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How to Bathe a Dog

By Janice A. Jones   | Updated February 3, 2020

If you are wondering how to bathe a dog, relax.  You are not alone.  Many people wonder if there is an easy way to give a quick but thorough bath to their small dog.  

Here is a method for bathing that should take you less than 10 minutes, leaving your dog smelling fresh, and clean. 

How to Bathe a DogHow to Bathe A Dog

The good news about bathing a small dog is that he is small and manageable.  Even if he does decide to squirm about or shake all the water off him and onto you, you will be able to control the situation. 

Puppies can be trained to enjoy grooming and especially the bath.  Therefore, as I tell you how to bathe a dog I will also describe how to train your dog so you will end up with a dog who you feel confident to bathe. 

You might not have a professional grooming salon but I will bet you do have a kitchen sink, and that works great!  Just how do you get started?  Assemble the things you will need.

How to Bathe a Dog:  Supplies You will Need

  • Nonskid mat for the sink (a rubber mat intended for a bath tub or shower works well if trimmed)
  •  Shampoo & Conditioning Rinse
  • Sink, with a spray nozzle if possible;  if not you will need to reposition your dog periodically to get him thoroughly washed and rinsed
  • Large cup or plastic bottle for diluting shampoo and conditioner
  • Cotton Balls for ears if desired
  • Several thick towels
  • Hair Dryer
  • A gentle voice and a few dog treats

How to Bathe A Dog:  Preliminary Steps

Before bathing your Small dog, remember to brush the coat thoroughly making sure that you de tangle and remove any knots. 

Knots tend to get worse when they get wet.  Naturally, if your small dog has a short coat, you can skip this step.  Beyond that, bathing a Small dog is like bathing a human infant.  If you make it an enjoyable experience, your fur baby will love all the attention and pampering. 

Always keep a hand on your dog at all times, even if they have never tried to jump out of the sink. When the dog relaxes and remains still, praise him.  A massage behind the ears also helps a skittish dog to relax.

How to Bathe a Dog:  Frequency

Small dog owners tend to bathe their dogs more frequently than large dog owners do.  Small dogs do not get any dirtier than large breed dogs, but they do spend more time on our laps and in our beds. 

Small dogs do need frequent baths, but not so frequent that the shampoo dries out their hair.  Most reliable sources that I have seen tend to recommend bathing a dog no more frequently than about ever three weeks. 

Certainly if he gets dirty, he will need a bath sooner.  Most small dogs love the outdoors and are great at finding every mud puddle, dirt pile, or smelly grass patch in their path.  Some small dogs love to swim and without access to a pool, will try to swim in their water dish.

One way or another, the end result is a DIRTY DOG!   I personally bathe my dogs once per week.  They all seem to crave the extra pampering.

How to Bathe a Dog:  The Bath

Personally, I like to use the kitchen sink.  However, you can also use your bathtub, an infant bathtub, or a large plastic container. 

Place the small towel or skid free mat on the base of the sink so your puppy or dog will not slide around. 

Add a little warm water and lift your dog gently into the sink.  You do not need a lot of water, or your small dog may become fearful.  An inch of water is fine. 

First, get him fully soaked using a spray or cup for pour water over his entire body. 

Use a good quality dog shampoo.  I like to use a hypoallergenic dog shampoo. 

If your dog is under a year old, you might want to use a puppy shampoo.  There are shampoos specifically for dogs that shed.  Do not use your own shampoo, as human products tend to dry out the coat of your small dog.  

If your dog is white or has a mostly white coat, a whitening shampoo works well. A good soothing shampoo will contain oatmeal. If your dog is scratching, you might consider an oatmeal based shampoo. 

Instead of placing the shampoo directly on the dog, I like to put some in a cup and add warm water.  I mix it thoroughly and then pour it onto the coat, making sure I do not get it in their eyes.

An alternative method that works well is to purchase a plastic bottle from a local beauty supply store and dilute the shampoo in it. A good soothing shampoo will contain oatmeal. Always follow the label instructions for diluting.   

I work it into lather, especially on their pads, as their feet tend to get dirtier than the rest of them.  Since most dogs do not like their faces washed, I leave that part until last. 

If you are careful, you will be able to put shampoo on their head, on the hair around their muzzle, and the ears and chest if you cover their eyes with one of your hands. 

You can use a washcloth if you prefer but since the face area gets very dirty it is a good idea to keep the shampoo on for a few minutes before rinsing. 

How to Bathe a Dog:  The Rinse

Rinse with warm water.  You should express his anal glands while in the tub.  Next, I use a conditioning rinse, but once again, I mix it in a cup or plastic bottle filled with warm water. 

I then pour it over the coat and massage it in.  I like to keep it on for a minute or two or longer if the dog will allow.  If I am massaging, he usually does not protest at all.  I will then rinse it out. 

Some people like to keep just a trace of the conditioner on the coat.  This helps with brushing, but do not leave so much on that the hair becomes oily.  Have a towel handy and ready to go because the first thing your Small dog will do is shake off the water.

How to Bathe a Dog:  The Blow Dry

If you wrap him up in a towel quickly, he will not be able to spray water on you.  Pat gently dry, but do not rub the coat of a long-haired dog as this will tangle the hair.  Keep him wrapped in a towel while you prepare to blow him dry with a hair dryer. 

If you have a short haired dog and the temperature inside the home is warm, the dog should dry quickly without the aid of a hair dryer.  But, remember, The more time you spend drying with a towel, the shorter the time spent with the blow dryer.  Most dogs would prefer a towel to a blow dryer any day.

You can purchase a dryer specifically for pets or use your own.  Use the low or cool setting of your blow dryer.  I like to hold the dryer with one hand and brush with the other, but that is only because my dogs have become accustomed to laying still. 

If you are doing this on a table I recommend you keep one hand on the dog at all times if they are not tethered in some way.  It is also helpful if someone holds the dryer for you so you have an extra free hand.  

Many pet dryers come with a stand, which is extremely useful allowing you to have your hands free for brushing. 

If your dryer does not have a stand and you still want to have a free hand for brushing, prop the dryer on a folded up towel.  If you are doing this, be sure to check frequently and never block the air intake duct.

Bathing can become an enjoyable experience for both you and your dog and provides an opportunity to bond with your dog.  Always keep it positive and have some extra treats around if your little one resists.  A dog bone that can be chewed by you are blowing her dry will create all the distraction she needs so you can get the job done. 

How to Give a Dog a Bath: HINTS

  • Use good quality products
  • Use a firm, but gentle approach
  • Talk in a soft soothing voice
  • Use a thick towel and remove as much moisture from the hair as possible before blow drying
  • Train a puppy to love a bathe with lots of TLC, praise and a few treats
  • Use cool setting on dryer to avoid burning the dog

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