Love it or loathe it, bath time is an essential part of caring for your pooch. It is one aspect of owning a dog that people can get stressed about. They worry about how often they should give their dog a bath, where to do it and how to achieve the best results. Above all, they don’t want to cause any harm to their dog.
Of course, this is a job that you could pay someone else to do and there will be plenty of dog groomers near you who are experts at giving a dog a bath. However, this can prove to be very expensive. You also have the hassle of getting your dog to the groomers and for nervous dogs, it can end up being a stressful experience. It is a task that you are perfectly capable of doing yourself and one that will help you and your dog to bond. To help you get up to speed right away with how to bathe your four-legged friend, here are the 7 easy steps that you should follow to achieve a successful doggy bathtime.
Decide If Your Dog Needs a Bath!
This is the most important step. There may be a very obvious visible reason for bathing your pooch if they have rolled in something very unpleasant in the park! Alternatively, your nose may be telling you that their doggy odor has reached a level that you can no longer tolerate. Some breeds have a stronger natural odor than others but most dogs will start to smell at some point.
There are also some health reasons for giving your dog a bath. Firstly, a bath can be very good at soothing inflamed skin and hot spots caused by allergies. It can also be useful for treating skin infections. However, always consult your vet first about infections and allergies and follow their advice. It also gives you an ideal opportunity to give your pooch a quick health check. You will slop any lumps, bumps or sore areas that may need to be checked out by your vet.
Some dogs will hardly ever need a bath. Others, who enjoy an active outdoor lifestyle, may need one as often as every two weeks but once a month is more typical. More frequent bathing is not recommended. It could disrupt the natural chemistry and oil production of the skin and lead to dry skin and irritations. In between baths, you can groom any obvious dirt off your dog with a suitable brush and wipe off anything that is too sticky to brush off!
Decide Where To Have the Bath
You have the option of bathing your dog inside or outside your house. Outside baths are only appropriate for large dogs who are big shedders and only when the weather is warm. You can use a container outside or a hose pipe. However, you should only use water from a pipe that is under low pressure. If you use high pressure, you risk injuring your dog or driving bacteria into the skin.
Inside your house, the bath tub is the obvious option, unless your pooch is tiny and can fit in the sink. Use warm water to prevent your little pooch getting a chill. It may take a few baths to get your dog used to the idea. Try putting them into the bath tub (with no water in it) regularly. They will soon get used to the idea. Also, use a non-slip mat that sticks to the base of the bath for your dog’s safety.
Collect Together What You Need
It is important that you collect together everything you need before you start or you risk having a wet dog leaping around the place whilst you run to fetch it. At the very least, you will need a bath tub (unless you intend to carry out the bath outside with a hose pipe), some appropriate dog shampoo, a mitt brush, a plastic container that you can use to pour water over your dog and a dog towel to dry them off afterward. Some owners prefer to use a dog dryer for this task.
The choice of shampoo is important. Never be tempted to use your own human shampoo because it will damage your dog’s coat and skin. It is designed for human hair and not for a dog! You must use a shampoo that is specifically designed for dogs. Try to spend as much as your budget will allow, you get what you pay for and the more expensive shampoos are better quality. They use natural ingredients and have undergone thorough testing to make sure that they will not cause irritations or adverse reactions. It is always a good idea to talk to your vet, breeder or groomer to get a recommendation for your particular breed. This is especially important if you need medicated shampoo because your dog has a skin condition. Store the shampoo carefully so that it cannot get contaminated. Old and dirty shampoo can introduce pathogens onto your dog’s skin and this can set up an infection. For this reason, it’s best to throw it away and purchase a fresh bottle.
You may also find it useful to have another human helper as a second pair of hands as this is always a good option. If it is someone that your dog likes and trusts that is even better. A supply of tasty treats to gain your dog’s attention and to get them to obey commands would also be handy. Make sure that you are both wearing old clothes or aprons because you are likely to get very wet and soapy!
