If you’re not sure how to give your dog a bath without both of you dissolving into a stress-filled mess, we’re here to help. The good news is that your dog probably needs fewer baths than you think. About once a month is a good baseline for most pups as long as they stay out of the dirt or mud. Still, that one day a month can be brutal if your dog’s bath time isn’t managed correctly. These dog bathing tips will transform a splashing, scratching nightmare into a more relaxed experience for you both.
One bad experience—accidental scalding hot water or suds in the eyes—can give your dog lasting jitters that are difficult to kick. That’s why.we polled fellow pet parents whose dogs love bath time to steal their smart, surprisingly simple tricks:
1. Take a long walk before you wash your dog.
Not only will a walk or workout session tire out your dog, but the water will be refreshing on his coat. A nice warm day is also more comfortable if your pup is air-drying post-bath.
2. Go jump in a lake (or a puddle).
If you've made a habit of steering your dog clear of puddles, ponds, lakes, and lawn sprinklers, it's time to loosen the leash. Bathtime splashes will seem exciting, not threatening when they're used to playing in the water. To make the experience even more fun, try one of these water toys.
3. Consider washing your dog in the sink.
The vast expanse of the bathtub is unsettling to some small dogs. Avoid giving your tiny dog an existential crisis by using a sink instead. He'll feel more contained and secure, and you'll be physically closer to him the entire time.
4. Cue the pre-bath playlist.
Play and cuddle with your dog as the water runs nearby. This allows him to get used to the sound of rushing water while associating it with positive emotions. Music is a helpful antidote to other stresses like separation anxiety too.
5. Invite a buddy.
It's totally counterintuitive, but bathing two dogs together is often easier than one, as long as the other pup likes to bathe. An apprehensive dog will take cues from a calm counterpart and view the experience more as playtime and less as a nuclear threat. Looking for a new friend for your dog? Try one of these Tinder-esque apps for your pup.
6. Use only lukewarm water.
Dog’s internal temperature runs warmer than ours. Your dog likely doesn't share your preference for a piping hot bath. Start with lukewarm water and only slowly increase the temperature if the dog is clearly cold or shivering. While a scalding hot shower might feel good to you, avoid using super hot water on your pup. They can’t tell you the water is too warm other than by moving away from it. This is not going to help keep your bath easy or low stress.
7. Don't forget the treats.
Every unpleasant task is made better with treats. Use treats as a reward to reinforce the behavior you want in the bath and make the bath more pleasant for your pup. One easy way to do this is to get a LickiMat and fill it with peanut butter, cream cheese or any soft favorite treat. If your pup eats Ollie, or another wet or fresh food you can spread some of their favorite flavor into the mat. If you don’t want to purchase a LickiMat, the next easiest thing to do is go into your kitchen and grab a spatula and spread the reward onto the spatula. Let your pup lick while you work for hands-free treating so you can focus on the bath while your pup enjoys their delicious snack!
8. Slow and steady wins the bath.
If you tend to rush through the task with Olympic-level speed and focus, it could be working against you. If you rush, your dog may pick up on your stress and get stressed himself. Slow down, breathe deeply, and give your pup a sudsy massage while you get him clean and shiny! If your pup hates this, try to keep it brief, but no matter what you don’t want to rush through things or your pup might feel there is something to be stressed about.
9. Keep your dog’s ears dry.
Do your best to keep soap and water from getting into your dog's ears. They clean themselves naturally and any excess soap and water is not only uncomfortable and distressing but can sometimes lead to irritation or infection.
10. Keep the suds out of your pup’s face.
Do you know how much it sucks to get shampoo in your eye? Yeah, so does your dog. Wash him with shampoo from neck to tail, before giving him a thorough rinse. Then use a damp washcloth to gently wipe his head, face, and chin. Cup his chin in one hand while you wipe with the other to help him feel secure.
11. Don’t try to tackle everything at once
If your pup is overwhelmed by taking a bath and also needs a nail clip, hair cut and ear cleaning, consider splitting these tasks over a few sessions or even a few days if you can. This will help them stay a bit more relaxed and keep their focus during each task. Trying to cut your pup’s nails may just be harder if they’re already stressed from a bath. If your pup did get some water in their ears in the tub, do your best to get them dry but the deeper cleaning might need to wait a day if it can.
12. Make it a spa-like experience
If your pup loves a little extra pampering, consider warm towels for after the bath and spending a little extra time hand drying them. While your pup may not love the bath, some bonding time with you and the extra rub down might be enjoyable. To warm up your towels, use your dryer or splurge on a towel warmer. As a bonus, you can use the towel warmer for your towels too!
And finally, don't be too fussy about drying your dog completely. That instinctual wet dog total body shake is thought to be something he really enjoys. Let him have that; he's earned it. The nearby furniture will dry.
The Ollie blog is devoted to helping pet parents lead healthier lives with their pups. If you want to learn more about our fresh, human-grade food, check out MyOllie.com.