Tips for Giving Your Dog a Better Bath

Dogs need to take baths just like humans do. A typical dog should bathe about once a month, although vets recommend no more often than every two weeks and no less often than every three months. Many people choose to give their pets baths at home to save money. For some dogs, it's also a bonding experience. Use these tips and tricks to help you and your pet get the most out of bathtime.

Brush Your Pet Before Giving Him a Bath

Brushing your pet before you put him into water will remove excess hair, dirt, and pet dander, and usually makes it so that baths take less time. Start at either the head or the tail and work your way to the other end with his brush. There are several brushing methods and the one you choose may depend on your pet's fur. You can part the fur and alternate between using a brush and comb, brush it in a spiral pattern, or brush it backward to remove dead hair and then brush the right way to put the fur back into place. Be sure to use a comfortable brush made for dogs.

Use the Right Shampoo for Your Pet

Use shampoo made specifically for dogs. Human shampoo, even those made gentler for babies, has a different pH level than what a dog can use. When you choose a dog shampoo, follow the directions exactly to ensure it works properly. If your dog has skin problems, you'll likely need to choose a special shampoo. If your dog has a long coat, you might consider purchasing a dog conditioner as well. This helps to keep his fur soft and easier to manage for brushing.

Bathe Him With the Proper Technique

The technique is important when bathing your dog because it ensures he's thoroughly clean while protecting his ears and eyes. Start by coaxing him into the tub or wash station. If he's apprehensive, treats may help. Avoid forcing your pet into the tub, because he could view it as a punishment. This will make future baths even more difficult.

Once he's in the tub, dilute his shampoo with a bit of water (to make it easier, you can use a soap dispenser that has some water in it). Diluting it helps it to spread more easily and keeps the shampoo from concentrating in one area of the fur too much.

Next, use warm water to wet your dog down, and then start the first shampoo. The first lather binds with dirt in the fur to remove it. Start at his head and move back toward his shoulders, back, and tail area. Don't forget about the underbelly and legs. Once shampooed, rinse thoroughly. Repeat the shampooing process using a loofah sponge. This helps to remove stuck-on dirt and oil from the skin and hair. If you're using conditioner, apply it after the second rinse and leave it on for a few minutes. Then, rinse until you feel no more conditioner in the fur.

Protecting your dog's eyes and ears during his bath is important. An ointment like Puralube Vet Ointment protects your dog from dry eyes and creates a protective barrier that keeps shampoo and hair out of them during bathing. You can also use small pieces of cotton in his ears to protect them from water, but remember to remove them when he's dry.

Dry Your Pet Thoroughly

After his bath, dry your dog thoroughly. Toss a towel over his back and allow it to sit while you use a second one to dry his face, legs, paws, and tail. Then, use the first town to dry his back, belly, and neck. If your dog isn't afraid of the sound of it, a hairdryer on the cool setting can speed up the process. Remember, never let your dog outside before he's completely dry. He will want to try to roll the shampoo smell off of him and will likely come in even dirtier than before.

Use Plenty of Positive Reinforcement

While many dogs love water and baths, some simply don't. If you have a pet who is apprehensive about a bath, you'll need to use lots of extra reinforcement. Plenty of dog treats can help him through the process of getting into the tub, and rewarding him with a few more after the bath helps him to see the time as fun. Of course, lots of kind words and excited, happy tones are good, too. Remember, if you are nervous and stressed, your dog will pick up on it, so do your best to stay calm. Some people recommend spreading peanut butter on the wall for dogs to lick while you bathe them. However, check with your vet before doing this to ensure it will be okay for your dog, and choose one that doesn't have xylitol in it.

Know When To See a Professional

If your dog's coat has become heavily matted, a groomer can clip prior to bathing to make it easier, then even up the cut afterward. Another reason to work with a professional is if your veterinarian has prescribed a medicated shampoo for your dog. A groomer can ensure it's applied correctly and keep watch over your dog for the 10-15 minutes it has to soak, plus has the experience to ensure it's rinsed out thoroughly. Finally, some dogs just never take to the at-home spa experience. If your dog simply won't let you bathe him, take him to a fear-free certified groomer who has the experience and knowledge needed to bathe and groom scared dogs.

Remember, patience goes a long way when it comes to bathing dogs. Avoid rushing the bath, instead choosing to bathe him when you have a free afternoon to go at his pace. Some treats, lots of pets, and a few kind words will go a long way during your pet's next bath.

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