Checklists and basics are out of the way. Now to get into specifics.
Have you acclimated your babe to the sound of rushing water? Depending on your dog’s temperament, it may be a good idea to expose her to the sound. Rewarding with praise or treats is up to you and whatever you think elicits the best response. A few ideas may be: When you pour yourself a glass of water from the tap or watercooler, reward your dog. Run the bath or spray the kitchen attachment, reward your dog. If it’s raining, reward your dog. Head down to a stream or body of water, let your dog splash around if it’s safe, and give them a reward. A good relationship with water will make bathing at home so much easier!
Temperature for bathing should be luke warm. Dogs run at a higher body temperature than humans so avoid the cooler side of the gauge. On the flip side, don’t go too hot either! You may risk burning your little one’s skin.
Wetting, Washing, and Rinsing:
Please, oh, please note: don’t you dare bring any other brushes into the tub. The levels of sharpness may harm your babe’s skin while his coat is wet! Stick with the rubber brush; the longer the coat, the longer the rubbery prongs should be.
Our first goal is to wet every inch of the body. Shampoo needs to get all the way down to the skin in order to clean the hair follicles and pores. Yes, washing the entire coat is going to be a by-product of this, and having clean hair will be great, but unless we’ve washed the literal root of things, we’re only doing a half-ass job! Exactly like with humans, all of the oils, dirt, and grime build in our pores, we’re just not covered fully in hair like dogs are!
If your friend isn’t too keen on the initial rush of water from the hose, I do have a helpful tweak. Have bottles or pitchers of water prepped. Sometimes the quiet flow of water over the body is easier to deal with than that huge wooshing sound to start. Once he’s begun to get a little wet, try turning on the faucet from here. This slow build might work for a fearful-at-first babe.
Short haired dogs have it easy during bath time, y’all. Longer haired, mixed coated dudes will require extra time and effort. I find it helpful to work in sections. Using your rubber brush, divide and create lines in the hair that expose the skin so that we know with certainty where we’ll be washing.
We’ve got options with how to get shampoo on. You can go to town squirting the bottle directly onto your dog’s body, you can pour it into your hands and work it onto your dude, or you can try my favorite option. You can add your shampoo to a large bottle of luke warm water and shake gently to mix. I love a bottle with a spout so that I can squeeze it into the lines I’ve created and allow the bottle to meet the skin. If you’re using a shampoo that can be diluted, just follow those instructions (25:1, 10:1, etc). If you’re using a regular shampoo that isn’t meant for dilution, that’s still okay, you’ll just have to repeat this process a few times in order to get the amount of suds going in order for a proper clean. This step can be used as a continuation for a quiet bath if your babe is still nervous.
In order to tackle your dog’s face, I usually keep the flow of water/shampoo at the top of the head. Gently tilt the babe’s face downward, and allow the water to flow down the bridge of the nose. With my rubber brush, I can guide the flow to the left and right sides of the face and brush down the neck or back towards the ears. Every dog will react differently to this, but I’ve gotta say that in all of my experience, this is the least enjoyed part of the process for most dogs. Just keep your cool and encourage your dude to be a good boy. Y’all can do it!
Once we’re soaped up, it is time to lather! Rubber brush in hand, comb sections of the body repititively to work into the skin, and remember to follow natural lines in your dogs coat. This will take time! If you’ve got a flappy bulldog or shar pei, make sure you’re in those folds! If you’ve got a husky or retriever with hair for days, I hope you’re not in a rush! If you’ve got a bearded babe, long haired tails, fluffy butts, whatever – we’re in this for a long haul! Sing some silly doggie love songs and have a good time with it!
So. How long did that take? Are we lathered? Great. Now spend double that time rinsing it all out. My apologies to the little babes who may have been afraid of rushing water up until this point. But pouring water from a cup or bottle at this point will not do the job. For the rinsing portion, we need good and decent pressure. All those suds need to come off. Not doing so may result in that residue becoming a brand new issue in itself. It can become crusty on hair, leading to matting. It might stay on the skin, creating a moist section that may lend itself to breeding grounds for yeast or mold. Let us make absolutely sure that every bit of shampoo is washed off your babe and down the drain! I recommend testing on yourself how harsh the sprayer might be and adjust the pressure if you can. Apply it directly on your pet’s skin and work in a downward motion.
Using your rubber brush throughout this entire process is so valuable. It’s easy on your pet’s skin, it separates hair easily, it gently loosens and removes dead undercoat and hair, it desheds, and helps to rinse with more efficiency by guiding the shampoo off the body. You’ll find yourself working with the sprayer in one hand, and using the other hand just beneath it to brush the water flow and shampoo down.
We’re here! We bathed and now we’re ready to be done! But hold it – not so fast! Even if you have a short haired breed, the drying process matters across the board! This is not to be overlooked.
Making sure your pet is dry will ensure that we are not leaving behind problematic areas that could rear their ugly heads soon after. A wet pocket on the skin may invite a yeast infection, or may cause your dog to lick the area, which may then bring bacteria. We don’t want a petrie dish, or a hotspot, or anything nasty of the sort! Please don’t undo all of the amazing work we did in the bath by allowing an issue to develop. Dry your dog!
Let’s talk towels. I definitely recommend a microfiber towel for its softness but mainly for its absorption capabilities. Even if you’ve got a hairless buddy, at the very least any towel should be applied to the body. But especially, if your babe is hairless, and for most all dogs, scrubbing that towel is not the right option. This feeling can be very harsh for a babe with sensitive skin, or could pull hair, and even cause tangles and matting if ruffled rigorously. Instead, with towel in hand, heavily pat or lightly squeeze sections at a time to first do some absorbing.
You know what I’m a fan of? Letting your dog do the work. Shake, shake, shake! If you’re in your bathroom, wrap that shower curtain around and let little guy go to town! If you’re in your kitchen sink, hover a towel over and let her do her thing! Not only is this so helpful to get a majority of the wetness off, it’s just so dang cute! You’ll likely have some cleaning up to do, but hey, that was probably going to be the case anyway. And if you’re worried about a mess, I sassily ask, why are you even here?! This is a dirty job!
From here, I’d like to scoop up the little one and move to the grooming table.
Now get that rubber brush and work some more magic. Brush off any excess wetness and loose coat. Towel dry again in the same manner.
Onto blow drying. I discuss options you can use in this post. *link* Whatever you’re working with, just remember that we are not looking for high heat as this may scorch skin or burn hair. Some light heat might be helpful for thicker coats but overall, we are technically looking to blow the wetness away. This will take an investment of your time, patience, and another round of fun loving encouragement!
While you may feel your short haired buddy may not need a blow dry, please check for the most common thick areas like around the collar or the back of his thighs.
Once again, working in sections is very helpful to break up the monotony during this long step. We’ll be drying from the inside out. That is to say, we’ll start at the skin, and brush outward to dry the fur secondarily. You can use your rubber brush if we’re still a bit wet, or hair that is already more dry can have your boar’s hair brush or greyhound comb used here, depending on the length of the coat. I like to work back to front because I find that most dogs will either get bored or just want to take a seat at some point. In anticipation of that, I’d rather that their booty is dry to allow them to comfortably sit while I work on drying the rest of their little body.
Looking for more drying hacks? I’ve got ’em on this post over here! *link*
We have now successfully prepped our canvas and can move onto the next step in the grooming process! Good job, you!