Bathing your puppy or adult dog can prove to be a challenge. There are many questions, techniques and opinions floating around when discussing bathing a dog. Here are some tips for bath time.

How often your pet will need a bath depends on the breed and what type of activities the dog is involved in. It’s best to bathe your dog only when your dog is really dirty. Usually when that “doggy smell” starts, it’s time for a bath. Often local cleaning of mud and/or dirt can be done with water – rinsing the feet with a hose or a wet hand towel when your dog comes in from the outdoors or brushing them out when the mud has dried, etc. can all serve to avoid a complete bath. If a dog is bathed too often the skin will be stripped of its natural, protective oils. This will result in dry itchy skin, which will cause your dog to scratch, further irritating the already sensitive skin. If you need to bathe your dog more frequently make sure to use a pet shampoo that will also moisturize your dog’s skin. You may also want to follow up with an after bath pet coat conditioner specifically formulated for dry skin.

In warm weather you can bathe your dog outside. Pick a place that will not turn to mud when it gets wet – a child’s wadding pool or large wash tub works well. Water straight from a garden hose may start off warm, but usually gets cold very fast. Many times the hose can be placed through an open basement window to utilize indoor plumbing and add warm water to the bath. Some temperature mixer valve assembly’s hook up to your existing washing machine or basement laundry tub water supply. At bath time just connect an ordinary garden hose to the valve assembly and run it outside to the bathing area. Another option is to buy a raised dog bath. This convenient, back-saving dog bath is often used with a water temperature mixer valve assembly that completely solves this problem. With the proper equipment set up you’ll be able to save your back and control the water temperature of your dog’s bath. This can even be used for bathing your dog inside.

Small dogs and puppies can usually be bathed easily in a sink or a washtub. For bigger dogs you will need something bigger like a bathtub or a large shower stall. And of course, the bigger your dog is the bigger the potential hassles. If your dog takes any opportunity to get away from you at bath time you may want to consider restraining your dog. Restraints are used during bath time to avoid injury to you as well as your pet. Some pet bathing tubs come with restraints included. With these your dog will be safely and securely restrained and you will be able to give your dog a quick and hassle-free bath.

Slipping and sliding can be the most stressful part of bath time for a dog. Put a rubber mat down on the bottom surface of the tub to prevent your dog from sliding and getting hurt. A sure-footed dog will be less resistant and much more at ease during bath time. It will also reduce the chance of injury to your dog as well.


Bathing supplies to have ready include:

  1. Pet Shower or Plastic Pitcher – A Pet Shower is great, but if that’s not possible make sure you have a large plastic pitcher for wetting and rinsing your dog. Adjustable spray handles can be placed on a garden hose as well. Be sure the velocity of the spray is gentle which is soothing to the dog and keeps you drier as well.
  2. Drain Screen – Make sure to protect your plumbing from hair clogs with a simple to use drain screen. This can consist of nylon mesh placed in the drain or a commercial PVC drain system with a built-in hair trap that can be easily cleaned.
  3. Cotton Balls – Can be placed in each ear to prevent water from running into your dog’s ears.
  4. Pet Shampoos – There are many different pet shampoos each formulated to work on problems such as dry itchy skin, inflamed or dry scaling skin, fleas. See the Shampoo Therapy article in this section for more information on shampoos.
  5. Eye ointment – A bland ophthalmic eye ointment placed in the eyes can prevent chemical damage to your dog’s eyes. Your veterinarian can help you with this. There is a commercial product called Lacri-Lube®, an over-the-counter artificial tear ointment.
  6. Towels
  7. Hair dryers – These are optional for home care. Air drying is safe and effective but common sense is needed. Don’t let a wet dog outdoors in cold weather and don’t allow them access to dirt areas until they are dry. Be very careful when using electric dryers not to burn the dog, cause heat stroke by using them in confined areas or have them too near the bathing area where water can create a shock situation. Never use dryers on the “high” setting unless you watch the dog at all times.
  8. Treats – I certainly think bathing is another training situation where positive rewards for good behavior are very helpful. The bathing routine can be trained. Without water reward the dog for getting into the bathing area, for standing quietly with the restraints on, for behaving when the water is on, habituate them to the noise of the water and the dryer, etc.

A word about do-it-yourself dog washing facilities and groomers is necessary. These have been a great convenience for pet owners. There have been sporadic cases of “post-grooming” or “post-bathing” folliculitis or furunculosis in dogs after bathing by groomers or after bathing at do-it-yourself dog washes. It is thought the skin infection, mainly seen along the back, is due to trauma caused by high-pressure spray heads and/or contaminated shampoos. This condition is very painful with sores, skin irritation, behavior changes and fever. In rare cases it could be life-threatening. Many do-it-yourself dog washes and groomers use bulk shampoo containers which can become contaminated due to the many baths given from the same container. I recommend owners bring their own shampoo just to be safe.

Bathing is a necessary evil but when approached with confidence, enthusiasm, and positive training techniques it can be hassle-free and fun.

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