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The Correct Way to Bathe Your Dog

By Kristi Patrice Carter

Man and woman’s best friend has become a beloved member of the family. Keeping your buddy clean and healthy is a very important part of responsible pet ownership. Not only do you owe it to your dog to keep him clean and spiffy for his own good and health, but your house will smell better, too!

Bathing your dog helps reduce painful “hot spots” and helps keep pests like fleas and ticks at bay. But the frequency of your dog’s baths will depend on what breed he is, the type of fur he has and what his activity level is, meaning how often he gets dirty or muddy. Often, that tell-tale doggy smell will be enough to cue you in on the fact that it is indeed time for a bath!

Certain breeds have fur and skin that are rich with natural oils that act as a protectant, so too much bathing can strip their skin of those essential oils and irritate sensitive skin. If you must bathe your buddy more often than recommended for some reason, be sure to use a specially formulated shampoo for dogs, and not humans, that will moisturize and condition the skin.

The best place to bathe your dog depends on the time of year. Obviously in warm weather, outside would be the wisest choice, if you choose a place that won’t get too muddy or messy. It’s helpful to have a washtub filled with a few inches of warm water that your pooch can stand in while you bathe him. Be careful if you’re using the garden hose, the water may start out warm but turn cold rather quickly, and who would ever want to get an icy bath?

If it’s too cold for an outdoor bath and King can’t wait ‘til spring for his grooming session, use the bathtub and be sure to keep the door closed to prevent escapes. A rubber mat or two on the bottom of the tub surface will help keep your dog from slipping or getting hurt and also keep him relaxed and more at ease in general.

Checking your dog’s ears for signs of infection on a regular basis, as well as giving him a thorough, routine cleaning will prevent painful ear infections. Start by inspecting your pooch’s ears to make sure they’re simply dirty and not full of infection or ear mites. Once you’re satisfied that it’s just dirt, gently swab the inner flap and folds of the dog’s ear with a cotton ball dipped in ear wash solution.

After you’ve done the ears, start the bathing process by brushing Toto thoroughly to get rid of any excess fur. Then begin carefully washing his head first and then work your way down the body toward the tail area. This is an especially good idea if you suspect your dog has fleas. Also, remember to wash the face with a wash cloth dipped in warm water. This way you’ll avoid getting the shampoo into your dog’s sensitive eyes and ears.

Use a plastic pitcher to rinse thoroughly making sure all of the soap is completely removed. Residue from shampoos and conditioners can irritate and dry the skin causing itching and discomfort. Now drain the water, gently pat his head and ears dry and then use another towel to dry the back and legs. Gently rub or blot with the towel, especially if your dog has long hair. Vigorously rubbing will only cause mats.

If your dog can tolerate the noise, use a hair dryer on the absolutely lowest setting possible, holding it at a distance to prevent the chance of a burn. For a lot of our canine companions, the hair dryer is considerably more traumatic than the bath itself!

Dog Bath Checklist

  • Wash tub, bath tub or pet shower
  • Cotton balls or gauze pads
  • Specially formulated doggy shampoo
  • Doggy conditioners, if necessary
  • Ear wash or ear drying solution if your pooch is prone to infection
  • Brushes and combs
  • Plastic bucket to keep supplies handy
  • Blow dryer, if necessary
  • Wash cloths
  • Plenty of towels
  • Plenty of patience
  • Plenty of love