Cleaning Your Dog’s Face and Eyes

Dog faces can be cute, adorable, joyful, soulful, noble, and commanding. They are capable of communicating a wide range of emotions. And they have the power to look deeply into our souls and touch us on an elementary level. They are also prone to attracting schmutz and getting dirty.

Let’s be realistic: A dog puts his nose into everything from soil to garbage to food bowls. And the faces of even short-haired breeds can need routine grooming to keep them free of clumps, stains, dried food particles, and other blotches.

The ideal time to wash your dog’s face and eyes is at bath time. Don’t simply focus on his body, make sure you cover all the ground from nose to tail. For tips about the proper way to bathe your dog, please read our articles Bath Time Made Easy (Really!) and Bathing Techniques for Dogs.

However, there are many times when a dog needs a quick touch-up on his face and around his eyes. Here are some tips to help with casual face grooming:

Use a soft, clean washcloth or sponge.. Moisten the cloth or sponge with room-temperature water (avoid extremes of temperature). Use just enough water to get the job done. If you oversaturate the cloth or sponge, your dog will feel soggy and may balk at having his face cleaned. You want your dog to feel as comfortable as possible.

Avoid using paper towels or napkins.. When wet, these products can easily shred and disintegrate, which will leave small bits of paper in your dog’s coat when wiping. The idea is to make your dog cleaner than he was before you groomed him.

Pre-moistened wipes.  Some people use pre-moistened wipes because of their convenience. However, you need to make sure the ingredients in the solution don’t irritate your dog. This is especially true if the wipe is made for human, not canine, use. If you want to use a pre-moistened wipe, make sure you stick to products that are specifically made for dogs.

Be gentle but firm.. Use only as much force as necessary to soften and dislodge bits of food or dirt in your dog’s facial fur. It’s better to make several soft strokes than one or two more forceful—and intimidating—swipes. If a clump is proving especially stubborn, use a little more water to moisten it. And if your pet is especially sensitive, try a soft cotton ball soaked in warm water.

A few words about soaps and shampoos.. In most cases, casual facial grooming shouldn’t require anything stronger than water. Remember that you should never use soaps or shampoos that are made for humans! If water isn’t doing the job, you can try a little dab or spray of waterless dog shampoo. These products are available at many pet supply stores.

Cleaning your dog’s eyes.. You’ve probably noticed the globs that can form around your dog’s eyes. Using a water-moistened wash cloth or sponge, very gently wipe the area around the eye to loosen and remove this dirt. Never wipe the eye itself. And be sure to approach this area slowly so you don’t startle your dog. Moistened cotton balls can also be used to help you target the specific area around the eye where the glob has formed. Never use soap or shampoo near your dog’s eyes because this may cause irritation—or even damage your pooch’s eye.

Tear stains.. Also called “Poodle Eye,” tear stains are dark blotchy areas that form on the hair under the eyes of some dogs—and they don’t have to be poodles. In fact, cats can get tear stains, too! This discoloration is particularly obvious in lighter-colored dogs. The “stains” are caused when the eye expresses an excessive number of tears, which react with the bacteria in the hair. If tear stains are a chronic problem with your pet, it may indicate that is an underlying medical cause, such as infected tear ducts. You should bring this to the attention of your veterinarian. If routine cleaning with a moist washcloth doesn’t remove the stains, you can try solutions that are specially made for this condition. You can find them in pet-supply stores. Be sure to follow the directions.

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