How to Give Your Dog a Bath

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Sara Lippincott, Manager, Shelter Outreach, Petfinder

As much as we all love for our furry friends to smell fresh and clean, getting to that point isn’t always easy. Dogs are rarely excited to jump into the bathtub for a good scrub. Bathing fearful dogs might be better handled by a professional groomer or your veterinary office. But if you decide to wade in, here are some helpful hints.

Getting (You) Ready

How to Give Your Dog a Bath

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Be sure you’re donning clothes that you’re okay with getting wet and dirty (and furry). Move all your grooming materials into the bathroom shampoo (ask your vet for suggestions specific to your dog), conditioner (a must for longer coats that need to be brushed out), brush, mineral oil (for eyes), cotton balls (for ears), at least two big, absorbent towels and, most importantly, TREATS. Lay a non-skid mat down in the tub to help the dog keep his footing. If you don’t have a detachable showerhead, a bowl or even a large cup is helpful in rinsing.

Getting (Fido) Ready

Trimming your pet’s nails prior to bath time will not only give your dog better footing, it will also help protect your skin in case he tries to make a break for it. Now, bring the dog into the bathroom and close the door behind you — catching a wet, soapy dog running down your hallway is no easy task! Give praise and treats to make him comfortable in the bathroom before you try to get him into the tub. If you’re able to, gently putting a cotton ball in each ear can help keep water out — just be sure to remove them when you’re finished! Also, to help keep shampoo from irritating his eyes, you can put a drop of mineral oil in each one.

Bring on the Suds

Dogs are unlikely to get into the tub willingly. For bigger dogs, a second person to help you get Fido into the bath can help avoid straining your back. Make sure water isn’t too hot or too cold. Let your dog hear and then gently feel the water before going full-speed ahead with the bath. Start shampooing your dog’s shoulders and then move out from there. Be gentle around the face and any sensitive areas but be sure you get down to the undercoat. Read the directions on the shampoo bottle carefully to ensure proper usage. Rinse out all the shampoo, using your fingers to make sure you get through the undercoat to avoid subsequent irritation. This is where a detachable showerhead or bowl comes in handy to be sure bigger dogs get rinsed thoroughly.

No More Tangles

After the shampoo has been completely rinsed out, you can apply conditioner, if desired. Follow the directions on the bottle because some products need to sit on the coat for several minutes. If you have a particularly squirmy dog, you’ll want to find a fast-acting formula. Once you have finished the bath, it is time to dry your pooch. Towel dry as much as possible in the bathroom. For dogs with longer coats, you may want to use a blow dryer set on low. Before the dog leaves the bathroom, brush his coat out thoroughly because the bath will loosen up a lot of fur, which is better contained in the bathroom than all over the house. Many dogs get “after-bath-crazies,” so hold onto your hat and let ‘em run!

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