Expert Tips on Bathing Your Dog

dog bath with a garden hose

There are many online videos of dogs doing everything they can to resist taking a bath. If you have been lucky enough to experience it first hand, you know how miserable giving a dog a bath can be. However, what if I told you it didn’t have to be that way. As a groomer I have had dogs come in who at first seem to hate everything about the bath, but then after a couple of grooming sessions they get excited and even pull their owners into the grooming shop. I don’t bribe dogs with food treats, but rather I use my behavior to make it a pleasant experience for the dogs.

The first thing to do, and possibly the hardest, is to let go of all your expectations of how the bath will go. If you are already stressed out, the dog will sense it and will also be stressed out. Instead, wait until you are happy and relaxed before giving your dog a bath. If you already have a bath routine and your dog runs and hides once he knows what is about to happen, switch it up. By doing the routine in a different order, your dog doesn’t know what to expect. Also, where you bathe your dog can make a big difference. On a hot summer day it may seem like a great idea to use the garden hose, but not every dog will enjoy the cold water. A better idea is to use the bathtub, shower, or even your kitchen sink for smaller dogs. After all, who doesn’t enjoy a nice warm bath over a cold bath. If your dog is likely to jump out and try to escape, feel free to use their leash to restrain them in the bathing area. It will also make it less stressful for you knowing they can’t escape, and it turns into a more pleasant experience for your dog.

Now that your dog is secure in the bathing area, it is time for their bath. First, turn on the water and let it run next to them for a second. This will allow you to test the water temperature to make sure it isn’t too hot or too cold, and let your dog realize the water is on instead of them suddenly getting wet out of nowhere. When you start to wet them, begin closer towards their rear end and work your way towards their head. This will let them get used to the idea of being wet, and allow them to relax when you wet their head. Now is time for the doggie massage (applying the shampoo). Make sure you use a shampoo that is meant for dogs. Often times shampoo meant for people or dishes will cause dogs to become itchy and have dry, flaking skin. I prefer an oatmeal based shampoo since it is great for the majority of dogs. However, if your dog has allergies, fleas, skin problems, etc. you should use a shampoo that is meant for their needs.

As you are applying the shampoo really work it into their coat. If you ever have ever had your hair washed at a salon you know how good it feels as you have your scalped massaged, and dogs seem to really enjoy it as well. Additionally, it will allow you to feel them all over and notice and issues that they may be developing. Often, groomers are the first to notice new warts, moles, and tumors because they are very hands on and feel the dog all over. Once they are lathered up you’ll need to rinse them. This is probably the most important part of the bath, because you need to make sure you rinse all the soap off. If any soap remains on the dog, it can cause skin issues that range from a little bit of dander to a large hot spot. Conditioner is optional for many dogs, but using it will make the dogs coat feel much softer. Also if they have tangles, it can help loosen them up for an easier brush out after the bath. If you do use a conditioner, make sure you fully rinse it out unless it is a leave on conditioner.

Now that they are clean you’ll want towel dry them as much as you can. For smooth coated dogs, especially on a hot day, a good towel drying is all that you may need. However, if your dog has longer hair, or it is cold, you’ll want to use a hair dryer to dry them. If your dog is scared of the dryer, start it off on a low setting and increase it once they become relaxed with it. As you are drying your dog feel free to brush them out at the same time. Using a brush will allow the air to get through to the different layers of the hair easier, and as a result dry your dog faster. This works if your dog has no tangles to a few tangles. However, if they have a lot of tangles you will need to comb them all out before you bathe your dog. If you can’t brush out all of the tangles, you may need to take them to the groomers for a haircut.

Danielle Grimm has been a dog groomer since 2000.  The first shop that she worked in taught her how to groom dogs and cats.  She currently does grooming in Montrose, CA where she has fun working with dogs every day.  She lives there with her dogs Dillon and Leo.  You can email her at  Just mention MeowWoofChirp in the email.  Danielle is also a member of the MeowWoofChirp community.  You can see her profile at: