How To Wash Your Dog At Home

Your complete guide to bath time at home.

If you're anything like me, you have a standing monthly appointment with your dog's groomer. In hours, she washes his coat (with organic shampoo, of course), brushes his teeth, and clips his nails—he emerges from the groomer donning a new bandana and smelling fresh and clean. While I can wash my dog at home, this monthly check-up is absolutely worth it. Groomers have all the right tools, know how to handle dogs under distress, and do the essential yet unsavory work of cleaning a dog's ears and expressing his anal glands.

If your regular groomer is unavailable and Fido has found his way into a mud puddle, it may be time to take matters into your own hands. Here are a few techniques and tips to help you easily wash and style your dog.

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How Often To Wash A Dog

According to the American Kennel Club, the frequency you bathe your dog will vary based on your dog's breed, age, hair length, and coat type."Washing to control odors, remove residual dirt, or manage a skin sensitivity all have different bathing frequency recommendations," writes Petco.

"Most dogs require bathing on an occasional basis, usually when their coat becomes dirty or when they develop a 'doggy odor,'" writes Dr. Tammy Hunter and Dr. Cheryl Yuill for VCA Animal Hospitals. "Non-shedding breeds that have no health issues usually need to be bathed about every six to eight weeks."

How Often To Brush A Dog

You'll want to brush a dog frequently between baths to keep his coat fresh and shiny (as much as once per day for long-haired dogs). Generally speaking, short-haired dogs require less grooming maintenance than long-haired dogs.

"Dogs with long, silky or curly coats require daily brushing to keep their hair from becoming tangled or matted, especially around the ears, in the armpits, or along the back of the legs," writes Drs. Hunter and Yuill. "Dogs with short hair coats may require less frequent brushing. However, daily brushing of any dog that sheds will cut down dramatically on the amount of loose hair and dog dander floating around the home."

How To Wash A Dog

It's no surprise that puppy bathtime can be challenging at home. But according to Petco, "The key to getting your pup accustomed to bath time is to make it enjoyable." Here's how to easily wash your dog and make bathtime fun for all.

  1. Brush your dog. Brushing your dog before bathtime helps remove matted or excess hair, which could irritate your dog's skin.
  2. Choose your washing area. Some prefer to wash dogs inside, while some prefer the great outdoors—both have pros and cons. Handheld showerheads can help control water, but bathing your dog in a standard bathtub can end with a messy, flooded bathroom. When taking bath time outdoors, all that's required is a hose, but your dog can quickly get dirty again. Weigh the pros and cons and determine what area and environment will be most comfortable for you and Fido. Setting down a non-slip mat will help you and Fido stay safe no matter where you're washing.
  3. Prepare your supplies. You'll want to get a specially-formulated dog shampoo to clean Fido's coat. "Dogs should only be bathed with a shampoo that is formulated for use on dogs—their skin has a different thickness and pH (acidity) than human skin. Human shampoo, including baby shampoo, is far too harsh for their skin," writes Drs. Hunter and Yuill.
  4. Protect Fido's ears. Stuff cotton balls into your dog's ears to ensure no water gets in.
  5. Get washing. Wash from the neck, rub shampoo into your dog's fur, and rinse with lukewarm water. Rinse. If desired, repeat the process with the conditioner.
  6. Avoid your dog's face. Don't splash water directly on Fido's face—use a damp washcloth to clean his cute little face off.
  7. Dry. You can speed the drying process using a blow dryer, but be careful not to linger too long in one spot and burn Fido's skin. Alternatively, simply use a towel.

How To Wash A Dog's Face

You'll want to avoid splashing water or using shampoo directly on a dog's face when washing. Instead, use a washcloth to clean Fido's face gently.

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  1. American Kennel Club. Why it’s worth having your dog groomed professionally.

  2. VCA Animal Hospitals. Coat and skin appearance in the healthy dog.

  3. VCA Animal Hospitals. Coat and skin appearance in the healthy dog.

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