How to Wash Your Dog

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Dogs get stinky.

Some of them are better at it than others.

My dog clearly enjoys the scent of dead armadillo.

He loves it so much that he will roll around on top of one and bring that scent inside our house for all of us to “enjoy” with him. Isn’t he sweet?

Well, when he starts paying the mortgage, he can choose how things smell around here.

Until then, we’re going to shoot for scents that are a little less gag-inducing to the people whose last name is on the mailbox out front.

It’s bath time, buddy. Bring on the scents like pine, mint, and citrus.

I know, I know. I’m ruining my dog’s whole vibe by washing the stink off. He can still knock me over with his breath.

And if that doesn’t work for him, the other end has been known to produce some pretty potent pet odors as well.

Here’s how to wash a dog, quickly, easily, and effectively

How Often Should You Wash Your Dog?

The quick answer?  Anywhere between once a week and once every three months.

I know that’s quite a wide range, but how often you should bathe your dog depends on several factors that must be taken into consideration.

Skin Conditions and Allergies

Certain conditions can cause your dog to need a good washing either more frequently or less frequently.

Your dog’s skin needs the natural oils it produces to promote healthy fur growth. Frequent bathing can strip the skin of these oils, causing dryness and irritation.

However, you still need to bathe your pup on the regular to eliminate problems caused from dirty skin and the build-up of dander, which is the cause of dog allergies.

Dog’s Activity Level

It’s just common sense that a dog who primarily stays indoors is probably less likely to need frequent bathing than a dog who hangs out in the park and likes to roll in the mud.

Dog with long hairLength of Fur

Dogs with long hair tend to get more dirt and debris trapped within it than their short-haired counterparts.

Now, that’s not to say that a short haired dog can’t find a way to get themselves downright disgusting when they’ve set their minds to it.


If you’re waging a war against fleas (been there, done that, burned the T-shirt), then you’ll likely need to purchase a flea shampoo as part of your flea treatment plan.

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This isn’t the type of shampoo you want to use regularly on your pet. If they don’t have fleas, they don’t need the flea shampoo.  It’s that simple.

If you had lice, you’d (hopefully) treat yourself with the medicated shampoo.

After you had eliminated them, would you go back to your regular shampoo or just keep exposing yourself to whatever horrible crap is in lice shampoo?

Where Should You Bathe a Dog?

Wherever you can. I have personally bathed dogs in everything from a kitchen sink to a shower to outside in a kiddie pool. It’s all about what you have available versus the size of your dog.Portable Dog Grooming Bath

There are dog bathtubs available to purchase at a reasonable price. They are elevated to make the chore easier on your back.

As you can see from the photo, they are probably best suited for use with small to medium dogs.

No way I’m lifting an 85-pound dog that high.

They do make extra large elevated dog bathtubs if you feel like you’ve got the muscles for it.

There’s really no wrong place to do it. You’ll need a source of clean water and somewhere for the dirty water to drain.

Safety First!

Bathtubs can be slippery. I’ve slipped and busted my own butt in the shower before, and I am nowhere near as clumsy as my dogs seem to be.

A non-slip bath mat or laying a towel down in the bottom of the tub will give your pup’s paws something to get some traction on.

Handheld Shower HeadIf you don’t have a handheld showerhead (like the one in the picture), you can always use a container to fill, pour, and repeat.

If your dog is scared of baths, enlisting the help of someone to assist you with the task may be necessary.

No matter if the dog is large or small, if they’re upset and slippery and trying to make a break for it, it can become an issue of safety for everyone involved.

How to Wash a Dog

Step 1:  Gather Your Supplies

Once you’ve established where you plan to bathe your four-legged friend, your next step is to make sure you have everything you’ll need on hand and ready to use.

  • Ugly Clothes – It’s a good bet that as you’re trying to bathe your dog, he’s going to try to bathe you back. There is a zero percent chance you’re going to get through this process and remain dry.
  • Collar and Leash – If your dog is comfortable with baths, you can probably skip this. If they are likely to try to dart off in the middle of the task, these could come in pretty handy.
  • Treats – For bribing good behavior out of your pet while you finish the chore.
  • Dog ShampooDoggie conditioners are also available if you have a breed with skin and hair that needs it.
  • Wash Cloths – To clean sensitive areas like ears and eyes, and for helping keeps suds away from eyes and mouth areas.
  • Large Cup – This is really only necessary if you do not have a hand sprayer.
  • Brush – You should brush the coat both before and after bathing.

Step 2:  Begin the Bath

Four Easy Steps

There’s really only four steps to the actual bath part of grooming your dog.

  1. Add water – Dampen your dog’s fur thoroughly with warm water.
  2. Add soap – Apply shampoo on your dog’s back and began to lather, working it down around the belly and over the tail, legs and paws, and neck.
  3. More water – Rinse COMPLETELY. Failure to do so can result in skin irritation which will lead to scratching which can lead to bigger problems like bacterial infections and yeast dermatitis.
  4. Less water – Dry your dog with a towel or dryer.

