Here’s everything you need to know about giving your dog a bath, including all the equipment and supplies that will make the job of bathing your dog even easier.
These are my best tips — after 3 decades of bathing dogs.
These tips will make the process of giving your dog a bath easier than ever!…
When Should A Dog’s First Bath Be?
Bathing your dog will be so much simpler if you give your dog a bath on the very first day that he enters your home.
Not only will this remove any old smells, dirt, and debris that are lingering in his coat and on his skin, but it will also get your dog comfortable with the process of being bathed.
When a dog enters a new home, he is introduced to lots of new sights, sounds, and smells. And the more he experiences early on, the more he becomes desensitized to those things. That means he won’t put up a fuss whenever he’s confronted with those things later on!
HINT: The same is true with things like trimming your dog’s nails, brushing your dog’s teeth, taking your dog for a car ride, walking your dog on a leash, etc. The more you get your dog comfortable with those things at an early age, the more willing your dog will be to do those things later on. And the easier it will be to train your dog in general — because he will already be used to following your lead and doing what you say.
Where To Bathe Your Dog
You basically have 4 options:
- Indoors – in the kitchen sink
- Indoors – in the bathtub/shower
- Outdoors – in a kiddie pool, plastic tub, aluminum pail, etc.
- Outdoors – standing freely near the garden hose
Personally, I’ve done my share of bathing dogs in our shower/bathtub and bathing dogs in our backyard using the garden hose.
Just remember that you should only use water from the garden hose to bathe your dog on hot, sunny days. Because, generally speaking, water from the hose is far too cold for dogs.
6 Awesome Dog Bath Tips + Products That Work!
Here are 6 great tips if you’re bathing a large dog in the bathtub inside your home:
#1 – To reduce the amount of water (and shampoo) that hits the walls every time your dog does a full-body shake, do this: pull the shower curtain all the way around behind you (while you’re standing outside of the bathtub and your dog is inside the tub). Yes, you will become drenched every time your dog shakes his wet fur, but the room, wall decor, toilet, mirror, and everything else in the room will remain splash free.
#2 – To reduce back pain from leaning over the tub while bathing your dog, try these simple ideas:
- Sit on the toilet while leaning over the tub (if the 2 are adjacent to one another in your bathroom)
- Sit on a small step stool placed next to the bathtub
- Sit on the ledge of the bathtub with your feet actually in the tub. (You’re going to get wet, but you’ll be at a great angle to reach the water faucet, your dog, the shampoo, etc.
Even the cheapest ones work great because they enable you to spray water directly at the place on your dog that you want to get wet. And it goes without saying that sprayers make rinsing the soap from your dog’s coat 100 times easier. Otherwise, it’s hit and miss whether the showerhead itself or the tub/sink faucet will actually reach your dog or not.
You could also use a large plastic cup to repeatedly fill and pour water over your dog’s body to rinse out the soap, but that takes a ton more effort than using a handheld sprayer does!
I’ve never been without a handheld sprayer attached to the shower head in our guest bathroom. I recommend getting one with a shut-off valve, so you can temporarily turn off the spray while you’re shampooing your dog or drying him off. (Some pet sprayers can even attach to your kitchen sink faucet — which is great when bathing small dogs!)
#4 – To keep your dog from jumping out of the tub in the middle of his bath, try using dog bath tethers! They’re mini dog leashes with suction cups on the ends which attach to the shower walls or sides of the bathtub. Based on your dog’s comfort level in the tub, you can stick them below your dog, above your dog, or on the sides.
I’m lucky. My dog hates getting a bath, but he actually remains standing and within my reach on his own while I’m bathing him outside using the garden hose. But, if your dog hates baths or won’t stay in place, here are some options worth considering:
#5 – To keep your dog from slipping and falling in the tub or shower, be sure to use a bath mat so your dog won’t slip and fall. This is especially important with larger dogs who could actually bust a hip if they hit the side of the tub while they’re falling.
