Wet puppy being dried with a red towel

How to Bathe a Dog

5 min read

While some dogs don’t mind a warm, soapy bath, there are others dogs who’ll try anything to avoid being in the tub. Whichever category your dog falls into, it’s always good to know how to bathe a dog to avoid creating a big mess in the bathroom.

Whether it’s a muddy walk or natural odour, dog bathing is sometimes a necessity so it’s important that you know how to do it properly.


How often should you bathe a dog?

Unlike people, dogs don’t need daily baths. That said, bathing your dog regularly is a good idea. How often you should bathe your dog depends on the type of dog you have.

The good news is that long-haired dogs rarely need more than two to three baths a year, as too much bathing actually removes the natural oils from his coat. A quick paw wash will do most of the time but if your dog has a medical condition, has rolled in something unpleasant, or just smells a bit ‘off’, then a bath is probably on the cards.

Most short-haired dogs can also go without being bathed for a long time, unless they get particularly dirty or smelly! For the majority of short-haired dog breeds, bathing once a month is often enough.

Breeds with water-repellent coats and dogs with thick coats all do best with fewer baths. You should try to only bathe a dog when it’s really necessary or you run the risk of stripping your dog’s coat of its natural oils which can make your dog more likely to have irritated skin.

Preparing to bathe a dog

Before you turn on those taps, it helps to get all the preparation sorted. Here’s what you’ll need to give a dog a bath!


Buy dog shampoo

It’s important that you only use specially formulated dog shampoo instead of human shampoo. Ideally, you should try to find a shampoo that has a neutral PH balance. Also try to pick a shampoo that doesn’t have artificial colours or fragrances.


Choose the right spot

If you have a small breed dog then you can bathe them in a sink. Larger dogs will need more space so choosing somewhere such as a shower or bathtub can work well. Make sure you provide your dog with some grip, place a towel or rubber bath mat on the bottom of the tub or sink. Not all dogs like baths, so it’s also a good idea to choose a location where your dog feels safe and secure.


Get everything set up

Before even beginning the dog bathing process, arrange everything you need neatly by the washing area. You’ll need plenty of clean towels for afterwards, and it helps to keep the doors closed to stop your dog bolting for the sofa as soon as you’re done.


How to bathe a dog

Follow this step-by-step guide to give your dog a bath without too much drama.

1. Reassure your dog

Lots of dogs don’t like being given a bath so it's important to let them know that you’ve got their best interests at heart. Talk to them in a reassuring voice before, during and after the bath. You could also give your dog a treat after a successful dog bath!

2. Brush your dog first

This is to ensure that there are no tangles or matted fur. Matted hair holds water which can leave you dog with irritated skin.

3. Test the water temperature

Keep the water at a warm temperature and make sure you test it before washing your dog.

4. Wet your dog’s body

Soak your dog’s body in warm water and ensure their fur is nice and wet, especially underneath.

5. Add the dog shampoo

Squeeze out a small amount and rub the shampoo into the body until it lathers. Do not apply shampoo to your dog’s head or face as you risk getting shampoo in your dog’s eyes.

6. Wipe your dog’s face

If your dog’s face is also dirty then you should wipe it with a damp cloth but don’t get shampoo or soap on their face.

7. Rinse your dog

It’s important to rinse your dog thoroughly with warm water. Excess soap can irritate your dog’s skin, so it’s important to be rigorous with the rinsing.

8. Dry your dog

Use a towel to dry your dog thoroughly after the bath. You can also use a blow-dryer to dry your dog but make sure it’s on the coolest setting, hold far away from their skin and keep it moving so you don’t focus it on one spot too long.

9. Reward your dog

After you’ve bathed your dog it’s important to reward them with vocal praise. It’s also a good idea to give your dog a treat too so they know you appreciated their co-operation.


Dog bathing: Our expert tips!

  • Allow plenty of time as rushing will make your dog nervous.
  • Going for a good walk first is also advisable so that your dog is less bouncy at bath time.
  • You should always groom your dog before a bath.
  • Choose the right bath for your dog’s size – an old baby bath or sink is great for small dogs, or a shower tray or normal bath is better for larger breeds.
  • Always use a specialist dog shampoo, not one designed for humans.
  • Your dog will automatically have a mad shake once out of the bath so make sure you have plenty of towels and cover up or remove any nearby soft furnishings or items that could sustain water damage.
  • If you can persuade another person to help you do all this, so much the better when bathing a dog – the extra hands will help keep everything under control.

Looking for more dog grooming tips? Read our guide on how to groom a dog, next.