How to Bathe Your Dog

Follow these instructions and suggestions for dog bathing products to make bath time a pleasant and beneficial experience for you and your pup.

dog getting a bath how to bathe a dog
Using a rubber bathtub mat in the bottom of the tub will make your dog feel much more secure and calm in the bathtub or shower stall. Dogs who slip in the tub never look this comfortable! Photo by Manu Vega, Getty Images

Don’t wait until your dog needs a bath to create a comfortable, relaxing routine for this important ritual. Plan ahead by organizing the products and equipment you’ll need, and if you’re new to dog bathing, rehearse the steps, which are:

  1. Dry brush your dog
  2. Wet with water
  3. Shampoo
  4. Rinse
  5. Apply conditioner
  6. Rinse
  7. Dry your dog
  8. Brush while drying

What bath products do I need?

The best dog shampoos and conditioners are made with gentle ingredients that remove dirt without irritating your dog’s skin. Depending on your dog’s coat, you may need a detangling spray, a rubber bathing brush for working shampoo through the coat, fast-drying towels, a hair dryer that dries dog hair quickly without feeling hot, and the right brush for your dog’s coat. Consult a groomer if you need help getting started.

dog getting dried after a bath
It’s important for the health of the dog’s skin that he’s dried thoroughly after a bath (especially for long or thick-coated dogs). To dry a dog thoroughly after a bath, groomers use special dryers that provide a cooler and more powerful jet of air than human hair dryers. The strong air flow forces the moisture away from the dog’s skin and out of his coat; the cooler air ensures that he doesn’t get overheated. If you use a human hair dryer on your dog, use it on the coolest setting possible. Photo by Siro Rodenas Cortes / Getty Images.

Where to bathe your dog

The best place for your dog’s bath might be your sink, bathtub, walk-in shower, outdoor wading pool, or back yard. Your water supply should be lukewarm, not hot or cold. If you’re using a bathtub, be sure your dog can climb in and out, and place a rubber bathtub mat (or at the very least, a towel) in the tub to keep your dog’s feet from slipping.

You’re probably going to get wet, so wear appropriate casual clothing. Use treats and encouragement to position your dog.

Start with a dry brush on your dog’s coat

Begin by brushing your dog’s coat to remove loose hair, burrs, sand, dried dirt, and other debris. If there are mats in your dog’s coat, save the brushing for later as a bath may loosen the matted hair. In that case, spray or apply a detangling product to the hair mats following label directions and then shampoo.

Dilute your dog shampoo

We, humans, are fond of frothy bubbles, so we tend to over-soap our dogs. While that may look efficient, it’s better to use fewer bubbles and more water. Grooming experts recommend diluting equal parts water and shampoo to blends as dilute as 1 or 2 tablespoons shampoo in 2 cups water. The dilute solutions reach all parts of the coat quickly and rinse out faster and more thoroughly than full-strength shampoo. Dilute your conditioner, too.

Step-by-step dog washing

Use a gentle stream of water to thoroughly wet your dog’s coat. Keep shampoo out of your dog’s eyes and ears as you apply it from neck to tail, then gently massage the shampoo into every part of your dog’s coat.

After that, rinse and rinse and rinse some more. Apply a diluted coat conditioner, if you’re using one, and rinse again. Use a finishing spray or other products as needed, then blot your dog’s coat with towels. If you have one, dry your dog with a dog blow dryer. Finish by brushing your dog’s hair while it’s still slightly damp.

For more detailed instructions, see “Waterworks: Tips and Techniques for Bathing Your Dog,” WDJ November 2014, and “When Can Puppies Take a Bath?”