Bathing and Shampooing Your Dog
* Do not bathe your dog too often because that will dry out the skin, deplete healthy oils from the coat and skin, and lead to scratching and irritation. Frequency is largely dependent on the breed and activities of the dog. Dogs who spend a lot of time outside or engage in outdoor activities that expose them to dirt, bugs and/or debris typically require more bathing, perhaps every 6 weeks or more frequently. Some groomers recommend bathing double-coated breeds only about 3 times a year and suggest that smooth-coated dogs can go a lot longer between baths than can curly-coated breeds such as poodles. Too frequent bathing can cause the coat to soften and reduce its insulating qualities.
* To keep your dog clean between baths, brush vigorously and regularly -- preferably daily. This is good for the coat and skin, and helps the dog look and smell good. If you are allergic to your pet, wear a mask when you brush...brush outdoors or onto a newspaper indoors to aid in clean up...and wash hands afterwards.
* Remember that after being indoors during the colder months, a dog's fur and skin can become dry. And if your dog grows an undercoat, you need to comb it out in warmer weather. If a dog’s fur gets matted, the skin cannot breathe -- compelling the dog to scratch and pull out fur, which can result in sores.
* Wait until a puppy is more than five weeks old before giving him his first bath.
Preparing your puppy or dog for his first bath:
* Things will go more smoothly if you introduce your pet to the idea of bathing before actually giving him his first bath.
* Help your dog learn to trust you through such actions as touching the paws, handling the ears and opening the mouth several times a day. Praise positive responses and consider reinforcing good behavior with small treats.
* Let the dog sniff grooming tools such as his comb, brush, clippers and tooth brush. As the dog becomes less timid and more accepting of the items, praise and if food-motivated, supplement the positive reinforcement with treats.
* Let your dog get accustomed to the sound of running water. You can reinforce calm behavior and build a positive association by using verbal praise and treats.
* If you plan to use a dryer, slowly introduce the dog to the dryer. Pet dryers are recommended over human blow dryers.
* If you think the dog will balk at his first bath, you might want to have someone help you the first time. You want to make your dog’s first bath to be a good experience so that he will be accepting of future baths.
Before the bath:
* Brush thoroughly and remove all tangles and mats, which you won’t be able to unsnarl when the fur is wet. For badly matted fur, you may have to snip mats with scissors. Proceed with caution; it is easy to nick the dog’s skin, and you do not want to do that.
* If the dog has any ticks, foxtails or other embedded items, remove them carefully. Typically, you will use tweezers. For details about fleas, ticks, insect stings and skin conditions, see the web links listed at the end of this tip sheet.
* If there is paint, tar, pine sap or other sticky substance caught in the fur, try to soften and remove it with petroleum jelly, or soak the area with vegetable oil or mineral oil for 24 hours. Some people have also had success removing sticky and oily substances with Dawn liquid dishwashing detergent. If these techniques do not work, trim away the affected fur. Do not use solvent, paint stripper, concentrated detergent, or fabric softener on dogs, since these substances are toxic when ingested and can also hurt the skin.
* It’s a good idea to trim and file a dog’s nails before a bath, especially if the dog might claw or scratch the floor, tub or you in an attempt to get away.
* You’ll get wet, so wear a smock or old comfortable clothes.
* Pick a suitable location for the bath, such as a room with a closed door. This will prevent the dog from escaping and will also keep the rest of your house from getting sprayed with water. Prepare the room by removing items that could be damaged by water and any items that could injure you or the dog as you move around. You can line the floor and other surfaces with a plastic sheet, an old shower curtain, large cut-open trash bags or sheet.
* Gather your supplies: shampoo, brushes (you may want to use a shampooing brush), comb, washcloth and/or sponge, towels, cotton balls, mineral oil, petroleum jelly...and detangler and moisturizer if you use them. A soft brush is helpful in cleaning around paws. You can place the items in a plastic bucket for easy carrying and access...and open bottle caps beforehand so that you do not have to wrestle with caps while holding onto your dog. You may wish to put a few small tasty treats in a plastic baggie so that you can reward your dog for good, calm behavior.
* A detachable shower spray nozzle makes washing and rinsing much easier. You can find shower hose attachments at home improvement stores. Many attach right behind your regular showerhead.
* If you don’t have a shower spray nozzle, get a pitcher.
* Remove the dog’s regular collar. To help you restrain the dog during the bath, you can use a nylon collar and nylon leash. Do not use leather in the water, since the water can cause the leather to shrink and to leak dye on your dog’s fur. Many groomers recommend using a bathing tether when bathing dogs in tubs.
* If your dog tends to bite when confronted with a bath, you might want to use a muzzle.
* Shampoo. Use a shampoo formulated for dogs, and one that is gentle and will not strip the natural oils of the dog’s coat. Do not use human shampoo, which is not the right pH for doggie fur and skin. Read the directions, and be aware that some shampoos and soaps are not appropriate for all ages or types of dogs. Oatmeal shampoos are good for dogs with itchy skin. Many people use dog shampoos containing chlorhexidine, which has anti-bacterial qualities. Avoid shampoos with insecticides, since the chemicals can be harsh. If your dog has fleas, use a gentle shampoo containing pyrethrin, pyrethrum or citrus oil.
