How to Give Your Dog a Bath: An Expert Guide

Washing dogs isn’t easy. But with these expert tips on how to give your dog a bath, you can create a bubbly, pleasant bathing experience for both of you.

how to give your dog a bath image
Giving your dog a bath? Photo: hfiguiere

How to Give Your Dog a Bath: Introduction to Bathing Your Furry Friend

Dogs have their own ideas about personal grooming techniques:

  • Rolling around on the ground
  • Rubbing their heads or noses in who knows what

Every dog looks at bath time in a different way. While we humans realize that a bath leaves us feeling clean and refreshed, not all dogs have that same feeling.

Given time, many dogs do learn to tolerate baths. Understanding how to give your dog a bath properly can make the experience more pleasant for both of you.

How to Give Your Dog a Bath: Step-by-Step Guide

Bathing helps keep your dog’s coat clean, healthy, and shining. Some breeds need a good scrub more often than others. How often your dog needs a bath depends on how quickly they get grimy:

  • Bathing too frequently will take healthy oils away from the coat and skin, causing itching, scratching, and irritation.
  • Brushing daily will help keep them clean between baths.

Follow these simple instructions, and you’ll be giving your dog a bath like a seasoned pro.

Instructions on How to Give Your Dog a Bath

The following instructions will help create a harmonious relationship between you and your dog during baths:

  1. Using Warm Water (Not Hot)
    • Fill the tub about knee length.
    • Lift your puppy or dog and gently place them—don’t plop them down—in the water.
    • Provide a treat, speak to your pup in a calming tone, and let them smell your grooming tools (comb, brush, clippers, etc.).
  2. Give Your Dog a Chance to Get Used to the Water
    • Spray the water gently on the dog’s back and shoulders to allow your pet to adjust to the feel and temperature of the water.
    • Take it slowly, and keep talking in a reassuring voice. Anything that spooks your pet will only make them more resistant to baths in the future.
  3. Avoid Spraying Water Directly in the Dog’s Face
    • Tilt the dog’s head so that the water will run down the backside.
    • Use your fingers or a wet washcloth to wipe the areas around the eyes, nose, and mouth.
    • Do not clean the inner ears without guidance from your veterinarian, as getting water in the ears is a top cause of dog ear infections.
  4. Wash the Top of the Head, Neck, and Chest, Then Work Down the Back
    • Going from head to tail will help wash away any fleas or other bothersome visitors your pet may have accumulated since the last bath.
    • Offer treats along the way. Your dog will appreciate the gesture.
  5. Use a Shampoo Formulated for Dogs
    • People shampoos do not have the right pH for dogs.
    • Apply a line of shampoo along the back, massaging the lather down to the skin as you go.
    • Wash each leg and the tummy as you work your way to the tip of the tail. A soft-bristled brush will help you clean around the paw pads.
  6. Gently Rinse Your Soaped-Up Pet with Warm Water
    • Rinse the top of the dog’s head and around the eyes first, using one of your hands to shield the soap from their eyes.
    • Rinse the whole body well until the water runs clear. Kneading the fur with your hand will help remove the suds. Don’t forget those little toes.
    • Don’t skimp on the rinsing—leftover suds can lead to dry skin.
  7. Gently Pat Your Pet Dry with an Absorbent Towel
    • Begin the drying process at the head, as dogs aren’t very comfortable when their head is wet.
    • They’ll probably want to shake wildly, which is fine—just ensure they are completely dry before allowing them the pleasure of post-bath running and rolling. Otherwise, all this bath-time magic will have been in vain.

After giving your dog a bath, offer a lot of praise and a few more treats. After all, doesn’t a clean, good-smelling pupper deserve the royal treatment?

