How to Bathe a Dog the Right Way, According to Dog Grooming Experts

October 11, 2021

While they may not always love it, bathing your dog regularly is an important routine. It keeps your fur baby looking and smelling good, enables you to keep an eye on their health, and works wonders in strengthening the bond between the two of you.

There are also times when it’d be best to have a mobile dog groomer come to you. Generally, dog parents choose this option if they also want their pup’s hair treated and styled or cut. Otherwise, a regular wash at home will get the job done. That being said, there are some critical aspects you should be aware of before giving your pup a good clean. The following article spills all on how to bathe a dog yourself at home.

Dog Bath Basics: Frequently Asked Questions

We receive many questions about the best ways to keep our furry friends clean, so we’ve answered some of the most frequent ones below.

Where Should I Wash My Dog?

The first thing that you need to decide when washing your dog is where to bathe it. This will depend on the size of your dog, the weather, and the lay of the land at home. If you have a small dog and a large sink, cleaning your pup in there could be a no-brainer. Aside from having both warm and cool water to ensure a perfect temperature, the sink will be easy to clean as well.

If you have a larger dog and have one available, a bathtub is a great option. Washing your pup in the tub is the best way to bathe a dog inside. The surfaces and floor are designed for easy wipe downs, which will come in handy when your clean dog begins shaking water from their coat.

golden retriever bath tub soapy

Have a garden and a hose? You can wash your dog with a little more freedom outside if there’s decent weather. The warmer, the better! Much like humans, dogs can become ill if they are wet and cold for too long.

When it all comes down to it, washing your pup at home by yourself can be a pain — which is where our dog grooming experts at Barkbus can step in. Our pet stylists at Barkbus will come straight to you with all the equipment needed for a thorough wash.

Do Dogs Like Cold or Warm Baths?

One question we’re often asked is: should I run a hot or a cold dog bath? Well, the answer is neither. Lukewarm water is actually the best way to wash a dog. Avoid running baths that are too hot or too cold, as both can cause your pooch great distress.

If the water is too hot, it can dry out the skin, lead to scalding, and present other health risks for your pup. Similarly, water that’s too cold can be both unpleasant and unsafe. Dogs are just as prone to illnesses like hypothermia as humans. As such, prolonged exposure to low temperatures can be very bad for their health. 

With all of this in mind, be sure to test the water temperature yourself first before giving your dog a clean. If it feels lukewarm to you, it’ll be perfect for your four-legged friend.

How Often Should Dogs Be Bathed?

As every dog owner knows, our furry friends will take up most opportunities to get messy. While it may be tempting to always keep your pooch sparkling clean, you can, in fact, overdo it. Canines should not be washed daily.

Your dog’s hair contains natural oils that help keep the skin and fur healthy. To a certain extent, these oils self-clean the dog’s coat. But washing your dog too often reduces these oils and doesn’t give them enough time to replenish between washes. As a result, your dog’s skin can become excessively dry, which can lead to skin disorders.

The frequency your own dog should be bathed is dependent on several factors such as your dog’s coat thickness, skin allergies, and more. For specifics on how often your pup should be bathed, it’s best to consult a vet.

Can You Use Human Shampoo for Dogs?

Picking a shampoo for your dog can be trickier than meets the eye. An aspect that often puzzles dog owners is whether or not they can just use normal human shampoo on dogs. This is inadvisable due to the contrast in pH balances between dog and human skin.

The outermost layer of skin, called the stratum corneum, has a protective layer known as the acid mantle. This protects the skin from viruses and bacteria, and also regulates hydration. Bathing can strip away the acid mantle from the skin, so shampoos tend to be designed to protect the skin while the acid mantle grows back. However, for this to be effective, there needs to be the right balance of alkalinity and acidity, which is the pH balance.

While humans have a slightly acidic balance of 5.5 to 5.6, dogs have a more neutral balance of 6.2 to 7.4. As a result of this, shampoo for humans is designed for use on a more acidic pH balance. This means that if it is used on dogs, it can damage their acid mantle and leave them more vulnerable to viruses or bacteria. It can also cause their skin to become irritated, flaky, and overall uncomfortable.

How To Wash A Dog

Find out how to properly wash your dog using the helpful guidance below!

What is the Best Way to Bathe a Dog?

You now have a good understanding of the basics. We’ve established where to wash your dog, how often you should do it, and the best water temperature to get the job done. We’ll now break down the intricacies of exactly how to wash your dog and supplies you’ll need, in addition to sharing some of our top dog bath tips.

Supplies You'll Need to Bathe Your Dog

When offering advice on how to wash a dog, we like to emphasize the importance of having the right supplies. As a starting point, ensure you wear clothes that you don’t mind getting wet and dirty. Next, get your hands on some quality dog shampoo. Check-in with your dog’s pet stylist or vet for guidance on the best type for your pup’s breed. If you’re planning on grooming your dog as well, some good brushes will also come in handy.