Don’t have a bath mat? Then do what I did for years: simply lay a large bath towel on the bottom of the tub and bathe your dog as usual. The towel will not stay in place — and it will be a big soppy, furry mess when you’re done — but it’s a decent solution to prevent a large dog from slipping and falling.
#6 – To prevent your drain from clogging due to all the loose dog fur that results during a dog bath (especially with long hair dogs), be sure to place something with holes over the drain. That way, water can flow freely down the drain, but all of that hair won’t be able to slip through. Drain protectors are inexpensive and can be found at just about any grocery store or department store.
TIP: Before giving your dog a bath, put a large piece of steel wool in the drain hole. This prevents the dog fur from going down into the drain, yet it the water flows freely down the drain.
For what it’s worth, dog bath mitts & dog bath brushes aren’t as effective as I thought they would be. The brushes are awkward to hold and tend to slip right out of your hands when you’re using them on soapy dog fur. The mitts basically just scoop a lot of loose hair off your dog and create a wet, hairy mess. I only find them mildly helpful at lathering the shampoo and massaging your dog’s skin. I prefer to brush my dog before the bath instead.
How To Bathe Your Dog: Step-By-Step
1. If your dog likes to play in water, then getting him to enter the bathtub won’t be a big deal. But if your dog isn’t sure what to think about the water and the confined space, then try this: A day or two before giving your dog a bath, encourage him to enter and exit the tub a few times. You may need to lead by example — either use a leash to “walk” him through the process of getting in and out of the tub; or just get in the tub first then excitedly call your dog to come in too (with no water of course). Every single time your dog gets in or out of the tub with you or on command, give him plenty of praise and dog treats.
2. Use warm (not hot) water to bathe your dog. If you’re using the garden hose to bathe your dog outside, make sure it’s a hot summer day. Otherwise, the water from the hose will be too cold for your dog.
3. Thoroughly wet your dog (avoiding his face and ears) so his entire coat is sopping wet. Then start by putting the shampoo on the back of your dog’s neck and work toward his tail. You may need to re-wet your dog’s sides and belly by the time you start shampooing those areas. Massage all the way down to your dog’s skin. This enables the shampoo’s active ingredients to do their job, and helps to remove dead skin cells and loose hair.
4. Use dog shampoo, NOT human shampoo, and definitely not dish soap to bathe your dog! A dog’s pH levels are different from a human’s. Dog shampoo is formulated properly for their skin, hair, and pH level. Human shampoo is not. (My favorite is Spaw Essentials foaming dog shampoo.)
TIP: One of the horror stories I witnessed while working at a vet was the time a lady used Dawn dishwashing soap to bathe her dog. This large, robust, and otherwise healthy dog was in so much pain after his skin had been literally burned by the soap. The owner poured the Dawn directly onto the dog’s skin and she failed to rinse it all out. That poor dog required an overnight stay for intensive treatment and pain relief, followed by 3 separate vet visits to receive a gentle bath using a prescription-formula dog shampoo.
5. Be sure to thoroughly rinse every last trace of the shampoo from your dog’s coat. Otherwise, the soapy residue can cause skin irritation, resulting in itchy dry skin, a rash, or worse. You should rinse until the water is absolutely clear and you are sure all the suds and shampoo are out.
6. To reduce the likelihood that your dog will do a full body shake when he’s soaking wet, be sure to wash your dog’s head and face last. And try to avoid getting any water inside your dog’s ears.
7. If you happen to get some water inside the ears, be sure to dry your dog’s ears gently using a microfiber towel, a washcloth, or a small hand towel. Some dog breeds are prone to ear problems — many of which are the result of excess moisture inside the ear… which leads to a buildup of yeast in there… and a possible ear infection.
8. To wash your dog’s face, thoroughly wet a small towel or washcloth with water and dog shampoo. Use this to wipe your dog’s face, being careful not to get shampoo in your dog’s eyes, nose, or ears. Rinse out the cloth and re-wet it to wipe down your dog’s face again and remove any soap residue.
9. Finally, while you don’t have to get your dog completely dry after a bath, you will definitely want to reduce the amount of soppy water that’s dripping from your dog’s coat. Do this while he is still inside the tub, or you will find large splashes and water marks all over the floor, the walls, and everything else in your dog’s path once he exits the bath!
