dog taking bath

How to Give Your Dog a Bath | Dog Bathing Tips

Keep Your Dog Clean and Comfortable

 golden retriever taking a bath

Although many of us humans think of taking a shower or bath as something relaxing and peaceful, your dog would say otherwise. To us, that gentle flow of water is soothing, and it leaves us feeling clean and refreshed, but to some dogs, it’s like being caught in a thunderstorm. However, bathing is still important for all dogs, even if they hate it. The good news is that with some patience, even those dogs who are terrified of the prospect of touching water can be made to at least tolerate the process.

Whether you’re one of the lucky few to have dogs who love baths, or if you’re like most of us here who have dogs who would rather roll in mud, we’re going to talk about the best practices for bathing your dog.

Clean Your Dog’s Skin, Keep Them Safe from Ticks, and Help Them Relax

Before we talk about the best practices for cleaning  your dog in the bath, we should briefly discuss why it’s important that all dogs, even those who hate it, need the occasional bath. Many dog owners are put off when they see how sad or distressed the prospect of bathing makes their dogs, leading them to delay or neglect bathing them altogether. And although we’re all for keeping your dog happy and smiling, it is important to remember that you’re responsible for their wellbeing, and as such, have the duty to make the hard decisions sometimes. Every dog needs the occasional bath. To name just a few benefits, bathing can:

  • Clean your dog’s skin of bacteria and other germs that can cause infections or irritations
  • Allow you the opportunity to touch and familiarize yourself with your dog’s body, allowing you to notice any sudden changes from things such as injuries and open wounds, illness or tumors, and it gives you a good opportunity to examine them for ticks.
  • Give you and your dog the opportunity to spend time together and bond. Despite how it may seem, your dog won’t hate you forever for making them take a dip.

This is also not to mention perhaps your own favorite benefit of bathing your dog; he will smell better, his fur will feel nicer when you pet him, and he will look nice and fluffy. No matter how much your dog hates taking a bath, please be sure to give them a good cleaning every once in a while. Whether they agree with you or not, they need it.

How to Give Your Dog a Bath

Bathing your dog can be broken into three phases:

  1. Preparation
  2. Bath Time
  3. Drying Off

While your dog probably isn’t too picky and will possibly hate anything you do when it comes to bathing, be sure to put some thought into each step of this process.


Before beginning, be sure to have all your tools ready. Have dog-friendly shampoo, and be sure that it’s a formula that is safe for your dog’s skin and coat. Some dogs suffer from allergies or sensitive skin. If the wrong shampoo is used, it may leave them itchy and uncomfortable, and it may even cause their skin to blister. When in doubt, consult a veterinarian for advice.

(Our personal favorite pet shampoo is Nootie Shampoo, which you can buy here at )

Also consider a supply of treats or other incentives to encourage your dog to cooperate. Getting them to the bathroom is hard enough when they’re dry, once they get wet and slippery, they run the risk of escaping from their shower cell. Some people like to give their dogs treats occasionally to reward their good behavior, while others like to smear peanut butter on the wall of the shower to keep them distracted while they get cleaned. Both of these are excellent options, but as always, be sure that anything you give to your dog is safe for them to consume. Some peanut butters with artificial sweeteners contain ingredients that, while safe for humans, can be extremely toxic to dogs. Again, consult a veterinarian whenever you are uncertain.

Finally, if you have a dog who is particularly uncooperative, you should have a waterproof leash and harness. It will be difficult to bathe them with these things on, and so you might have to either remove it shortly during the shampooing and rinsing phase, but these can help especially if your dog is a good walker, because it will give him a sense of familiarity; when he’s wearing his walking gear, he feels comfortably at your side and under your command.

Bath Time

dog in bath

Depending on the resources available to you, you may bathe your dog in your own shower or bathtub, outside, or somewhere else. Regardless of the location, ensure, firstly, that the water temperature is not too hot. Typically, a dog prefers lukewarm water. Be careful that you do not expose him to water that is too hot or too cold; what feels nice to our skin may feel very uncomfortable for your dog’s.

Secondly, be sure he has ample room to stand and doesn’t feel too cramped or trapped, and that he has some ability to maintain traction as he’s standing, so he doesn’t slip too much. Depending on what you are using to bathe him, this may be difficult, but always pay attention to your dog’s comfort level. Once these two steps are complete, you may move on to the actual bathing process.

