5 Simple Steps to Pet Bathing at Home

By: Caitlin Chrismon

Bathing the family dog is a necessity for maintaining a healthy pup and a clean household. Dog grooming services are available pretty much everywhere these days, but many families choose to bathe their pets at home because it is less expensive and provides an opportunity for dogs and their owners to bond— usually.

Step 1: Preparation is Key

For small dogs, owners have the option of bathing them in a tub, shower, or even the sink if they’re small enough! Large dogs may be more difficult to get in and out of the tub without at least one of you being injured, so walk-in showers or hose baths are preferable. 

For dogs that are bathed outside, seasons should always be kept in mind. It is never appropriate to bathe your pet in the cold, even if the water is warm. For pets too large to bathe inside, reach out to a groomer who can accommodate large dogs or provide a sponge bath as a quick fix.

The essentials you will need:

  • Water spout or sprayer
  • Towel to dry them off
  • Pet shampoo and/or conditioner that is compatible with your pet’s coat (Not all dog soaps are considered equal, and you should always perform research prior to purchasing to ensure the product is safe for your pet. If you’re unsure, check with your vet!) To be clear, do not regularly use Dawn dish soap as it will cause their skin to become dried out, flaky, or irritated.
  • A calm and positive attitude. Your pup can sense your emotions so you staying calm will help them relax!

Extras that can help:

  • A scrub brush or curry comb. You can use your fingers to scrub as well. 
  • Treats or distraction tools like our Slow Treater.

Step 2: Soak Their Coat

Always test the water temperature before letting your dog take that first dip. The water should be a relaxing lukewarm, filled to paw level at max, and fully saturate the fur. It’s important to soak your dog's coat thoroughly to allow a rich lather of soap to build up. Larger dogs with thick fur may need a brush or a pro grooming tool like the shower-brush-combo to help the water soak through. Use a plastic cup, detachable showerhead, or attachable pet bathing tool to slowly and calmly pour water from the neck, back, sides and underbelly of your pet. 

*Do not pour water over your pets head. Doing so can startle your pet, get water or soap in their eyes, or more commonly, cause water to become trapped in their ears. This results in an infection that will require medicine from your veterinarian to treat. 

Soaking dog's coat with Aquapaw Pet Bathing Tool

Step 3: Apply Shampoo and Scrub

Apply an appropriate amount of shampoo, enough to work into a lather, and scrub their entire coat. Pay attention to avoid their face and inner ears, and scrub gently on areas on your pet’s body that may be sensitive. Don’t forget the underbelly and tail! 

Remember, some dogs love bath time, and others might think you’ve brought a watery hell upon them. Make the experience a good one by remaining calm, providing positive feedback, and petting them while you bathe. Treats can be used as a good distraction and reward tool! 

*Dogs who have a negative experience during bathtime may hide or become aggressive during bathing attempts, so it’s important to leave a good impression the first time! 

A slow treater, such as the one available from Aquapaw, can keep an anxious dog distracted and in one place. This allows for a calmer experience and creates a positive association between yummy food and bath time. 

Bathing a dogs neck while they lick a Slow Treater

Step 4: Rinse

Once your pet is fully scrubbed, it’s time to rinse out the soap! Make sure the water temperature is still lukewarm and continue avoiding getting water on your dog's face or head. Scrub the fur as you rinse to help get rid of all excess soap.  

Always fully rinse the soap after you’ve lathered it into your dog's fur. Leaving traces behind can still cause dryness or irritation! 

Step 5: Dry and Praise

You may want to move quickly between rinsing and drying because when given a moment, many pets will be ready to leap from the tub or shake. Once your dog is ready to be dried, it’s time to praise them for being so good while you dry them off!  

Soak up as much water as possible with the towel because once your pet leaves the tub, they will probably shake. Once they’re towel dried, you may want to place them in a confined space with their favorite chew toy or treat to fully dry if you don’t want them to jump on furniture while wet. 

Let your dog rest afterward with a cozy blanket, cuddles, and lots of love. Getting clean is hard work, but worth it!

Relaxing with clean dog after a good bath