How To Bathe a Dog: A Step-by-Step Guide For Responsible Owners

How To Bathe a Dog: A Step-by-Step Guide For Responsible Owners
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Knowing how to bathe a dog properly is important, not only for keeping them healthy and clean but also for cuddle time! Bathing is an essential part of the grooming routine and can vary among dogs based on their size, coat type, skin sensitivity, and environment. There are several key steps that you can take to keep the bathing process stress-free and easy for both you and your dog.


For step-by-step instructions, please head down to the "How To Bathe Your Dog" section.



Why Is It Important to Bathe Your Dog?

Like humans, dogs should stay as clean as possible! However, since dogs can't wash themselves, they need a little bit of our help. Bathing your dog can keep them clean and happy, and it is a great chance to take care of their health.


  • Healthier coats - Cleaning your dog is important for their health. It washes away any dirt, grime, and odors. Sometimes their coats can trap allergens that can spread into the house, so bathing helps them stay clean and keeps your allergies at a minimum.
  • Monitor their health - Bathing your dog is also a great time to check for any fleas, cuts, lumps, or any other abnormalities. Especially if your dog loves to play outside, it is extremely common for them to come home with a few bumps and scrapes. If their skin is inflamed or infected, bathing them will also help heal their skin.
  • Reduces shedding - Bathing also helps keep your dog's coat soft and reduces shedding. All dogs have dead hair, and washing them can keep their coats strong and healthy. Especially during shedding season, bathing is very important to keep their coats well-managed.
  • Bonding time - Last but not least, bathing your own dog can significantly improve your bond with them. Dogs love to spend time with their owners, and the act of washing them can be very relaxing and calming for them. Be sure to bathe them as early as possible so it can be an enjoyable experience for them!



washing brown dog outside in bucket



How Often Should I Bathe My Dog?

The general rule-of-thumb is that dogs should be washed about once every 4-6 weeks. However, many factors determine how often you should wash your dog. Of course, if they have been rolling around outside or start to smell musty, give them a quick rinse or brush over to remove any dirt and debris.


You always want to be careful about washing your dog too often. Frequent baths can dry out their skin and cause irritation.


Wash Dogs with Oily Coats More Frequently

Dogs create natural oils that protect their skin and coat. These oils keep their skin from drying out, so they should not be washed too often. But dogs with overly oily coats, such as Bloodhounds or Chesapeake Retrievers, should be washed more often as the 'dirty' oils can clog up the skin pores. Generally, it is best to wash them once every one to two weeks so their skin can continue to produce new oils.


Short-Haired Dogs—Not So Much

Dogs with short-hair coats can go the longest without a bath. Their short coats naturally shed dirt and oils and they can go up to 2-3 months without bathing. All they need is a quick brush a few times a week to remove the dead hair, and they are good to go.


Double-Coats Get the Brush!

Thick or double-coated dogs, like Huskies or Labradors, require lots of brushing but fewer baths. Their longer, thicker coats require plenty of brushing to prevent it from matting and to remove dead hair, so they don't overheat. However, since their coats are not considered oily, they need their natural oils to prevent their skin from drying out.


What Products Are Best for Bathing & Grooming A Dog?

Never use your own bath products for bathing your dog. Humans have a different pH balance than dogs, and using a product meant for humans can cause different chemicals to irritate your dog's skin. Use only products that are formulated specifically for canines.


CBD Shampoo

If you really want to treat your dog (and pamper their skin to the max), CBD dog shampoo is worth trying! Our gentle, organic formula cleans your dog’s skin and coat, all while providing a soothing CBD boost. Plus, it carries a delicious mandarin berry scent to leave your dog smelling fresh and clean.


CBD is a compound derived from hemp plants that can help your dog relax in the tub—it’s especially helpful if your pup isn’t a big fan of bath time. It can enhance the skin's natural function, add hydration to the skin, and soothe minor irritations.


Choosing the Right Product

Depending on your dog's needs, there are many different formulas out there that can boost your dog's coat health. There are shampoos and conditioners for sensitive skin, extra strength odor remover, flea protection, and many more. Choose the right products for your dog's needs to keep them happy and healthy!


Here are some of the many available formulas:


  • Allergy itch shampoo
  • Anti-fungal/anti-parasite shampoo
  • Hypoallergenic shampoo (for dogs with allergies and sensitive skin)
  • De-shedding shampoo & conditioners



How To Bathe Your Dog

Not all dogs enjoy bath time, so you can do a few things to help make the experience better for your dog and yourself. Remember that taking your dog for a bath should be a fun, bonding experience and not stressful for both parties.


Try to start the bathing routine with your dog when they are young. By getting your dog used to it, they will be more willing to take baths in the future. One great tip you can try is to associate baths with something positive, like CBD treats for dogs or toys, to get them excited to take a bath.


Dog Bath Preparation

Brushing is a vital part of the pre-bath process. Particularly for long-haired breeds, brushing out any knots or tangles can help prevent any matting during the bath. It also helps remove any dead hair that could potentially clog the drains.


Make sure the water temperature is lukewarm. Dogs do not like hot water as it can burn their skin if the temperature is too high. The water cannot be too cold either, as it does not clean well and nobody likes to bathe in chilly water.


Determine where you are going to wash your dog. For smaller dogs, a sink or a bathtub might work best. Buy an anti-slip mat that will prevent you from slipping and falling since bathing your dog can be a messy process. For larger dogs, bathing them outside may be the better option.



