Dog Health & Wellness

How to Bathe a Dog – A Step by Step Guide

Don't miss our step by step instructions on how to bathe a dog.
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Written by Rachael

Bathing a dog has gotten a bad rap. Popular media likes to portray baths as a messy, chaotic, and unpleasant experience for dogs and the person bathing them. In reality, the experience need not be unpleasant and with the right information (and attitude) it can be an enjoyable experience for you both! 

In this article we will run through the basics – from choosing where to bathe your dog, what shampoo to use on your dog and helpful tips and tricks for bathing your dog

Choosing Where to Bathe your Dog

When most people think of giving a dog a bath, they assume that they are doing it in their own bathtub. While this is an option, it is far from the only choice. In fact it is quite likely that you have had a less than pleasant experience with this technique!

Either way, let’s take a quick run through of your options when it comes to giving your dog a bath.

At Home in the Bath Tub

Learn how to give your dog a bath at home

The old standby. You can’t beat the convenience or the price of using your own bathtub. You can however beat the experience! If you are planning to bathe at home an extendable shower head and non slip mat are highly recommended. The extendable shower head is a lifesaver. Not only does it allow you to get in all the nooks and crannies of your dog, but it really penetrates dense coats making the rinsing process much faster. Non slip shower mats also are great because they provide extra traction for your dog so that he/she is not fearful of moving around in the tub and slipping. If you do not have a shower mat, a simple towel on the floor of the tub will also do the trick.

You will want to get your dog accustomed to being in the tub before attempting a bath. Create positive feelings with the location and the process with plenty of toys and treats! Low calorie training treats are great for shaping the behavior you want (getting into the tub). Shaping involves taking small steps toward the behavior that you want like giving them a treat when they walk into the bathroom, sniff the tub, put a paw up on it, etc. Once they are comfortable with the tub, it is a good idea to shut the bathroom door so your dog can be contained for their own safety: dogs really are wonderful escape artists when they want to be!

Pros:

  • Free
  • Fast

Cons:

  • It can be difficult for a large dog to get in or out of the tub.
  • Post bath shakes can soak you and your bathroom.
  • Lots of laundry – a large dog can easily soak through a laundry load of towels!
  • During shedding season, dogs with long hair can plug your drain.
  • Post bath zoomies can leave your house a mess!

Outside with the Hose

If you have a large dog who is scared of the tub, sometimes they will feel more comfortable getting a bath in the backyard. Outside your dog is not confined to a tight space and less likely to feel trapped or scared. When bathing outdoors always use a leash and collar with proper identification. As we said before, dogs can be amazing escape artists and even if they are not fearful of bathing, could attempt to run away from you. Safety first!

Bathing a dog outdoors with a hose is a very convenient and less messy option for large dog owners

Pros:

  • Free
  • Fast
  • No mess to clean up!

Cons:

  • If you do not have a hot water spigot, the water may be too cold for your dog! Always check to make sure!
  • Soap suds drain right into your lawn which may be an environmental issue depending on the type of shampoo you are using.
  • Make sure that they don’t get loose after washing! This is the result of Charlie being left outside to “dry” after an outdoor bath!!!

At a Self Wash Station

Many local pet stores now offer pet grooming stations where you can bathe your dog for a small fee. We have found the convenience to be well worth the cost.

Giving the boys a bath at the self service dog grooming stations at PetSaver Superstore!
Pros:

  • Raised tubs so you don’t have to spend 30 minutes bent over and end up with a sore back.
  • Waterproof aprons, shampoo, and towels are provided!
  • Door or cutout built into the tub so that your dog can walk right in. No more awkward and dangerous lifting.
  • Professional grade dryers. Saves time and does a better job.
  • They do the cleanup for you! Self-Wash stations are stocked with fresh towels and they even take care of drain cleanup and errant water droplets!

Cons:

  • Have to pay to use
  • Occasional time limits
  • May not be allowed to bring in a skunk-sprayed dog or your own shampoos (call ahead to find out)
  • Messes are not always scheduled during regular business hours!

