How to Bathe Your Dog
Bathing your dog is essential for maintaining the health of their skin and coat of fur. How often should you bathe your dog and how can you make the process easier?
For the best long-term results, start bathing your dog as a puppy. This way you can help your dog acclimate to bath time and understand that taking a bath is a regular part of their life. If you have questions about how soon you should begin bathing your puppy, talk to your veterinarian for tips.
The ASPCA recommends quarterly baths for your dog. Your dog's first bath may be around eight weeks old. If your dog's needs are different, you can talk to your veterinarian. Unlike humans, dogs don’t need frequent baths to stay clean and healthy. Your dog may need a bath more often if they spend a lot of time outside or have certain skin conditions.
Consider Their Fur and Skin
Different breeds of dogs have different bathing needs. Some dogs need additional vitamins and minerals to ensure their fur stays healthy and shiny. Dogs with long fur may need a conditioning treatment to help prevent tangles.
Dogs with sensitive or itchy skin may need specialized treatments. You may need to invest in a shampoo that has soothing ingredients and prevents dryness. Talk to your vet about what breed(s) your dog is and what shampoo and conditioner is best for your pet.
If your dog has white fur, you may need a cleanser that doesn’t contain any dyes. If you use a shampoo that is tinted orange, your dog’s coat may begin to turn orange over time. If the shampoo bottle is not clear, unscrew the lid and peek at the shampoo to see what color it is.
When your dog is a puppy, shampoo and conditioner aren’t as important. Get your dog used to bath time by using water and a washrag or sponge. Ensure that the water is a comfortable temperature. Massage their skin and pay attention to their toleration of being in the bath.
At this point, a short bath is OK because your dog is just getting started. If you notice your dog getting too anxious, end the bath and take them out to dry off. Slowly build up to longer baths and introduce cleansing products when you feel like they’re ready.
Make Bath Time Fun
You may feel stressed about bathing your dog — especially if they make a big mess — but it's important to help your dog feel comfortable with baths. Over time they may begin to look forward to bathing instead of dreading it and fighting you.
Talk to your dog in a calming voice during bath time and use encouraging words. Don’t underestimate the power of your words. When bath time is over, wrap your dog in a towel and snuggle while they dry off. Continue telling your dog what they did good and why bath time is good for them. Even if they don’t understand all of your words, they'll understand your meaning.
Gentle is Best
Your puppy may be rambunctious, but you should compare their bath time to that of an infant. Don’t scrub their skin too much at this age. Instead, use gentle strokes that follow their fur growth. The same tips apply when it’s time to brush or blow-dry your pup’s fur after bath time.
It's important to get all the shampoo and conditioner out of your dog’s fur. When you feel like rinsing is complete, keep going. Residue from cleansers may irritate your dog’s skin if too much is left behind. Work methodically from your dog’s neck down to their tail and gently massage their coat to allow the water to reach their skin.
If your dog’s fur isn’t too long or thick, you may be able to get away with allowing them to air dry. For thicker or longer fur, use your blow dryer on its lowest and coolest setting. Brush your dog’s coat with the pattern of growth and go slowly. Give your dog time to see that the blow dryer may be noisy, but it isn’t scary. It may help to start farther away from their head and work your way up.
Face and Ears
Take care around your dog’s eyes, ears, nose, and mouth during bath time. Even if a shampoo says it won’t cause tears, products may still irritate your dog’s eyes. Ingesting shampoo or conditioner may upset their stomach. Avoid your dog’s mouth and discourage them from drinking bath water.
Talk to your vet about bath time tips for cleaning inside your dog’s ears. Avoid using water and shampoo because it can get trapped in the ear canal and lead to infections. Instead, look for specialized treatments and tools designed for your dog’s ears.