How to bathe your dog

By Josh Weiss-Roessler

If you watch people bathing dogs in movies and TV shows, most of the time it seems like a joyous, fun-filled time for all involved. Unfortunately, bathing your dog in real life isn’t always such a positive experience.

Dogs don’t mind being dirty and stinky — in fact, they like it quite a bit — and many aren’t afraid to put up a fight if they think that it will help them get out of bath time. And while watching a favorite actor run after a dog covered in soap suds may seem hilarious, it’s a lot less fun when you have to do it — or your dog is wrestling and clawing to get as far away as possible from you.

Here are our tips for how to wash a dog that will make it a much more friendly experience for both you and your pup.

Power of positive association
The first thing you want to do, as is true with almost anything new you introduce to your dog, is to tie the bath to something positive. In other words, offer treats, toys, and affection to get your dog to come to the bath, and every time they behave in a way that’s helpful during bath time.

Start by getting them used to hopping into an empty tub and just spending time there while you give them treats or toys, and work your way up to adding warm (not hot) water.

Don’t be afraid to repeat actions until they truly seem to get it. For example, if you have a dog bathtub or a specific area where you bathe your dog, get them to come to you there and offer a treat every time they obey until they come even without a treat.

Protect the ears
You want to be very careful not to get water into your dog’s ears during the bath. Not only is it uncomfortable for them, it’s something that can actually cause health problems.

If your dog will let you do it, stuff cotton balls into his ears; if not, simply do your best to avoid spraying water into them.

Start young
If you have a puppy, start bathing her as soon as possible. She’ll be less opposed to the experience when she’s younger because she won’t have any negative associations toward it. By getting her used to it early on, you will encounter less trouble later.

Use the right shampoo
One way to make a bath even more unpleasant for your dog is to pick a shampoo that causes them to scratch or dries their skin out. Ideally you want a mild soap that cleans and removes unwanted odors without stripping away important oils. The best way to ensure you’re getting the right shampoo for your dog? Talk to your vet.

Work from the neck down
You not only want to keep your dog’s ears safe, but also her eyes and mouth. How do you do this? By washing from the neck down. You can accomplish this by using a bucket or cup to wet your dog or using a sprayer. You can even find sprayers specifically designed for bathing a dog. So what do you do to wash your pup’s face? Use a damp washcloth.

Dry right
Many people swear by dog blow dryers, but the noise and feel is definitely something that you have to get him used to. Be careful to avoid burning his skin.
The other way to go is to simply towel her off. If you’re going to do this, use one of the more absorbent dog towels that can be found at most pet stores. And, of course, be prepared for the inevitable “shake” as your dog dries herself off.

By making pleasant associations with bath time and remaining calm and assertive while you’re washing your dog, you can make it another opportunity for bonding and to share affection. Just be patient.

What bath time tips and tricks do you use to keep your dog calm in the tub?

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