Choosing the Right Dog Shampoo

Choosing the best dog shampoo

When it comes to dog shampoos, there are literally hundreds of options. It is very important to take into consideration your dogs skin and hair type as well as any allergy issues before making your decision. Below is a quick outline of some of the options out there, so that you may better choose what is right for your pup.

Coat specific Dog Shampoo

Isle of Dogs Shampoo is specifically formulated to handle particular types of coat and skin. There really is something for every dog!

Whether your pup’s hair is straight or curly, dry or greasy, there is a dedicated solution. We love Isle of Dogs extensive line of shampoos, conditioners and treatments because they have formulations for all dog hair types. 

Organic Dog Shampoo

Visit MyDogLikes for the most comprehensive Dog Shampoo reviews on the web. Today we are taking a look at 4-Legger's Organic dog shampoo!

If you are a stickler for natural and organic products like we are, there are plenty of great dog shampoo options. We have tested and enjoyed both 4-Legger and Organic Oscar so far.

Flea and Tick Preventative  Shampoo

Dr. Harvey's Flea Protection Shampoo is a great all natural way to protect your dogs from unwanted pests.

If you live in an area where pests are a particular nuisance, it may be a good idea to double up protection with a dedicated flea and tick shampoo. Flea and Tick shampoos generally fall into two categories, preventative or treatment. Preventative shampoos contain natural pest repellents to help keep bugs away while treatment shampoos work with pesticides to kill any bugs that may already be living on your dog. We are firm believers that an inch of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and like to avoid the use of harsh chemicals on our dogs; however are fully aware that some situations call for the use of treatment shampoos. 

MyDogLikes reviews Organic Oscar dog shampoos

Allergy Shampoo

If your dog is anything like our boys, allergies can be a serious concern – especially in the spring and summer. Allergy specific shampoos contain fewer irritants, are gentler on the skin, and often contain soothing ingredients like aloe or oatmeal. 

Harley jumped into the dog bath tub while we were giving Charlie a bath!

How to Bathe a Dog

Now that we have covered how to choose a proper location and select the proper products, it’s time to get down to business. Below is our top advice on how to give your dog a bath.

Testing out the dog conditioner from Isle of Dogs for the official MyDogLikes review!

While the concept may seem basic, there are several important things to keep in mind in order to not damage your dogs coat or skin.

STEP 1: Brush

Brushing before a bath is always a good idea

It is important to remove any knots or mats from your dog’s coat prior to bathing. This is because they can become even more unwieldy and difficult to remove after getting wet. Take the time to run through any troublesome spots and correct any issues before they become an even bigger problem.

STEP 2: Soak

Giving Harley a dog bath at PetSaver SuperStore near Rochester, NY

Always make sure to check the temperature of the water before using it on your dog. Once you have verified that it is warm and comfortable, bring the shower head close to allow the water to penetrate deeply into the coat. Use your hands to help work the water in while you maneuver the shower head around your dog. Make sure to take care to avoid the eyes and ears! These sensitive areas can be wiped down with a wet cloth instead. Water in the ear canal is one of the primary causes of dog ear infections!

STEP 3: Shampoo

Looking for Dog Shampoo Reviews? See what we though of 4-Legger's brand new organic dog shampoo!

As opposed to pouring the shampoo right onto your dog, instead take the time to rub it into your hands to make sure that you get an even distribution. Next, using your fingertips, gently massage the shampoo into the coat. Let it sit on their fur for a few minutes to allow the active ingredients to absorb into the skin and coat.

STEP 4: Rinse

MyDogLikes explains how to give a dog a bath in this review of Isle of Dogs shampoo.

Once again, use the faucet head at close range to penetrate deep into the coat and wash the suds away. Simultaneously run your hands along your dog to help “pull” the remaining soap out of the hair. Shampoo will remain in the coat long after it can no longer be seen on the surface so keep at it for several run-throughs until the water runs clear. Leftover shampoo can be irritating to your dogs skin.

STEP 5: Dry

Visit MyDogLikes to see how to dry a dog after a bath properly. Hint - Its not how you think!

