The Ultimate Guide to Bathing Your Dog

Bathing your dog can be a great time to bond and spend quality time with your furry friend, but knowing how to properly and safely bathe your dog ensures it’s an enjoyable time for them, too. From selecting the right dog grooming products to dealing with canine skin conditions, we cover all aspects of bath time in the ultimate guide to bathing your dog. 

Read on to discover all of our top tips at Direct4Pet, which are enough to give your professional dog groomer a run for their money! 

Do dogs really need baths?

First things first - do dogs even really need baths? More often than not, owners bathe their dogs for their own benefit, rather than that of their pooch. No one wants a smelly dog in the house, as this can be off putting to visitors and leave your clothes and soft-furnishings smelling less than fresh. There will be times when a bath is absolutely necessary, however, for example after a muddy walk. Longer haired dogs may require more fur maintenance than their shorter haired counterparts, as debris such as leaves and even their dog food can end up caught in the fur, which can be unhygienic and also lead to it becoming tangled. 

How often should dogs be bathed?

The question of how often to wash a dog really comes down to lifestyle, fur type and behaviour. A short-haired Chihuahua may need less baths than an Afghan Hound, for example, but as a general rule, a dog should be bathed at least once every three months. This may be surprising, as many dog owners tend to bathe their dogs far more often than this - you may even bathe your dog on a weekly basis. This is fine as long as you use very gentle dog shampoos that are specifically designed to care for your canine companion’s skin. Using harsh products or over bathing can lead to skin damage, which can be painful for your dog and lead to expensive vet bills.  

How do I wash my dog at home?

Whilst many dog owners opt to take their pampered pooches to a professional dog groomer for a bath, there will likely be times when you need to wash your dog at home. Washing your dog at home doesn’t have to be a stressful process, as long as you have the right tools and technique. Where you choose to wash your dog will likely be dependent on the breed. Small dogs can be washed in the sink, which can be easier due to the height level. Large dogs however should be washed in the bath tub - just be careful not to hurt your back if you’re lifting your dog or bending down to wash them. Before you begin, make sure you have all of your products handy so you don’t risk having to leave the dog mid wash - or you may find a very wet pooch running around the house!

Once you’ve got your products and wash station ready, follow our step-by-step guide to washing a dog below.

  1. Get your dog into the wash station. If your dog is nervous or dislikes baths, try using treats if necessary to make the bath more appealing.
  2. Grab your dog shampoo of choice. Rather than using the shampoo directly from the bottle, instead dilute it with water - this helps it to sud and spread better, which also saves you some money in the long run.
  3. Wet your dog with warm water - checking the temperature with your hand first. 
  4. Begin to massage the shampoo into your dog’s fur, leaving the head (we’ll explain how to wash your dog’s face later). It’s important to make sure that bath time is as enjoyable for your pet as possible, so be sure to be gentle. We recommended shampooing your dog twice, to ensure you clean away any remaining dirt and oil from the skin. Don’t forget about your dog’s paw pads, armpits and stomach, then rinse before the next step.
  5. Just as you might use conditioner on your own hair, it can be beneficial for your dog’s fur too - especially for longer haired breeds as it will help to tackle knots and tangles which can be painful for your dog. Apply dog conditioner (avoiding the head) then leave for a few minutes - check the bottle for an exact timeframe.
  6. Rinse your dog’s fur thoroughly.

How to wash your dog’s face

The face and head is a delicate area. We recommend saving this until last during bath time. Take a clean washcloth and dip it into soapy water, then very carefully wash your dog’s face, avoiding the eyes, ears and nose. Once done, dip another clean washcloth into clear water then use this to rinse the face and head area. Using a clean cloth and water ensures that you don’t spread any soap, dirt or hair into your dog’s sensitive areas.

Can I use human soap on my dog?

No - we would strongly advise against this. Your dog’s skin is very sensitive, especially to the harsh chemicals and fragrances often found in human shampoo. Dog shampoos are developed specifically for a dog’s skin and fur, meaning it has everything needed to ensure they stay healthy and in tip top condition. Human shampoo has been known to lead to skin irritation, rashes and lesions from biting and scratching due to irritation. At Direct4Pet, we stock the very best in dog grooming, selecting the most gentle products from trusted brands.

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How to wash a dog with eczema 

Like humans, many dogs can unfortunately suffer from skin conditions and allergies. This can make bathing your dog more difficult, as you have to be even more selective about the products you use and your washing technique. 

First of all, ensure the water is lukewarm then thoroughly wet your dog’s coat, then very gently massage with a specialist shampoo, such as Aqueos Anti-Bacterial Dog Shampoo, which is specially formulated to relieve itchy skin and eliminate harmful contagions. Pay extra attention to the most affected areas of the body, but be careful as these areas are likely to be sensitive. Once clean and dry, follow with a canine disinfectant spray, to ensure your dog’s coat stays free from bacteria, fungi and viruses. 

Shop the full Aqueos range 

How to bathe a puppy

Whilst all dogs require constant care, a puppy needs a little bit of extra attention - especially when it comes to bath time. You will first need to determine your puppy’s coat type, so you can establish the most suitable grooming routine. Doing your research on the breed, as well as speaking to your vet, will help you to make the best decision on grooming products and technique. 

When can I bathe my puppy?

You can begin to bathe your puppy when they reach eight weeks of age. Bathing your puppy establishes a lifelong routine, so the first few baths can be an important bonding experience between dog and owner. However, whilst it may be tempting to dive in with your favourite fragranced dog shampoos and conditioners, your puppy may not enjoy that first bath time as much as you, so make sure you know how to make it as fun for them as possible.

How to wash a puppy for the first time

Encourage them with lots of cuddles and treats, especially if they are nervous around water, to create positive associations with bath time. Then, use lukewarm water and a washcloth to gently wash your dog - there’s no need to use cleansing products until they are at least 12 weeks old. As always, avoid the eyes, ears and nose and take your time. 

Once your puppy reaches three months, you can begin to use dog shampoos. We’d recommend using products specifically for puppies until your dog matures into an adult - this will differ depending on the type of dog, so if you’re unsure then speak to your vet or grooming specialist. One of our favourites is Pet Head Mucky Puppy Shampoo - not only is the pear fragrance deliciously fruity and gentle, it contains all of the natural oils and extracts your puppy’s skin needs in those early days. Follow with the accompanying puppy conditioner to keep your new canine companion feeling (and smelling!) fresh. 

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How to dry your dog after a bath

There are various ways to dry your dog after a bath - the most suitable for your dog will depend on its coat type. These are air dry, towel dry, blow dry or a quick dry spray. 

Long and thick haired dogs can develop skin conditions if their skin remains damp for an extended period of time, whereas a very short haired dog may be left to air dry with no issues. If your dog is a long haired breed, we’d recommend using a hair dryer on a low heat to gently dry your dog’s coat. If you do choose to air dry, we’d still recommend giving your dog a good towel dry when they first get out of the bath to absorb excess water and prevent them from feeling too cold. 

All dogs can benefit from a good quality grooming spray, which can speed up the drying process and help to keep them smelling clean for longer. 

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Dog & Puppy Grooming Products at Direct4Pet

Whether you’re preparing to welcome a new puppy to the family or your current grooming routine isn’t working for your dog, Direct4Pet offers a large range of dog and puppy grooming products, from specialist shampoos to conditioners that leave your dog’s fur feeling silky smooth.