If your dog has a phobia or gets nervous about taking a bath, some owners have turned to CBD products to calm them down. CBD has shown very few side effects in dogs, and is well tolerated by most mammals. Some of these mild side effects can include:


  • Dry mouth
  • Drowsiness
  • Inhibits drug metabolization (if your dog is currently prescribed other medicines)


These mild side effects are associated with ingesting CBD though, and it is rare any of these effects will occur while using CBD topically. CBD has the potential to promote feelings of relaxation and boost your dog's mood. It may also hydrate dry, sensitive skin. Holistapet offers some great CBD products for dogs, all made with natural, organic ingredients and superfoods. Consult your vet to determine if CBD will conflict with any medication your dog is taking.



happy retriever with bubbles on head



How to Wash Your Dog

Always test the water temperature right before washing your dog to avoid any accidents.


  • Now that you're ready to bathe your dog make sure to soak them thoroughly with warm water. Using a pressured shower head can help dogs with thicker coats, so take an extra few minutes to wet them thoroughly.
  • Next, lather up the special dog shampoo and start massaging it into their coat. Start from the back and work your way towards the front, carefully avoiding any shampoo from getting into their eyes and ears. Some shampoos may require you to leave it on for a few minutes, so read the instructions carefully.
  • You may want to use a damp cloth to wash your dog's face. This will prevent any shampoo from dripping down into their eyes and ears. You can also wrap your dog's ears with a cloth to block any water or shampoo from getting in.
  • After the shampoo has set for a few minutes, begin rinsing from the head and work your way back. Rinse your dog a few times to ensure all the shampoo has washed out completely. Any lingering shampoo can cause the skin to dry out or can irritate your dog.
  • Conditioner after washing is fantastic to keep your dog's coat soft, shiny, and vibrant, especially if your dog has a long coat. It can reduce the chances of the hair matting and make it easier to brush afterward. Remember to rinse your dog carefully a second time if the conditioner is used!


Drying Your Dog After a Bath

Have a towel ready to dry your dog after their bath, or else once they shake, water can get everywhere. Large towels work better no matter your dog's size as they need to be dried out thoroughly. Damp spots on your dog can lead to acute moist dermatitis, which can be very uncomfortable for them.


Brushing your dog while drying them off can also help speed up the drying process. Dog brushes can help separate the hairs, allowing them to air-dry faster. It will also help distribute your dog's natural body oils, helping to protect their skin.


How to Blow Dry Your Dog

You can dry your dog with a blow dryer but use it ONLY on low and cool settings. The heat of a standard blow dryer can cause discomfort and even burn their skin. You can buy specialized blow dryers for dogs, but slowly introduce them to the blow dryer to get them accustomed to it.


The best way to blow dry your dog is to work in small sections. Use a steady back and forth motion instead of a circular motion to avoid twisting up the hair and causing it to tangle.


Related: Dog Dandruff: What Causes It and How to Stop It NOW!


Post-Bath Cleaning

After drying your dog, always check and clean their ears, especially for breeds with long, floppy ears. The warmth of the bath can help bring out any dirt or debris stuck in their ears, but trapped moisture can also lead to infection. Use a cotton swab (do not enter their ear canal, or it can hurt them!) to clean their ears and check for any odd smells.


Ear-cleaning is important not just after baths but in general to prevent any ear infections. Dogs that swim or play outside regularly are at a higher risk for infections. You can also purchase select ear cleaning products for dogs to help clean their ears.


And of course, what bath would be complete without a vigorous shake from your dog to get rid of all the remaining water droplets. Be ready to get pelted by water immediately after drying!


Get Ready for Them to Roll

It’s very common for dogs to immediately roll in dirt or any other part of their familiar environment immediately after a bath. While this is frustrating, know that your dog is not intentionally trying to undo all your hard cleaning work. Dogs are often freaked out by the smell of shampoos, and they roll to get their old familiar scents back on their coat.


Safety Tips for Bathing a Dog

For some dogs, they may get antsy or nervous before a bath. You always want to reassure them that everything will be okay and give them rewards (like treats or praise) to calm them down. However, to be safe, some owners might want to tether them down to prevent them from running off.


Some people recommend buying an anti-slip bath mat to make the process easier. Sometimes dogs can squirm around and can cause slipping hazards. Many owners are turning to CBD as well, because it is great for calming nervous dogs.


Every dog can have different reactions to various products. When using a new product to bathe your dog, check carefully to see if they have any allergic reactions. For best results, try only to use natural, organic shampoos and conditioners.


Your dog can also have preferences for different brushes and combs. Dogs with more sensitive skin can react differently to the bristles on a brush or teeth on a comb. Consult with your vet to figure out the best products and brushes for your dog.


Related: How to Socialize a Dog No Matter the Age, Breed, or Aggression Level


Taking Your Dog to the Groomers

Dogs with long coats should be taken to the groomers every few months for a coat trim and wash. Groomers will keep your dog in the best condition, not only bathing them but also clipping their nails, brushing their teeth, and cleaning their ears. Groomers can give your dog the VIP treatment and the best salon experience ever.


If your dog is being uncooperative, groomers can also give great tips on how to wash your dog at home. You can watch how they operate and learn to apply those tricks at home. And for more tips about how to care for dogs check out these useful resources.



nervous dog being rinsed down



Final Thoughts - How to Bathe a Dog

Bathing your dog should be a fun time for everyone and a great bonding experience. Every dog is different, and you might even come up with new techniques to help your bathing process. Most importantly, always give them positive feedback and encourage them to enjoy bath time!


Read Next: Why Does My Dog Stink After a Bath? [Reasons Why & How to Prevent It]

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