Dog Bathing Techniques

Bathing your dog is an important part of the grooming process and some dogs enjoy their bath more than others so the techniques you use for washing him can help him enjoy it a little more.  It is important to help the dog feel comfortable and so introducing the bathing techniques as a young dog will help him learn to accept it.  Below you will find vital information about dog washing – from young puppies to old dogs which will help make the job easier for you and will also help your dog feel more at ease.   If you have just purchased a new puppy please read carefully the section on washing dogs under 12 months of age below.

First of all before you start giving your dog a bath it helps to brush out the coat.  This will help remove any dead coat or bits of the environment which may get caught in the fur of long-haired dogs.  It is also a good practice to brush short-haired dogs as well before giving them a bath as this will help to remove any dirt and sand which may be caught in the coat.  If you have a long-haired dog and you notice there are some knots or matting in the coat it is important to get rid of these first.  You can get rid of knots and matting by either shaving the coat short, using a dematting comb or scissoring them out.  If they are only small knots then you might find they come out with the brushing.  However, if you wash a dog with a matted coat it actually makes the matting worse.

As well as brushing before the bath another technique you might want to get into the habit of is trimming the dog’s nails.  That way if you do happen to clip a nail a little too short and make it bleed sometimes it will have stopped by the time you wash the blood away.  If it’s bad then the bleeding can be quite severe.  In this instance you will need to use styptic powder or a styptic pencil to stop the bleeding.  You can find out more about nail clipping here.

Bathing Supplies

Once you have brushed the dog and trimmed his nails he will be ready for his bath.  You need to make sure you have all the bathing supplies to hand.  These are:

  • Dog (this could be flea or medicated shampoo, depending on whether your dog has skin or flea problems) or puppy shampoo;
  • Face cloth;
  • Ear wipes;
  • Towel and/or blow dryer;
  • Skin and coat conditioner (optional)
  • Dog bath (optional)

The important things to note are:

  • Never wash your dog in human shampoo as the pH balance is different and not appropriate for dogs.
  • Use the face cloth to wash over the face and clean any tear build up around the eyes.  Always wash the face before the body so you are not washing it in very dirty water.  This is particularly important if your dog has a flea infestation and the water gets brown with the flea dirt.
  • Use ear wipes to clean the inside ear flaps as then as far as your finger will get down the ear canal.  Be careful not to put too much pressure into the ear canal but move your fingers around gently to wipe any bit of dirt or yeast from the grooves.  Find out more about cleaning your dog’s ears by going to our page, Cleaning Your Dog’s Ears.
  • Depending upon the temperature on the day as to whether you dry the dog off afterwards, particularly if it is a hot day.  If the weather is cold then it is best to towel dry and then give the dog a blow dry so he is not sitting around wet for a long period of time.  It also depends upon the length and thickness of the coat as to whether you towel or blow dry.
  • To keep your dog smelling nice for longer use a gentle skin and coat conditioner such as Aloveen.  Not only does it smell lovely but a good quality coat conditioner will leave the coat feeling soft and healthy.

Bathing Dogs Under 12 Months of Age

Although it is important to get a dog used to having a bath as early as possible the recommendation is to not wash them too often while they are under 12 months of age.  This is because while puppies grow they are developing their own natural oils which keeps their skin and coat healthy.  Frequent washing can sometimes strip these natural oils out with the effect of the dog developing dry, flaky skin as it grows older.  The recommendation is to only wash your puppy when absolutely necessary and only once in a two to three month period.

If you wish to start getting your puppy used to having a bath then wash him only in warm water without any shampoo.  It is the chemicals in the shampoo that can strip the natural oils out of the skin and coat.  If you do bathe your puppy in shampoo make sure it is a very mild puppy shampoo or plain water only.

It is also good to get puppies used to having a blow dry as young as possible.  Socialising the puppy to the noise and feel of the air blow through onto their coat for very short amounts of time when you first get your puppy will help him cope as he gets older.


