Dog Bathing 101: How to Bathe Your Dog

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Dog sitting in bath tub

Movies, TV shows, and even your own personal experience will lead you to believe that dogs and baths don’t mix. But real-world experience tells you that it’s an essential part of dog grooming!

Despite your furry friend’s protests, bath time is not something you want to sidestep.

Canines are filthy creatures. Even the most coifed lapdog can’t resist getting into a wide range of messes.

Whether it’s a roll in the grass or a romp in the mud, dogs are prone to picking up grime, spreading smells, and making a fragrant mess of your home!

Baths are the perfect way to freshen up your canine companion when that distinct dirty dog smell gets to be too much.

Bathing your dog will make those afternoon play sessions and even cuddles much more enjoyable for you.

But more importantly, bathing keeps your dog’s coat in good condition and helps avoid an onslaught of potential health and comfort problems.

Bathing your dog isn’t as cut and dry as it would seem

The experience can be nightmare-inducing for your fur baby, resulting in many protests.

Pair these canine temper tantrums with the unique challenge of cleaning a hair-covered animal, and bathing suddenly seems like a massive undertaking.

Luckily, you’ve come to the right place.

In this guide, we’ll go over some common questions dog owners have about the bathing process and give you a step-by-step breakdown of how to keep your dog looking good and smelling fresh!

How Often Should You Bathe Your Dog

This is one of the most common questions dog owners have. For humans, daily bathing is pretty standard. But what about dogs?

Luckily, you don’t have to subject your dog to that experience every day. In fact, doing so could be harmful.

There’s a delicate balance between not bathing your dog enough and bathing them too often. You see, dogs develop oils that protect the skin and fur.

The oils are crucial to keeping the skin supple and moisturized. You risk stripping those all-important oils if you bathe your dog too much.

That could cause rashes, flaky skin, and other issues.

Bathing isn’t the only thing that affects skin quality.

Diet plays a big part, too. But you want to preserve some of those natural oils and let your dog’s body do its thing to protect the skin.

Generally, most dogs will do fine with once-a-month baths.

Once a month seems to be the sweet spot for most domestic canines.

But of course, it all depends on your dog and its lifestyle.

We’ll get into specific breeds and considerations later. However, some dogs may require more frequent cleanings to stay healthy.

Everything from their fur to their penchant for getting filthy comes into account.

The best course of action is to use your best judgment.

Use monthly baths as a guide, but keep an eye on your dog’s coat and a nose on their odor to determine when they need a good scrubbing.

Where to Wash your Dog?

Before you do anything, you need to figure out where you’ll bathe your dog.

If you have easy access to a bathing station, consider yourself lucky! Many apartments and condo buildings have dedicated dog-washing stations.

You can even rent some at pet stores. But if you’re like most dog owners, you’ll likely set up your own shower or bathtub.

Outdoor bathing works well, too. However, most dogs aren’t keen on bathing in cold water without temperature control.

Key Products and Tools

Bathing your pooch isn’t as simple as running them under some water and calling it a day. It’s more involved than most people realize, requiring a few specific products and tools to get you through.

Here are some of the most common essentials you’ll need.

Brushes and Combs

Every bath should start with a deep brushing.

Brushing helps to remove tangles and eliminate any loose hair that might be clinging onto your dog by a thread.

Trust us: You don’t want any of that stuff to get in your drain!

Brushing also helps to ensure that you don’t make tangles worse. Washing a dog full of knots will only lead to matting. Take time and brush out your dog.

You can use a traditional dog brush, a detangling comb, de-shedding rakes, and anything else you have on hand.

Dog Shampoo

Next up is the shampoo.

You need shampoo to get rid of all the gunk hiding in your dog’s fur and skin. The shampoo will break down dirt and grime to leave your dog’s body fresh and clean.

Don’t use any old shampoo. While it serves the same purpose, human shampoo isn’t appropriate for dogs.

You need one formulated to work with the specific pH balance of a dog’s skin.

There’s no shortage of great options out there. Take a look at what’s available and choose a product that meets your pup’s needs.

For example, you can get medicated shampoo to tackle fleas or shampoo to get rid of smelly dog odors

There’s antiseptic shampoo for hot spots, gentle shampoo for dogs with allergies, and even blue shampoo for white dogs with yellowed fur.

Dog Conditioner and Detangler

This step is optional. Some dogs aren’t going to need conditioner. However, any breed with long fur prone to tangling can benefit from a conditioner.

