Bathing Your Dog

Having worked as a groomer for three years, I notice dirty dogs. Dogs who smell, dogs whose fur feels gritty or oily, and dogs with matted hair all bother me. However, working as a trainer, I also understand how difficult it can be for some people to bathe their dogs, as well as the reluctance people may have to bring their dog to a professional groomer. Here’s how to make bathtime easier on everyone.


Most dogs should be bathed regularly to keep their skin and coat in good shape. If your dog lives indoors, it’s also important to keep him or her relatively clean for sanitary reasons. How often you bathe your dog depends on many factors. In general, dogs should be bathed at least once a year, and no more frequently than once a week. Corded or hairless breeds may have different needs, so if you have one of these breeds make sure to talk to your breeder. I bathe my own dogs every 6-8 weeks (or more frequently if they roll in something icky).

If your dog isn’t a big fan of bathtime, do some prep work to make your job easier. Feed your dog in the bathtub (or wherever you plan to bathe him) to create positive associations with the area. Make sure that you use a non-slip mat or other grippy material if the surface your dog will stand on becomes slippery when wet. If you need to leash your dog during bathtime, use a martingale-type leash. If you must use a slip leash, never tie it to anything.

For long-coated dogs, make sure you can get a comb through your dog’s fur before you bathe him. Washing a matted dog causes the mats to tighten up painfully. If your dog is matted, shave the mats prior to bathing him. Never try to clip a mat out with scissors, as tight mats can pull at the skin and you may cut your dog.

Choose a quality dog shampoo. I use Cloud Star’s Buddy Wash or the Furminator Shampoo for my dogs, as these do not cause any allergic reactions with Layla. Use a tearless shampoo for your dog’s face and head. Dilute the shampoo (about 1 part shampoo to 10 parts water) before using it, regardless of what the label says: diluted shampoo penetrates through the coat better and is easier to rinse off, not to mention being more cost effective. If your dog has an especially greasy coat or has anything messy stuck in their fur, a small amount of plain Dawn dishwashing detergent can be added to the shampoo to cut through the oil. Note that this may dry your dog’s skin out, so don’t overuse the dishwashing liquid!

I smear peanut butter or cheese whiz on the side of the bathtub to keep my dogs still and content during bathtime. They stand quietly and lick at their special treat while I’m washing them. Wet your dog down thoroughly, then apply the diluted shampoo, starting with their head and working backwards down the body. Rinse in the same direction. If the dog is especially stinky or dirty, wash them twice.

Following the shampoo with a conditioning rinse will keep your dog’s skin and coat healthier, make long-coated dogs less prone to matting, and may reduce shedding in some dogs. I use the same brands of conditioner as I do shampoo (Cloud Star’s Buddy Rinse or the Furminator Deshedding Solution). Work the conditioner into the coat, spending extra time working it into any problem areas (such as behind the ears, where longer fur is likely to tangle), then let it sit for a short while before rinsing it thoroughly.

Towel or blow dry your dog, then let them enjoy the post-bath zoomies!

Does your dog enjoy baths? What products have you found helpful, and do you have any other bathing tips to share? Please comment below!

8 responses to “Bathing Your Dog

  1. Great advice, although I have two problems. First, my dog is the least food orientated animal on the planet (always makes me have to work even harder to find good motivators) and second, she is so scared of water, that she stands as far away as possible from even her water bowl – quite amusing to watch :)

  2. Sara Linker Nord

    Thanks for the tips. Beebe is afraid so I tend to put it off. Using the cheese in a can has helped some. It is easier to handle for me, but the PB is an even better idea! Gotta try that, as I promised myself she’d have a fresh bath before Christmas. I have found that using anything on the bottom of our tub makes it less stable feeling, as our tub is textured on the bottom. Any hints for a tub like mine? Thanks for the timely and helpful blog!

  3. One “game” I play with all of my dogs is a “hop in hop out” game. Hop in get a treat, hop out get a treat, hop in stand for a few seconds hop out. Most of my dogs run to hop in the tub when I ask, they dont love it, but they are conditioned to it. Sometimes if I am not careful and I mention the word tub, I will find 4 corgis calmly waiting.

  4. PB on the side of the shower sounds like a great idea! We’ll try this the next time we wash Mushroom, which should really be this week…

  5. A great way to get rid of extra fur is to go over the dog with a slicker brush or rake before rinsing out the shampoo. It gets out tons of loose fur, and since the fur is wet it won’t get all over.

    I’ve also had great experiences with self-serve dog washes. They provide everything you need, but the best part is a waist high tub so you don’t have to bend over. While I still plop the dogs in the tub at home for a quick rinse off when they get muddy, I’ve found it’s definitely worth it to take them in every few months to do a nice “deep clean”. (I should mention that my dogs have water repellant coats that should not be shampooed more often than necessary to avoid drying out their natural oils.) Bonus: my dogs and I can make as much mess as we want and someone else will clean it up!

  6. I have golden retrievers and so a tub is out. When alone, I use a bucket or two of warm water with organic wool wash diluted therein, then they get hosed off with the garden hose. This I do whilst tethering each with leash and check chain to the house fence. They are now 7 yrs old and this happens every month and they put up with it to get the towel down afterwards which they love. When we take them to the doggie friendly beach we then wash them there with bucket and short shower hose to tap, nice and quick with two people and dogs are clean and sand free when we get home.. Joy

  7. AmadeusPantherPants

    I have the unbelievable luck to have parent with a hose in the garage hooked up to the indoor water supply… a heated hose! We have found that as long as we keep the warm water running we can give quick-but-thorough baths outside (or just inside the garage) all winter. I have a GSD-lab-rott mix whose coat tends to get oily and he likes to wrestle with his doggy friends, and therefore regularly smells like dried dog spit (yum!), so he gets bathed every 3-6 weeks depending on activities and number of doggy friends encountered. He loves that it is uninterrupted “Amadeus” time with mom and grandpa, especially getting toweled off afterward!

  8. I have an ASD female and I’m not sure of the reason, but she gets very aggressive when bringing a hose near her or placing her in the tub. Now when my husband picks her up and gets in with her and controls her by holding the collar she might try a few times too get out, but he has too be firm with her. She’s a dog that sheds constantly. Now I found a shampoo that I can spray waterless on her and then I use the furminator brush on her and she does great, but once I get out the spray bottle with water she is ready too run.

    I understand she’s never been groomed, but it’s been three years now. I did finally find a vet who is able too examine her and clip nails as well and she doesn’t get aggressive. He doesn’t play with her he’s very firm as well.

    I would love it if she was cleaner.

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