Before we start, you may be wondering whether you should wash your dog at all… especially since it is not really a natural or welcome thing for a dog!
There are a number of reasons why you might want to do bathe your dog. Keeping your dog clean is a very important aspect of the care you provide and something you will be committed to doing as a loving owner.
Sadly not all our canine companions are comfortable with the cleaning process… I know, my eldest dog’s first instinct is to dash in the opposite direction when she realises it’s bath time!
These days many dog owners find either they don’t have enough time to devote to doing the job well or it is too stressful an exercise, so many resort to the services of a doggie parlour or those of a mobile grooming service.
Bathing your dog personally can be a very special experience for you both, so if this is what you want to do it is important to be well prepared and to stay calm.
Remember that your dog can sense your emotional state and will respond much better if you are calm, loving, patient and have a sense of fun with what is a serious and important aspect of their care. Whereas if you are expecting resistance and are apprehensive, they will pick up on that too and will reflect it back in their behaviour!
The following tips set out in five steps should help ensure that bathing your dog is a pleasant experience for both of you, keeping the hassle to a minimum, minimising bath-time blues and helping to strengthen the bond between you.
- Start as early as possible in your dog’s life with you
The best way to deal with any aspect of caring for your dog, that may be alien to their natural behaviour, is always to begin the process as soon as you can in their life with you; either as a puppy or when you first bring them home.
If it is possible to make bath-time a routine from when your dog is very young then they will come to accept it as a normal part of their life and it will be a more pleasant experience all round.
- Prepare everything you need in advance
Preparing everything in advance will make bath time easier for all involved. It is a nuisance to get started only to find out that you are missing something essential. It can be especially difficult when your dog finds bath-time stressful and you must either leave them alone while you go to retrieve what is missing (heaven knows what could happen in your absence!) or you miss out part of your routine… neither is an ideal solution.
Have all your equipment where you need it:
– brush and comb
– nail clippers
– cotton pads to clean and dry the outer part of the ears
– toothbrush and toothpaste (if you are in the habit of cleaning your dog’s teeth)
– shampoo (and conditioner if appropriate)
– lots of towels.
Our dogs have long hair so we use something to stop too much hair from going down the plug hole.
- Pre-bathing steps
Do some things before getting your dog in ‘position’, such as:
– Brushing out their coat, particularly if they have long hair and may have bits caught up, tats/snarls and tangles and clear out matted areas. If this step is omitted, any wet, matted hair can set and be difficult to manage.
– Check ears and paws for any foreign bodies.
– If you are in the habit of clipping claws, now is a good time to do that.
– Brush teeth, if that’s what you’d normally do.
Associate treats with the process…
You can make it more pleasant for your dog if you provide treats along the way. A treat doesn’t have to be food, it can be a tickled tummy or ear rub, though most dogs are motivated by something nice to eat…
Before you get started when you are ‘in position’, give them whatever is a motivational treat and if that is food, then do this together with some physical and verbal praise. Then at each step throughout the process, continue to reward your dog for their cooperation.
- Bathe using warm water
Using a shower attachment if you have one or a jug, and using lukewarm water, thoroughly wet your dog’s coat. If the water is too hot or too cold this will add to your dog’s discomfort.
Then shampoo, lather up, massage the coat and take care not to get product in your dog’s eyes or ears – just as with children, at the very least that can sting and cause your dog extra stress!
Rinse well, again with lukewarm water, until the water runs clear. Use conditioner too if you wish (especially if your dog has longer hair) and massage it in before thoroughly rinsing again with lukewarm water until all traces of the conditioner are gone. If necessary, cover your dog’s eyes with your hand as you rinse to avoid getting product in their eyes.
- Dry your dog well
First of all rub your dog down with towels; chances are they will love this. Depending on the size of your dog and the nature of their coat, this may take two or more towels. Whether or not your dog has long hair, you might choose to use a hair dryer, if so, do this on a cool setting.
It is important for all dogs that you pay attention to drying inside the ears, especially if your dog has long or floppy ears, so as to avoid the possibility of ear infections. It is best to use cotton cloth or pads for this (preferably not cotton wool balls or any other material that might leave remnants behind).
Keep your dogs safe!