Like the conditioner you use on your head, this product nourishes the scalp, hydrates the hair, and leaves your dog’s coat silky smooth.

The same goes for a detangling spray.

You can use it before and after bathing your dog. Beforehand, it’ll help get rid of mats. Afterward, it’ll prevent mats from forming as you dry your dog.

Bath Supplies

Don’t forget about all the tools you’ll need during the bathing session. You can go all out or keep things simple.

The most important thing you need is a gentle spray nozzle. There are many types available, but one that offers decent coverage is ideal.

You can also invest in a dog bathing mat to prevent slipping. Modern lick mats are also super trendy these days.

Stick them up on the shower walls, slather some peanut butter, and keep your dog distracted as you scrub away.

Absorbent Towels and a Blower

After your bath, towels will help remove excess water and speed up drying time. Thorough drying is paramount after bathing a dog. More on that later.

Choose absorbent microfiber towels. They’re easy to find, and many manufacturers make dog-sized towels specifically for canine bathing!

Grab several, and you can make quick work of drying time.

Blowers are a plus, too. They act like human hairdryers. However, they typically lack heating elements for safety.

You can blast away moisture and speed up evaporation for quicker drying.

Ear Cleaner Solution

Many dog owners forget to pick up ear cleaners and ultimately pay the price later.

Water in your dog’s ear is a big no-no. It can lead to painful ear infections. The best way to prevent issues is to use ear cleaner.

In addition to removing wax buildup, these simple ear flushes help eliminate water and dry your dog’s ear canal.

Plenty of Treats

Last but not least, don’t forget the treats!

Bathing can be somewhat stressful for dogs. Having some treats on hand makes it more manageable.

Use them for positive reinforcement, and your dog will learn that there’s nothing to be scared about.

How to Bathe a Dog at Home in 8 Steps

How to Bathe a Dog

Ready to start bathing your dog? It can be daunting if you’re not used to doing this yourself. But fear not. We’ve put together this guide to help you get through this process without any hiccups.

Follow these steps, and you’ll have a squeaky clean canine companion in no time!

1. Brush and Detangle

The very first step in the bathing process should be brushing and detangling.

Sit your dog down and work through any tangled spots. Don’t be afraid to use a detangling spray or any other solution you need.

Remove shed fur and work through the coat to lift soiled areas.

Brushing serves many purposes. It reduces the risk of other tangles, helps with water penetration, and more.

Take your time. The more work you do here, the easier things will be later.

2. Prepare Your Wash Station

Gather all your tools and set up the cleaning station in your bathroom.

Lay down any non-slip tub mats or lick mats if you have them. Then, turn on the water to bring it to temperature.

The best temperature is lukewarm water. You don’t want it super hot or super cold.

3. Soak

Once you bring your dog into the bathing area, soak their fur.

You can use the distraction methods you need during this step.

Soaking the fur in water will get your dog comfortable with the experience. Plus, it helps to prepare the coat for shampooing.

Applying shampoo on dry fur is next to impossible.Soak every inch of your dog and let that water go through its entire body.

As always, be mindful of sensitive spots like the eyes.

4. Apply Shampoo

When applying shampoo, do so liberally. Don’t be afraid to lather it on. You want to work the product in as well as you can.

Use your fingers to massage the product through, and pay close attention to those problem areas like the undercarriage.

Read the instructions on the shampoo bottle for any additional guidance.

Some products require you to leave the shampoo on for several minutes. For example, medicated products typically require five to ten minutes of penetration before rinsing.

5. Rinsing

Next, you’ll rinse off the shampoo.

Start from the top of your dog’s body and work your way down. The soapy water will fall towards your dog’s feet, so it’s best to use a top-down method.

When rinsing the ears and face, be careful not to get shampoo in sensitive areas.

Use your fingers to massage the fur as you rinse. It’s crucial to get out every last bit of shampoo. Leaving even a little behind could cause rashes and irritation later.

6. Conditioning

Follow-up conditioning is pretty straightforward, but how you do it depends on the type of product you use.

Some function like ordinary human-grade conditioners, requiring you to apply the product and rinse it off.

However, others are leave-in conditioners. Follow the directions on the bottle accordingly. Not all pups will need conditioner, but it does help to restore some hydration and prevent dryness from shampooing.

7. Drying

Here’s where you should spend a great deal of time. Drying your dog is crucial. You need to remove as much moisture as you can.

Light air-drying is delicate, but don’t let your dog walk around dripping in water. It ruins your home and can later lead to hot spots and other issues for your dog.

