How Do I Bathe My Dog?
Top Tips & Tricks for a Squeaky Clean Pup
Our clients often ask us: “How do I bathe my dog?”
It’s a great question. Bathing your dog is a necessary part of your pet’s overall health, but it can also be a double-edged sword. If pet owners do it incorrectly, use products that are too harsh, or bathe too frequently—they can actually make dry skin or any other skin conditions they’re trying to combat even worse.
During your annual wellness check, be sure to ask us for any specific recommendations in order to best maintain your dog’s coat and skin health. Dogs can have all sorts of pet allergies, skin conditions, or other health concerns that you may need to take into account before bathing. Breed type, coat type, and skin type can all also play a role in how you should bathe your dog.
Your veterinarian can also guide you on how frequently you should bathe your dog and suggest medicated shampoos and supplements that will keep your dog healthy. For instance, a shampoo or rinse that contains ceramides will introduce more lipids to the skin, helping it retain moisture and form a stronger barrier against allergens and infections. Similarly, an Oral Essential Fatty Acid Supplement can restore necessary moisture to your dog’s skin after bathing, which is especially helpful for longer haired breeds such as the Siberian Huskies, which are prone to dry skin.
Simple Steps for Shampooing Your Pooch
Once you have the correct products for your dog’s breed, coat, and skin type, follow these simple steps for the best bathing experience:
- Wet Your Dog’s Coat Thoroughly. It’s quite uncomfortable for your dog if you try to make shampoo lather up without enough water. We recommend that you bathe your dog in the shower or the tub and be prepared to use a lot of water. Make sure that the water is mild temperature, dogs don’t prefer hot water like us, but actually appreciate luke-warm water the most. Also, ensure that plenty of water reaches the surface of the skin. If your shower has a detachable, hand-held showerhead, this is an easy way to get water directly to the skin surface. Don’t plug the bathtub or submerge your dog.
- Apply Shampoo. If you are using a general shampoo, apply a small dollop at several points, starting at the neck and going down the back. Multiple points of application will make lathering easier. If you are using a medicated shampoo, apply it to the most affected areas first so that it has the maximum contact time to soak and work.
- Lather & Massage. Work your way down your dog’s back, lathering the shampoo and gently massaging it into the coat and skin all over your dog’s body. Be sure to use enough shampoo to create a good lather, and be sure that the shampoo makes direct contact with the skin. You may need to add more water as you go in order to get a good lather. Be careful to keep shampoo away from your dog’s eyes, nose, and mouth.
- Hit the Hard-to-Reach Areas. Once you’ve worked up a lather on your dog’s body, pay attention to smaller, hard-to-reach areas. In particular, you should be sure to shampoo each paw, getting in-between each toe as well as on and around the pad, as your dog’s feet are likely to harbor allergens and bacteria. Other spots to pay special attention to include ear flaps (don’t get water in the ear canals!), behind each leg, underneath the tail, and any skin folds around the neck, armpits, and groin. If your vet recommended an ear cleanser, this is also a good time to clean out the ears.
- Allow The Shampoo to Sit. At this point, if you’re using a medicated shampoo, you can continue to gently massage the lather into the skin or you can allow it to sit for the recommended time. Animal skin can harbor bacteria and other organisms that cause infection, so make sure that the shampoo has contacted the skin. Check the product label to see how long you should let the product sit. Most medicated shampoos suggest 5 to 10 minutes of contact time for best results.
- Rinse & Dry. Use plenty of clean, mild temperature water to rinse your dog off. Again, using a hand-held showerhead is a great way to make sure that the water is reaching the skin and your dog gets rinsed completely. Your dog will want to shake off as soon as you’re done—and that’s OK! This is actually the best way for your dog to get dry efficiently, and shaking will protect your dog from getting cold. The water should be completely clean at this point, and hopefully you wore loose, comfortable work clothes! Help your dog finish drying by hand-toweling after the shake-off. If you have a long-haired dog, follow with a quick comb-through to prevent mats.
The Do’s and Don’ts of Dog Bathing
Bathing your dog may be simple—but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. There are definitely a few things that pet parents can do to get it wrong, which can make any skin conditions worse and result in dry, itchy skin and other health concerns for their dog.
Don’t use human shampoo, soap, or dish soap on your dog. Your dog’s skin is very different from human skin (its actually thinner!), so shampoo or soap that is good for you is not likely to be good for your dog. Dish soap is far too harsh for your dog’s skin and will strip essential oils, causing rashes and itching.
Do talk to your Ambassador veterinarian about the best products for your dog. When bathing your dog, the primary goal is to cleanse the coat and skin without stripping too many lipids and other essential oils from the skin surface. We can suggest gentle products that will cleanse and protect your dog.
Don’t use water that is too hot or too cold. Water that is too hot will not only be uncomfortable for your dog, it will also strip natural oils and dry out your dog’s skin after the bath. Water that is too cold will be unpleasant for your dog and make bathing more difficult than it needs to be.
Do use mild temperature water, similar to what you would use to bathe a baby. Check the water before using it on your dog. It should feel lukewarm to the touch. Let the water run for about a minute before bathing your dog to make sure there won’t be any temperature fluctuations.
Don’t bathe your dog in a slippery tub or shower. Bathing your dog in a tub or a shower is the easiest, most effective way to get a thorough cleanse. However, dogs feel incredibly skittish and are difficult to manage if they aren’t steady on their feet. Before bathing, check to make sure there’s no soap or shampoo film on the tub or shower floor.
Do use a non-skid mat or a towel. To make the bathing experience as relaxing as possible for your dog, consider getting a dedicated non-skid mat or using an old towel to make the floor even more skid-resistant.
Don’t use a hair dryer to dry your dog after bathing. A hairdryer is far too harsh and hot and will dry out your dog’s skin, resulting in itching and flaking. It is also loud and scary, resulting in an unpleasant experience for you pet. You should never use a hair dryer after bathing, even on the lowest setting.
Do allow your dog to shake off when the bath is over. The best way for your dog to dry off is by shaking, so wear clothes you don’t mind getting wet and let your pup shake it off.
Don’t leave your dog in a cold place to air dry. Dog owners should be especially careful in the fall and winter that they don’t leave their dog to air dry in a place that’s too cold. Be sure to let your dog dry off inside during the colder months.
Do use a towel to hand dry your dog after bathing. After your dog has finished shaking, use a towel to speed nature along. Not only will this protect your dog from becoming too cold, it will also prevent the skin from drying out since evaporation has a cooling and drying effect.
At Ambassador Animal Hospital, we are always happy to talk to our clients about the best ways to keep their pets comfortable, happy, and healthy for life. Call us at (864) 271-1112 to schedule an annual exam or a grooming appointment, and we’ll go over the best ways to care for your dog’s skin and coat.