Black dog having a bath
© Pixabay

How to wash a dog - step-by-step

By Alice Lang Copywriter

Updated on the

Bath time? Dogs may hate it, but bathing helps keep them fresh, clean and healthy. Not sure where to start? Here’s how to wash a dog whilst making it as enjoyable as possible for them.

Is there anything worse than a smelly dog? As soon as you can’t cuddle your dog in fear of the stench, you know it’s time to give them a bath.  But some people put dog bath time off for as long as possible. Why? Because their pooch hates it!

Truthfully, most dogs would rather be dirty than have a bath. But a regular dog bath helps to keep your pup free of parasites, smelling fresh and gives you the chance to carry out a check-up on your dog’s coat and skin.

How often should you wash a dog?

This pooch doesn't look too pleased! © Pixabay

Never mind how to wash a dog - first you need to know when it’s actually necessary! Generally, we’d recommend washing your dog once a month or bi-monthly. However, this can vary depending on a variety of factors.

If you’ve got a very active dog who loves the outdoors, you may end up having to wash them more often. Obviously, if your pooch is covered in muck or dirt, it’s probably best to get them in the bath to avoid ruined furniture and muddy carpets.

When dogs get certain skin conditions or allergies, more regular baths with a medicated shampoo might be needed. On top of this, how often a dog needs a bath comes down to breeds, size and coat length and thickness. In both these cases, it’s best to ask your vet or a professional dog groomer for advice on how often your pooch needs to be washed.

Overall, if your dog isn’t stinky or isn’t visibility dirty, there’s no real need to bathe them. If dogs are washed too frequently, skin irritation and dryness can occur - and nobody wants that!

How to wash a dog: preparation

It'll be worth it in the end - we promise!  © Pixabay

Before you get washing, it’ll help to do a bit of forward planning:

Plan where you’ll bathe them

If your dog is particularly small, you’re lucky - just plop them in the kitchen sink! Larger dogs might need to be put in the shower and bathed with the nozzle or simply put in the bathtub. Portable dog tubs are also an option.

Using the garden hose should only be an option if your pup is extremely messy and needs to be cleaned before entering the house. Otherwise, it’s just too cold - imagine how you’d feel being washed with a cold tap!

Gather the supplies

You’ll also need a few towels before you start the process. If using the bathtub, place one in the bottom to prevent your dog from slipping and sliding around. You’ll also need one (and possibly more, depending on the size) ready to dry your dog afterwards.

You’ll need to purchase a good-quality dog shampoo. Never use human products on your pup. Opt for a mild dog shampoo which cleans without stripping away oils. It’s also helpful to buy some cotton balls to place just inside your dog’s ear to prevent water from getting inside them.

Bring some treats

The key to successful bathing is to make bath time a positive experience. Whenever you wash your dog, give them lots of treats and rewards during and after the bath. If your pooch is particularly nervous about washing, it’s handy to have another person there to help you. Whilst you wash, they can offer treats, praise and soothe them - it’s a great distraction!

Get brushing

It’s important to give your dog a good brush before you put them in the bath. Once tangles or mats get wet, it’ll become even harder to remove them. If necessary, carefully cut out any matted fur.

How to wash a dog

Time to get dry!  © Pixabay
  1. Test out the water temperature before your dog comes anywhere near the bath, shower or sink. Run it on the inside of your wrist - aim for lukewarm. Place the cotton balls inside your dog’s ears.

  2. Get them in and wet them down until they’re damp with water. If you’re using a shower or nozzle, try and use a very low pressure or weaken the stream using your hands.

  3. Before you add the shampoo, praise your dog and give him a cheeky treat to calm them down.

  4. Gently massage your chosen dog shampoo into your dog’s fur. Don’t forget the buttocks. Wash the body first, moving up to the head. Steer clear of the face at this stage - we’ll tackle that later! There should be enough shampoo to create a visible lather.

  5. Get rinsing! Rinse, rinse and rinse some more until all the soapy residue is completely gone. It’s so important to get it all out - lingering soap could dry out your dog’s skin.

  6. Before you get your pooch out of the tub, it’s a good idea to wash their face. For this, use a damp washcloth with a very small amount of shampoo. Squeeze out the excess water and product and rub all over the face slowly and gently, avoiding the eyes. Then rinse the cloth so all the soap comes out, and swipe over to remove the suds. Repeat until their face is soap-free.

How to wash a dog: drying

Get your dog out the tub with a towel laid flat on the floor - get ready for some shakes! Now it’s time to rub them down. Wrap a big towel over their back and gently rub down your dog in the direction their fur grows. Start from the front and end at the rear.

Keep going until they’re fairly dry - though it’s okay to leave them to dry off slightly indoors if it’s warm. Just make sure their inner legs, tummy, buttocks and tail are thoroughly dry to avoid skin infections and irritation.

Some owners like to give their dog another brush at this stage to ensure their pooch is thoroughly tangle-free.

And you're done! Now your pup will be smelling lovely, looking smart and won't need a bath for another few weeks - perfect!

Do you want to know how to groom your dog? 
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