Use your microfiber drying towels and focus on your dog’s head first.

Your dog will prefer you use the towel instead of a blower machine on their face. Remove excess water and provide plenty of love!

Then, work your way through the rest of the body with the towels. Once you remove a decent amount, you can move to using the blower.

*This step is optional, but it can help speed things up.

Wrap your dog’s ears to prevent noise issues, and use the blower to dry the fur gently.

8. Apply Ear Rinse and Finishers

The final step is to use your ear rinse. Dogs tend to hate this step, but it’s necessary.

Once again, follow the instructions to a tee. Generally, it requires you to squirt the liquid in the ears and massage the base.

After about 30 seconds, you can let go of your dog and let them shake the rinse out.

Follow up with any finishers you want to use. You can spritz some dog perfume, apply detangler, and use any other last-minute products you need.

Not All Breeds are the Same

Here’s one important thing to remember. The bathing needs of dogs can vary dramatically from breed to breed.

As of 2022, the AKC recognized 199, but there are many more beyond that list. Your dog’s breed matters!

Bathing techniques for a long-haired dog breed prone to tangles and mats will be much different from a hairless pup.

The same goes for a double-coated dog versus one with a slick coat of greasy fur.

There’s so much variety in the canine world, and you have to modify your bathing techniques around your dog’s specific needs.

That means adjusting the frequency of bathing and how you approach the task.

Breed-Specific Guides for Bathing Your Dog

Not sure about your dog’s unique needs? We have you covered. Here are some typical dog breeds and detailed guides to help you create a bathing routine that works.

Hairless (Almost!) Dogs

  • Chinese Crested
  • Xoloitzcuintli (Mexican Hairless Dog)
  • American Hairless Terrier
  • Peruvian Inca Orchid
  • Argentine Pila

Smooth or Short-Coated Dogs

  • American Staffordshire Terrier
  • Doberman Pinscher
  • Dachshund
  • Boxer
  • Bull Terrier
  • Dalmatian
  • Great Dane
  • Greyhound
  • Boston Terrier
  • Beagle
  • Weimaraner

Wire-Haired Dogs

  • Wire Fox Terrier
  • Jack Russel Terrier
  • Schnauzer
  • Border Terrier
  • Irish Wolfhound
  • Wirehaired Pointing Griffon

Long-Coated Dogs

  • Collie
  • Afghan
  • Shih Tzu
  • Yorkshire Terrier
  • Golden Retriever
  • Havanese
  • Newfoundland
  • Lhasa Apso
  • Pekingese
  • Komondor
  • Maltese

Curly-Coated Dogs

  • Poodle
  • Labradoodle
  • Bichon Frise
  • Portuguese Water Dog
  • Spanish water dog
  • Puli
  • Bouvier des Flandres

Double-Coated Dogs

  • Siberian Husky
  • Australian Shepherd
  • German Shepherd
  • Chow Chow
  • Bernese Mountain Dog
  • Saint Bernard
  • Great Pyrenees
  • Cavalier King Charles

Oily or Greasy Coated Dogs

  • Basset Hound
  • Labrador Retriever
  • Chesapeake Bay Retriever
  • Cane Corso
  • Shar Pei
  • Belgian Shepherd

6 Benefits of Washing Your Dog

There are many benefits to regular baths for your dog. It goes beyond keeping your dog’s coat in good shape.

While that’s the most critical thing, bathing can have many other advantages, too.

1. Reduced Odors

Of course, bathing is the best way to keep that dreaded dog smell as far away from your home as possible.

Dogs can get pretty ripe. But that’s not the worst of it. They spread that scent all over your house, leaving your carpets and furniture smelling less-than-ideal.

Bathing will take care of that issue.

While smells can still occur, you’re more likely to achieve a neutral house odor when regularly bathing your dog with a odor removing shampoo

2. A More Manageable Coat

Does your dog have to deal with issues like tangling and mats?

If so, you know how frustrating they can be to manage.

Longer coats are notorious for developing knots. Not only are they annoying to brush out, but they can be downright painful for your pooch.

Bathing helps to keep the coat soft, supple, and tangle-free.

Brushing is a crucial step of the process. More on that later. But deep conditioning and other bath-time treatments provide a lasting softness that dramatically minimizes tangles.

3. Controlled Shedding

Shedding is another common issue for some breeds. If you have a big shedder, you probably spend more time picking up tufts of hair all over your house than you want.

Once again, bathing saves the day!

Regular baths help control shedding. You remove more loose hair during baths, ensuring that less of it ends up on your floors.