In many ways, bathing your dog is very similar to how we would bathe ourselves. Begin by rinsing his whole body to prepare for soap/shampoo. Take note: throughout this entire process, pay particular attention to caring for your dog’s face, eyes, and ears. These are very delicate locations, and especially for dogs with big floppy ears, getting water trapped inside can cause infections.

Once he’s been rinsed, you can begin to apply the soap or shampoo. Depending on the type, the instructions for this stage may vary, so check the bottle to see what it suggests. Some typical guidelines would suggest to apply the shampoo directly to the dog’s coat, massage in with your hands, and allow it to sit for about 5 minutes, though some shampoos should sit longer. This allows it time to soak into the coat and give him a good cleaning. Take note: the shampoo should not be left on for too long, as it can irritate the skin and disrupt their natural oils. The type of shampoo that you’re using should give instructions to this, so be sure to read and follow it closely. When in doubt, ask your veterinarian for advice.

While you’re waiting for the shampoo to soak, keep your dog happy and comfortable by speaking in an encouraging tone, offering him a treat, or playing with him with a waterproof toy. Be sure to set a timer as well so you don’t leave the shampoo on for too long.

Once the time has passed, gently rinse your dog. Be sure to be thorough in this rinsing, as any shampoo left on your dog’s skin after the bath can continue to irritate him and cause him discomfort. Use your fingers to gently massage the coat and skin, but be wary of dogs with longer coats as too much massaging during this stage can cause knots and tangles. A good strategy is be extra thorough with the water, rinsing repeatedly while moving your hand gently over the fur.

Drying Off

Once the bath is complete, you still have one more important stage to take care of: drying off. After a bath, many dogs take to sudden bursts of energy, often called the zoomies. Your dog may want to immediately roll around in something with a familiar scent, and if that thing is dirty, it’ll undo all your hard work! Be sure your dog doesn’t immediately go outside and dive into the mud!

As soon as the bath is done, consider giving your dog a gentle toweling-off. Not only will this limit the degree to which your dog will shake and soak everything in the room, and if you have a big dog this will make quite the mess, but it will make him more comfortable and help to preserve his new cleanliness. If you have the tools, you can use a pet-specific hairdryer. Take note that a human hairdryer is often far too hot for their skin and coat and should not be used on the hot setting. If you are going to use a human hairdryer, be sure to use it on a cool setting. If your dog has long fur, be sure to be extra diligent drying him off, as post-bath moisture can lead to skin infections. Be sure to talk to your veterinarian about techniques for this.

Always be sure to reward your dog for good behavior! Once the bath is finished, offer them a tasty treat to give them something positive to associate with the bath for the future. Be sure to bathe your dog with some degree of frequency, but be careful not to bathe your dog too often. Depending on the breed and the type of fur your dog has, you may need to bathe him more or less. Bathing your dog too often can disrupt their natural oils and cause skin irritation or even infections, so be sure to do your research on your own dog to learn the optimal frequency. Once again, when in doubt, consult with your veterinarian for advice.

Finally, consider combing your dog’s fur after a bath. This can help to take away any residual debris such as dead skin or loose hair, and it can help to stimulate and redistribute the oil across your dog’s skin. Furthermore, if you have a dog with longer fur that is prone to matting, a good combing can help to mitigate tangles and knots. Just be sure to be extra gentle as you pull the comb or brush through their fur, as wet fur could be more prone to damage. Think of it more as detangling and straightening the fur, rather than the removal of loose or dead fur like usual.

Tips for Bathing You Dog

No matter how hard your dog will try to convince you otherwise, he absolutely does need a bath from time to time. The good news is that you can make the process much easier, and perhaps even fun, if you establish best practices.

  1. Prepare your tools ahead of time. Have a supply of treats ready before you even let your dog know a bath is incoming
  2. Be sure to have the right type of shampoo, and be sure your dog is calm before you begin
  3. Make sure your dog has room to stand comfortably
  4. Make sure the water is the right temperature
  5. Rinse your dog, then apply the shampoo
  6. Let the shampoo sit for the right amount of time
  7. Rinse thoroughly, being careful not to leave any on their skin and fur
  8. Begin to dry your dog with a towel. You can use a hairdryer if it can be done on the cool setting, but be very careful and sensitive to your dog’s comfort
  9. Reward with a treat!
  10. Consider brushing to prevent knotting and tangling


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