Fresh from a roll in something stinky or a downpour, Fido is stinking up the house. You pet him and your hand comes away gray and you can feel the grime on his fur. It’s time for a bath! Some dogs handle this experience with no problem, standing calmly while you shampoo and rinse. A few even enjoy the process. Most dogs, however, run as soon as you start gathering the supplies to get them clean. How do you get you and your dog through a much-needed bath without any drama?
*What’s the weather like and how long does your dog take to dry? If it’s cold or rainy and Fido needs all day to dry, today is not the day. You can’t send a damp dog out in the cold for a potty break! Send him out right before bath time so you can keep him inside (and away from his favorite dirt patch) until he’s dry.
*Does your dog have the sort of coat that mats easily or does she have a lot of tangles currently? Brush them out FIRST. Sounds counterproductive, but breeds with long, “hair like” fur will be even harder to unknot once they are wet. Use a slicker brush to smooth them out and cut out any mats that are too thick to brush or pick out. Even short haired dogs benefit from a good brushing before bathing, it will remove all the loose fur that would be headed for your drain otherwise.
*If your dog gets very anxious about bath time, give them something to calm down. Melatonin or ProQuiet supplements are mild, effective, and safe for most dogs (always consult with your vet if your dog has health conditions that may cause problems with supplements or is taking medication of any kind). Calming supplements should be given a half an hour before tub time to give them a chance to take effect. You might also spritz Fido’s towel and the bathroom with lavender calming spray to set a soothing atmosphere. If your dog is truly terrified of being bathed, call us for help with counter conditioning exercises. A little anxiety is expected; flat out fear needs to be handled with the help of a professional so no one (dog OR person) gets hurt.
*Gather EVERYTHING you need and set it where you can grab it easily. You don’t want to leave a slippery dog in the tub while you run for the shampoo! Shampoo, towels (more than you think you need), washcloth, treats, paper towel; these should all be in the bathroom before you bring your dog in.
*If you’re using concentrated shampoo that needs to be diluted, mix that up in a squirt bottle or Tupperware container beforehand.
*Put away anything that you don’t want to get soaked. When they shake off, water is going to land everywhere!
*Put a towel down on the bottom of the tub and run a few inches of warm water. The towel will prevent your dog from scratching your tub and reduce slipping, which is scary for them. Leave the water running so you don’t have to mess with the temperature during the bath. It should be lukewarm, no hotter. Hot water will dry Fido’s skin. Put a towel or two down on the bathroom floor, too.
*If your dog is prone to ear infections or has ears that stand up tall and would let water in, gently place a cotton ball in each ear.
Now you’re ready for the main event! See Pt 2 for how that goes down!