Dogs hate baths and getting them in the tub can be every pet parent’s nightmare. So it’s important to know what you’re doing and how to give your dog a bath.
You owe your dog a thorough full-body wash for maximum hygiene every few weeks. The number of baths your dog requires depends on the breed, activity levels, fur length and type, and environment.
Most dogs need baths at least every 4 to 6 weeks. Long-haired dogs like collies and Samoyeds are a lot of work to clean, so regular professional grooming is a good solution. Short-haired dogs are easier to groom, but it’s not the best practice to go for more than 2 months without washing them completely.
Once you’ve determined the number of scrub downs your pooch needs, you can get right into cleaning. Try to make your pups as pleasant (or at least tolerable) as possible for your dog. Don’t go overboard with bathing your dog, as it strips your furbaby’s coat of its natural oils, leading to an unhealthy coat.
Step 1: Preparing Your Dog for a Bath (Pre bathing)
Good dog hygiene starts way before getting to the bathtub or sink. In addition to the monthly washes, you should brush your dog’s coat some days of the week. Regular coat brushing prevents the hair and fur from tangling up, leading to knots and matting. High and low shedders alike benefit from consistent brushing.
On the washing day, prepare your pup’s coat, so the bathing process isn’t uncomfortable. Brushing your dog’s hair before a shower is much easier than when it’s soaked. Matted hair holds on to water, and trying to brush it out will hurt your dog.
You can use a pin brush or a slicker brush to brush the tangles off the coat. You can use a deshedder on heavy shedders or during high shedding seasons like spring or fall. This tool removes shed hair from deep within your pup’s coat which would tangle up during bath time.
Step 2: Shampoo your dog
It is time to get foamy once you have gathered all the items you’ll need for wash day. Wet your dog with lukewarm water before using dog shampoo, as the formulas are water-activated. Don’t just reach for your shampoo in the shower because human shampoo can actually harm your dog and their coat.
Once your pup is soaked, lather the shampoo while avoiding the eyes and ears. Shampoo stings once in your pup’s eyes and can cause infections if it gets into the ears. Work the shampoo into the body by gently massaging, focusing on the legs, paws, and rear area. Cotton balls in the ears prevent water from getting in and wreaking bacterial havoc.
Step 3: Rinse and condition
Shampoo cleans hair because it contains surfactant molecules that emulsify the sebum and dirt, allowing them to dissolve in water. These same molecules dry out your pup’s skin and cause flaking when you don’t rinse the shampoo off thoroughly.
You can opt to use conditioner once you’ve rinsed off all the shampoo from your pup’s coat. Shampoo opens hair follicles to promote deep cleaning while conditioner closes and smooths these follicles. Leave the conditioner on your dog for some minutes, and rinse it thoroughly to prevent dryness and flaking.
Step 4: Dry with a towel, then a dryer
Your dog is probably shaking at this point because the water is getting cold on the skin. After rinsing your dog, allow them to shake herself out and proceed to towel drying. Using an absorbent towel removes excessive moisture when you pat your pup dry. Pay special attention to wrinkly dogs like the Shar-Pei when drying them because the folds can retain excess moisture leading to dermatitis.
The towel-drying process can be quite lengthy. You can use a high-velocity dog dryer to speed up the drying process. Dog dryers blow cooler air at a higher pressure compared to standard dryers. Ensure you place the dryer at a safe distance from the skin to prevent the dryer from burning your dog’s skin.
You can choose to use a slicker brush when drying with a high-velocity dryer. This eliminates any knots and tangles you may have missed during the pre-bathing process. After thoroughly drying your dog, you can trim overgrown hair, especially around the eyes and ears. Trimming is particularly important for long-haired breeds like the Maltese because their hair grows at a much faster rate.
We’ve extensively covered the frequency of dog baths, so you know how much to bathe your dog when the next bath is due.
Bonus Grooming Tips
How you take care of your dog between baths determines how hygienic they usually are. In between bath intervals, add the following to your dog’s cleaning regimen in addition to the intraweek coat brushing.
Brush your dog’s teeth at least 2 to 3 times per week
You must adhere to a consistent oral care schedule to ensure optimum oral health. Brushing your dog’s teeth daily prevents plaque and tartar accumulation, but even 2 to 3 times a week can suffice. Brachycephalic (pushed in noses) and small breed dogs are especially sensitive to dental problems and need more oral care.
Clip the nails
Dogs need a nail trim every month or so. Overgrown nails can hurt you, making snuggle time pretty uncomfy. On top of this, long nails are prone to breaking and tearing, which can be very painful to your dog. You can trim your pup’s nails when you hear tapping feet as they walk on a hard surface.
Most dogs can do with monthly baths, but some need more or fewer baths, depending on the breed. You should use a dog shampoo because human shampoo can cause skin irritations in your dog. The process of bathing a dog is lathering shampoo, rinsing it off, and drying your pup with a towel and dryer.
How Often Should You Wash Your Dog?
Moderation is vital when bathing your pooch, with most pups benefiting from monthly washes. New dog owners often wonder whether they bathe their pups too frequently or infrequently. Washing your furbaby too much or too little poses risks to your pup’s coat appearance and overall health.
The frequency of dog baths depends on various factors, making each dog’s grooming needs unique. Fur length and type, lifestyle, and allergies are some factors that determine how often you should wash your dog. We recommend extensive research into your dog’s specific breed to get their grooming requirements right.
Tamsin De La HarpeAuthor
Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions.
Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.
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