When the time comes for a bath, have two towels ready to dry off your pup. Place one on the floor so that your dog can stand on top and use the second one for drying and wrapping afterwards.

Steps to Prepare for Bath Time

Before getting your dog wet and soapy, make sure you have everything you need ready. Start with the location you chose at the beginning. Clear away anything that could become a distraction or be spoiled during bath time. Even if you’re washing your pooch indoors on a chilly day, ensure there’s sufficient heating around so they don’t get too cold while drying off. Then, gather all the supplies, ensuring everything is within easy reach.

With that, you’re ready to start the bathing process!

How to Wash a Dog: Step by Step

  1. First, get your pup to your chosen bathing location. This can be the bathtub, shower, sink, or outside somewhere. For smaller dogs, it’s a lot easier to pick them up and carry them to their washing station effortlessly. For larger dogs, a treat bribe might be useful.

  2. Once the dog is in place, check that you have the water running at the right temperature. Remember, lukewarm water is your pup’s best friend! When that’s sorted, carefully pour some water on your fur baby to get them wet.

  3. Apply the dog’s shampoo to its coat, ensuring you thoroughly lather up all of its hair. Once they’re completely soapy, rinse the shampoo out. After this, apply the shampoo again. The first time you do it, the shampoo will bind with any dirt, and drag it off the dog after rinsing. The second application treats the skin, gets rid of residual dirt, and helps to improve your dog’s odor.

A rough sponge helps to make this process even more effective. Most importantly, make sure it’s still a fairly pleasant experience for your pooch. Incorporate a back massage during the process and keep the reassuring complements flowing the whole time.

  1. Wondering how to wash a dog’s face, while avoiding getting soap in their eyes? Use a washcloth to ensure every inch of your pup gets clean.

  2. Apply some dog conditioner, ensuring it’s spread evenly throughout your pup’s coat. Let the conditioner sit for a few minutes before rinsing it out.

  3. Make sure all the soap and conditioner are completely rinsed out of the dog’s hair. If the soap or shampoo is left in contact with your fur baby’s skin for too long, it can lead to irritation.

Drying Your Dog After the Bath

Once your dog is all cleaned up, it’s time for drying. As previously mentioned, place one towel on the floor. Then wrap your pup up in a second large and absorbent towel. Rub them vigorously but carefully, until all excess water has been soaked up. 

The process can take longer with certain dogs that have thicker and longer coats, but it is even more important to get it right with these breeds. Their thicker coat results in damp spots in the undercoat, which can in turn cause a skin condition called acute moist dermatitis. Just remember to keep them in a warm environment until they are completely dry as a precautionary measure.

cute boxer dog in towel

We can’t stress enough that drying your dog properly is very important and can take a lot of time. As a benefit to professional mobile dog grooming, you can leave the tedious tasks to the pros while you sit back and relax at home!

Is It Okay to Wash Dogs With Human Soap?

Human soap — much like human shampoo — is designed for skin types with more acidic pH balances. Because of this, using these human products on dogs can upset their more neutral pH balance and lead to infections or dry, flaky skin. 

Opt for products that are created specifically for dog skin instead. If you have any doubts or questions in this regard, consult with your pet stylist or vet first.

How to Bathe a Puppy

If you have puppies at home, here are a few pointers to keep in mind before giving your fur babies a bath.

How Often to Bathe a Puppy

Similar to older dogs, puppies should not be bathed daily. Please consult your vet to find out how often to bathe your puppy!

At What Age Can You Bathe a Puppy?

It’s generally safe to bathe a puppy at eight weeks old. However, certain dog shampoos are only suitable for older dogs. Each product should have a label stating the recommended age limit for use. Always check this information before use and reach out to your vet if you’re still unsure.

How to Bathe a Puppy

Due to their smaller size, it’s much easier to arrange a puppy bath. A standard sink will generally get the job done. Bathing puppies pretty much follows the same process as what we mentioned earlier for older dogs. You’ll just need to be more gentle and take that little bit of extra care when washing your puppy. 

Since they’re also less resilient, it’s even more important to use the correct shampoo and soap. Remember never to use human products! Be extra careful when you clean ears and wash faces too! It’s very important not to get water in your puppy’s ears. Then once again, make sure you rinse your puppy thoroughly and give them a good dry after the bath.

Turn to The Pros at Barkbus

Want your pup to experience the very best in dog treatment? Reach out to our canine experts at Barkbus! Our dog-loving pet stylists are readily available to help keep your furry friend happy, healthy, and looking their best.


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