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Bathing your dog is an important way to care for your pet. It is a great bonding experience that some owners may see as a daunting task, but with a little preparation, some TLC, and of course, lots of treats, you can make bath time enjoyable for both you and your dog.
Before the Bath
1. Find the right shampoo and/or conditioner for your dog’s coat. Ask your veterinarian for recommendations specific to your dog, or bring your pet into your local pet store while you shop and ask an employee about the best brands for your dog. Some people use baby shampoo or household soaps to wash their dog, but it is important to use shampoo formulated only for dogs. Dogs have different pH levels than humans do, so using human shampoos and products may dry out or irritate your dog’s skin.
2. Prepare the bathing area. The best place to bathe your dog is in a confined space such as a shower or a tub. Remove any bottles or items that may be knocked over. A shampoo bottle falling into a tub makes a loud noise that could startle your dog or yourself. If you don’t already have one in place, put down a rubber shower mat, so your dog will have a better grip standing in the tub. Put down towels on the floor to collect excess water that might make its way out of the tub or shower. You can also bathe your dog outdoors with a hose and a bathing tub, but make sure your dog is on a leash so they won’t run for a dirt patch mid-bath.
3. Gather your tools. Having the proper tools ready will make the bathing process go smoothly. You should have a brush, multiple towels to dry your pup off with, lots of treats, washcloths to wipe around your dog’s ears and eyes, a leash or muzzle if necessary, and of course, shampoo and conditioner.
4. Prepare Your Pup. If you are going to cut or clip your dog’s hair, do so before the bath. Brush your dog’s coat thoroughly. Place a hair catcher in the drain to keep any excess hair from clogging your drain. Clip your dog’s toenails to avoid any accidental scratches and to give your dog better traction in the shower or tub. If you know your dog may get snippy or bite because it is uncomfortable, muzzle your pet. Keep your dog on a leash to control any getaway attempts. Place cotton balls in your dog’s ears to keep water out.
Having everything ready before the bath begins will allow you to focus on the task at hand. Taking the time to prepare will allow you to remain with your dog, instead of running in and out of the bathroom or house to get something you forgot, which will only cause more anxiety for both you and your dog. To lessen the anxiety, some people play music while they bathe.
1. Test the water. Make sure the water is an appropriate temperature before your dog is even in the bath. If using a hose or shower with a nozzle, adjust the nozzle to the proper water pressure. For small dogs, a lesser, gentle pressure is ideal, but for dogs with thick coats, a greater water pressure may be necessary to reach the skin through the hair.
2. Massage from head to tail. Once you have tested the water and wet your dog from head to tail, begin massaging your dog from head to tail. Use minimal shampoo/conditioner while massaging your dog’s head to avoid irritating the ears and eyes. If you start on any other part of the body, you may only corral fleas to other areas rather than eliminate them.
3. Follow directions. Be sure to follow the directions on the back of the shampoo, especially if you are using a flea treatment. Soak times will vary depending on the shampoo or treatment you use.
4. Rinse from head to tail. Rinse your dog thoroughly until the water runs clear of soap.
5. Dry your dog. Remove the cotton balls from your dog’s ears. Towel-dry your dog’s coat. In a dry location, you can use a hair dryer with a cool setting to dry your dog. You can also allow your dog’s hair to air dry, but be sure to put some towels down where they might relax, such as on the floor or in their crate.
Dogs should be introduced to bathing as early as possible in order for them to become comfortable with the process. Before you know it, they will learn to love it! Every dog requires a different bathing frequency, depending on factors such as their coat length, coat type, and their affinity for dirty things. Be cautious not to over wash your dog, or you could do more harm than good by irritating their skin.
Pay attention to your dog’s hygiene as you would your own. A clean dog is a healthy dog, and a healthy dog is a happy dog!