Sometimes nothing beats a visual.

Additional Tips For Bathing Your Dog

  • Check that the water temperature is neither too cold nor too hot. Aim for warm to lukewarm.
  • Keep water out of your dog’s ears to minimize the risk of ear infections. Do not submerge your dog under the water. Do not dump or spray water over their head or in their face. Rinse their head with a wet cloth or sponge.
  • Keep shampoo away from pup’s eyes, nose, ears, and mouth. Use a wet washcloth to wipe suds away from these sensitive areas.
  • Be sure to rinse your dog well. You don’t want to leave any soapy residue on your pup’s skin. This can lead to irritated skin—making your dog itchy and causing him to do lots of scratching.

Step 3:  Drying a Dog After a Bath

Puff-N-Fluff Dog Hair DryerYou can use a towel or a hair dryer, if your dog is cool with the sound.

Or you can get one of these things. I can’t remember the last time I laughed so hard.

Is it wrong that I really want to buy one? That’s what you get for eating my shoe when you were a puppy. Bet you thought I forgot about that one, didn’t you?

Step 4:  Additional Grooming

After a bath, as well as before, you should brush your dog’s fur. This helps loosen dirt and detangle fur.

It’s not only important to know the right way to brush your dog’s fur, but you should be sure to choose the right type of brush for your dog’s coat.

Types of Dog Brushes

  • Bristle

This typBristle Dog Brushe of brush can be used on most coat types due to variations in the spacing and stiffness of the bristles. Wider spaces work best on longer hair, and stiff bristles work best on coarse hair.

Short, smooth fur like that found on most Chihuahuas and Hounds, work well with a soft to medium bristle brush with short, closely spaced bristles.

  • Wire Dog BrushWire-pin

For pets with medium to long hair or dense and curly coats, the wire-pin brush works well.

Breeds like Maltese, Poodles, and Yorkies require a wire-pin brush for their fur.

  • Slicker

Slicker Dog BrushThis type of brush has fine wire bristles that come in handy for removing mats and tangles.

Dogs with thick, wooly undercoats like Collies, Chows, and Huskies need slicker brushes to help keep their sometimes unruly coats under control.

  • Silicone Dog BrushRubber/Silicone

These brushes are great for removing excess pet hair on almost all types of fur.

They are also quite handy to use for massage and to help distribute the dog shampoo during the bath.

You can even rub them on your upholstered furniture and carpets to remove pet hair from those surfaces as well.

Other Grooming Tools

There is more to properly grooming a dog than just the bath itself.  You’ve got to clip your dog’s nails (or you can also grind your dog’s nails).

Their ears also need to be cleaned. You need to brush your dog’s teeth.

The sensitive areas of their faces like eyes need to be cleaned as well.

Certain breeds are prone to tearing, such as Boston Terriers, and that can be taken care of with a little colloidal silver.

Simply apply a little on a cotton ball and wipe the folds to remove tear stains (here are our top picks for dog food that prevents tear stains) and disinfect.

And if they tend to always carry around a little extra funk, some doggie cologne may be in order.

Is it Okay to Bathe Your Dog with Dish Soap?

Barring a skin condition, yes, BUT not regularly.

There are certain circumstances that call for something excessively strong like the grease-fighting power of Dawn.  Situations that spring to mind include:

  • Fido decided to made friends with a skunk
  • Your pooch was involved in some type of an oil spill
  • The dog is insane like mine and found a dead animal and rolled around on top of it for no good reason and carried the stench of death that our regular dog shampoo just wasn’t able to touch

Can I Use People Shampoo to Wash my Dog?

Girl bathing dog in bathtub Like dish soap, you can, but you shouldn’t do it in excess.  A dog’s skin varies greatly from that of a human’s scalp.

Using human shampoo on your dog could potentially result in inflammation and irritation of your pet’s skin.

This will make them more likely to scratch and increases their risk for problems like bacterial infections and yeast issues.

Our Recommendations of Dog Shampoos For…


Adams Plus Flea and Tick Shampoo

Wondercide Natural Flea and Tick Shampoo Bar

Itchy/Sensitive Skin

Bert’s Bees for Dogs Itch Soothing Shampoo with HoneysuckleShampoo for itchy dogs

Earthbath All Natural Oatmeal and Aloe

Long/Thick Fur

Sofee and Co. White Pear Natural Dog Shampoo

Perfect Coat White Pearl Coconut Shampoo and Conditioner


Earthbath All Natural Mediterranean Magic Rosemary Scented Deodorizing Shampoo

SynergyLabs Richard’s Organic Deodorizing Shampoo with Baking Soda, Zinc, Rosemary Extract, and Lavender Oil

So In Conclusion…

If you’re in a pinch and out of other options, people shampoo or dish soap will certainly get your dog clean, but it can be harmful to your dog’s skin.

There are better choices for man’s best friend. It’s worth splurging a little on dog shampoos with quality ingredients.

You won’t be using it daily, so one bottle can easily last you well over a year.

Eliminate Bad Dog Breath Without Brushing

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