Giving a dog a bath can be fun – or a challenge! You might not expect it, but even the most untrained dogs will often be really good when you give them a bath. Dogs can understand you’re helping them get clean, and most appreciate it! If you are an experienced dog bather, you might think a whole blog article about how to give a dog a bath is a little silly! But for a dog bath newbie, knowing what to expect and how to prepare for the experience can make it less intimidating the first time, and soon they’ll be an expert dog bath giver too. Here are a few simple steps so your dog washing event is smooth sailing for both you and your pup.

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Bath location: Decide where you are going to give the bath. If you’re in an apartment or don’t have a yard, it will likely be in your bathtub or shower. Kitchen sinks can work for a very tiny (under 10 pound) dog, if you have a nice flat big kitchen sink, with a faucet you can move totally out of the way. Even if you have a yard, giving a dog a bath with cold water from a hose isn’t much fun for either of you, except on the hottest days. You’re going to likely be getting pretty wet too! But it is often the only option for a dog that is too big for you to pick up if you only have a tub. You can’t expect a big dog to jump into the tub!

Bath supplies:

  • Dog brush
  • Dog-safe shampoo
  • Dog-safe conditioner (optional)
  • Towels 
  • A shower nozzle (see below), or a plastic bowl or big cup, to scoop up water out of the tub for wetting and rinsing.

Shower nozzle: If you are going to be bathing your dog at home regularly, having a spray nozzle on the end of a hose attached to your faucet, so you can spray your dog with exactly the right temperature water to wet and rinse them, makes bath time so much easier! 

Find a helper: having someone to hold the dog while you bathe them so they don’t jump out of the tub is ideal. If you can’t find a helper, bathe them wearing their harness or leash, so you have more control – you will be bathing them one handed that way though, so it does take a bit longer!

Steps to give your dog a bath in the tub:

1. Brush your dog. If your dog has longer hair, make sure it is tangle-free. Matts will become impossible to brush out once they’ve become wet.

2. Set the shower or tub’s water temperature to warm – not hot. About as warm as you’d have for a human baby.  If you don’t have a nozzle spray, fill the tub up to six inches at most, even for a big dog. More water usually just means more mess! You also don’t want your dog to feel like they have to swim, so have the water level be low enough so it’s not touching their belly when they are standing in it.

3. Make sure you have all your supplies in the bathroom. Bring your dog into the bathroom and close the door. Pick up your dog and put them in the water. Lots of praise telling them how good they are being!

4. Using the spray nozzle or the plastic cup, wet their fur all over. Do not get water in their ears or eyes – just use your wet hands to wet the fur on their ears and face, don’t pour water over their head.

5. Shampoo: Put a tiny amount of dog shampoo in your hand. Starting with less is better, so you don’t have to do too much rinsing! Lather up starting at their tail. You can often push the shampoo foam through their fur so you don’t need to use as much. To clean their ears and face, wipe your barely-soapy hand over the outside of their ears (never inside) and their face avoiding the eyes by a wide margin.

6. Rinse: Thoroughly rinse off all the shampoo using the nozzle spray or scooping water from the bottom of the tub.

7. Dry: Lift them out of the tub, and towel them off. You’re all done, you have a clean dog! Now all you have to do is clean the tub…

What about blow drying? Dogs really don’t like the noise of a blow dryer. But if your dog is older, is a puppy, or otherwise susceptible to getting chilled and your house is cool, you may want to dry them with a hair dryer, set to medium (not hot) and blown from about 2 feet away from their fur while running your hand over the fur at the same time, so you make sure its not getting too warm. You can also engage them in some active play (race around the living room table!) to get their internal body temperature up.