- If you’re outdoors, then feel free to simply let him run free and air dry. (Yes, your dog will probably roll in the grass — or even the dirt — after you’ve just bathed him. It’s okay. Even though his coat may pick up some debris (which can be easily wiped off once he’s completely dry), you can still trust that his skin is clean. And that’s the main point of a bath anyway!
- If you’re indoors, then you’ll want to use a bath towel. Better yet, invest in one good dog towel. They really do soak up water better, and they’re dog-size so they’re easier to work with while you’re drying your dog’s coat and paws. I bet you’ll be amazed at how often (outside of bath time) you reach for the dog towel — like to wipe muddy paws after playing outside on a rainy day.
- If you’re going to use a human hair dryer on your dog, be very careful because they get far too hot for dogs. Commercial pet dryers don’t get very hot; they just have a super-powerful air flow. So use a cooler setting than you would normally use to dry your own hair, and remember: it’s not the heat so much as it’s the amount of air that reaches your dog that speeds up the drying time.
The idea is to make getting a bath FUN for your dog — from start to finish. Otherwise, your dog won’t ever want to do it again, and bath time will forever be a chore for both you and your dog.
Here are 6 common mistakes pet owners make when bathing their dogs.
How Often Do Dogs Need A Bath?
Each dog is different. Some have dry skin; some don’t. Some have sensitive skin; some don’t. Some dogs spend more time playing outdoors and getting sweaty than other dogs do. Some dogs have coats that require more grooming than other dogs do.
As long as you use a proper dog shampoo, you could technically bathe your dog every other week if you wanted to. But who wants to do that? So most of us only bathe our dogs whenever we feel they are especially dirty or smelly.
At a bare minimum, your dog should probably be bathed at least 4 times a year. (Think once each season.)
Do not bathe your dog too often because that will dry out the skin, deplete healthy oils from the coat and skin, and lead to scratching and irritation. Frequency is largely dependent on the breed and activities of the dog. Dogs who spend a lot of time outside or engage in outdoor activities that expose them to dirt, bugs and/or debris typically require more bathing, perhaps every 6 weeks or more frequently. Some groomers recommend bathing double-coated breeds only about 3 times a year and suggest that smooth-coated dogs can go a lot longer between baths than can curly-coated breeds such as poodles. Too frequent bathing can cause the coat to soften and reduce its insulating qualities. Source
Alternatives To Giving Your Dog A Bath
If you’re just not crazy about giving your dog baths (or your dog is not crazy about receiving them), then I would encourage you to try waterless dog shampoo.
I love this stuff!
While it’s not as effective as a wet bath, it’s great to use in between baths because it conditions your dog’s coat and makes it softer. Best of all: it makes your dog smell great.
Waterless dog shampoos are super-handy to use at these times:
- When it’s cold outside and you can’t use the garden hose to bathe your large dog.
- When you’ve got company coming over and you haven’t bathed your dog in awhile, so he’s got a certain “funk” to him.
- When you don’t want to get all wet and messy from giving your dog a bath with water — because you KNOW he’s going to “shake” all over you and everything else in the room!
- When you’re in a hurry and just want your dog to look and smell better rather quickly.
I especially like Miracle Coat Waterless Dog Shampoo. I’ve been using it for well over a dozen years now. I really like how non-messy it is to use (it’s a foam), and how amazing it smells!
Here are 7 ways to keep your dog smelling great without a bath!
I like to help people find unique ways to do things in order to save time & money — so I write about “outside the box” ideas that most wouldn’t think of. As a lifelong dog owner, I often share my best tips for living with and training dogs. I worked in Higher Ed over 10 years before switching gears to pursue activities that I’m truly passionate about. I’ve worked at a vet, in a photo lab, and at a zoo — to name a few. I enjoy the outdoors via bicycle, motorcycle, Jeep, or RV. You can always find me at the corner of Good News & Fun Times as publisher of The Fun Times Guide (32 fun & helpful websites).