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How to Bathe a Dog: Handy Dog Supplies & Tips

Giving a dog a bath can either be an easy experience or it could be a scene straight out of a home movie. Here's how to give your dog a bath while keeping yourself from getting (too) wet:

Pick a location:

  • Outside.

    Pros: The great outdoors provides a lot of space and it will save you from having to clean up your bathtub or shower post-bath. All you need is a hose and, ideally, something that can function as a tub.

    Cons: Depending on your landscape, the "great outdoors" could become the "great get dirty all over again" before your dog is dry.

  • Self service pet wash.

    Pros: Perfect for when you don't have enough room or do not have a backyard. Also great for containing the mess and keeping your house clean. Best of all, many self-wash salons, like the ones offered at Unleashed by Petco stores, provide everything you need—from dog shampoo and conditioner to towels, aprons, combs and brushes and even blow dryers.

    Cons: Travel time, if your dog doesn't like car rides.

The right dog supplies - have these on hand:

  • collar and leash
  • towels
  • treats
  • cotton balls
  • shampoo and conditioner
  • non-slip surface
  • ear cleaner
  • brush/FURminator

Prep time

Be sure to brush your dog before any bathing takes place. You will want to remove any mats beforehand. Wet mats only become more tightly wound and may have to be clipped out by a professional

Cover the bottom of the bathing area with a non-slip surface such as a bath mat. Make sure the shampoo you have selected is right for your dog's coat. There are shampoos that are meant for white dogs, soothing ones for dry skin, flea baths, and conditioners for dry coats, too. Make sure to read the label for any dilution recommendations.

If you are already using a spot-on flea product, avoid flea shampoos. Make sure your flea protection doesn't wash out with shampoo. Check the label to be sure. You may need to re-apply after the bath, once the coat is dry.

Keep a leash on your dog so they can't take off, when bath time is under way. This could turn into a mess, or even a danger with a slippery, wet dog on the loose. Put cotton balls in their ears, to help prevent soap irritation. Clean their ears before the bath so that you wash away any excess cleaner.

Finally, it's bath time

Start with tepid (not hot!) water and work your way from the head back towards the tail. Use a sprayer so the water penetrates all the way to the skin. Break out the shampoo and work up a good lather. Avoid eyes and inside ears to minimize irritation. Follow label directions for how long to let it sit on your dog's coat.

Start at the head again and rinse thoroughly until water runs clear. Leaving shampoo on the coat can cause irritation. Neither you nor your pup wants that.

Dry off a bit

Towel-drying is a good start, but longer or thicker haired dogs will require more. A hair dryer on a cool setting will work, or if it's a nice day, a little time in the sun. Beware that if outside, your pup will instinctively roll around in the grass, and that may undo all your efforts. A little time in the crate on a towel can work just fine.