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Dog grooming 101: How to give a dog a bath in 5 easy steps

Giving your dog a freshen-up can be a lot easier than it sounds when you follow these step-by-step tips for how to give a dog a bath. It's as easy as 1- 2-3 (4-5)!

Dog grooming 101: How to give a dog a bath in 5 easy steps

Is your usually charming canine looking (or, um, smelling) less-than-charming? Has he had an encounter with a troublesome mud puddle? Are you trying to wage war on fleas? If you answered “Yes” to any of these, it means that — drum roll, please — it’s time for a bath.

And, if you’re like many pet parents, the idea of bathing your dog is about as high on your list as getting a root canal. But bathing a dog can actually be a lot easier than it sounds, especially when you follow these step-by-step tips for how to give a dog a bath. It’s as easy as 1- 2-3 (4-5)!

We promise: Your precious pup will be a paradigm of cleanliness in no time.

1. Make your bathtime plan

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This step involves two parts.

Part 1: Figure out where you want to bathe your dog

A tub or sink will work — depending on the size of your dog, of course. If you’ve got a larger pup, consider buying a plastic kiddie pool that you can easily rinse out when you’re done. In an ideal world, you’d be able to do this in an enclosed space to make it harder for your pooch to make a quick getaway mid-soaping.

Part 2: Gather all of your supplies

The key here is to have everything you need within reach BEFORE your dog is a wet, sudsy bundle of impatient energy (also known as “Step 3”). Here’s a basic list of things you’ll want to pull together before your pooch takes The Plunge:

  • Warm water.
  • Pet shampoo — the bottle will say that it’s formulated specifically for veterinary use.
  • Pet conditioner, if recommended by vet.
  • Towels.
  • A brush.
  • A large cup — for dunking.
  • Nail trimmers — if you want to kill two birds with one stone.
  • Cotton balls — to use as ear plugs.
  • A washcloth.

Part 3: Prepare the water before you round up the dog

Finally, make sure you fill the tub (or other bathing vessel) with warm water BEFORE you bring him into the bathing area. This will make your life a lot easier come bath time.

2. Prep your pup

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Now, it’s time to interrupt your dog from whatever they’re doing and prepare them for a bath. Calmly bring doggie into the “bathing area” and make sure all potential exits have been closed off. (That’s actually the #1 Law of Dog Bathing: It’s not always predictable.)

Tip #1: How to keep water out of dog’s ears when bathing

Begin the prep work by brushing him thoroughly to remove tangles and loose fur. In order to prevent water from getting in his ears, place a cotton ball in each. Ideally, your dog’s head won’t get wet during the bathing process, but the cotton balls will help prevent water from going where he doesn’t want it.

Tip #2: How to protect dog’s eyes when bathing

Ask your veterinarian if they recommend applying a bit of mineral oil or another product to your dog’s eyes to protect them during the bath.

Tip #3: How to protect you and your dog from slipping during the bath

Finally, make sure to place some towels around the bottom of the bathing vessel, or opt for a non-skid mat. This will help prevent either you or your dog from slipping during the bath.

3. Wash, rinse, repeat

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Here’s where things get interesting.

Your pup’s in the tub and you’ve filled the tub with some warm water (make sure it’s not too hot). Take a washcloth and gently wash your dog’s face without shampoo, taking care to clean in between wrinkles if present.

Now, wet him down! Use a spray hose if you have one, or you can use a large cup. Start at his neck and work down his body. Lather him up with shampoo, and then rinse thoroughly. (In all cases, be sure to avoid getting water or shampoo on your dog’s face if at all possible.)

If your veterinarian has recommended a conditioner for your dog, apply that product at this point, and then rinse again.

4. Time to dry

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Depending on your dog’s size and coat type, you may choose to dry him using towels or a blow-dryer.

If you opt to use the blow-dryer to dry their body, make sure that you use a low setting and operate it carefully to avoid unintentional burns. Keep the dryer moving continually to avoid overheating any spot.

Follow up with another brushing as the final (yay!) step in the bathing process. This is also a good time to trim your dog’s nails, if desired.

5. Gaze upon your dog’s beauty

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Now sit back and admire your clean and sweet-smelling (okay, maybe not) dog. Beware of two things: your dog may be feeling silly in his post-bath excitement, and he may be prone to shaking off those final droplets of water, so watch out. (Oh, yes — don’t forget to remove those cotton balls from his ears.)

If cleaning your pet sounds daunting consider hiring a groomer to help with the job.