of the shower.
Pet care companies also have a range of special dog bath tubs on offer, which tend to have carefully designed grips.
If you don’t have a rubber mat, a grippy towel makes a great alternative. Helping your pet feel more secure won’t just help them avoid accidents, it will also make them more likely to cooperate. When your pooch feels comfortable, they’re much more likely to relax and cooperate.
Another common bath-time mistake is to make your pet’s bath water too hot or too cold. Many dog owners have been known to hose down mucky pooches with a garden hose, which although practical, is less than pleasant in cool weather.
Owners should also avoid using water that’s too hot. This can be uncomfortable for your pet, and irritate their skin, making them reluctant to cooperate when their next bath time comes around.
Instead, using lukewarm water is the answer. Check up on the water temperature with your hand every now and then to ensure it hasn’t become too hot or too cold.
Using The Wrong Products
The skin of our furry friends just isn’t like our own. For this reason, it’s not a good idea to use the same products on your pets that you would on yourself.
Instead, choose a shampoo that has been specially formulated to be kind to your pet’s skin. Thanks to online shopping, it’s easy to source exactly the right kind of shampoo for your pet’s needs.
You might want to choose an all-natural product, or something with skin-soothing properties. Certain dog shampoos can also be medicinal, killing off parasites and disinfecting skin infections, and certain puppy shampoos are formulated for younger animals.
Whatever you choose, read the label carefully to ensure it’s suitable for your pet.
Too Much Shampoo
It might sound obvious, but using too much shampoo on your pet doesn’t make for a great bath time.
First of all, using too much means wasting a product that can be quite pricey, and makes your job more difficult when it comes to rinsing your pet clean.
Your pet may even end up with shampoo residue left in their coat, which could irritate their skin, or be ingested – a recipe for an upset stomach.
Luckily, this is a simple mistake to rectify. Check the instructions on your shampoo bottle carefully to ensure you’re using the recommended amount, being sure to take your pet’s size into account.
Washing In The Wrong Direction
Washing your pet in the wrong direction is a good way to keep dirt in their coat.
When the time comes to give your pet a bath, remember that gravity is your friend in order to avoid this error.
Begin by lathering up your pet’s back and neck, before moving onto their sides and chest, finishing up with legs (if they’ll allow this – many pets aren’t used to having their legs handled).
Washing in this direction ensures that dirt flows away from their body, making for an effective wash.
Lathering Your Pet’s Head
Most pets have very sensitive eyes and ears – just like us. If a little shampoo sneaks into your pet’s eyes, this can cause a lot of irritation, stress, and an aversion to bath time.
To avoid the problem altogether, don’t lather your pet’s head. Instead, carefully rinse the area with lukewarm water, being careful not to get any in their eyes or ears.
The ears of both cats and dogs are prone to infection because they provide a warm, dark spot for bacteria to multiply. If your pet is especially prone to these infections, you could pop a cotton ball in each ear, carefully, to keep water at bay.
Not Properly Rinsing
We mentioned earlier that excess shampoo in your pet’s coat can cause a surprising amount of irritation.
For this reason, it’s important to properly rinse your pet’s coat whenever you give them a bath. It might be a little more time consuming, but proper rinsing helps prevent avoidable skin conditions.
Neglecting Ear Cleaning
For dogs especially, ear cleaning is an important part of your grooming routine, and should be done around once a month.
If left uncleaned, wax and oil will build up in your dog’s ears, which can increase the risk of infection, and the hearing damage that comes with it.
Fortunately, cleaning your dog’s ears is a relatively straightforward task.
- Ear cleanser – look out for one free from dying alcohol or hydrogen peroxide
- Cotton balls/pads
- A towel
To clean your dog’s ears:
- Start by having your dog sit in front of you. Give them a treat to forge positive associations, and allow them to get a good look at your bottle of ear cleaning solution.
- If your dog has floppy ears, hold the flap upright.
- Next, carefully squeeze some cleaning solution inside, aiming to fill up the canal.
- Still elevating the flap, gently massage the base of the ear for 10 to 20 seconds to work in the cleansing solution.
- Let go of the ear. Your dog will probably shake their head to clear it – hold up a towel to avoid making a mess.
- Use your cotton ball or pad to wipe your dog’s ear, only covering the visible part.
- Give your dog another treat and plenty of praise, before repeating the procedure on their other ear.
Not Drying Your Pet Thoroughly
Drying your pet is an important part of the bathing process. Proper drying helps your pet to stay warm.
Damp hair will also increase the likelihood of skin infections developing, since bacteria and fungi love dark, damp spots.
In warmer climates, towel drying your pet is usually enough, but with thick coats, or in the winter months, you may need the help of a blow dryer.
When you blow dry your pet, use a cool or warm setting, avoiding the hottest temperatures.
Forgetting Other Grooming Practices
Finally, as you bathe your pet it’s important to remember other grooming practices.
For cats and dogs, two of the most important grooming habits are claw maintenance and dental care.
Helping your pet to keep their teeth clean can help them avoid myriad conditions including gum disease, and infections that progress from the mouth to other areas.
Using a specially designed toothbrush and toothpaste is best, but for animals who aren’t accustomed to having their mouth handled, you might want to opt for a dental chew.
Nail trimming prevents your pet’s claws from getting tangled up around the home, and impede their ability to walk and run properly.
As a rule of thumb, your pet’s nails should be trimmed – or ground down – when they become long enough to touch the floor while they stand. Just be careful to avoid cutting to the quick; the nail’s blood supply.
Cutting the quick is very painful, and causes bleeding.