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How to Bathe a Dog in a Dog-Friendly Way: A Pooch’s Point of View

I’ve got to admit that being bathed was never my favourite thing to do! But I know my humans like to have a clean dog and they have spent a lot of time showing me that it’s really not that bad. 

Now, when I see a bath, water and doggie shampoo, I am much more relaxed and take it all in my doggie stride.

Dogs get dirty! We love to roll in things or jump into puddles and it doesn’t bother us that we might smell a little afterwards.  

My pet parents don’t feel the same, however! When I was a puppy we learned some lessons together; I learned that if I get dirty, I’m going to be bathed when I get home and my pet parents have learned how to bathe me in a dog-friendly way, so that bath time is much more relaxed.

Here’s how my bath time happens now:

Man smiling while giving a dog a bath

How to bathe a dog in a dog-friendly way

  • If you know there’s a muddy walk ahead, be prepared before you go out. My pet parents make sure that everything we will need is handy when we return – towels, shampoo, brush – and of course some treats, because I’m always a good boy!
  • If possible, have these ready in a warm, contained area – warm to make it comfortable for your pooch, and contained, to protect the rest of your home from getting wet.  
  • Make sure your ADAPTIL Calm Home Diffuser is plugged in, in an an area close to where your dog will be bathed - such as in the area next to the bathroom. This will help us to feel calm.
  • If you have open-plan living, you might want to keep your dog on a leash. We might want to run around the house and get your furniture wet!
  • Put a non-slip mat in the bottom of the bath to prevent your dog from sliding around. I panic when I can’t control my feet.
  • Help your dog get into the bath, reassuring them all the time and rewarding them with treats for good behaviour.
  • My doggie pal who lives in the next street is a very large golden retriever and his pet parent cannot lift him – so he gets washed outdoors in the garden because he is too heavy to be lifted into a bath! He doesn’t mind though, because he loves the attention from his pet parent, and afterwards they will play a game to help dry his coat.
  • Use a gentle shower spray if there is one nearby, or a small bowl to pour the water slowly over your dog.
  • Only use lukewarm water – too cold and it could shock us and too hot, of course, could be scalding!
  • Gently rub the shampoo through your dog’s coat, but remember to keep the water and shampoo away from their face and out of their eyes and ears. After the mud has been rinsed off, and I’m covered in shampoo, I love it when my humans take the opportunity to give me a lovely massage!
  • Always rinse your dog thoroughly to make sure there’s no shampoo left in their coat.
  • If your dog has a long coat, brushing them before they get into the bath will help to prevent matting.
  • Once I’m nice and clean, my humans will gently squeeze excess water from my coat. Just be careful not to pull my hair!
  • Use a towel to pat us down gently to get most of the water off.

Chocolate lab shaking with water spraying everywhere across green lawn

  • Stand back and be prepared for the inevitable shake! Some very clever humans reported in the New Scientist that dogs shaking when wet is a survival strategy; the water displaces the air trapped in our fur and shaking gets rid of the water quickly so we don’t get cold. But, between you and me, it’s also great fun to get my pet parent wet too if I shake quickly enough! When I hear her shriek, that’s when I know I’ve shaken off just right!
  • If it’s a nice day, I might go and lie in the sunshine to get dry. Otherwise, my pet parent puts some old towels in my bed so that I curl up and get warm while laying next to the fire.
  • My golden retriever pal gets dried with a hairdryer! He had some training to get used to the sound and the sensation - and now he loves being pampered!

Dripping wet dog looking happy

Useful additional bath tips from a pooch’s point of view

The key is to make having a bath a positive experience for us, so take it slowly – and be prepared to get wet!

1.  Always use a specific dog shampoo. These are formulated to avoid stripping oils from our coat. Please do not use human shampoos on your pooch as these will dry our skin and can irritate it.

2. Allow your dog to get used to the area where they will be bathed. By making the bathroom a place where we have positive associations, you can help your us feel confident that the bath is a OK part of everyday life! 

  • It can help to train us to get in and out of the bath ourselves, and practice some cues, like ‘sit’ and ‘stay’ while there is no water in the bath.
  •  Next, try giving us a gentle massage either next to, or inside the bath – and without using water or shampoo. This will help us get used to movement over our bodies.
  •  When we are standing outside of the bath, help us get used to the sounds of water running, or a shower spray - without it touching us!
  • For every calm and positive response to each step, always praise and reward us so our association with a bath is a good one.
  • If possible, introduce us to these steps at an early age (just like my pet parents did). This can help us learn to positively accept baths as part our routine when we are older.

3.  Even for dogs who are familiar with baths, it’s nice to take it slowly! When you first turn the water on, do this gradually and spray it gently on a small part of us that we are comfortable with. Then, gradually move across us while praising us for remaining calm.

4. The children in our house seem to love watching me have a bath, and they distract me and give me treats for being calm while they watch! Other distations that my humans have used include putting dog-friendly peanut butter on the side of the bath (or using a Lickmat with suckers to attach to the side of the bath).

Woman blow-drying fluffy white dog on towel outside

5. I’m always sitting beside my pet parent when she washes and dries her hair and she sometimes blow-dries my coat at the same time. Very clever, because now I am used to the hairdryer and I don’t get scared when she uses it after my bath. 

6. Unless we get very muddy and wet, dogs only need to be washed every two to three months to avoid the build-up of dirt, grease, and bacteria that could lead to skin infections. 

7. Regular grooming will help maintain your dog’s healthy coat and it’s also a good opportunity to check your pooch’s feet and nails, especially if they have been out exploring in the snow.

8. Sometimes, you might find us scratching more than normal. If you see this happening, you should consider taking them to a vet to check out if they have a skin problem, fleas or ticks. Your vet will give you advice on how best to treat them and the best shampoo to use.

9. My pet parent always plays some calming music when I am being bathed. I do find Mozart very therapeutic! Afterwards, we might play a game or practice training; this takes my mind off my damp coat and also helps me move around to get dry.

No bath for me, thank you!

However hard some pet parents try, some dogs just create havoc when they see a bath. In which case, you might find a waterless option might work, such as doggie wipes or mousse.

Alternatively, consider a professional grooming service. Quite often being groomed in a different environment where your dog has no previous experience or association may be helpful, and the groomer will be trained to help a worried dog. You may find that making a few ‘happy visits’ to a groomer can help to build our confidence - I’ve noticed that some groomers also plug in ADAPTIL, just like I have at home, which always helps me feel calm!  

In cold, wet weather, my dog parent frequently puts my coat on. This not only keeps me warm, but it also stops my fur from getting covered in mud if I do find a lovely big puddle. Then all she has to do is wipe down my feet and tail with some doggie wipes – but she will have to wash the coat!

Small terrier dog wrapped in towel being held by smiling woman

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