Whether it’s to freshen up fur or ditch the dirt, there are times your best friend needs a bath. Some pets take to water like rubber duckies, but for others bath time is a real soap opera. To make a splash your furry friends will find fun while achieving a squeaky clean, follow these tips:

How often should you bathe your dog?

There’s a balance between keeping clean and preserving natural oils to keep your dog’s skin healthy. A good guideline is once a month, but it depends on skin and coat type. Dogs with water-resistant coats should be bathed less often, while those with greasy skin or who need a prescription shampoo should be bathed more often.

Choosing the best dog shampoo

Pick a shampoo that is specially formulated for pets; human shampoos are the wrong pH and can be too harsh for an animal’s skin. And as much as you want Rover to smell like a rose, avoid products with artificial fragrances, which can irritate a pet’s sensitive skin.

For pets with smooth, glossy fur, try a mild or oatmeal-based product that is soothing and gentle. Dry, dull or harsh coats call for moisturizing shampoo. Aloe-based products will provide extra moisture. If you have a pet with a dense or wiry coat, use a finishing spritz of coat conditioner after the main event.

Recommended supplies

You should never leave your pet unattended in a tub, so prepare these pampering essentials in advance - and make sure the room temperature is nice and warm!

  • Cotton wool
  • Clean face cloth
  • Comb and brush
  • Warm water in a bowl
  • Shampoo
  • Large jug or pitcher
  • Non-slip mat
  • Tub or shower
  • Warm, dry towels
  • A hairdryer with a cool setting

Before getting started…

Look for reddened or scaly skin, grease, scabs, or sore patches on your pet that could indicate a skin infection.

Run your hands over his body to search for new lumps, or check the size of those you know about. If you find anything out of the ordinary, call your vet (and don’t bathe your pet, as it will wash away the evidence). Remember - pet insurance gives you the peace of mind to always have your pet's health concerns checked out, so don't delay!

If your pet’s skin is healthy, it’s time to get started!

How to bathe your dog

Step 1: Tangled hair can become matted if you bathe your dog before brushing them out. To eliminate knots, grasp the tangle above the skin and work the hairs apart, then comb out. Take extreme care with scissors, and if the mat is very close to the skin it’s best to get a groomer to clip it out. Also, trim the fur between his toes. You may think it’s best to shave your dog in the summer, but there are no scientific studies to confirm or reject this idea.

Step 2: Clip nails, but be careful not to cut too much! If you cut too far down, you’ll expose the quick which will bleed and may lead to infection. If you aren’t confident about nail clipping, it’s best to leave this to the professionals. If a groomer or your vet is unavailable, your dog’s nails should be fine to grow a bit longer as long as they don’t start to curl around into the bottom of your pet’s feet – that needs to be addressed immediately as it could cause an infection. It’s also important to only use tools made specifically for dogs to prevent any injuries.

Step 3: Check all those delicate private places where dirt and bacteria can hide. Use damp cotton wool to clean the crevices and wipe them dry. Remember, darkly-stained skin, greasiness or a discharge is not normal, so talk to your vet if you see any of these signs.

Step 4: Wipe your pet’s face using a bowl of warm water and damp face cloth.

Step 5: Check inside the ears – it’s important to monitor and keep your pet’s ears healthy. If any smell, wax, redness or discharge is present, your pet requires veterinary attention. To clean, use a product designed for this purpose only. Once you’re done, carefully plug his ears with cotton wool.

Step 6: Prefill the tub well below the pet’s elbows, and place a non-slip mat or towel at the bottom. Use warm water, never hot – shampooing a pet is like bathing a newborn baby. If you’re still worried about your pet slipping on the bathroom tile, you may want to consider bathing outside, just be sure your pet is leashed and unable to bolt away.

Step 7: Lower your pet into the water, speaking softly to them and wet the coat down to the skin. Place a coin-sized amount of shampoo in your palm, spread it from head to tail and lather well. Use your fingertips to massage your pet.

Step 8: Rinse until the water runs clear, using a jug or pitcher to avoid leaving irritant soap suds on the skin. Use your hands to squeegee the excess water from the coat, lift your pet out of the tub and towel dry.

Drying your soggy doggy

For short-coated dogs, towel drying is sufficient. Be sure to dry between the toes and those private places!

For long-haired pets, towel them off while using a hairdryer on the cool setting (anything hotter could hurt sensitive skin). Drying thoroughly is important for dogs with heavier coats to prevent damp spots in the undercoat and ultimately, hot spots. Hold the blower at a distance and keep it moving to avoid burns. Of course, if your pet is not comfortable with the dryer, stop immediately. Once your best bud is dry, don’t forget to take the cotton wool out of the ears!

How to choose a groomer

If a home spa isn’t for you, ask your vet or a trusted friend for a recommendation for a groomer. Visit the groomer to check that the facilities are clean and ask how they cope with stressed animals. Perhaps introduce your pet and see if they have a rapport.

Mar 18, 2016
Pet Care

Get covered with Petplan

An insurer who cares about your pets (nearly!) as much as you do.

Start quote

More from 

Pet Care


View All

Join Our Newsletter and Get the Latest
Posts to Your Inbox

By subscribing you agree to our terms and conditions.
No spam ever. Read our Privacy Policy
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.