Other Tips and Tricks

  • Pre-Bath Walk: Take your puppy for a long walk to burn off excess energy.
  • Timing: Bathe your dog before meals so you can reward them with food afterward.
  • Small Dogs: Use a sink or laundry tub for smaller dogs.
  • Shower Sprayer: Invest in a detachable shower sprayer for easier rinsing.
  • Non-Slip Mat: Place a non-slip mat in the tub to prevent injuries and protect the tub.
  • Avoid Cold Water: Don’t use garden hoses, as the water can be too cold, especially in colder months.
  • Protect Ears: Place a large cotton ball in each ear to prevent water from entering.
  • Stay Calm: Be patient and avoid yelling if your pet resists grooming to make bath time a positive experience.
give your dog a bath
Every dog looks at bath time in a different way. Learn about the mistakes on how to give your dog a bath here. Photo: ginnerobot

Mistakes to Avoid When Bathing Your Dog

Bath time can be a lot of fun for both you and your dog—and yes, we’re serious. You get to spend time together, bond, and get clean. (Well, at least your dog does. Your bathroom is another story.)

It’s not always easy to bathe dogs, though. Here are three things to avoid to make the experience go more smoothly:

1. Using the Wrong Shampoo

Just like people, dogs have different needs when it comes to bathing. Some dogs have dry skin, while others have fleas. Choosing the right shampoo can be a headache, but it’s crucial for your dog’s health.

  • Consult a Professional: Groomer Jet Perreault advises asking your groomer for advice. They will be glad to help, as frequent washing makes their job easier.
  • Ask Your Veterinarian: One of the most important things is to not use shampoo manufactured for humans—unless otherwise directed by your vet. Sometimes, veterinary dermatologists recommend Johnson & Johnson Baby Shampoo for sensitive dogs. But in general, human shampoo is not designed to properly clean your dog and may cause skin irritation.
give your dog a bath
Your dog may grow to like baths if they can associate baths with a calm, pleasant experience. Photo: pheezy

2. Rewarding Too Soon

Training your dog to be on his best behavior can help with bath time tremendously. As with any training, this should be a positive experience—something that makes your dog actually look forward to bath time.

  • Timing Matters: Many people use treats to entice their dogs into the bathroom, but according to Mario Sturm in his book 100 Mistakes in Dog Training, this is a mistake. “After the procedure, your dog should be exceedingly praised and rewarded with a treat,” Sturm writes, “provided that [your dog] endured it in a well-behaved manner.”
  • Post-Bath Rewards: If you have a reluctant bather, reward him only after bath time is over, regardless of how cute he looks in the tub.

3. Getting Frustrated or Yelling

It’s hard not to get peeved when you have an excitable dog in the tub who’s getting soap and water everywhere but on himself. Just remember: He has no real idea of why he even needs a bath in the first place.

  • Stay Calm: Be calm and assertive when you need to be, but above all else, remain calm. In Common Sense Dog Training, Steven Adams writes: “Screaming adds to their excitement, which means their out-of-hand behavior can get even more out of hand. Not to mention, it can scare the hell out of your dog and make him fear training situations…. Stay calm when you get frustrated. Walk away from the situation if you have to and try again another time.”
  • Training Tips: For more training tips, check out our essential puppy training tips.

It’s so easy when they’re puppies, isn’t it? Watch this video related to how to give your dog a bath:

YouTube player

Sure, walking away from bath time to try again isn’t always a convenient option. In the long run, though, it will help you and your dog learn how to handle baths like pros.

And one more thing: Never try to give your dog a bath when you’re short on time. Even the calmest dog can get excitable at bath time, and when you’re running late, this adds to your frustration—making you more likely to snap.

Make giving your dog a bath fun for both of you.

give your dog a bath
No, dogs do not hate baths. Read more to learn common myths on how to give your dog a bath Photo: Oleg

Common Myths About Dog Baths — Busted!

Many people think baths for dogs are a seasonal occurrence. “Time for his spring bath,” we hear.

But what if he’s been dirty since October? Pig Pen needed a fall bath, a winter bath and now, yes, a spring bath.

Here are seven myths about dogs and baths:

Myth #1: Dogs Don’t Need Regular Baths

Yes, they do. There is no pat-and-dry answer as to how often you need to bathe your dog. Different breeds, different coats, and different lifestyles require varying degrees of canine coiffing.

  • Frequency: In cold climates such as New England, if the last time you bathed Maple was in a kiddie pool when it was warm enough, it has been too long.
  • General Rule: A bath every 1–3 months, depending on the dog, is usually sufficient. Dogs with skin conditions or allergies require more frequent shampoos. Rolling in dead fish or coming home wearing and smelling of unidentifiable substances requires immediate bath attention.

