How to Give Your Dog a Bath
- Dog shampoo
- Dog conditioner
- 5 to 6 towels for drying and putting on floor
- Rubber bath mat for inside tub
- Cotton balls
- A brush (a pinhead brush is best for longer or wiry hair; use thicker bristles for short-hair breeds)
Before You Begin:
Ask your vet how often your dog should be bathed (it depends on activity level and breed) and if your pooch requires special shampoo. In general, we like the shampoos and conditioners from Cloud Star, Pet Head, and Earthbath (all available at Petco); they smell terrific and contain expert-recommended ingredients. Oatmeal shampoo tends to be the most gentle on coat and skin. If your dog has sensitive skin, test shampoo on a patch of her leg a day before giving her a bath, and monitor for signs of irritation.
Brush your dog with long, gentle strokes to remove debris and knots. Treat any matted sections carefully: Brush the area around a mat as much as possible, then gently clip the mat out with scissors, being careful not to nick the skin. If your dog has any particularly sticky spots on her coat — like tree sap — dab them with baby oil to help break up the residue.
Plug the drain and add about 6 inches of lukewarm water. If your dog gets nervous around water, ease her into the routine: Bring her into the bathroom as the tub is filling and give her treats and encouragement. When the bath is ready, coax the dog into the tub. Gently point her nose down (so water won't flow in) and, beginning at her muzzle, use a handheld shower nozzle or a plastic cup to saturate her coat.
Using a quarter-size amount at a time (the overall amount you'll use depends on the size of your dog and how dirty she is), work shampoo into a lather in your hands, then gently massage it into your dog's hair. "Don't automatically turn to your own shampoo," says Joey Villani, a judge on Animal Planet's Groomer Has It. "Pets' skin has a different pH balance than we do, so your favorite shampoo may be drying." Work from head to tail; pests like fleas and ticks will naturally try to escape water, so working toward the tail helps ensure that any unwelcome critters will be washed completely off your pet.
Conditioner is optional, but it will make brushing out your dog afterward easier, especially if she is a long-haired dog. Smooth a thin layer onto her coat; leave for two to three minutes. While the conditioner sits, use your finger — or a damp cotton ball — to gently break up and remove any crusty residue around her eye area. Then rinse her thoroughly.
While the dog is still standing in the tub, wrap her in a towel and gently squeeze and pat dry. Avoid rubbing — it'll only tangle her coat. Here's where you need your extra towels: Your dog will shake off when she gets out of the tub, so cover the floor and help her out. Comb through her coat while it's still slightly damp, focusing on the ears and tail to avoid matting. Hot air tends to dry out a dog's skin, so skip the hair-dryer and let your dog dry naturally.
Pro tip: Cut your dog's nails after a bath, when they're softer. If you've never cut her nails before, ask your vet to show you how to avoid hurting your pet.