Questions & Answers: Tips for Bathing Your Dog
Bathing your dog is an essential responsibility to keep your dog fresh, clean, and even more huggable each time. Happy pup, happy you!
Q: So where and how can I bathe my dog?
A: You have options.
1) Bath tub in your Home - The most popular way to bathe your dog is to do it yourself in your bath tub. To some this sounds strange, because it's a human tub, but it's also a convenient way to give your dog a bath in your tub. We prefer this way the most, because it's the easiest way to get your dog acquainted to taking regular baths, and because washing your dog is also a fundamental bonding experience. Your dog learns to trust you and by using positive words and encouragement, the bathing experience can be fun.
2) Grooming - Don't have the time? Don't want to put in the effort? Then you can pay a groomer to do their expert work on your dog. Find a reputable groomer based on referral or you can even check out Yelp reviews. Let the pro's handle it. Every groomer offers various packages from a basic wash to conveniently including anal gland expressions and nail clippings. We even know places that do full service spa treatments, including dog pedicures and facials!
3) Self-Serve Bath Spas - In recent years, these self-serve dog spa's have been popping up all over the place. They offer a bunch of different tubs with amenities such as shampoos, and blow dryers. All you have to do is bring your dog in and typically pay a flat fee to use their metal tubs for your pup. If there is a self-serve place near you, you may prefer it over your own tub. Some people don't feel comfortable having to share the same tub as their pup. Others don't like the fur clogging up the tub over time.
4) Yard Tub & Hose - If your dog is too large to fit in your bath, and you don't want to pay for the above, the last resort is to try out the yard tub and hose routine. We don't personally like this method because hose water is not temperature controlled. On cold days during the winter, washing your dog with cold hose water is NEVER recommended. Keep in mind, dogs get cold too, even with their fur. The last thing you want is to give your dog hypothermia.
Also, hose water pressure can be strong. You might want to get an adjustable adapter for your hose that has lighter pressure settings. You could invest in a large enough metal tub to use in the yard and pour some mildly warm water into the tub to keep the temperature safe for your dog.
Q: How often do I need to wash my dog?
A: This is variable although we recommend for an indoor french bulldog like ours, once every 2-3 weeks is ideal. Of course, this can vary depending on rainy days, or when Eggy gets into mud or dirt while playing outside, it's time for an impromptu bath. In between baths, we also do regular feet washing. Dogs must go outside regularly to stay healthy and sane, and in doing so, they collect some dust and dirt on their feet. By ensuring we keep their paws clean, we keep our floors and carpets clean, and prevent health issues like yeasty paws.
In the old days it was frowned upon to wash your dog too frequently, because there was a belief that it would strip your dog's skin and fur of healthy oils. That's no longer true, as dogs can take showers more often if they need to. The environment can harbor things like dust, insects, dirt, etc. and a good old fashioned wash even once a week, is perfectly fine. It's more important to feed your dog a healthy diet to keep their coat shiny and beautiful.
Q: How do I get my dog to like bathing?
A: From the first time you bathe them, pay extra attention and use positive reinforcement with your words and motions. If your dog starts to associate bath time with something that is not so scary after all, they will be easier to coax to take a bath. I use the key words, "Want to Take a Bath?" to indicate that it's a fun bath event coming up. I also always give Eggy a treat after he is finished and toweled off. That way he knows he was a good boy for enduring the cleaning session.
Q: What kind of shampoo should I use?
Every dog is different. From the early stages on, we experimented with a couple types of shampoos. We really wanted Eggy to like this fabulous blueberry scented shampoo, but it turns out Eggy is allergic to fragrances. We learned that the hard way, as he would break out into little allergy sores shortly after his baths.
You can always find a mild shampoo that doesn't have too many ingredients, and is relatively light on the fragrance. It might take a few tries to figure out what works best for your pup.
Here are Eggy's regular favorites:
PL360 Extra Gentle Shampoo - We love love love this shampoo. The scent is not overpowering and it has no parabens, sulfates, toxins, lanolin, or alcohol. It is hypoallergenic made of natural plant-based ingredients.
