How To wash Your Dog

Some dogs love water but not every dog loves a bath. For some dogs a bath can be a traumatic undertaking which can certainly present some challenges

Retreiver dog being washed

Sometimes it can be a major undertaking just getting a nervous dog to the bathtub, much less keeping him there. If you’d like some tips on how to make a canine bath less challenging, here’s how to wash your dog even if he doesn’t like to be washed:

Dress appropriately

Chances are whatever you happen to be wearing is going to end up soaked. Start by changing into something old and comfortable that you don’t mind exposing to water and dog hair. Although it might be tempting to go barefoot, it’s safer to wear a pair of old tennis shoes. If you have a large dog, it can be painful if he steps on your bare feet during the bathing process.

Have an appropriate bathing area set up for your dog

If it’s the middle of summer and temperatures are hot, bathing your dog outdoors using the garden hose may be good alternative. Most dogs are less resistant to a cool bath if they’ve been outside on a warm day. One strategy to reduce your dog’s resistance to a bath is to play with him outside before starting the bathing process. By the time you finish playing, your dog will welcome the feel of cool water against his back and you can usually accomplish the bath quickly and easily using the hose. If the water is too cold from the hose or if your dog fears the garden hose, an indoor bath may be better.

Boxer dog waiting to be showered
Allowing your dog to become used to the bathtub will smooth the process
For an inside bath always place a rubber mat in the bottom of the tub. Many dogs are fearful of sliding around on a slick surface such as the floor of a wet bathtub. This may further reinforce your dog’s fear of baths. If your dog has a tendency to escape from the bathtub, a booster bath may be helpful. This is a special tub for dogs that comes with an adjustable leash restraint and a rubber, no slip bottom. It’s specifically designed for your dog’s comfort and eliminates the chance of escape during the bath. It also has elevated legs to raise your dog to a comfortable level. Although these tubs can be expensive, many dog owner’s think they’re worth the price.

Whether you choose to bathe your dog in a regular bathtub or a booster tub, it’s important to allow him to become familiar with the tub before you start the bath. Let him stand in the tub for a few minutes while you gently massage and reassure him. Never raise your voice when your dog is in the bathtub as this will only negatively reinforce his fear of being washed.

Make it as relaxing as possible for your dog

The more pleasant you can make your dog’s bath, the less likely he’ll resist in the future. Always place cotton balls in your dog’s ears to keep water from entering his ear canals. Use a gentle shampoo that won’t irritate the eyes and avoid washing your dog’s face until the final step. It’s this part that’s particularly frightening to most dogs. To wash his face, hold it gently in the palm of one hand and use the other hand to lightly soap the area using circular motions, carefully avoiding the eyes. When you wash your dog, use gentle, massage like motions being careful not to pierce your dog’s skin with your fingernails. If done properly, many dogs will find the hand movements associated with a bath to be relaxing and will overcome their fear. When rinsing, select water temperature carefully and be as gentle as possible, especially when rinsing your dog’s face. Never spray water directly onto your dog’s head. Use a wet washcloth to pull the soap off. Be sure to remove all soap residue to avoid skin irritation.

After the bath

The drying process should begin in the bathtub with big, absorbent towels. Pat off as much water as you can with the towels. You can delay the inevitable shake by covering his head with a towel until you’ve removed as much as of the water as possible. Now’s the time to praise your dog and give him a dog cookie for a job well done. This positive reinforcement can make washing your dog less challenging the next time around.

Congratulations! It’s not such a difficult task to wash your dog when you approach it with your dog’s comfort in mind. With a little bit of positive reinforcement, washing your dog can be less traumatic for both you and your canine best friend.


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