Bathing Your Dog - Step by Step

by Sheri Huttner

Who needs a dog groomer?
You can bathe your dog at home with these step-by-step instructions and helpful tips.

A short-haired dog is fairly easy to bathe, especially if he's small. You can bathe him right in the kitchen or bathroom sink, or in your bathtub, if your back can stand a lot of bending. A hose attachment or a hose type shower massage can be a big help when using the tub.

A larger or long-haired dog can present more of a problem and sometimes requires two people to tackle the job. It's best to bathe a large dog in the bathtub (be prepared for a bath yourself!) or in the yard when the weather permits.

Just about any gentle, tearless dog shampoo will do unless your dog has fleas or a skin condition. If your dog has either, use a shampoo made for the specific problem, or one recommended by your vet. When using a regular dog shampoo, it's usually best to dilute it. (Don't dilute flea shampoo or medicated shampoo because you'd also be diluting the active ingredients!) Most dog shampoos are way too thick which makes it difficult to work up a good lather. I usually dilute it with 25% to 50% water. You can pour some shampoo into an empty bottle and add small amounts of water until it reaches the right consistency.

Some people use 'people' shampoo, and I've even heard of some who use dish washing liquid. Both are much too harsh for your dog's skin and can cause skin and coat problems in the future. In the long-run, it's cheaper to buy a good dog shampoo and dilute it as described above.

Before the dog even gets NEAR the water, brush him well. This can't be stressed enough. All of the dead, shedding fur has to be removed from the coat and undercoat. If the dog has knots, tangles, or mats, they must all be removed before you bathe him. Don't expect a conditioner to remove the mats, because it won't. In fact, if you bathe your dog without first brushing him thoroughly, the dirt and shampoo will remain in the mats, creating more of a problem by making the mats tighter. This can also cause skin problems or make matters worse if problems already exist.

Bathing alone won't remove all the shedding hair from a short coat, either. Brushing is necessary before and after the bath. A really great grooming tool for use on short-haired dogs that shed is a Shed'n Blade, available at most pet stores. It's simple to use and does a great job of removing all that loose fur. I recommend using it outdoors since the fur flies all over!

Ready?

Wet the dog well from the neck to the tail, saving the head, face, and ears for later. Begin by shampooing the hind legs. Then do the tail and the rear end. (Pay a little extra attention to that area!) Next, shampoo the body, chest, and front legs. Now, carefully wet the head, face, and ears. Lather those areas, being careful not to get suds in the dog's eyes, even if you're using a 'tearless' shampoo. Now it's time to rinse. And rinse, and rinse, and rinse. Did I say RINSE? I can't say it enough! First rinse the shampoo from the head, face, and ears, and then the body and legs. Don't forget the underside of the dog. To reach that area, have him stand on his hind legs by lifting his front paws. Keep rinsing until you no longer feel shampoo anywhere on the dog and the water runs clear. Any residue of shampoo remaining on the dog can cause itching, flaking, and skin problems.

When finished, wrap the dog in a towel to absorb excess water and to prevent him from shaking it everywhere. Then systematically towel dry each part of the dog -- face, head, ears, body, legs, and tail. A good towel drying can save lots of time. Finish up by drying him with a hair blower, which is usually easier if you have someone to hold him while you do this. Make sure the dryer is set at a comfortable temperature, and don't hold it too close to the dog's skin.

Tips:
  • Have towels (and everything else you need) handy before you begin.
  • Have the dog stand on a rubber mat in the tub or sink so he'll feel secure.
  • I don't recommend putting cotton in the ears. The cotton acts like a wick and draws water into the ears. Just be careful and try not to get water in the ears.
  • Wear old clothes or your birthday suit.
  • Be careful not to let fur go down your drain.
  • Even if the bottle of shampoo says to shampoo twice, a dog rarely needs it unless he hasn't been bathed in a very long time or is exceptionally dirty.
  • Remember to brush out all mats from the coat BEFORE bathing. If the dog is very matted, it's time to visit a professional groomer.
  • Most dogs don't need a bath more than once a month. Bathing too frequently can dry out the skin and coat.
  • Get your dog used to being brushed and bathed at an early age.

  Reprinted with permission from Sheri Huttner of www.dogparlor.com.