Wet, wet, wet!
There are two major points to consider when bathing your dog; how often to do it, and how to go about it.
‘Not too often,’ is the short answer. A dog’s coat needs its natural oils to remain soft and silky and to keep from getting brittle or damaged. If you bathe your dog too often (every week, for example), you will strip away those oils.
A good rule of thumb is to only bathe your dog when he is noticeably dirty or smelly. However, the time between baths will vary from dog to dog (a long-haired dog will get tangled and matted hair if he goes too long between baths), and may also change from one time of year to another.
How to wash your dog – a few tips
- Start young. This will help your dog get used to the process.
- Make it fun and praise your dog throughout.
- Select a location for the wash to take place based on breed size and time of year. A sink or a washtub works fine for puppies and small dogs, whereas big dogs need the bathtub. If it's warm outside, use a hose.
- Put a rubber mat in the bottom of your tub. Your dog will feel more secure if he isn’t slipping all over the place.
- Before starting, gather all the things you need – shampoo, towels, possibly a bucket… Don’t turn your back on a wet dog unless you want to be involved in a chase!
- Make sure the water is lukewarm.
- Only use shampoo that has been formulated specifically for dogs – and if possible, make it a tearless shampoo.
- Avoid getting water or soap in your dog’s eyes and ears.
- Wet your dog’s head last – this will minimise his desire to shake.
- Rinse well. The flaky, itchy discomfort many dogs experience after a bath comes from inadequate shampoo removal (or sometimes by too-frequent bathing).
- In the winter, keep your dog inside until dry. A blow dryer, set on warm or cool – never hot – to avoid burning, can speed things along.
- Dogs love a good shake to remove excess water. A shake starts at the dog’s head, so if you hold his head still, shaking will be limited. Tossing a towel over your dog immediately after the bath is done can prevent too much water on the walls. If you want to avoid getting an unwanted shower entirely, teach your dog to shake on command. This takes a little patience and training, but it’s possible.
- Once you’ve finished washing your dog, tell them to sit/stay. If he starts to shake, quickly guide him back into his sit. Resume sit/stay and get out of the way. Tell him to shake and praise, praise, praise.
Bathing is a good opportunity to check your dog’s skin. Feel all over for lumps or rough areas. Contact your vet if you find any. Keeping puppy well groomed is an essential part of living together happily.