If you’re struggling to give your dog a bath — whether you’re getting soaked, the bathroom is getting ruined, or your dog is giving you a hard time — try out this method to help save your sanity by making bath time quick, leaving you and your pup clean, happy, and dry!
The goal is to make the experience fast, calm, and comfortable!
First prepare! Have EVERYTHING you will need ready from beginning to end of the bath, set up and in arm’s reach. Remove items that you don’t want to get wet like personal towels and bath rugs.
Doggy safe shampoo and conditioner: If you are using a liquid shampoo, dilute some in warm water in a cup. I use a “rinse” shampoo because it is non-sudsing so it rinses quickly and my dog’s fur dries faster, cutting their time spent in the water and with the dryer. Do not use a human shampoo or it will dry out their coat! Find a doggy safe shampoo which will match the pH of their skin.
Rinse cup (optional): If your dog is nervous about a shower head attachment, you can have a large cup ready for rinsing.
Rubber mat: Place a skid-proof mat at the bottom of the tub to help your pup feel more secure and calm.
Brush: Brush your pup before a bath to remove tangles and excess fur, a rubber brush like the Kong ZoomGroom is great for during the bath too (do not use for dogs with hair).
Peanut butter/treats: Smear some peanut butter on the bathroom wall to keep your pup busy and have some of their favorite treats ready. There is even a product made for this purpose! If your pup doesn’t take food during the bath, it means they are too stressed which is okay!
Dry towels: Dogs with very short coats (greyhounds, boxers) can get away with just a towel dry, but I recommend using a dryer for all dogs to help open the coat.
Face towel: A small damp towel to wipe your dog’s face. Do not spray your dog’s face with water. Not only is it unpleasant to get sprayed in the face with water but it can get in their ears and cause infection.
Dryer: A high velocity dryer is better than a hair dryer because it gets down to the root of the fur, drying it quickly and removing loose fur. If using a hair dryer, remember to turn off the heat setting to avoid burning your dog’s skin.
After preparing your items early on bath day, take your dog out on an adventure! Whether it’s a short walk or long hike, this breaks the predictable bath schedule and makes it easier to get your dog in the tub! After returning home, keep your dog on the lead and tied down if possible. This avoids the hassle of trying to “catch” your dog for the bath.
If needed, fill a tub with warm water while your dog is waiting. Some dogs do better in a shallow bath with a rinse cup instead of an empty bath with a noisy shower head. Remember to close the bathroom door once your dog is inside the bathroom!
1. Securely lift and place your dog into the tub.
2. Brush the coat to remove dead hair. Brushing in the tub keeps the fur inside, use a hair drain catcher to collect the fur easier.
3. Since your shampoo is diluted, you don’t need to waste time to pre-rinse. Wash your dog from the bottom to the top. This means washing your dog’s feet thoroughly, then legs, belly, sides, and chest. Their back and face should still be completely dry.
4. When their back and neck gets wet, then your dog will most likely shake. By saving this step for last, your dog will be more comfortable (not shivering) and won’t get water everywhere from shaking. Wash their tail, butt, then the back of their neck.
5. Use a damp towel to wipe their face. Always wash their face last and do not spray water in their face.
6. Quickly rinse all of the soap from their body. You can apply a conditioner here and massage their coat before rinsing. I like to skip this step to save time as a good quality shampoo won’t strip and damage their coat.
7. Squeeze water off their body, as if squeezing water out of a towel.
8. Remove your dog from tub and begin towel drying.
9. When your dog is 70% dry, use the dryer to finish drying the coat to 100%. Hold the dryer close to their skin, you should be able to see their skin! Double coated dogs should be fully dried down to the undercoat, otherwise their coarse top coat will hold in moisture, causing that mildewy wet dog smell and leading to bacteria growth.
Many people make the mistake of making a big scene when it’s bath time. By staying calm and acting neutral, your dog will eventually learn bathtime is no big deal. This means no singing “it’s time for a baaathh,” spelling out “B-A-T-H”, or constantly apologizing to them. Although it can seem silly and fun for us, if your dog isn’t a fan of baths then it can stress them out further because they recognize the routine. Like introducing most new or uncomfortable concepts, you can counter condition your dog to the bath. Make the bathroom a positive place to be a few times a day: run into the bathroom while playing tug and give some treats when your dog is in the bathroom. Remember, don’t force your dog into the tub or bathroom and work around that barrier that makes them nervous. The conditioning process can take a few days to a few months. But sometimes you’ll need to bathe your dog while you’re trying to make progress. No worries! You can give a quick bath and continue the process. Soon your dog will be a champion at enduring bath time, making it less stressful for your dog and easier for you to clean up after!