I know what you’re thinking; “bathing a dog is not that complicated, so why do I need a guide on how to do it?” Bathing a dog is not rocket science, that much is true, but it’s a little more complex than you’d think, and many dog owners are unsure about how to bathe a dog at home correctly.
Think about it this way: would you just rub soap all over yourself, wash it off, and call yourself clean? I’m sure some of us do do that; however, that’s far from doing a solid job.
When it comes to our showers and baths, we do extra things based on who we are as individuals. If you’re a woman, sometimes you will shave your legs, for example. If you have certain skin conditions, you will take care of those.
The situation is very similar when it comes to different dog breeds and their complex needs, especially dogs’ skin and a variety of dog coats. Bathing a dog is not about just lathering up and washing the soap off, believe it or not.
Below, I’m going to give you the skinny step by step on how to bathe a dog at home the right way, and how I as a professional groomer bathe my own Fido at home.
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Step by Step: How to Bathe A Dog At Home
1. Get in there!
I cannot stress the importance of this step, and most of it depends on your dog. This also applies to grooming different dog coat types, which is something every aspiring dog groomer needs to know.
For example, if your dog has arthritis in his legs, you’re going to need to be extremely careful. If this is the case, or your dog has a thyroid issue, then I do not recommend bathing your dog in a bathtub.
Don’t wash your dog in a bathtub if he has arthritis or thyroid issues.
Instead, bring them to a dog wash station. If you have a dog grooming tub at home, then even better. These can usually be found at car washes. Alternatively, you can use the hose in your backyard or something similar.
If your dog does not have any health problems of this type, then a good bathtub for dogs is just fine. Dog owners with small dogs can simply pick them up and plop them right in. Those with bigger dogs are going to have to put their backs into it. My dog is a 50 pound Labrador Retriever and Pitbull mix, so she’s a medium sized dog. I will usually wash my Fido in a washtub.
Once your pooch is in place, the fun part of actually bathing your dog begins.
First, ensure that the water is at a medium hot temperature. You don’t want the water to be too hot or too cold, just hot enough that your dog will be comfortable.
Normally, I fill the tub up halfway so my dog can still stand up and feel the water on her legs. When I need her to sit down so that I can rinse the soap off her tummy, half the work there is already done.
If you have a medium or large sized dog, here’s what you do:
- Don’t corner your dog to get him into the tub – ease him into it gradually, at his own pace, because you don’t want bath time to be a horrible experience for your dog.
- Stand facing his middle, and slowly bend a little with your knees, not your back.
- Place one arm underneath his tummy, and the other at the back of his front legs.
- Slowly lift upwards, do not fly up, and lift him into the tub.
- Gently place him down, standing up.
- Do not make your dog sit down — let him get used to the water.
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Putting stress on your Fido before they can even get into the washtub will ensure that they hate bath time forever.
Note that once this picture was taken, I backed off instantly until I knew that Anastasia was ready to give it another shot. If you’ve read my previous articles, you know my dog hates being bathed.
If you have an older dog, or a dog with health issues, use a hose or a dog wash station. I’m saying this twice because it’s extremely important that you do not strain your dog just to get them clean.
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A quick tip: There are two things to consider – dogs allergic to specific dog shampoos, and dogs who have certain health problems, such as arthritis.
For dogs that require a bath badly but have some sort of a health problem related to dog shampoos, specifically allergic reactions, I recommend that you use a dry dog shampoo. For more details on this, check this Samantha’s review of ten best dog shampoos where she tests and picks the best ones for each category.
For dogs with arthritis or other related issues, you help them into the tub by purchasing a dog ramp or making one yourself. For dog steps, you can make one out of wood; it’s extremely simple, and will help your dog immensely.
In a place where I groom dogs professionally, we use these dog ramps to help older senior dogs into the washing stations.
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2. Make it rain
If your dog is easily frightened, he will no doubt scratch you to death while trying to latch onto you and get out of the washing tub.
So never turn the shower on to get your dog wet; it’s a terrible idea, and it’s very frightening experience for any dog.
Never start bathing your dog by getting him wet with a shower.
You can see in my picture below how I am wetting the area around my dog’s head. I’m using a small cup to slowly pour water with her head tilted, down to her back.Instead, get a large cup, a juice jug, or even a bucket. Fill it up with the warm bath water and soak your dog.
I’m making sure that I do not dump water on the head of my pooch, and I’m always very cautious of her ears.
In this photo right here, you can also see me wetting the area underneath her ears.
It’s best to just leave the dog’s face alone because you don’t want to get anything in their eyes while bathing. If you absolutely must rinse your Fido’s face, wet your hands and rub around.
Do not apply soap to the face. Always, always, keep water out of their ears.
If you do happen to get water in your dog’s ears, clean them out immediately after their bath. I will get to that in a bit.
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3. Time to lather up
If you’ve finished working the soap through your dog’s fur but you don’t see any lather, you’re doing it wrong.
Would you just rub shampoo over the top of your head and rinse it out? No, you would not. Look at the picture on the left, and you will see an example of how the lather should be.
You should also be getting the soap straight down to the skin, not just on the fur.
To do this properly, rake your dog’s fur against the grain, as pictured below, to ensure that you’re thoroughly lathering your dog up.
During the whole bathing process, ensure you give your pet some love and tell him how good his behavior is. Pet your pooch and continue to interact with him while you’re bathing your dog.
Giving him a small and tasty dog treat while he’s in the tub is also a good idea, but don’t be surprised if he doesn’t take an interest in it.
4. Rinsing your dog off
You must ensure that all of the soap is completely off. Soap left behind on the coat will dry and irritate your dog’s skin, especially if it’s a regular dog shampoo and not a specialty one.
If you use an oatmeal dog shampoo, however, this should not happen, but you should get all of the soap off anyway.
Take note of what I’m doing in the picture to the right. This is the best way to ensure that all of the soap has been washed off.
As you can see, I’m carefully working my hands through Anastasia’s skin here, while slightly squeezing, to see if any soap comes up. You should be able to feel the soap either way if there is still some there. If so, continue to rinse. If not, your dog is officially clean!
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5. Drying your dog off and cleaning the ears
While you’re doing so, it’s a good idea to get your dog excited over how good he was behaving during the whole bathing process. Even if you had to struggle the entire time (I definitely did while giving her a bath for this article), show him a bundle of affection.
Once all the water has drained, quickly give his paws a wipe, and allow him to jump out himself. Letting your dog leave the bathtub on his own gives him a sense that he’s in control now, and will let him know that bath time is officially over.
Use a towel and dry your dog off any way you like. This step does not require any special instructions, so just get him as dry as possible.
Those of you trying to learn how to bathe a dog at home in spring or summer time, or when it’s generally warm outside, can take their dogs on a walk or let them run around in the backyard to fully dry. However, if it’s winter, don’t even think about doing either. Let your dog air dry in the house.
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Before you do anything else though, you’re going to need to clean your dog’s ears. This is extremely important, especially if you got water in his ears, and can be done while towel drying him. It’s a 2-step process.
1. Place your index finger inside the towel, or a hygienic wipe for dogs, and put your finger inside his ear canal.
2. Simply twist your finger around for half a minute, take your finger out, wipe the visible part of his ear off, and repeat with the other ear.
When you move to the next ear, use a clean section of the towel, or a new wipe.
And you’re done!
Learning how to bathe a dog at home is not that hard, but there are important things you must do and instructions to follow during doggy bath time to ensure that the experience is not a terrible one for your pooch.
Following the steps in this article will ensure that your dog comes out 100% clean, safe and not afraid to take another bath when the dreadful time comes again.