Summit Tip – Bathing Your Dog

By Brenda Crispin…

Hi Everyone,

The next installment in the grooming process is the bathing of the dog.  The first piece of advice I can give you is accept that you are going to get wet.  If you try to bathe a dog and expect to stay dry I say you are not doing it right

Tools you will need:

  • High Value Treats
  • towel on bottom of tub
  • Cotton balls for ears
  • plenty of towels for drying
  • no-tear dog shampoo & conditioner (no human shampoo)
  • rubber scrub brush (optional but I like to use one)
  • harness for tub with suction cups (optional)

Getting the dog acclimated to tub/shower:

Think of the acclimating your dog to getting a bath like the crate games we have been learning over the last few months.  It takes several steps before you have a dog willingly jump in the tub and stay put for the bathing process.

To acclimate the dog first they need to experience the tub without water. Place a thick towel or bath mat on the bottom of the tub to prevent the dog from slipping.   If you have a very young pup you can pick him/her up and place in the tub and give many HIGH value treats. Let them walk and sniff if they wish giving them plenty of rewards.  Then pick him/her up and let them explore other areas in the room.  Make this fun!  If older dog,  treat the dog for even going up and sniffing the tub.  Once the dog is doing that with no fear you can place a cookie on the ledge or toss one inside the tub.  Again no pressure and lots of HIGH value treats and patience here.  Take this slow, it can even take a few days.

** Note:  There are dog harnesses available that use suction cups to your tub that will help you keep your dog in the bath.  They can be handy as it frees up both of your hands. This does not mean you can leave your dog unattended in the bath or that if your dog really wants out they can not pull their way out. They can give just a little more structure to your bath time.

Adding Water to Tub

Now that the dog is use to the tub/shower you can add a little luke warm water.  Not on the dog but just slowly in the tub so the feet get wet. Use your high value treats again. Then let the water out of the tub and give lots of treats.  You can repeat this step a few times until it is not big issue for the dog and you can slowly increase the level of the water.  I often do not have standing water in the tub because I use a sprayer. If you do not have a sprayer you can put just enough water in the tub that you can scoop up water with a pitcher.

Wetting Down and Shampooing the Dog:

First gently place cotton ball in each ear. This helps prevent water from going into the ear canal causing infections or irritation.

As stated above I recommend using a sprayer.  Use a soft spray and start by letting the dog see and hear the water coming from the sprayer.  When ready to get the dog wet start at the shoulders and work down the back and towards the tail.  Do not spray the face.  It is best to start at the shoulder so fleas and ticks do not run towards the head.  Be gentle and upbeat.  You can use enough pressure to make it feel similar to a massage for the dog and often that will relax them a little.  Be sure to wash all four armpits and feet.  Dogs sweat through their feet and odor is often hiding there.

I like to use a very wet washcloth to wash around the face.  If the dog is very dirty you can put shampoo on the first cloth and wipe around the muzzle and face avoiding eyes and then follow behind with a clean wet cloth to get soap out.  Most of the time I do not find I need soap to wash down the face.

Rinsing and Drying the Dog

Rinse thoroughly!!!  This can take a while as dogs fur often holds onto water and therefore the shampoo.  Not getting all the soap out can lead to itchy skin for the dog.  Once finished rinsing you can squeegee out the water with your hands and then put a towel over the dog right away.  This helps to prevent the inevitable shake the dog wishes to do.  Rub the towel all over the body. Again you can take this opportunity to feel the dog all over and make it feel like a massage.  This is often an exciting moment for your dog so watch for the dog wanting to jump out of the tub before you are ready. :))  The drying process often takes several towels.   Continue to offer praise and treats to make this experience rewarding for the dog.

Most dogs want to run and play right after a bath, they will try to rub themselves on your furniture so I recommend crating in a draft free space but first most also need to relieve right away so take them out on leash to relieve and then put a nice clean towel in their crate to facilitate drying.  If you are feeling really generous put the towels in the dryer for a few minutes before placing in the crate.  The dog will really appreciate it

If I tried to cover every step this email would be several pages. This is just a high level overview.  Feel free to ask questions or share what your experience with bathing has been.

Thank you all for your support for Summit.

Brenda Crispin
Foster Home Coordinator
Summit Assistance Dogs