How To Bathe Your Dog Properly [Tips from a Pro Groomer]

Today we have expert and award-winning pet groomer Katlin Primrose to show us exactly how to bathe your dogs.

It seems simple enough, right?

Just wet your dog down, add shampoo, rinse them off, and then call it a day…

But here’s the thing: 90% of us are not bathing our dogs properly.

In fact, Katlin pointed out a surprisingly long list of things you might be forgetting when it comes to home grooming.

Here’s just a few common things that owners are missing out on:

  • Using way too much or too little shampoo
  • Not cleaning deep enough into their fur
  • Not properly rinsing (leftover soap will irritate skin and grow bacteria)
  • Not drying properly
  • Forgetting to clean their paws (they sweat from their paws!)
  • Missing their face, ears, or entire head
  • Choosing the right shampoos/conditioners for your dog’s needs

Don’t feel intimidated by this list.

Grooming your canine shouldn’t be rocket science.

But there’s definitely room for improvement, and Katlin has given us all her easy tactics and techniques for the ultimate clean dog.

This is a full picture/video guide, but we’ll need to narrow down the guide based on your specific dog.

Bathing Different Types of Dogs

Does your dog shed? If so – we’ll get into some tools and tactics to get all their loose hair off.

If your dog falls into the non shedding category (see the list here), then in some cases grooming will be handled a little different.

What about Puppies? Again, there’s a few different methods that are safer and easier.

When necessary we’ll divide up the instructions based on their specific needs.

What You'll Need

These are the essentials to everyday grooming:

1. Bathtub with Running Water

Small dogs can be bathed in a sink, bigger dogs will need a tub.

You can use your bathtub at home, but you will be doing some awkward crouching and reaching.

What if you don’t have suitable tub?

There are plenty of public dog washes at pet stores, vets, and sometimes even car washes. These tubs are raised to a convenient height and have anti-slip matts, making grooming much easier.

2. Anti-Slip Bath Mat

Bathtubs are slippery, and some dogs tend to panic.

Slipping and falling can lead to a traumatic experience (creating a general fear of bathtubs) and they may even injure themselves.

Thankfully, a little friction is very inexpensive.

You can pick up an anti-slip mat from Walmart or Amazon for about $10.

3. Hair Trap for Drain

A basic hair trap will save you a lot of grief (and clogged drains) after your bath.

4. A Way To Rinse Them

A pitcher of water will get the job done, but a hose attachment works even better.

If you plan to groom from home on a regular basis, I highly recommend a handheld showerhead, or a hose attachment for your bathtub faucet or nearby sink.

Pictured above is the WaterPik PetWand

5. Shampoo and Conditioner

The type of shampoo and conditioner you get largely depends on your dogs coat. Here’s some guidelines:

For shedding dogs: A deshedding formula works wonders for removing loose coat. These slick down the hairs with healthy omega oils, allowing for much easier removal.

For non shedding: Any kind of dog specific shampoo/conditioner will work here.

For sensitive skin: Find a shampoo specifically formulated for sensitive skin, the less ingredients the better. Avoid oatmeal based shampoo unless they have dry skin.

For Puppies: Tearless puppy formulas.

For Their Face: Your dog’s face is extra sensitive. I recommend a tearless shampoo to use specifically on their face. Otherwise just use water.

6. An Empty Bottle With a Lid

We’re going to dilute our pet shampoo with water in an empty bottle. (Any cleaned out 600ml soda bottle will work perfectly)

Unless your dog dove straight into a compost bin or got sprayed by a skunk – pet shampoo is almost always entirely too potent.

Diluting not only makes shampoo more comfortable for your dog’s sensitive skin, but it makes it much easier to spread, and will make your supply last much longer.

How much should you dilute?

Professional grade products will have dilution instructions on the bottle.

But with most pet store shampoo do this:

  • Dilute 1 to 1.
    (For every one part shampoo – add one part water to your empty bottle.)

Shake well, and you’re all set to begin.

7. A Way To Dry Them Off

In most cases a few towels work best.

For faster drying, fluffing, or to massively reduce shedding you may want to consider a high-velocity dryer (more details on that below)

The Bathing Process - Step By Step

Alright, you got your dog and all your tools assembled. Now it’s time to get cleaning.

Do NOT cut their nails right before their bath. Otherwise you’ll have freshly cut (and razor sharp) dog nails on wet skin. If they scratch you or themselves it could be very painful.

1. Rinse

Wet entire dog. If ears are pointed fold them down to protect water from going down ear canal

2. Clean From The Shoulders Down

Now we’ll add shampoo and begin scrubbing.

Don’t Do This: Squeeze the shampoo directly down the entire length of their back.

Instead: Use a mixing bottle (any water or clean soda bottle will do) add half shampoo and half water, or dilute as per shampoo instructions. Shake the bottle, and apply as needed.

Start at base of shoulders, scrub shampoo to skin. Work down the sides, shoulders, and barrel of dog

3. Don't Forget The Paws

Did you know dogs naturally sweat from their paws? Yet most owners completely ignore bathing their sweat producing glands.

Gently hold each paw, then scrub underneath and on top with shampoo. Work between toes and then rinse.

4. Face, Ears, and Head

TEARLESS Shampoo can be worked into the face and head. Be very careful not to get into eyes, ears, or nose.

(If you don’t have tearless shampoo, then just use water.)

Here’s a quick demonstration of Katlin bathing a dogs entire head.

