A Head to Toe Guide to Washing Your Dog

Bathing your dog can be a wonderful bonding experience but it’s also a very practical necessity for our sometimes smelly, four-legged family members.

While that doggy smell can be completely normal, many dogs do seem to be particularly on the nose. Getting your dog used to regular grooming and bathing from an early age and making sure you have fun doing it will ensure you have happy, healthy and odour free canine companion.

Shampoos and conditioners

Dogs have skin that is half the thickness of human skin, is very sensitive and has a different pH. You can’t always assume that human products are okay for your pet. Use a good quality and gentle pet shampoo and if your dog is prone to dry skin, greasy skin, frequent skin infections or is itchy, ask your Vet which shampoo is best.

You can also view our guide to dog shampoos for a more detailed look at what shampoos will suit your dog. Conditioners are not really necessary, unless your dog has particularly dry hair. Most pet conditioners are leave-in and can be applied as the coat is drying, or even without washing first.

Where to bath your pet

Smaller dogs can be easily bathed in the laundry sink, a baby bath, the normal bath tub or even the bottom of the shower. Using a non-slip mat can make your pet more secure on the slippery surface. An inside bath allows you to ensure the water is warm, but not warmer than your skin. If it is a nice sunny day, you can wash your pet outdoors and a nice game of fetch or a walk afterwards is a great way to stop them rolling in the garden and will speed up the drying process.

Technique

Keep a hand on your dog at all times when you are washing them. This will make it less likely they will shake all over you and attempt to leap from the bath. Have everything ready before you go and make sure you include a good massage while shampooing and towelling off to make the whole experience pleasurable for your pet. If your dog is a bit worried about bathing, particularly in certain areas, use lots of food rewards to encourage good behaviour. If your dog is prone to wiggling and getting water in the ears, place a piece of cotton wool loosely in the ears to avoid getting water down there.

Bath time is a great time to check your pet’s nails, ears, teeth and skin for any abrasions or new lumps and bumps. Systematically feel your pet all over, perhaps while you are doing a nice massage with the shampoo.

Start with these basics

  • Hose or handheld spray for the taps if using a sink or bath
  • Towels
  • Bathmat or something clean to stand on if outside
  • Shampoos/conditioners
  • Brush
  • Face washer or sponge
  • Hairdryer if you need a quick dry
  • Cotton wool
  • Ear cleaner
  • Nail clippers
  • Treats

The Step-by-Step Washing Process

  1. Brush your pet to remove any tangles or debris from the coat.
  2. Get your pet wet, avoiding the head.
  3. Apply a 20c piece amount of shampoo, lathering up all over.
  4. Massage your pet to distribute the shampoo.
  5. Leave on for the recommended length of time.
  6. Meanwhile use a face washer or sponge to wipe down the face (no need for shampoo).
  7. Rinse, making sure all the residue has disappeared.
  8. Stand back and allow your pet to shake.
  9. Towel dry.
  10. Use a hairdryer on a low heat with a brush or take your pet for a walk in the sun to dry.
  11. Check your pet’s ears and remove any cotton wool. If your dog needs an ear clean, check our ear cleaning guide for detailed instructions.
  12. Check your dog’s nails, if they need trimming, follow our step-by step nail trimming guide.

Smelly dogs

Dogs that really do smell bad may actually have allergies or dermatitis. Take your pet in for a check-up with your Vet to rule out any underlying problems such as bacterial or fungal skin disease or dental disease. Your Vet will also be able to recommend the best shampoo for your dog’s skin type. develop a smelly odour in between baths, have slightly red or itchy skin may have allergies. Dogs that have fleas often also develop itchy and smelly skin, so ensure your flea control is up to date, even if you don’t see visible fleas on your pet.

You can also use Dermoscent to increase the fatty acid balance in the skin and improve smell. There are also various leave-in conditioners that can be applied in between baths to improve smell, such as Aloveen.

We hope you enjoy the time spent giving your pet a bath. This quality time can become very important to your pet and doing the job yourself can save you a great deal of money over the lifetime of your dog.