How to Give a Dog a Bath

Your pooch loves to be pet and showered with attention. But you won’t want to give him that attention if he smells like something rotten or feels like something slimy. And more than just your own preferences, if you want your dog to feel comfortable and his skin and coat healthy, it’s recommended you wash him about once a month. There are plenty of ways to get the deed done, but there are a few things you’ll want to keep in mind to make sure you’re getting the most out of your pup’s bath time.

1. Prep a Station

You’ll want to have everything ready before you get your pup in the bath. The last thing you want is to leave your wet dog unattended while you go looking for a supply you’ve forgotten. Grab your towels (depending on your dog’s size and amount of hair, but no less than three), shampoo, cotton balls, and brush, and set them within easy reach. If you’re going to clip his nails, grab those nail clippers, too.

For more options, check out our list of the Best Dog Nail Trimmers.

You’ll also want to have a stool or separate towel to sit or kneel on so that you can be relatively comfortable while giving the bath. Make sure the bathtub has a nonslip surface. You may have one already built-in, but in case you don’t, pick up a shower or tub mat. In a pinch, you can also just place a towel on the bottom of the tub and try to keep your dog’s squirms from moving it about too much.

2. Brush Before (and After) Bath

You’ll want to brush out your pooch before the bath to get rid of all his extra fur. As Barkly Pets points out, brushing helps to “remove any loose fur to keep debris and bacteria from matting as well as help you check their skin for any health problems.”

Thinning out the cleaning field will ensure the work you’re doing will be more effective and actually reach his skin. Not to mention, the more fur you’re pulling off him before the bath, the less potential to clog your bath drain. While you’re at it, you may want to block the drain to avoid clogging with hair later. After a good brush, place your dog directly and the tub and wash, rinse, and repeat as needed.

You may want to brush after the bath as well, depending on your breed of dog. If you have a long-haired dog who is prone to matting, it’s a necessity, but for others, the regular brushing you do will be plenty.

3. Check Your Pup’s Anal GlandsHow to give a dog a bath

While you’re washing your pup, there are some areas you’ll have to pay special attention to and not all are pleasant: anal sacs, for example. This process is blessedly not necessary for all breeds, but if you catch your pooch scooting across the floor (and you’re sure he doesn’t have worms), then it may be time to express his anal glands for him.

Be sure to read up on how to properly express a dog’s anal glands before attempting this yourself. If this whole process seems too much, keep in mind a dog groomer usually charges about $15 to do it, and it takes less than five minutes. You may find a handheld shower head extra helpful during this process.

4. Ears and Eyes

You can use ordinary tap water as a good rinse for your pooch’s ears. Make sure you’re wiping them out thoroughly with a cotton ball to get any build-up or dirt out but don’t go digging with a Q-tip; it can be a bit dangerous to his eardrums. But if you’d like to use a specific ear cleaner to make sure you’re being extra thorough, you can pick up a specialized cleaner. After cleaning your pup’s ears, dab them dry with cotton balls.

Depending on your dog’s breed, you may not have much to do when cleaning eyes. For example, a lab won’t have much build up from tears, and even if he does, they’re simple to wipe clean. If, however, you have a dog more prone to tears, or worse, a white dog prone to tears, you’ll probably need to do a bit more maintenance to keep him looking clean and fresh. You can buy specialized combs or tear stain wipes, but you may just find that during the bath, you need to use a lot of finesse to get those clumps of built-up tears out of his fur.

5. Clip Your Dog’s Nails if Needed

Depending on how often you bathe your dog, there’s a good chance you won’t need to clip his nails every bath. But when you do clip his nails, there’s a lot of appeal to doing so at bath time; especially if you’re not very good at it or if he’s nervous about it. Getting him somewhere he’s confined and where you won’t stain your carpet if you accidentally cut too deep isn’t a bad idea.

And should you nick his quick, there’s a good blood clotting agent that will allow you to stop the bleeding as soon as possible. It will aide the clotting and stop the bleeding, so your dog will need to be mostly dry for this. Because of that, if you’re clipping, do it last.

6. Stay Dry

Dogs are notorious for shaking dry whenever they get wet. If you want to avoid some of that shaking (and in the process keep yourself dry!), there are a few things you can do to help matters. First, understand dogs shake from the back of the head, so hold his head still, either by gently holding his muzzle, or grabbing his head completely if he’s small enough.  There’s also the option of covering him with a towel while you’re working on something else, just like a newborn baby. For example, if you’re clipping his nails or cleaning his ears, a towel on his back will keep him from soaking you.

When you’re done with the bath and grooming process, you want to ensure that you’re drying your dog thoroughly. Don’t let him out until he is completely dry. Dogs much prefer the smell of the outdoors to any shampoo you’ll be using so if they’re damp and the shampoo is still overwhelming their senses, they’re much more likely to roll in some sort of grossness outside.