Bathing is a big part of keeping your dog healthy, presentable, and pleasant to be around. We all know that dirty, wet dog smell (it’s not the best).
Be Patient and Start Slow
An early introduction to baths and a regular bathing schedule can make the difference between doggy bath time being an excellent experience or a pooch battle. There is a lot of conflicting information about when a puppy should have its first bath. Consulting with your vet on when the best time to begin bathing your dog is a good idea. There are a lot of factors to consider from dog breed, temperament, coat, and health.
It is usually recommended to wait until a dog is weaned. You want your dog to be strong and healthy before its first introduction to water. It is also suggested to wait at least two weeks after a vaccine to avoid stressing the pup and possibly causing a poor immunological response.
Now that you have an active healthy puppy, it is time to introduce it to the wonders and fun of taking a bath. Make that first bath a positive experience, and then reinforce it with regular baths as needed.
There are a lot of factors that go into how frequently you should bathe your dog. You don’t want your pup to be smelly or track dirt all over your house. You also don’t want to deplete his skin of natural oils which could cause skin irritation, damaged hair follicles, or increased risk of bacterial or fungal infections.
Make it Fun
Making bath time a fun experience is essential. Dogs naturally love water so do your best to eliminate stress and fear. If you’re nervous about bathing your dog, they will sense it. So, make sure that you are calm and relaxed and prepared for your pup’s first bathing experience. Bringing their favorite chew toy in the bath can help take the stress from the new experience away from your pup. In the past, I have been known to plaster some peanut butter on the wall and wash the puppy while they are trying to get it off.
Location Location Location
Just like with real estate, location matters. You want to create the perfect environment for bath time. Decide whether you are going to do it yourself at home, go to a DIY dog washing spa, or leave it to the professionals.
If you are bathing your dog at home, create an environment that will make the pup feel safe. Whether you choose a sink, tub, or shower, you will want to have a sprayer with warm water, a non-slip mat, and a way for you to reach your dog without straining your back.
Have the Right Tools on Hand
There are dog washing tubs and sprayers that you can purchase that are specifically for this, or you can use an option you already have available at home. Once you have your location, gather everything that you will need for the entire bath process.
Get your water warm, but not hot. Have your sprayer or a rinsing cup handy, have a washcloth for cleaning your puppy’s face, and towels for the end of the process. You will also want treats for positive reinforcement.
Depending on your dog and particular setup, some neat additional tools can help make bath time more successful. There are rubber grooming brushes that make dog washing easier and tackle loose or matted hair. There are also doggy shower sprayers and sprayers with brushes built-in.
You don’t want to use human shampoo or dish detergent on your dog. You need a moisturizing shampoo that won’t remove the natural oils or lead to irritated skin. There are a lot of specialized shampoos, find one that is suited for your particular dog.
Let the Socialization Begin
Presenting puppies with new stimuli and experiences is part of the socialization process. You want to do everything you can to make this a positive experience and avoid making this a fearful experience.
Stay calm and talk to your pup. Reassure him that everything is alright as you gently lower him into the warm water. Gentle strokes and petting can help make the experience positive. Keep talking and let him know what a great experience he is having.
Once the puppy is in the water, gently use your puppy soap and your hand or brush to create a lather. Wash the puppies face separately with a washcloth. Be very careful not to get soap in your puppy’s eyes or water in his ears. Nothing ruins bath time fun like soap in the eyes, and the latter could cause an infection.
Have a Drying Plan
After your puppy’s bath, he will help you out by shaking off. This will help him/her dry up, and at the same time, get water all over you. The shaking is a natural dog reaction so be prepared. Also, have a plan for drying your fresh and minty pup.
Have towels on hand. You can quickly throw these on the pup to deflect some of the water that is about to be flung your way. The towels are also great for absorbing excess water and moisture before you dry your dog. You can towel dry, but vigorous rubbing can create tangles and matted hair.
Your drying method will depend on your dog and breed, but blow drying leaves the fur soft and smooth and prevents additional dirt being picked up while your dog air dries. It also eliminates lingering excess moisture.
Professional groomers use different dryers. Some are handheld, some hook to a cage, and others are on a stand. You can get a grooming dryer or choose a quiet blow dryer and set it on a warm temperature with a high air-flow setting. Just make sure to take it slow. You don’t want to go backward after all of the progress you’ve made so far. A loud blow dryer can surely scare your pup if it isn’t introduced in a healthy manner.
You will be rewarded with that new puppy smell, but your pup also needs rewards. Even though being clean and fresh might feel good, your new best friend will need an additional reward.
Puppies love treats. You can reward your puppy with a small treat after the bath. You don’t want to overdo it. Find something that your puppy likes and hold it out, so your puppy can smell it. Then let your puppy gently take the treat while you offer positive reinforcement by telling your pup what great job he did with the bath. You can also offer positive reinforcement with toys, play, affection, and praise.
Rewarding your dog with some quality play time will not only help your puppy burn off some of that puppy energy, but it will also help reinforce your relationship. This is a no-calorie way to show your pup you love them and reward them for a job well done!