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How to Bathe a Dog in 7 Easy Steps

Our dogs are sweet, but sometimes they get downright stinky. Whether they've had one too many dips in the lake or just need a brush, refresh, and groom, they can get pretty hesitant when bath time comes around. Read more about the importance of bath time and how to wash your dog correctly. 

Any dog owner can tell you that living in close quarters with our lovable pups can sometimes be an assault on our senses, specifically the nostrils.

Sometimes our dogs smell pretty rank, especially if they spend a lot of time running through mud puddles, swimming in ponds or lakes, and getting into general puppy hijinks outside. The only way to cure the stink is to give your dog a bath!

Even pups that are less active and spend more time on our laps than outdoors need a dog bath regularly, because they have pores and hair, both of which get oily over time. Bath time will clean your pup's skin while removing excess oil, dander, and shed fur, all while it makes your pup smell like roses. 

Most of us avoid bathing our dogs regularly because some dogs absolutely hate to have a bath. They’ll even give you those sad, sorry, puppy dog eyes!

However, we're here to help! Read below for a step-by-step guide to a more painless bath time!

How Often Should I Wash My Dog?

Luckily, no pups need daily baths like we do, which would get pretty time-consuming. 

If you're wondering how often to bathe a dog, it depends on a few factors.

For most dogs, it's completely okay to bathe your dog just once a month.

  • Oily-coated dogs. Some dogs have more oily coats than others. Oily-coated breeds like Labrador Retrievers or Basset Hounds need more frequent bathing than others; weekly baths are ideal for these types
  • Short-haired dogs. Breeds with smooth coats, like Beagles, and breeds with water-repellent coats, like the Golden Retriever, do better with fewer baths. Their coats maintain themselves a little better than oily pups.
  • Nordic dogs. You should bathe Nordic dogs with thick, fluffy double-coats like Siberian Huskies and Samoyeds less often, and brush them frequently to distribute oils and remove shed fur and skin particles that may be inside the thick coat. 

Although it's essential to bathe your dog - don’t overdo it. Bathing your dog too often can dry out their skin, causing redness, flaking, and irritation.

Dog Bathing Supplies

You need just a few things to get yourself all set to bathe your dog. 

Dog Shampoo

Though it probably seems pretty harmless, you shouldn't use human shampoo to bathe your dog because: 

  • A dog's skin has a very different pH level than ours does – our skin is quite acidic, while a pup's is more neutral. 
  • Human shampoo is formulated for our skin, not theirs, and can upset the pup's pH balance, causing skin irritation. 

Pick up a bottle of all-purpose doggie shampoo or one specially formulated for your dog's breed needs.

If possible, opt for an all-natural version to keep the pup's chemical exposure to a minimum. 

Dog Brush

Every dog breed has a different texture, length, and amount of fur. That's why companies make a range of dog brushes so they can suit the diverse needs of every breed.

If you don't already own one, pick up a specialized brush for your dog's breed from a local pet store.

Old Towels

We like to use our old, stained, and otherwise worn-out towels on our pups.

They may be extra muddy, or try to use the towel as a chew toy, so it's best to use a towel that you don't mind ruining. 

Our pups don't seem to mind what the towel we use looks like, anyway!

Tub

The type of tub you use depends on the size of your dog.

  • You can bathe a small dog in a small bucket or pop them into a sink. 
  • For a medium to a large-sized dog breed, you can bathe your dog in a bathtub, shower, or outside.
  • You can also use a walk-in shower and a handheld sprayer, but if you have a runner on your hands, it could get messy quickly!

How To Wash a Dog At Home

Step 1: Start each bath with a pre-brush session 

Start your doggo's bath by giving them a good brushing beforehand. This smooths out fur and removes a ton of shed fur so that it doesn't end up down your drain. 

Most dogs enjoy getting brushed, so it's a great way to relax your dog and prime them for the potentially stressful bath ahead. 

Set up your towels, shampoo, and the rest of your supplies near the bath, so they're easily on hand when the time comes to grab them.

You'll likely have your hands pretty full during bath time!

Step 2: Fill the tub

Start to fill your tub with lukewarm water that will be warm and comfortable enough and allow the shampoo to break down their oils without drying out the skin or scalding them. 

Bring your dog into your bathroom with you as the tub fills to warn what's coming next, so they can have a window of time to prepare and become more comfortable with the idea of a bath. 

Step 3: Lift or guide your dog into the bathtub 

Once the tub is halfway full, pick up and place or use a dog ramp to guide your dog gently into the tub. This will minimize splashing and be a little less overwhelming for a nervous dog. 

Speak gently and reassure your pup with gentle pets and possibly a treat or two. 

Step 4: Wet your dog and shampoo

Use a cup or bowl to scoop and pour water over your dog, soaking them thoroughly. 

Squeeze some of the dog shampoo into your hands and begin to lather all over your pup, making sure to get deep into the thick layers of fur. 

Avoid your dog's eye area and use special care when washing the head to avoid getting water in their mouths, eyes, and ear canals. 

Step 5: Give them a final rinse 

Once you've cleaned their entire body with soap, use your cup or bowl to begin rinsing down your dog. 

If you have a movable showerhead, use it to give your dog a quick rinse as the shower drains to save yourself some time.

Step 6: Towel and air dry your dog

Lift your pup out of the bathtub and immediately wrap them in a towel to keep them warm. Pat the dog dry with the towel to remove as much excess water as you can. 

Dogs have a lot of fur that can hold quite a bit of water. Use another towel to dry your dog some more if the first one becomes soaked quickly. 

We recommend letting your pup's fur air dry, as the heat from a human blow dryer is too hot for a dog's skin. If you'd rather not have a damp dog in bed or on your furniture, you can purchase a specialized blow dryer for dogs. 

Don't brush your dog's coat until it's fully dry; otherwise, you may create knots and mat the fur together. 

Step 7: Reward time!

Give your dog some extra love, attention, and a few treats to reward a job well done – or well-tolerated, at least!

Large Dog Considerations

You can easily bathe a large dog in a backyard setting, with more freedom to move and a minimal chance of doing damage. 

Many bathtubs may not fit a massive hound; the outdoor method is usually best for extra-large dogs. A walk-in shower can work quite well too. 

Senior Dog Considerations

If you own a senior dog, you should be extra gentle washing their potentially sore and stiff body parts. 

Caring for senior dogs is a little different than young pups in their prime. Seniors may be extra confused about bath time, so introduce them to the bath very slowly so you don’t overwhelm them. 

Flea Baths

If your dog has unfortunately picked up fleas, you can give them a bath to help reduce and combat the infestation. 

Bathe a dog with fleas with a special flea shampoo that kills and removes the parasites while cleaning your pup.

Final Note: Bathing a Dog Regularly

If bath time is a struggle, don't worry – keep bathing your dog every month or so and build a routine that they will learn to manage. 

Stay strong, forge on, and don't let them guilt you into giving up! Give them a lot of extra love and reassurance during the process; a treat or two won't hurt either.

Good luck to you both on the venture to keep your dog's fur clean and smelling like roses, or at least, not like garbage!

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