When the time is right for that landmark first bath, you have a chance to create a positive experience that will make future washings easier.
For some dog owners, bath time is pure canine chaos. One minute your pooch is calm, then, when he sees the shampoo and grooming tools, he becomes a running, squirming, shaking mess.
The good news is that under normal circumstances (a skunk encounter or mud roll being exceptions), dogs need not be bathed more than once every 2-3 weeks, even once every 6 weeks if they are short-haired and indoor dogs. More frequent washings can strip the coat of protective oils and cause skin irritations.
Prepare your dog first
If your dog is a young pup, please consult with your veterinarian about when it's safe to give him his first bath. When the time is right for that landmark first bath, you have a chance to create a positive experience that will make future washings easier.
Before you begin, let him sniff the comb, brush, shampoo, clippers, and anything else you'll be using. Run the bath, shower, or hose water so he can hear the sound and not become frightened later. If you're using a pet dryer, let him get accustomed to that sound, too.
Let the bath begin
If you're bathing your dog indoors, use a room with a door that shuts so he won't eye an escape route. If you're using a large sink or bathtub, be sure to put down a rubber mat or non-skid surface. Remember, dogs become very insecure and jittery when their feet are slipping and sliding.
Once you're ready to turn on the water (mild, not hot), follow these steps:
- Open the bottle caps to pet shampoos and conditioners first (never use people shampoos which have the wrong PH for a dog's skin) and place your grooming aids in a bucket where they won't get kicked over.
- Put cotton balls in your dog's ears to prevent water from rushing in.
- A hand-held shower attachment is useful for washing and rinsing. Be sure to wear old clothes or a waterproof apron because you may get wet.
- Many pet groomers recommend starting at the head and working to the tail so that any fleas present won't escape into the ears.
- Purchase an absorbent pet towel to gently rub your dog dry. If you use a blow dryer, make sure it has a cool setting.
- During his bath, reinforce your dog's good behavior with treats and praise.
If you follow these tips and he still protests, try a waterless bath: sprinkle baking soda over your dog's coat and let it stand for a few minutes, then brush off the excess. This can help with that ripe, doggie odor!