Play Video
  • Fold ears down (if their ears are pointed) and rinse the top of their head, being extra careful to not get water in their ears.

  • Using your hands, gently scrub shampoo into their face, around their nose, and under their chin.

  • Place the ear flap flat against your palm, and gently scrub the inside ear flap while (again) being careful to not get any water or product into the ear canal.

  • Now using a water bottle or pitcher, rinse their head and ensure there is no shampoo or bubbles left.

5. Full Body Scrub

Your entire dog should be frothing with soap, that means under the tail and private areas too. Every inch of dog should be scrubbed and look something like this:

shampoo your dog thoroughly

6. Full Rinse

Rinse very thoroughly – any residual soap can get trapped on the skin and grow bacteria causing irritation.

Rinsing Their Head
Tilt their head back slightly, and gently place water at the top of head and letting it run down. Again, do not let water enter their ear canal.

CAREFUL!
Do not get water in their nose! If they get water in their nose, let go and let them clear out the water on their own. DO NOT RINSE until dog has stopped coughing / wheezing.

7. Double Check and Rinse Again

Run your hands over your dogs body, and look for any soap bubble that may be left. Their groin and belly tends to hold on to shampoo.

When you think you’re done rinsing – rinse again one more time.

8. Drying

Let your dog shake a few times, then towel them off.

Professional groomers typically use a High Velocity Dryer. It’s a high powered blower meant to dry your dog fast and very thoroughly. But there are other big advantages:

  • Dry your dog off super fast (very useful for thick coats).
  • Reduces the chance of developing Hot Spots.
  • Blows out a massive amount of shedding coat.
  • Leaves their coat looking full and fluffed.

Katlin goes into more detail (and includes a video) down below.

Tips, Tactics, and Frequently Asked Questions

Katlin has spent the last 10 years grooming everything from rescue dogs to award-winning show dogs. So she’s here to answer our most burning questions:

How To Massively Reduce Shedding

Proper grooming can go a long way to massively reducing shedding. Here’s how the pros do it:

1. Use a deshedding shampoo and conditioner.

Deshedding treatments slick down the hairs with healthy omega oils allowing for much easier removal.

During their bath – work in a generous amount of the treatment deep into their coat. Allow it to work it’s magic for 5 to 10 minutes before rinsing again.

You may find increased shedding for 24 hours following their treatment, that’s because you’ve loosened up so much extra hair. Don’t worry, after about a day you’ll find their coat sheds significantly less for about 2 weeks.

2. Post Bath Brushing

Wait until they are 100% dry from their bath, then take an undercoat rake over their entire coat.

The deshedding shampoo will leave a lot of loose hair that’s begging to be brushed out.

3. High Velocity Dryer

Professional dog groomers have an extremely effective way to deshed and dry your dog quickly. It’s the high velocity dryer, and it’s amazing.

Think of a Leaf-blower designed to blow dog hair out.

There are many home-versions available to purchase from pet stores or Amazon, although they’re not as powerful as commercial grade dryers.

You may also want to check with your local groomer if they have any old dryers they are willing to sell for cheap (they often have a few spare ones not in use).

Play Video

How Often Should I Bathe My Dog?

As a general rule of thumb: It’s best to bathe whenever your dog starts to get stinky, greasy, or begins to show matting.

The typical bathing schedule is once every 6 to 12 weeks.

Bathing too often strips their coat of essential oils that protect their skin and hair. Too few baths leads to matting and an unpleasant smell.

You can bathe your dog more often, but carefully selecting shampoos and conditioners becomes incredibly important as to not irritate skin.

Which brings us to our next question…

What Shampoo/Conditioner To Use?

The type of shampoo and conditioner you get largely depends on your dogs coat. Here’s some guidelines:

For shedding dogs: A deshedding formula works wonders for removing loose coat. These slick down the hairs with healthy omega oils, allowing for much easier removal.

For non shedding: Any kind of dog specific shampoo/conditioner will work here.

For sensitive skin: Find a shampoo specifically formulated for sensitive skin, the less ingredients the better. Avoid oatmeal based shampoo unless they have dry skin.

For Puppies: Tearless puppy formulas.

For their Face: Your dog’s face is extra sensitive. I recommend a tearless shampoo to use specifically on their face. Otherwise just use water.

How to bathe a dog that’s nervous?

Dog’s do all sorts of things when they’re anxious for their groom.

Some will run for their lives, or try to escape at any opportunity. Others may get aggressive and bite. And some dogs may even poop in the tub (it happens more often than you think)

Katlin tells us she’s seen it all.

But we can’t let a dog go without a bath forever. So how do we calm them down?

Safety First

First things first – make sure you and your dog are safe.

Use an anti-slip mat in your tub to reduce a change of slipping and falling. Be wary of biting or scratching.

Older Dogs or those with health conditions can get over stressed and may have severe reactions: such as seizures, or heart failure.

If they appear too stressed – stop immediately and remove them from the environment.

Gentle Talking and Treats

Katlin is an expert at reducing stress in anxious dogs. And her tool of choice is simply talking and treats.

It’s amazing what a little encouragement can do.

Introduce each aspect of the bath, followed by a treat. If they appear to get too nervous, take a step back and wait until they’re comfortable again. This can take some time and patience.

In this video you can see an example of how Katlin introduces a bath to a scared pup.

Should I Express My Dog's Anal Glands?

Short answer: No.

Despite all the rumors, groomers don’t typically do this. This should only be done under a Veterinarian’s guidance, and only under specific conditions.

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