The art of bathing your dog - My tips for dog owners

August 22, 2016

When I became the proud "parent" to a beautiful Old English Sheep dog, I didn't know much about taking care of dogs. In the beginning, one of the things I remember wondering about was how often I should give her a bath: Once a week, twice a month, or less?

I did some research and found that according to ASPCA recommendations, you should bathe your dog at least every three months. I ended up doing it more often than that, though; especially during the summer. To me it is all about paying attention to how the dog seems to feel, look, and smell. If your dog's coat looks filthy and smells bad, chances are your dog is itchy and uncomfortable, and is probably more than ready...even though he/she will fight it. Most dogs do not like a bath as much as we humans do!

Another thing to take into consideration is your dog's lifestyle; does it play a lot outside, or is it a lap dog that stays inside most of the time?

Your dog's breed also plays a factor: does it have a long haired coat? If so, it might benefit from both a shampoo and a conditioner to remove tangles and smooth the coat, whereas that might not be necessary for a dog with short fur.

Bath time location
The bath itself is an interesting experience. My first lesson was: don't wear jeans! Let's just say, I almost got just as wet as my dog did. Therefore, wear something light.

The second thing to consider is where should you give your dog a bath? From my experience, again, depending on the size of your dog, a shower or a bathtub works well – small dogs might even fit in a sink. A driveway is also a great option, if the weather is nice.

The goal is to find a spot where you and - most importantly - your dog are comfortable. You will also need to brush your dog thoroughly before the bath to remove tangles, mats, and loose hair.

Shampoos and scents
Trying to find the right shampoo (do NOT use human shampoo) for your dog and your wallet can be challenging – it is a jungle out there with many cheap, low-performing shampoos and a couple of expensive, decent performing ones. The wrong shampoo can cause unbearable irritation, so you need to figure out if a keratin, oatmeal & honey or a sensitive puppy shampoo is the best choice for your dog.

First and foremost, I suggest you look for all-natural shampoos that are sulfate free, and containing oils and vitamins. The shampoos fragrance can be important too; you want your dog to smell nice for as long as possible, but again, pay attention to ingredients and look for shampoo that contains rich, natural botanicals.

For me, it is also important the product is biodegradable; I do not want residue from my dog's bath harming her, wildlife, and pollute water supply just because the shampoo I use can't break down naturally when it goes down the drain somewhere.

Love and water
Before you start pouring water on your dog, make sure that the water is not too hot, but nice and lukewarm. You can use a water nozzle, a plastic pitcher, or an unbreakable cup to wet your dog. He/she will most likely pout. I found that loving on her and gently telling her how much I loved her had a calming effect.

Then apply the shampoo and be careful when lathering the head and make sure you don't get any soap in your dog's eyes or ears – I have heard some use cotton balls to keep water out of their ears, but I never tried that myself. Lastly, you want to rinse the shampoo out. Depending on the shampoo, you might have to rinse twice; make sure all soap is properly washed out.

The drying process
After rinsing, dry your dog thoroughly; use towels or a blow dryer on low heat. If the weather is nice, take your dog for a walk; they are usually a little hyper after the bath.

One thing I learned right away: even though you and your dog do not always enjoy the bathing experience, you will both feel better afterwards. Bathing is essential to a dog's good health. Not only will your dog shed less, but also feel, look, and smell better. Regular bathing helps preventing diseases, infections, and to spot fleas and ticks! And that's a whole other ball game.

P.S. I am not a professional groomer or veterinarian; these tips are simply based on my own experiences.

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