Start With a Good Brush
This is the step that a lot of new owners forget. The bath will be a lot more successful and will effective if you give your dog’s coat a good brush first. It will remove all the loose hairs and get rid of tangles and any debris that is sticking to the coat. For a long-haired breed, this could add up to quite a lot of dirt! Use a strong brush with soft bristles so that it does not cause damage to the skin. Always brush the coat in the direction that the hairs grow because dogs don’t like to have their coats brushed backward. If you do find a tangle, don’t tug at it. Tease it apart a section at a time, just as you would in a child’s hair. At the same time, check if ears need to be gently wiped with a soft cloth.
Wet And Lather Your Dog
Put a couple of inches of lukewarm water in the bath tub (or sink) and put your dog in. You may need to use a tasty treat to entice them if they are not keen. Sometimes, you need to restrain a dog in the bath and this is when an extra pair of hands comes in very useful. If there is a danger of your dog bolting, they need to keep a leash and collar on and it needs to be tethered to something stable. Smaller dogs can be held by hand with few problems but they may still try to leap about.
Now you can use a container to scoop water over your dog’s body to make them wet. You could use a shower head on a low pressure if you prefer and if it does not make your dog nervous. If you are bathing them outside you can use a hose pipe but only if the weather is very hot as it can make them chilled. Once their coat is completely wet, you can apply shampoo and lather it up. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions in terms of how much you should use. Avoid the face and ears as best you can as the shampoo can cause irritation.
You can use the mitt to work the shampoo into your dog’s coat by moving it in circular motions. Don’t press too hard because you could damage the skin. Dogs with thicker and longer coats will take longer to wash. They may need another tasty treat to get them to stand still for a bit longer!
Rinsing And Conditioning
Once the shampoo has been worked in, you will be ready to rinse it off. You can do this with the plastic container or with a shower head if your dog will tolerate it. Be very thorough as you are doing this but avoid the face and ears. Even a small amount of residual shampoo can cause hot spots of irritation on your dog’s skin. You may be surprised at how long it takes to rinse off shampoo thoroughly. Vets often recommend that you spend twice as long as you think you have to! If you are going to use conditioner, this is the time to do it. The conditioner will also have to be rinsed off thoroughly. Again, avoid the eyes and ears. You can clean around the face using a soft cloth if it is dirty.
Drying Your Dog
Dogs can easily get chilled after a bath so it is very important to dry them thoroughly. This is even more vital for pups and senior dogs who may have problems regulating their body temperature. Also, if you don’t make an effort to dry your dog right away after their bath, they will do it for themselves. The way in which they do this is to roll around the floor. This is the last thing that you want them to do after they have just had a bath! You may have to start the whole process all over again.
As soon as you get your dog out of the bath, gently dry them off with a special dog towel. These are more lightweight and absorbent than regular towels. You could pop a bathrobe on your pooch for a while. If your dog has a long and thick coat, like a Retriever, you will have to spend a long time drying them.
The most efficient and effective way to dry your dog is using a dog hairdryer. Pet groomers use high velocity dryers and there is no reason why you should not invest in one of these yourself. They work in the same way as human hair dryers and direct warm air at your dog’s coat. The air reaches the undercoat of breeds that have very thick coats and they dry the hair right down to the root removing the possibility of your dog getting chilled. Some come with a stand so that you can have both hands free to attend to your dog. Dog hair dryers don’t make as much noise as human hair dryers so they should not scare your dog. However, if you have a very nervous pooch, it would be a good idea to get them used to it gradually. Start off by using it on the lowest setting only and hold it some distance away from your dog. Then try turning it up and gradually moving it nearer. They will soon get used to it.
Never use a human hair dryer on your dog. They reach temperatures that are too high and could damage your dog’s delicate skin. Also, your dog has a naturally higher body temperature than humans and using a human hair dryer all over their body could cause them to overheat. Dog hair dryers leave your dog’s coat soft and fluffy and looking great!
So, now you know how to bathe your pooch – it’s not that difficult! Once your dog gets used to it, you will become more efficient and you may be able to attempt the job by yourself. With the right equipment, it can be something that you and your pooch learn to enjoy!