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Your Happy Pet: It takes more than water to bathe a dog

Original Publication Date: August 11, 2014
By C. Sue Furman, Ph.D.

Most dogs don't mind dirt. In fact, some enjoy rolling in incredibly smelly things like dead animals.

Some odors that dogs find pleasing are not necessarily on a human's list of enjoyable aromas and may precipitate a bath.

At other times, a dog's bath may be necessary to remove dirt, grassy debris, dead hair during shedding or doggy odor from an oily coat.

Regular brushing helps limit the frequency of baths because it keeps the coat free of dirt and shedding hair. Unfortunately, brushing cannot make a stinky dog smell pleasant.

How often to bathe your dog is up to you, but make bath time a fun time. Never drag a dog cringing and whining to the tub. Instead, coax your dog to the sink, tub or shower with praise and treats in hand.

Practice getting situated for a bath but do not add water. It may take a few trial runs before your dog is at ease getting into and out of the tub.

Once the pup is comfortable getting into the tub, practice turning water on but do not get him wet. Lots more treats and praise are a must.

After a few of these rehearsals, you should be ready to bathe the dog.

The pup will think it is another practice run, so be patient and remember the treats. Introduce him to the water slowly as you wet him down. A cup for wetting and rinsing is helpful as is a hose with a shower nozzle if one can be adapted to your water supply.

Once wet, lather the dog with a veterinarian recommended shampoo and conditioner, optional. Human shampoo is a no-no, because it can dry a dog's skin.

Be patient as the bath progresses. I usually do the face and head last and use baby shampoo because no one likes water and burning shampoo in their eyes.

Thoroughly rinse your dog. Residual soap can cause flaky-skin problems.

Have four or five bath towels ready to make drying off a snap. Offer more treats and praise as you dry the dog.

Most dogs love to rub their face and whole body on the furniture, carpet or ground after a bath. If you are concerned about your couch or favorite chair getting wet or if you don't want him covered in grass clippings, you may want to keep him in a safe area like the kitchen until he is dry.

As he is drying, reward your dog with a favorite activity. It might be a game of fetch, tug-of-war or a walk. Make the whole bath time experience a happy one. It may not look forward to another bath, but hopefully, he won't object too strongly.

Sue Furman, Ph.D, has published two books and a DVD on canine massage and teaches classes in pet massage, acupressure, first aid and CPR. See her schedule and submit questions at