How to Bathe a Dog: 2018 Dog Cleaning Guide

Cleaner Paws is a mother-daughter run blog. Together we have over 40+ years of professional pet grooming experience and we hope to pass some of that on to our readers throughout our in-depth and non-bias reviews and buyers guides.

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This review guide was updated in November 2018.


In the movies or even in your favorite TV show you would be right in thinking scenes that involve a pet owner bathing their dog seem to made to look like a straightforward and fun task.

We may even be tempted to go as far as saying they make it look too easy!

Unfortunately, many people who don’t own dogs are unaware of the hassles, and even dangers of bathing their pets.

Unlike us humans, your pooch genuinely has an affection for being dirty and smelly.

Some even become nervous and try to run if they feel that it will help them get out of having to be bathed.

In a film, seeing a dog being chased around a home while covered with soap would be considered comedy gold.

However, if you have ever experienced a similar situation in real life, you will know that is nowhere near as funny as it sounds.

Below is our quick guide on how to wash your dog without experiencing any hassles:

How to Bathe a Dog: Step by Step Process

  1. Brush your pet’s hair beforehand so that the strands will not hold too much water and irritate the skin.
  2. Cover your pet’s ears using cotton balls.
  3. Bathe your dog using lukewarm water.Scalding hot water can easily burn a dog’s skin so you must be careful.The water that you use for dogs should be as warm as the bath water that you would use for a baby.
  4. Talk to your pet in a reassuring tone to keep them calm.
  5. Rinse properly.Make sure that you do not leave any excess soap in your dog’s fur; this will prevent their skin from becoming irritated.
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Using Positive Association to Bathe Your Dog

If you want to learn how to bath a dog successfully, you must first study how to add a more positive association to the bathroom.

Positive association is a must whenever you introduce something new to your pet.

To do this, you can give out tasty treats, kind words, and toys, so your dog will stay in the tub for longer.

Also, do not submerge your pet in water during the first stages of their bathtub training.

Let your dog get used to the room first by letting them hop in the tub and staying there for several minutes while you give them snacks and toys.

Once your dog gets used to the environment, you can add warm water to the tub and proceed slowly from there.

Keep repeating the same routine until your pooch finally feels safe in the tub.

If you have an area in your home where you bathe your pet, encourage your dog into that particular area, and offer treats whenever you’re obeyed.

Bath time training may take weeks depending on your pet’s abilities and your teaching style, so patience is vital.

Don’t give up too quickly if you feel your dog isn’t understanding.

how to bathe a dog

Keep Your Dog’s Ears Protected

A lot of inexperienced dog owners become so excited about washing their pet that they often forget to protect their dog’s ears.

Make sure that water does not get inside your pet’s ears while bathing them because it will not only make your dog feel uncomfortable but can also lead to serious health problems.

Ideally, you should only wash your dog from the neck down to also protect the eyes and mouth.

Use a bucket or sprayer to do this, however in some cases with larger dogs with more extended fur, washing around the ears is fine as the image in this article shows.

For cautious pet owners, some sprayers are specially designed for your pet’s grooming needs and may be worth investing in if you have a family of pooches or a particularly dirty dog.

To wash your dog’s face, we recommend wiping it clean using a damp cloth.

Starting Young

Other articles that discuss how to wash dog agree that you should start teaching your pet about bath time while they’re still a puppy.

If your dog is introduced to bathing techniques while they’re still a puppy they will be less hesitant to hop in the tub when they grow older, making your life easier when it comes to bath time.

What Products Should I use to Wash My Dog?

Avoid using human shampoo when bathing your pooch.

A dog’s skin and fur have a thin layer of oil that prevents bacteria and small organisms from entering the body.

Human soap and shampoo are too acidic for your pets.

This means it can wash out the protective oils on the surface of their skin and make them irritated.

As much as possible, only use grooming products that are specially formulated for dogs.

Where should you Bathe your Dog?

Aside from learning how to bathe a dog, you also need to find a perfect spot to clean your dog in order to make the task easier.

Ideally, you should bathe your pooch in a raised tub.

However, if you do not have one at home you can compromise.

For small-breed dogs, you can just wash them in the kitchen sink or a regular bathtub.

A garden is also an excellent place for bath time, provided that you use a garden hose and the climate is warm enough.

There are also towns with a DIY pet bathing area where you can use an elevated tub plus grooming supplies by paying a fee, and it’s worth checking to find if there is one in your local area.

How to Keep your Pet Safe while Taking a Bath?

You should be wary that the floor of a bathtub can be slippery even for your dog.

You can use an anti-slip mat for safety, or you can also place a towel on the floor.

If it is your dogs first time having a bath, you should ask for assistance to distract your dog if needed.

Having someone help you bathe your pet also means they can hold your dog steady, or give out occasional treats if needed.

How Often should you Bathe your Pooch?

Unlike humans, dogs do not need daily scrubbing, but they still need to take a bath regularly.

The schedule will depend on different factors such as the environment they interact with most and the type of fur that your dog has.

As a rule of thumb, a monthly bathing schedule works fine for most breeds.

However, breeds with an oilier coat such as a Basset Hound need to bathe once a week or once every fortnight.

If your dog has short hair and a smooth coat, you do not have to bathe them frequently.

Some breeds such as the Basenji are also conscious about their hygiene, so they do not need to be groomed as much.

Breeds with water-repellent coats like the Great Pyrenees, or dogs with double coats like the Alaskan Malamute, also do not need frequent baths to preserve their natural oils.

However, since their fur is long and thick, you need to brush them regularly to remove dead hairs and evenly spread the natural oil across their body.

For more information about the hygiene habits of your particular breed of dog, it is worth consulting your vet.

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Wrapping Up

Bathing your dog may not be easy at first, but it is a practice that will get better as time passes.

Make sure to try out what you’ve learned in this article so you can thoroughly discover how to wash your dog properly.

Read More: If your dog is still a puppy check out our guide on how to bathe a puppy.

About the author

    Jenny Nolan

    Hey, I'm Jenny and along with Mom Sue the main contributor here at Cleaner Paws. As a mother-daughter partnership, we absolutely adore animals and together have over 40 plus years of pet grooming experience!

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