4. Fewer Allergens

If you or your dog suffers from allergies, bathing is a must!

Dogs have tons of allergens that they naturally spread in the air. However, their fur also traps new allergens that they encounter outside.

From pollen to tiny fungi spores, it quickly gets into your home through your dog.

Bathing can eliminate those allergens to help you and your dog breathe easier.

5. A Moment of Bonding

We could all use more bonding time with our dogs, right?

Bathing is the perfect time to do that. While it can feel stress-inducing at first, there are plenty of ways to calm your dog down.

Many dogs will eventually get used to bath times. Some may even look forward to it!

The trick is to treat it as a fun experience. Once you get to that point, it’s a quiet moment of joy you can share with your dog.

6. An Opportunity for Close Examinations

Here’s an overlooked benefit that makes a world of difference.

When was the last time you gave your dog a thorough examination?

Baths are the perfect opportunity to look for anything unusual.

If your dog has an injury you didn’t notice, a growth that you didn’t see, or any other potential health concern, you’ll find it during the bath.

That gives you the chance to seek veterinary care before the problem graduates to something worse.

Why It Is Important to Bathe Your Dog

If dogs could talk, they’d probably tell you that those dreaded bathing sessions are unnecessary.

These creatures tend to hate baths, preferring to wallow in muck instead. But don’t let your dog’s protests keep you from sticking to a pretty strict bathing routine.

Bathing your Dog is a Crucial Part of the Grooming Process.

Bathing should join other grooming steps like trimming the nails and, for some dogs, fur clipping. But why do you need to wash your dog?

Ultimately, it comes down to improving their health and general well-being.

While they might not like baths, dogs benefit from your work to keep their coat in good shape. Without baths, dogs would develop a myriad of health and comfort issues.

Dirt, Grime, and Bacteria get Trapped in All Coat Types

It doesn’t matter whether your dog has a super-short coat or a thick double coat.

Dirt, grime, and bacteria get trapped between those follicles. A little messiness is fine, but that gunk can accumulate and cause all kinds of trouble.

Dogs with short hair are prone to experiencing hot spots and infections. Meanwhile, dogs with longer hair will get mats that pull at the skin with even the slightest pressure.

You know what we’re talking about if you’ve ever seen a rescue dog that hasn’t gotten a bath in months or years.

Unkempt fur wreaks havoc on the skin, making it impossible for dogs to get comfortable and stay healthy.

Modern canines are far too spoiled to live like their rough-and-tumble ancestors.

Without regular bathing, your dog is sure to suffer!

So the next time they throw a hissy fit around bath time, remember that it’s a necessity, even if they don’t realize it.

Special Considerations

In addition to breed and coat type, there are a few special considerations when planning your dog’s bathing routine.

The following factors could affect how often you bathe your dog and how you do it.

Sensitive Skin and Allergies

Many pups have allergies and unfortunate skin conditions that make bathing trickier.

Allergies can cause frequent skin rashes. Some dogs also have to deal with dry skin and hot spots.

If your dog has anything like that, discuss your dog’s bathing routine with your veterinarian.

They can guide you in the right direction, provide possible treatment options, and more. Your vet might recommend a specific type of medicated shampoo to provide relief.

They can also help you figure out how often you should bathe your dog and what techniques to use.


Finally, there’s the matter of lifestyle!

What kind of messes does your dog get into?

Do they have free reign of rural land surrounding your property? Do they like to spend afternoons running in muck, only to show up for dinner time covered in dirt?

If your dog gets messy pretty frequently, more baths are always necessary.

Frequent bathing is common for working dogs, pups accompanying hunters, and those who frequent dirty play areas.

You might also want to think about more frequent bathing if you let your dog into bed with you or give them clearance to lounge on your furniture.

In those cases, baths will ensure that your furniture doesn’t become smelly!

Always think about your dog’s lifestyle. Let your eyes and nose help you figure out a routine that works for your dog.


There you have it! Bathing your dog doesn’t have to be this complicated mess, and you don’t have to spend a fortune on professional grooming, either.

Many dog owners have turned what used to be a scary experience for their furry friends into something positive.

Establishing a regular bathing routine early on is key to making your dog comfortable with the process. Make it fun, and don’t let a bit of protesting stop you from washing your dog’s coat.

Bathing is a necessary part of dog ownership. It’ll keep your pup safe, healthy, and comfortable. Meanwhile, you can kiss those odors goodbye!

Also Read: When to Give a Puppy It’s First Bath

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