How to Give a Dog a Bath, and Let You Both Live Through It

There is no question, dogs and baths don’t go together.  We don’t like them and they don’t like us.

Giving a dog a bath
Giving a dog a bath

And I hear humans like to give us baths even less.

However, I’ve been told that no matter how much we both hate it, it’s part of life I’m just going to have to learn to deal with it.

Over time, we’ve learned a few tricks that make giving a dog a bath a lot less painful… for everyone.

Use the Bathtub

Yes, you can give a dog a bath outside, but think about all of that room.  If the dog doesn’t like the water, shampoo, etc it’s much more difficult to control them when they aren’t in a confined space.

Keeping the dog in the bathroom (with the door closed) limits the amount of chasing you may have to do.  If you’re using a bathtub, you can even pull the shower curtain halfway closed, and put it on the INSIDE of the tub to make it even harder for the dog to weasel their way out.

You can also get a dog washing tub, but to us, these seem like more trouble than they’re worth.  Do you really have space in your home to store one of these when you’re not using it?   Do you really want to have to drag it out of storage and put it away every time you want to give the dog a bath?

Prepare, Prepare and Prepare Some More

One of the big keys to a successful dog bath is to really plan out the details. Don’t just think about it, you have to actually make a plan.

This includes having the proper supplies.  If you have to leave a wet dog in the tub because the shampoo is on the other side of the bathroom, bad things will happen.

Gather the following supplies and put then on, in or next to the bathtub.

  • Shampoo
  • Multiple towels
  • Something for your knees to make it more comfortable to kneel next to the tub, depending on how old you are J.   The boss is ancient and she has to put towels on the floor for her knees (and then she sometimes complains anyway!)
  • Prepare the water temperature – do you like baths that are too cold or too hot?  Dogs don’t either!
  • Hose attachment (we’ll talk about this more below)
  • Those dorky non-slip decals or mats.  Not having good footing can make us even more freaked out about the bath than we already are (of course, you should have these for your own safety too… assuming you use the shower for yourself)

Get a Shower Attachment

This is a must, must, must have when you’re trying to give a dog a bath. 

There are cool attachments shower attachments these days that make it easy to add a sprayer attachment to your showerhead.

Most of them have a simple piece that can be screwed in.  It goes between your showerhead and the pipe that comes out of the wall.   I know… don’t let it scare you if you’re not a plumber.  If you can use a wrench, you can install these.  The boss managed to do it and if she can do it… anyone can… except for dogs, you know… that whole “opposable thumb” thing causes us problems.

The big benefit of these is that you can get rid of that ridiculous cup that you used to have to fill up about 75 times for a decent bath.dog shower sprayer

Not only that, but it is about 6,362 times easier for the rinse part of the dog bath too, especially the underside.

Some of these even have a soap dispenser built into the sprayer.  This allows you to switch from suds to rinse with the simple click of a button, and more importantly… only one hand.

Brush the Dog

Although this isn’t required, it’s a good idea to give the dog a good brushing first before you give a dog a bath.  One reason is that it gets out the mats in the hair before it gets wet (when it will be much more difficult to get out).

Another reason to brush the dog before the bath is to reduce the hair that would otherwise get tangled up in your drain.

How to Give a Dog a Bath

1 – Get the Dog in the Bathtub

One word… treats.  They work for just about everything, and I’m not just saying that because I’m a dog.

Once you get the dog in the bathtub, ALWAYS keep one hand on their collar.  If you don’t know why this is important, you’ve never given a dog a bath before, have you?

This is why it’s so important to have everything within arms reach BEFORE you start.

2 – Do the First Rinse 

You should have already checked the water temperature, so now all you should have to do is pull the knob to turn the shower part on – but make sure it’s set up to go through the shower attachment.  If the dog gets hit with water from the showerhead out of the blue… bad things will happen.

Use your handy-dandy spray nozzle to get the dog wet, but avoid the dog’s head (for now).

3 – Add the Shampoo

If you’re using a sprayer that includes a soap dispenser, flip the switch so the suds come out.  If you have to do it the old fashioned way, squeeze the shampoo onto the dog’s back.

Remember to keep one hand on the dog collar while you’re doing this.

4 – Do the Shampoo Thing 

Now you should use your one free hand to lather up the dog hair.  Sometimes if you turn this into a mini-massage, it can help the dog relax.

5 – Do the Rinse

Use your fancy shower sprayer to rinse the suds off the body.  This is really where the sprayer comes in handy.  It’s especially easy to rinse the belly area with a sprayer vs the cup.

Although, something to remember… don’t reach around the dog and point the sprayer toward yourself, even if you’re “positive” that it will be pointed up into the dog’s belly.  If you miscalculate by just an inch, you’ll say a lot of really bad words and I’ll get even more freaked out.

6 – Pre-dry the Body

When you’ve washed and rinsed the dog’s body, you should throw a towel over their back as soon as possible.  Don’t take the time to completely dry the dog at this point, because you still have to wash the face.

At any point between now and the end of the bath, “the shake thing” could occur.  As I dog, I think the shake thing is awesome, but I get the impression that people don’t think it’s nearly as cool.

If the dog shakes when they are still sopping wet, there is a lot of water that will end up on the walls, floor and YOU.  I suspect this is the part that people hate.

However, if you put a towel over the dog’s back and do a quick dry (again, with one hand) as soon as the rinse is done, you can soak up a lot of that excess water before it ends up in a bad place.

7 – Do the Face 

In talking to my dog friends, they all agree about one thing.  The worst part of the whole bath thing is when you wash our faces.  We really don’t like it so you should do it last.

The face is more sensitive than the rest of the body, so you should be careful about the water pressure before you hit the face.

8 – Dry

When the bath is over, the dog will be really excited.  At this point, you should be focused on getting us as dry as possible, before we completely freak out and shake like there is no tomorrow.

One More Thing

It’s been proven over and over and over again… yelling, screaming and saying bad words won’t work, but treats and praise do work.

Have you ever seen those trained dogs that show up on talk shows all the time?

Have you ever seen how the dog gets a treat EVERY SINGLE TIME they do what they’re supposed to?

The more you give the dog positive praise and treats, the better behaved they will be… even at bath time.

If your dog is a real scardy-cat (pun intended), you might try having a second person help you give the dog a bath.  Their job should be to have a bunch of tiny treats and keep the dog’s attention on when they get the next treat, instead of the evil bath.

Enjoy the After Effects

When everything is done and you forced me to sit quietly in the bathtub while I had to endure all that water and sudsy stuff, you can’t get mad at me when I run around like a chicken with it’s head cut off.

Instead of getting annoyed and trying to control the dog after a bath, sit back and enjoy the show!

Leave a Reply