* Here’s a gentle homemade shampoo for pups and dogs with extra dry or troubled skin. Mix 1/3 cup glycerin, 1 cup lemon Liquid Joy, 1 cup white vinegar, and 1 quart water in a liter bottle. Shake the solution before each use to mix thoroughly.
* Use a saline or weak salt and water mix to cotton swab around your dog’s eyes to clean away debris.
* To protect your dog’s eyes from bath water and soap, apply some petroleum jelly or mineral oil around the eyes. In addition, put a drop of mineral oil in each eye to protect against irritation.
* Put a cotton ball in each ear to keep water out. Make sure the cotton ball is large enough that it does not get caught in the ear canal.
* You might want to wipe around the dog’s anal area with a baby wipe or wet-nap before the bath, and/or clip long soil-prone fur beneath the tail around the anus.
* Choose a tub or basin that is not too deep.
* Smaller dogs can be bathed in the kind of rubber storage bin available at discount stores. Some folks with little dogs use two basins: one for bathing and the other for rinsing. Metal washtubs are available from agriculture supply merchants.
* Place a nonskid rubber mat in the basin or tub. This will prevent slipping and make the dog feel more secure.
* Choose a warm, draft-free place to bathe and dry the dog.
* While some people have bathed dogs with garden hoses, there are drawbacks such as the water being too cold, the outside air being too cold or windy, and the hose frightening the dog.
During the bath:
* Make sure water is warm but not hot. Then, fill the water to knee level.
* If you plan to use a nylon collar and leash to stabilize your dog during bathing, put them on now.
* Lift your dog and place in the tub. Be sure to lift in a way that will not hurt your back. For example...place one arm under the chest in front of the dog's front legs, and place the other arm behind the rear legs and under the tail. Stay fairly upright and lift with your legs -- not with your back. For a heavy dog, have someone help with lifting the dog into and out of the tub.
* Get your dog used to the water by spraying his back and shoulders. Keep the spray on low. (Remember, scaring or hurting your dog will increase his resistance to being bathed in the future.) Be gentle, work gradually, and give the dog time to acclimate. Try to keep the spray nozzle about an inch from the dog so that the water efficiently penetrates the fur.
* After your dog relaxes, wash his head. Never spray water directly in a dog’s face. Slightly lift his face so that the water runs down the back of the head. Use your fingers, a washcloth or sponge to move the water around the eyes, nose, and mouth.
* Lather up the body with shampoo. You can apply a line of shampoo along the dog’s back and back of the head. Massage the suds all the way down to the skin.
* Some experts suggest shampooing the body, then toward his rear end and then the head last. Other experts suggest starting with the head and neck to prevent fleas from moving up the body to the head. In any case, avoid getting soap in the dog’s eyes.
* You can use a rubber brush on a dog with shorter hair to help work the shampoo into the coat. The rubber brush can also be used to remove debris clinging to hair. For dogs with long hair, massage the coat in the direction of hair growth to avoid tangles.
* Work the suds down and under the tail, the underside, legs and all around the paws. And remember to clean under the neck, in facial wrinkles and ear flaps. A soft brush is useful for cleaning around the paw pads and other small areas.
* If the dog’s ears stand up, cup your hand over the ear opening while washing and rinsing.
* Remember, you can reward good behavior by giving your dog a few treats during the bath.
* After thoroughly lathering, rinse the dog with lukewarm, never hot, water. A detachable shower spray nozzle is most convenient. Check the temperature and make sure the spray is not too strong before aiming at the dog. Or use a large pitcher.
* Gently rinse the dog’s face and head first. Cover his eyes with one hand and rinse the top of the head and around the eyes. Next, cover the nose and rinse the rest of the face and neck. Work down the body.
* If the dog is rather dirty, you can repeat the lathering and rinsing steps.
* Rinse until the water runs clear so that no dirt or soap residue remains. Otherwise, the residue can lead to skin irritation or allergic reactions. The pet may also ingest the residue when licking himself. Knead the fur with your hand to help remove soap.
* Mist dog’s coat with a detangler spray for easier combing after the bath. You can also apply a moisturizer.
After the bath:
* Depending on the dog’s coat, use your hands to squeeze excess water from his fur. Start by squeezing water from the tail and paws.
* Wrap the dog in a large, absorbent towel. Gently rub him dry. If he has long hair, avoid heavy rubbing that can tangle the fur; blot instead.
* Remove cotton balls and towel out the remaining moisture in the ears. Moisture left in the ears can lead to infections.
* If your dog has urinary accidents, place a towel under her when drying to absorb any urine released.
* You can let him help by letting him shake his fur.
* If you prefer, you can also use a pet dryer or blow dryer on a low setting. Dryers are often preferable to towel-drying for dogs with frizzy or long fur. FYI, pet dryers are better suited to dog fur than are human blow dryers. Never aim a dryer at a dog’s face. And never use overly warm or hot air, which can dry out the skin and even burn the dog. Use a low setting.
* If using an automated dryer that hangs on the front of a crate, test the temperature before aiming it at the dog, and check on the animal at least every 10 to 15 minutes for safety reasons. * Do not let the dog outside in cool or cold weather until he is completely dry.