KetoHex Shampoo - Once we discovered Eggy was prone to a lot of skin allergies from food and environmental causes, our vet had us try KetoHex shampoo which is an antifungal and antibacterial shampoo, medicated with Ketoconazole 1% and Chlorhexidine 2%. We don't need to use this shampoo all the time. Whenever he has a yeasty spot flare up, this will help manage his symptoms.
Q: What other tips do you have if I'm washing my dog myself?
A: Get the Towels Ready
Prep the towels ahead of time. You don't want to leave your dog unattended in the slippery bath tub in case they try anything fishy. This is why I like to stack his towels where they are within arm's reach before we get started.
If your dog is shedding, you don't want to clog your tub. To prevent that, you can get a drain cover / hair catcher, or if you don't happen to have one on hand, you can take a baby wipe and put it over the drain. Leave the baby wipe there until after washing him and you'll see it attracts the fur.
Avoid the Ears
You NEVER want to get water inside your dogs ears. This could lead to unwanted and painful ear infections. To stay away from his ears, sometimes I like to place a towel-fabric headband gently on his ears to keep them from getting wet. I found this at Daiso, it was only a couple bucks and sits comfortably on his ears. I like to wipe his ears after the bath with a separate little towel so there is no moisture and to help gently clean them.
Handy Mini Bucket with Handle
I like to use a mini bucket with a handle to use as a way to rinse him off. When he was younger sometimes I would fill up the water in the bathtub to under his shoulders. One time he had picked up fleas from the grass outside and doing this helped drown the fleas. We'll get into how to treat fleas in a separate article. If you can't find a mini bucket with a handle, you could maybe use a plastic bowl but the handle definitely makes the task easier.
Now that he's older, I don't fill up the tub with water anymore, save water folks! I just use the mini bucket to rinse him off in between lathering him up with his shampoo.
Focus on the Critical Areas
If your dog tends to get yeasty paws or yeasty in areas around his tail or on his belly - then those are the areas you want to focus on with the antifungal shampoo. I like to lather up those areas really well and leave the shampoo on for a few minutes so that it can help disinfect any unwanted yeast or bacteria. B
Basic Guideline to Bathing
A good rinse off starts from top to bottom. I usually start on his neckline, and the chest area. Then I work the back and underbelly last. To make sure the temperature of the water is mildly warm, I use my bare hands. If it's too hot for my skin then I will know immediately to turn the temperature down.
The Grand Finale Towel Dry
To help towel him off, I like to place a towel on the floor so he doesn't get the floor wet. I use a second towel to make sure to dry off his paws super dry. You want to go that extra step to dry in between his paws where water easily gets trapped. Sometimes dog's paws get yeasty because of added moisture, so it's really important to dry these sensitive areas as much as possible. Another area you might want to gently but thoroughly dry off is near your dog's tail. I emphasize gently. If your dog has a tail, this is a precious limb, never tug or pull on any of your dog's limbs. Dry off your dog with extra love and care.
Bath Time Routines
If you start your bath time regimen early on and give your dog a lot of love during the bathing process. Words like good boy, let's rinse off now, and let's wash your feet - these become recognizable phrases that your dog can pick up on if they're intuitive. If you can get your dog to stay in one spot while bathing, the process becomes super easy. If I take our dog out of his environment and try to wash him in the shower for example instead of his familiar tub, he starts to get distracted and won't stand still. This is why routines are important. Stick to your routine and you'll both do great.
If you can fit in time to brush your dog's teeth while in the bath tub it makes it easier. I like to use a little child's toothbrush and a dab of coconut oil to scrub some of his molars where tartar likes to build up. By incorporating teeth brushing in bath time, that's one less thing you have to worry about.
Never Leave Your Dog Unsupervised
I can't stress this enough. Bath time means there's a slippery tub, tons of water, and a dog who may panic or get excited. Stay with your pup at all times from start to finish. The last thing you want is for him to attempt to jump out and slip and fall. The more coaxing and petting him you can do to help him feel at ease, the better.
Bath time can bring out a lot of different emotions in all dogs. Some dogs will always feel some sort of anxiety or get excited at the idea of a bath, no matter how many times they've been bathed. But keep at it! There's nothing more lovable then a freshly bathed furry pup! Got any additional tips? Let us know!