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Small terrier being bathed in a bucket

How do I give a dog a bath?

In a perfect world our dogs would always smell wonderful: they wouldn’t have burrs in their fur, nor would they have just rolled in something questionable in the yard. And they wouldn’t have a face caked with food!

Our dogs aren’t perfect, but we don’t mind. When they get stinky, we can give them a bath! Sure, some dogs take better to the bathing than others. For those intrepid pet parents who simply want to make their dog smell good enough to share the bed or couch, we have tips to make it more enjoyable for both of you.

Gather Your Doggy Bathing Supplies

If your dog notices you gathering bathing supplies, he may run away and hide under the bed. So, you may need to be sneaky gathering supplies in order to get the bathroom and bathtub ready. Some pet parents find they need to gather the supplies and have them at the ready a day before the bathing occurs because their pups just know, when they see you gathering items that a bath is imminent!

Gathering supplies early means:

  • You won’t have to leave your dog to grab something you’ve forgotten.
  • Having all of your supplies within reach will make the bathing go more quickly and smoothly…for both of you.
  • You won’t forget something that you need.
  • You’ll feel calmer for the upcoming bath time antics that may ensue.

Getting Your Pup Ready For The Bath

For those pet parents who are new to pet ownership and may have never given a dog a bath before, you can take steps to get your dog accustomed to the ritual and he just may come to love it.

Tips for making bath time easier for your pup:

  • Introduce him to the tub or shower without any water in it
  • Make being in the tub fun—bring in a few of his favorite toys
  • Praise her when she stands in the tub without fighting to get out (you may even want to give her a treat)
  • Slowly put a little water in the tub, praising and talking calmly to your dog as the water swirls around her paws
  • Turn the faucet on when she’s in the tub to get her accustomed to the sound and the feeling of it
  • Pet her and rub her fur with a warm, wet cloth. You don’t want to pour water over her head and face if you can avoid it.
  • Run your fingers across his body and fur the way you would if you were massaging in shampoo
Pit bull in a bath with flower petals

Steps For Giving Your Dog A Bath

Take baby steps to get your dog comfortable in the tub before you go full-on bath. Once Fido or Fluffy is comfortable in the tub or shower, it’s time for the bath.

  • Make sure the water is warm and not too hot.
  • Calmly talk to your dog and praise him during the bath. (You may even want to give him special treats during the bath to keep him calm and happy and to reinforce that a bath isn’t a bad thing!)
  • Don’t fill the tub so deep that your dog feels he is swimming or floating. Put down a towel to help him keep his footing; sliding in the tub can be scary.
  • Run a wet cloth over your dog to thoroughly wet her fur. If she’ll let you, pour water over her from a cup.
  • Once your dog is fully wet, pour on some dog-specific shampoo. Massage it in thoroughly.
  • Rinse your dog completely. You may need to run fresh water into the tub to do this if the water your dog is standing in is dirty or soap-filled.
  • After your dog is completely clean, drain the tub. Lift him out or let him get out on his own and step on towels you’ve laid down.
  • Dry him off with an absorbent towel (there are many on the market made specifically to dry wet dogs).
  • Let him run around the house and shake—it’s fun for him and may be a welcome stress reliever after the bath.
  • Spend time brushing him. It’s a great way to bond and to assure his fur doesn’t get tangled or matted.

The more often your dog gets a bath the more accustomed to it he will become. Always give your dog a bath when you have time to be calm and positive: Your dog will pick up on your emotions and if you’re upset, your pup will equate bathing with “mom or dad is in a bad mood.” You don’t want that.

No matter how you get your dog squeaky clean, make sure it is a positive experience for him and you won’t have to worry about him running away and hiding each time he hears the water running!

Robbi Hess, award-winning author, is multi-petual: She shares her home with two Devon Rex kittens, three adult rescue cats, a mini poodle, a Goldendoodle, three lizards and two ferrets. When not caring for her pets, she is an editor, speaker, time management and productivity guru, content creator, social media manager and blogger. She writes at All Words MatterMy Divas Dish, and is the story editor and chief cat herder at Positively Woof.

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