*Oh boy. Is the tub full of fur and the entire floor soaked? I always time my dog’s baths for a day when the bath is due to be scrubbed anyhow, so I’m not wrecking a freshly cleaned bathroom. Rinse the dog hair down the drain and scoop out whatever gets caught. Clean the peanut butter smears and treat crumbs off of the tub walls (a spritz of white vinegar cleans peanut butter off of tile and shower surrounds pretty well, I’ve found). Wipe down the cabinets, they’re bound to be wet from the shake off. Gather up soaked towels and pitch ‘em in the washer.
*Now go find your freshly washed Fido. He’s probably on the couch or your bed, finishing his dry off on your upholstery. You didn’t let him outside, did you?! Then he’s in the flowerbed, digging a hole.
*For longhaired dogs, wait until they are dry and do a second brush out. Don’t skimp! This is the fluffiest he will ever be, so get every bit with that brush and comb. This will also let you deal with any mats you missed the first time around, or those created by the bath.
Now the best part! Pull your dog into your lap, sink your nose into this fur, and take a big whiff of clean pooch! He’ll be squeaky clean and smelling fresh for weeks! Or days. Maybe hours…
*Place the dog in the tub. If you have a helper, they should feed treats at a steady pace while you wet your dog down with the showerhead (if you have a detachable one) or a cup. If you’re doing this solo, a big smear of peanut butter on the tub wall just slightly above your dog’s nose level is a good distraction and easily cleaned up afterwards. Make sure Fido is completely wet before grabbing the shampoo.
*Rub a generous amount of shampoo into your dog’s fur. Start from her hind end and move towards the head, getting the back of her legs and belly. Work the suds down to the skin with your fingers. If the dog is going to enjoy any part of the process, this is it! Lather her neck and chest. Don’t worry about her face, you’ll clean that up with a washcloth. I don’t worry much about the feet either, you’re not going to put fresh socks on them after!
*Keep the shampoo on at least five minutes if your dog will allow it. If not, no worries. A quick bath is better than none at all.
*Time to rinse! Check the temperature of your water and refresh your peanut butter smear if necessary. If there is standing water in the tub, let it drain. Tip your dog’s chin up and rinse her neck first. Rinse the chest and front legs, then move to her back. Do her belly next, then her hindquarters, tail, and back legs. If you are using a detachable showerhead, get the nozzle as close to your dog’s skin as she is comfortable with to really get the suds out. You want to rinse until the water running off of her is completely clear, residual shampoo will dry her skin and may itch. Give her feet a gentle rinse.
*Soak a washcloth and go to work on her face. Gently wipe the corners of her eyes and top of her head and under her chin. Depending on how shaggy your dog is, this might be a long process! For my longhaired dogs, I cup a handful of water and bring it to their chins, using my soapy fingers to clean out all that beard grime. I then tip their heads back and rinse. Do not pour water over the top of your dog’s head or over their nose and muzzle, they’re not going to like it!
*All clean? If the rinse water runs clear, your pooch is done! “Squeegee” him off with your hands, running them over his back and down his legs and tail to squeeze off as much water as you can before toweling.
*Help your dog out of the tub, a slippery dog may hurt himself scrambling out of a wet tub. Toss a towel over him immediately, he’s going to shake and this will contain the spray!
*Dry your dog as thoroughly as you can (I told you to grab a lot of towels!). Damp is okay, soaked is going to create a mess! A hairdryer is okay if your dog isn’t afraid of it, but towel dry first and be sure it’s on “cool”, hot settings can easily burn his skin. When he is dry, set him loose and prepare for….
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.