How to Successfully Bathe Your Dog

Uh oh… it’s bath time again.  Your mind is immediately filled with images of the last, unsuccessful bathing session.  Chasing Fido down, panting, drooling, whining… at the end, you were left with a not-so-clean dog, and you were more soaked than he was!

Having a Positive Attitude is Key

Well believe it or not, being able to successfully bathe your dog may have more to do with you than it does your dog.  If you feel badly about your dog having to tolerate a bath, chances are, your dog will feel the same way. 

Make peace in your own head with the concept of a bath.  A dog that’s clean and odor-free is a joy to be around.  There’s nothing pleasant about being able to smell your dog when you walk in your front door.  Regular bathing and brushing keeps shedding to a minimum as well.  The ritual of bathing your dog also gives you the opportunity to feel any unnatural lumps or bumps on his skin that might need to been by your veterinarian.  So a bath is a good thing!

In its extreme form, a human having a bad attitude about any activity done with their dog can have detrimental effects on him.  I once had a client whose dog began to have a seizure every time he took him to the grooming salon.  He was convinced it was connected to the grooming experience itself. 

But I had my suspicions.  “Ranger” accompanied his owner in the car to run errands on a daily basis, and never knew where he was going until he got there.  But when Ranger began to seize in the car only when my client’s intention was to go to the goomer, he finally saw the light. 

After a heart-to-heart talk, my client admitted that he had a desperate fear of water and hated getting baths himself as a child.  Somehow, this anxiety was communicated to Ranger and the seizures were the direct result.  It took awhile, but my client finally learned to change his attitude and energy, an he and Ranger are doing just fine now.

What to Do Before Your Dog’s Bath

Make sure you give your dog a long walk prior to his bath.  This will help drain his energy and reduce his stress.  Your dog is much more likely to surrender to a bath if he’s too tired to put up a fight. 

Make sure you collect everything you’ll need for the bath in advance: shampoo, conditioner, and towels should be within your reach from the tub.  Put a nonstick bath mat in the tub to keep your dog’s feet from slipping out from under him.  Have the water temperature set to lukewarm for your dog’s comfort. 

Starting Your Dog’s Bathing Process

The most critical part of the bathing process is about to begin, and it’s primarily contingent on your state of mind, and how you bring your dog into the activity.  First and foremost, expect success.  Forget about your past frustrating experiences with the process.  This time, you’re going to make it happen.  Period.  See the bathing process as a form of affection, and just one more opportunity to bond with your dog. 

Without saying a word, go and get your dog.  Don’t call him to you.  Don’t plead with him or practice “baby-talk.”  Simply put a slip leash on your dog in a no-nonsense manner, and lead him to the bathtub.  Start wetting him down with a gentle stream of water first.  Once he’s used to the pressure, you can increase the intensity of the water.  Begin at his neck and shoulders and work your way down his body, leaving his face for last.  Make sure to rinse him thoroughly so no irritating shampoo is left behind.

If your dog becomes agitated or fearful at any time during this process, your job is to remain calm and in control.  Don’t comfort him or it will only nurture his fear.  Remaining cool and undeterred will show your dog that there’s nothing to fear. 

What to Do After Your Dog’s Bath

Once the bath is over, towel-dry your dog off well and/or dry him gently by using a blow dryer.  He will shake himself off, so be prepared.  Don’t let him outdoors right away as some dogs are notorious for trying to re-scent themselves by rolling in the dirt.  The last thing you need is a wet and muddy dog after all your hard work!

Don’t make a big fuss about the bath before, during or after it.  Think of the bath as “no big deal” and chances are, eventually, your dog will feel the same way.  Here’s to having a more civilized experience during your next bathing session with your dog!