Vigorous rubbing with a towel can damage a dogs coat. The best technique for drying is to first use your hands to run along the coat and squeeze out as much water as possible. Next, use a towel to blot off the majority of the moisture. Finally, (if available) use a blow dryer to remover the last of the water. If your dog is fearful of the blow dryer use a similar behavior shaping technique with treats as you did to get them into the tub. Getting them accustomed to the shape and smell of the device without the noise first should be a big help.

Never use a heated cage dryer to dry your dog! Not only can this be a frightening experience, but it has even led to dog deaths when left unattended or malfunctioning.

What’s Next? 

Isle of Dogs number 62 conditioning spray review

If your dog has a long coat, a quick brushing and application of a conditioning or detangling spray would be a good idea. It may also be a great time to clean your dogs ears or trim their nails.

Giving your dog a bath can be an enjoyable experience for both of you. So relax, have fun and remember that you are most likely going to get wet!

Finally, if you are home or in the yard, be prepared for some post-bath zoomies!

What are your tips for giving a dog a bath? Let us know in the comments below!

15 Comments

  • We do really well getting a bath in the tub at home. Mom doesn’t like the cold water outdoor option and going somewhere means coming home with a wet dog in the car, so we stick with the tub. We got a cool new hose attachment that is making is super easy to give us a bath. We’ll be reviewing it on Monday! The right shampoo is also key, we like the shampoo and conditioner in one, not strongly scented, tear free and as natural as possible.

  • We use a self wash to bathe my dogs. It’s is only $10 and they provide towels, shampoo, tear free face wash, conditioner, and a blow dryer. Plus they clean up the mess! It’s definitely worth the $10 for me! I also always follow up my dogs’ baths with a conditioner. Bathing your dog can remove the natural oils from their fur and skin and a good dog conditioner helps to replenish that and keep their skin from becoming dry.

  • Great, great thorough post! We’ve never bathed Mauja and Atka outside because our water is coooooold. We tend to alternate between the bath tub and the bathe your own dog place. I like going there because there’s no mess and we get to used the forced air dryer – my favorite!

    • The self wash stations are absolutely worth the cost in our opinion – so great to avoid a soaking wet bathroom and a whole dryer load of towels!

  • I remember the days of bathing my Golden! We tried the bathtub – big mess. The garden hose – very cold. The groomer- came out nice but my dog didn’t like being away from me. But now that I have Edie the Pug, and she’s smaller, I am able to bath her in my laundry tub with a special sprayer hose and being short haired, she dries much quicker.

  • Aww, look at those sweet doggie faces. I love it. I enjoyed reading this post. You’ve put it together well. The products look great too. Our dogs mostly got baths in the bathtub, although in the summer, we did it outside. I always worried the water would be too cold outside. Anyway, thanks!

  • Nice guide! I love how easy it is in the Summer time to just use the hose outside though I have to be careful because if I don’t get them inside in time they roll in the garden.

  • It is funny that every dog is a little bit different where some love the water and others hate it. I think it all depends on your dog. I think before choosing where to bathe your dog make sure that you have the right kind of soap for them so that they can get clean.

  • I LOVE the self wash – mine is $19 so not ultra cheap. When necessary I use a walk in shower with a hand held sprayer for my 60 pounder who I would not be able to lift in the tub and he would not go willingly! I have’t got him to tolerate a blow dryer at home or the dog wash, but keep working on that.

  • I have three girls…two of which are fine with the bathtub. One however is murder to bathe! I found the perfect thing to use outdoors…one of those “turtle shape” sandboxes. I picked it up at the local Goodwill Store cheap. I can gently lead Lucy into this without fighting with her. Lucy is much easier to control now, she just has to have one paw up on the side. LOL. Of course, I always keep a leash on all my girls just to be on the safe side.

  • I have a couple of dogs and luckily they love being in water! I use dog bathtub cause it is convenient and easy to use. I enjoyed reading this post. You’ve put it together well. The products look great too especially the dog shampoos. Thank you.

  • I have been skeptical about using shampoos on my pets for a long time. Thanks to this guide now I can use them without having to worry. Keep sharing such awesome posts. Thanks Big time

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