Top Tips from a Professional Groomer on How to Bathe a Dog

From buying the proper shampoo to how to wash a dog’s head, here are a groomer’s top tips on how to bathe a dog.

A little shampoo, a little water… How difficult can it be to wash a dog? Sometimes it’s more difficult than you imagine. Whether your dog enjoys baths or flees when you say “B-A-T-H,” washing your dog on a regular basis is a vital element of pet care. Linda Easton, president of International Professional Groomers and proprietor of Canine Concepts in Salem, Oregon, CPG, ICMG, discusses her top dog bathing techniques.

How Often Should Your Dog Be Bathed?

You generally don’t need to bathe your dog more than once a month unless he just spent the afternoon wallowing in mud puddles. This varies by breed; dogs with longer coats may require more regular bathing or even visits to a professional groomer. If you’re unsure how frequently to sud up your pooch, see a groomer or your doctor. However, giving a bath once a month is essential.

“The way canine skin works is that they have a completely new layer of cells around every 30 days,” Easton explains. “As a result, the aged cells slough off.” That is what causes dander and other symptoms. So frequent brushing or washing helps keep dandruff at bay.”

Important Products and Tools

Your initial selection will most likely be where you will bathe your dog. Your pick will most likely be influenced by the size of your dog. A little dog may be able to be bathed in a kitchen sink, but a large dog may require more space. Some pet parents choose a dog-specific bathtub, either as a standalone device or as part of a home or DIY dog bath facility. Fur and filth might block your family bathtub if you use a distinct dog bath area. However, if you want to bathe your dog in the family bathtub, that is also OK. Simply pick a location where your dog may enter and exit the cleaning area securely.

Then, before you turn on the water, double-check that you have all of your items and tools on hand. “You want to have everything you need right at your fingertips,” Easton explains. You don’t want to be following a wet dog around your house looking for conditioner. Shampoo, conditioner, and towels will undoubtedly be on your shopping list. You should also have a non-slip bath mat and eye washes on hand just in case.

Choose the Best Shampoo and Conditioner

To give your dog a proper wash, you’ll need the correct supplies. “Make certain you’re using dog-specific shampoo,” Easton advises. “Dogs’ skin pH differs from that of humans. As a result, they are more alkaline. If you use a shampoo designed for individuals, it may irritate their skin.”

Easton recommends using puppy-specific shampoo while washing a puppy. Puppy shampoo has the same pH as a dog’s eyes, so it won’t bother the dog’s eyes as much if it goes into that region.

If you’re not sure what products to choose for your dog, ask a groomer what he or she uses. Easton recommends using a gentle shampoo. If your dog has a specific problem (such as itchy skin), a shampoo developed to address that condition may be suitable.

The next step after bathing your dog is to apply a conditioner. “You should always follow up with a conditioner while grooming at home since shampoo strips a lot of the natural oils out of the skin and the hair.” “Your conditioner rehydrates the epidermis while also closing up all the cells on the exterior of the hair shaft,” Easton explains. “You’re basically rehydrating with the conditioner.”

Proper Dog Washing Method

The real fun comes once you’ve found the proper location and have the correct things ready to go. Here’s how our experts recommend bathing:

  1. Coax or place your dog in the tub or wash station. Treats are a great way to get the process off to a positive start!
  2. Dilute the shampoo with water. Try adding some to a bowl full of water, or put the shampoo in a dispenser that contains water. The diluting shampoo helps it sud up and spread better. Easton explains that most shampoo is thick and concentrated, and adding water can make it easier to use.
  3. Wet your dog using warm water. Checking the temperature with your hand is just fine, Easton says.
  4. Shampoo the dog twice. Easton explains that the first time, the shampoo binds with the dirt and helps get rid of it. The second go-around, you’re really washing the skin and pulling out all the remaining dirt and oil in the hair. Easton recommends a loofah sponge to help spread around the shampoo. Be sure to not overlook places like the pads of the feet, armpits, and bellies. Above all, make it an enjoyable experience. “You can use your hands to really massage the whole dog. And if you’re doing that, and you’re using warm water and the dog is someplace where it’s warm, it should be a fun experience for the dog,” she says.
  5. Use conditioner. Leave it on for a few minutes and then rinse away.
  6. Rinse well until there is no more product on the fur. “You want to scrub them really good, but you also want to make sure that all of the soap is out. That’s probably the most important thing,” Easton says. “Because if you don’t get all the soap out, then the soap will stay on the skin and irritate it. It’s worse than not giving them a bath.”

Washing a Dog’s Face

One of the most difficult aspects of dog bathing is washing your dog’s head. You don’t want soap or water getting into sensitive regions like your dog’s ears, nose, or eyes. Easton advocates saving this part of the bath until the end and cleaning your pet’s face with a washcloth.

Dip the cloth in soapy water, gently wash your dog’s head and face, and then rinse with a new washcloth dipped in clear water. “You simply want to make sure all of the soap is out of those spots,” explains Easton.

Even if you use a dog shampoo meant to be gentler on the eyes, shampoo can still irritate them, so avoid the eye region as much as possible. If the shampoo does go into your dog’s eyes, have an eye wash on hand. If your dog gets eye goobers, Easton recommends soaking them and then gently removing them with a toothbrush.

How to Bathe a Dog that Hates Water

Although some dog breeds love water (we’re looking at you, golden retrievers), many dogs shudder at just the sound of the bath faucet turning on. To combat this, try giving your dog lots of positive reinforcement during the bath. Praise is good; treats are even better! Give your dog positive associations to remember for the next time he sees you gathering the dog shampoo.

It’s also helpful to have a partner hold the dog while you’re giving him a bath, Easton says. And, if possible, start giving your dog a bath when he’s a puppy to help him get used to bath time.

What to Do After a Bath

To begin, thoroughly towel-dry your dog. Then, on a medium or cool setting, use a dog-specific hairdryer or a human hairdryer. Easton suggests grooming your dog while he is drying. You might also air-dry your dog as long as he doesn’t develop chills or shiver excessively.

“Every 10 or 15 minutes run a brush over them as they’re drying and that’ll help avoid mats or help separate mats if they have them,” Easton recommends.

Your reward for bathing is a dog that looks and smells good. And the satisfaction of knowing you’ve done something good for your dog’s health and appearance.