Bathing Dogs Over 12 Months of Age

Once your dog reaches 12 months of age his growing has pretty much finished and you can put him on to a more regular bathing schedule.  It is recommended that you don’t bath more than once every two weeks however if your dog doesn’t get smelly or dirty then preferably once a month.  If you choose to bath him even more infrequently, say once every two or three months, then that is fine also.  Too frequent bathing can, even on older dogs, can dry out the skin and coat making the skin dry and flaky and the coat dry and brittle.

Swimming at the beach or in a lake or river can substitute for baths however make sure to rinse the dog afterwards in fresh water to get the salt water off.  For dogs in colder climates, particularly thick coated dogs, it may be better not to wash them over the colder months at all.

Bathing the Dog

Depending on your home situation you may have a special dog bath to hose your dog down in.  Otherwise if the dog is small you might prefer to wash him in the laundry sink or a larger dog in your shower.

You may choose to place a cotton wool ball in each of your dog’s ears to prevent water from entering the ear canal. If water does get down the ear canal wipe the inside of the ear with a dry cloth or cotton ball. Water which doesn’t dry out can sometimes be the cause of ear infections.  Make sure when you finish the bath to take out the cotton balls and also make sure no bits of cotton are left inside the ear as this could cause the ear to get infected later on.

Make sure the water is warm before washing and wet the dog all over.  Then put enough shampoo on the dog to lather it up nicely.  The best technique for bathing your dog is to start at the neck and work down towards the tail.  It is best to wash around the neck and the ears and then use the cloth to wash the dog’s face before the water gets too dirty (if you are using a limited supply of water such as in a hydrobath or bucket).  Be careful not to get shampoo in the dog’s eyes.  If the dog has fleas then keep an eye out for them around the face area as well as the body.  Once you have washed the face it is a good opportunity to clean the ears out with ear wipes.

When you have washed around the dog’s head area you can move onto the body.  Follow the instructions on the shampoo bottle and wash the dog thoroughly all over until he is clean working your way from the neck area to the back end of the dog and tail.

If your dog has fleas then by washing the head and face area first the fleas will run away from the shampoo and move to the back end of the dog.  Wash thoroughly until you can’t see any more fleas on the dog.  If the infestation of fleas is severe then it might be necessary to give the dog a couple of washes in shampoo.

Rinsing the Dog

It is also important to rinse the shampoo off the dog, regardless of what type of shampoo you use, using warm water.  Make sure you rinse thoroughly getting all the shampoo out of the dog’s coat.  It is good to also rinse the face cloth and rinse the face with clean warm water also.

Drying the Dog

After you have washed and rinsed your dog off, unless it is a very hot day, it is best to dry their coats even partially.  If you have a short-haired dog then they will dry very quickly however for a long-haired dog with a thick coat it will be necessary to dry him off to get rid of most of the wetness.

You can use a towel to rub them down and quite often that is sufficient however if the weather is cold then you don’t want your dog lying around for any length of time with a wet coat so a blow dry will be better.  It is also possible to get magnetic cloths which, when damp, will absorb a lot of the water out of the coat.  These are great and if you have a dog who doesn’t like the blow dryer then this is a good alternative.

You might also find that after your dog has had a bath that he will want to run and roll in the grass or dirt.  You might want to place a couple of old towels on the ground for him to roll on those instead.

Useful Accessories

The following items may come in useful for bathing your dog:

Top Paw Pet Hair-Snare

The Top Paw Pet Hair-Snare prevents unsightly hair from entering your drain. Simply wet the snare and position the raised center over the drain it’s that easy! A PetSmart exclusive.




Top Paw Sink Bathing Mat

Provide a soft, cushioned surface while grooming your pet with the Top Paw Sink Bathing Mat. The nice sized, bone mat is the perfect grooming accessory! A PetSmart exclusive.





………..Top Paw Tub Bathing Mat

………..Provide a soft, cushioned surface while grooming your pet with the Top ………. Paw Tub Bathing Mat. The nice sized, bone shaped mat is the perfect ………. grooming accessory! A PetSmart exclusive.





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