Dog Grooming and Bathing
How often does your dog need to be bathed or groomed?
It depends on what breed of dog you have, of course, and also the dog’s lifestyle. Consider where Fido sleeps and spends most of his time; if he’s primarily an outdoor doggy, you’ll have to be extra vigilant for skin problems caused by dampness, insect bites, sunburn and burrs. Check his coat, skin and paw pads regularly for signs of irritation, inflammation and foreign objects.
For longer haired dogs, grooming requirements are very high, of course; but for the average dog a general rule of thumb might be: get in the habit of doing just a couple of minutes of grooming every day or 2 – whether it’s a brief brushing or a quick inspection of the paw pads or ears – and combine this mini-grooming session with your usual playtime or quality snuggle time together. That way, Fido will learn to enjoy this form of attention, and you’ll always have a good idea of the general state of his coat, skin, ears, paw pads and overall health.
Unless your dog is prone to rolling in rotted garbage, or some other equally stinky activity, he shouldn’t need to be bathed more than once a month or so. Make sure to use a very gentle dog shampoo; doggy skin is very sensitive, and a harsh shampoo will strip the naturally protective oils that keep the coat and skin healthy.
What about super stinky dogs?
If you are bathing your dog on a monthly basis and he still smells noticeably stinky, see your vet. It could be an indicator of various health problems. Read more on doggy smell.
Is it ok to bathe a puppy?
Under normal circumstances, a puppy should not be bathed until he’s at least 6 weeks old. Read more on bathing a puppy.
How to brush?
Using a medium bristle brush, start at the bottom of one of the dog's legs and work your way up, gently but thoroughly brushing out one section at a time. If you’re doing a mini-grooming, one section per day would be sufficient. Fido could be standing or lying next to you, (or even on your lap) for this form of informal brushing; lavish him with praise while you work, and chances are he’ll begin to see these mini-grooming sessions as just another form of delightful attention from you.
For a full brushing session, have Fido jump up onto a table; this will make the job much easier on your back, and you’ll be better able to see what you’re doing with the dog at eye level. Holding his collar with one hand, gently brush him out one section at a time, paying special attention to the inner legs, belly and tail area where a longer coat can easily get tangled or matted with burrs. Don't pull on matted hair; try to gently separate the mats with your fingers, without pulling at the sore skin underneath. If the coat is very tangled, a detangling spray might be helpful; spray on, let sit for 10 minutes and try again. Severe mats should be trimmed out with scissors, then the surrounding area gently brushed with a soft bristle brush. Throughout your brushing session, be sure to tell Fido what an extremely good and clever doggy he is, and reward his patience at the end with a crunchy treat.
How to bathe?
After a thorough brushing, place Fido in a tub (or sink) with a rubber non-skid mat in the bottom. You might need a second person to help you if your dog is especially large, or if he’s a known escape artist. Wet Fido’s coat down to the skin, using lukewarm water. Wet only the back, sides and top of his head, taking care not to get any water in his eyes or ears; a sink hose or European-style hand held shower head is highly recommended for the bathing process, as it gives you much more control over the direction of the spray. Carefully massage in a gentle low-lather dog shampoo, making sure to get his chest, stomach, anal area and feet; never get shampoo in your dog's eyes or ears. After he is shampooed, rinse well, as leftover shampoo residue will cause itching. Use an absorbent towel to get most of the water out of his coat, then take him out of the tub for a final comb-out. If he lets you, you can use a hair dryer on the coolest setting to dry his coat the rest of the way; never use the hot setting and never aim the air directly at his skin or face. If he’s not a hairdryer kind of guy, just let him air dry naturally. Be sure to tell him throughout the process just how wonderful he is, and reward him afterward with crunchy treats befitting his clean and clever self.
What about professional grooming?
It’s always an option for dogs who are just too difficult to bathe at home, or for those whose coats need clipping in addition to other grooming requirements. Choose a groomer carefully - it’s important to find someone that both you and your dog will feel comfortable with. Watch a groomer at work on another dog to see how he or she treats the dog, and how that dog responds to them; being bathed is a submissive experience for any dog, so he’ll automatically be feeling vulnerable and exposed. Make sure the groomer you choose is someone your pet will come to trust.