Myth #2: Dogs Get a Good Bath with a Hose

No, they don’t. Cold-hose water is not ideal for rinsing off shampoo.

  • Temperature: Freezing-hose baths are appreciated by most dogs only on warm, sunny days.

Myth #3: Dogs Can Get Good Baths Only at the Groomer’s

A professional bath is wonderful once in a while, but most folks can give a great dog bath at home. See the advice above in Part 1 of this article.

  • Exceptions: You may have a huge or uncontrollable dog, have no help, be physically unable, or have no tub or a shower with a handheld shower head.
  • Small Dogs: Small dogs fit in sinks, so get your puppy used to baths from the start.

Myth #4: My Flea Shampoo Gets the Job Done Well Enough

How’s that? Flea shampoos have chemicals that are not needed for a general cleansing bath.

  • Specific Use: Even if your dog has fleas, a flea bath is not sufficient for treating a flea problem effectively.
  • General Bath: For a general happy bath, use an all-around pet shampoo.
give your dog a bath
Hose water is not the best option on how to give your dog a bath. Photo: Donald Kilgore

Myth #5: The Dog Has to Be Dried with a Dryer

In the ideal world, professional drying is nice, but all but the intensely thick-coated pups will dry in a few hours in a warm home.

  • Dryer Fear: If your dog could talk, she would tell you how much she hates the cage dryer at the groomer. They are noisy and scary.

Myth #6: When You Give Your Dog a Bath, You Remove Natural Oils from the Coat

Actually, this one is both true and not true.

  • Overdoing It: You really have to overdo bathing for this to be a problem. Depending on the dog, frequent bathing (such as once a week) may rid the coat of natural oils. Dog conditioners help restore these oils.
  • Monthly Baths: So back to the once-a-month rule to keep a dog clean.
  • Frequent Rinsing: If you have a mudpuppy who is dirty all the time, rinsing with warm water between shampoos should help keep your little rascal presentable.
  • Medical Conditions: For allergic dogs or dogs with specific skin conditions, many dermatologists are recommending frequent baths. Bathing may be one of the safest and most natural ways to keep allergies and conditions such as seborrhea under control. So if your dog has specific skin conditions, consult your veterinarian about the proper medicated shampoos and frequency of bathing.

Myth #7: Dogs Hate Baths

They may act like they hate baths, but when my dog talks to me, he tells me he loves how he feels after his tubby time.

  • Post-Bath Fun: The majority of dogs run around, do the rub-a-dub-tub gymnastics routine on your favorite carpet and, if allowed, run right outside to breakdance in the dirt.
  • Feeling Good: Clean puppies feel so good, they’re ready to make a commercial for all their dirty dog friends: Take a bath! You’re worth it.

Final Thoughts on How to Give Your Dog a Bath

Giving your dog a bath doesn’t have to be a daunting task. By following the right steps and avoiding common mistakes, you can make bath time a pleasant experience for both you and your furry friend. Remember, the key to success is patience, preparation, and a positive attitude.

  • Proper Preparation: Ensure you have the right tools and products, such as dog-specific shampoo and a non-slip mat.
  • Stay Calm and Positive: Keep a calm demeanor and use treats to reward good behavior after the bath.
  • Regular Baths: Establish a regular bathing routine to keep your dog clean and healthy.

By incorporating these tips on how to give your dog a bath, you’ll be able to maintain your dog’s hygiene effectively and strengthen your bond with your pet. Happy bathing!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

How to give your dog a bath?

To give your dog a bath, use warm water, dog-specific shampoo, and ensure a calm environment, gradually introducing water and thoroughly rinsing and drying your pet

How often to give your dog a bath?

Typically, you should bathe your dog every 1–3 months, but this can vary depending on their breed, coat, and activity level.

How to give your dog a flea bath?

To give your dog a flea bath, use a flea-specific shampoo, thoroughly lather and massage it into their coat, and leave it on for the recommended time before rinsing thoroughly

How to give your dog a bath at home?

To give your dog a bath at home, use a tub or sink with warm water, dog shampoo, and gently wash and rinse your dog while keeping them calm and secure.