This Is The Best Way to Bathe a Dog, According to an Expert

A well-groomed dog is a more photogenic and cuddly dog—and, most importantly, a healthier and happier doggo. Unfortunately, bathing a dog always seems to be, well just harder than it every should be. In your head, bath time should be like a calming day at the spa for your dog. You picture this:

Yorkie Dog and Teddy Bear Friend at the Beauty  Salon
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But then, when the water is flowing, you remember that actual bath time often goes more like this:

Close-Up Of Dog Having A Bath
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But don't worry. We talked to an expert about how to make bath time as painless as possible—and about the major benefits of regular grooming that will inspire you to stop procrastinating your pup's next bath or trip to the groomer.

Why is it so important to get your pet groomed regularly?

The short answer: Regular grooming is a vital part of keeping your pet healthy. Whether you take your pup to a pro or do the grooming at home, this is a chance for someone to spend some very up close and personal time with your pet and catch potential health problems early on.

Dog taking a bath
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"Not only does a good groomer check for lumps, bumps and moles that could be a sign of something more sinister that may need to be seen be a vet, but grooming can uncover additional issues that may become bigger problems if not addressed quickly," Michelle Wildman, Director of Differentiated Experience at Pet Supplies Plus, explains. "During a toothbrushing, the groomer may find bad breath and bleeding gums that may indicate a health problem that needs to be addressed by a vet. While performing a toenail trim, a groomer can assess the if the paw pads are in good condition and free of any foreign objects. Groomers may remove mats that are very painful for the pet or find an ear infection while cleaning the ears."

How often should you groom your dog?

According to Wildman, the general rule is to get your dog groomed at least every six weeks. She notes, however, that your pet's coat type and environment should be considered when you determine how often to take them to a groomer.

Bathroom to a dog chow chow
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"A short-haired dog will need less brushing and maintenance as long-haired dogs, but they still need grooming," she says.

How often should you brush your dog?

Hands of female groomer combing cocker spaniels ear at dog grooming salon
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In between full-on grooming sessions, you should be doing basic upkeep on your pet's coats with regular brushing. Wildman says that most dogs should be brushed at least once a week, but that breeds with long, silky coats, like Yorkies, should be brushed daily to prevents tangles and knots.

What supplies do you need to groom a dog at home?

Cute french bulldog puppy in a wooden sauna bucket in a pink bathroom setting
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If you decide to handle your dog's grooming at home, you should make sure you have all of the necessary supplies on hand before you get started. You definitely won't want to take a break to make a Target or Pet Smart run in the middle of the process.

Dog bath
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According to Wildman, your at-home grooming kit should include:

  • The right style of brush, comb, shampoo, and conditioner for your breed.
  • Ear cleaner
  • Eye wash
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Nail scissors and file
  • Quick Stop product, if you're planning to cut your dog's nails at home (this one is a must)

Should you groom your pet at home or take them to a groomer?

asian chinese female pet groomer with apron grooming and blow drying a brown color toy poodle dog
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As long as you're willing to do the (sometimes dirty) work of bathing your dog at home, there's no reason you need to go to a groomer. If your dog has high-maintenance fur or hair or if you have a specific haircut in mind, you might want to go to a groomer for haircuts, but even then, doing bath time at home shouldn't be an issue.

Dog nails being cut and trimmed during grooming
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There are a couple of aspects of grooming that experts caution pet owners about doing at home, however—particularly the aspects that involve sharp edges.

owner grooming his dog at home
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"Nail trimming at home can be a little daunting but there are many products on the market that help guide you through the nail trim but you always want to have a Quick Stop product on hand in case of a quicked nail," Wildman says. "You will want a nail file to smooth out sharp, jagged nails. We would recommend that you leave the sharp tools such as scissors or grooming shears up to the professionals because you could easily unknowingly injure a pet."

How to bathe your pet at home

Dog shaking wet hair while standing at doorway
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Now that you've read all about the benefits of regular grooming and the facts and supplies you need to be armed with before you try to take on the task yourself, here's a step-by-step guide, courtesy of our grooming expert, to bathing your pet at home:

  1. Brush your pet prior to the bath. Knots and tangles tighten when wet and can quickly become painful mats that irritate the skin.
  2. Trim & file the nails. You will want to do this prior to the bath in case of a quicked nail. That way you can use your QuickStop and then the access is washed off in the bath.
  3. Use your eye rinse to remove any foreign objects from the eye and to protect the eyes from the shampoo.
  4. You may want to place cotton balls in the ears if your pet is prone to ear infections.
  5. Next you will use lukewarm water (no hotter than what you would bathe a baby in) to wet the coat.
  6. Use your dog shampoo and conditioner. Never use a human shampoo because it dries their skin more. Work up into a lather.
  7. Rinse well starting from the head to the tail and then the legs last.
  8. Rinse out the eyes with the eye wash one last time to remove any shampoo that may have gotten into the eye.
  9. Towel dry and brush out the coat again using a comb to remove any knots. You do not want to use a human hair dryer because they get too hot and can overheat your pet or burn their skin.
  10. Reward your pet.
dog washing in a basin
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"Grooming your pet can be an enjoyable process," Wildman says. "You want to help keep your pet calm by staying calm yourself. Have all of your tools ready prior to starting and make sure that you have ample time dedicated to process. Use treats or other positive rewards to keep your pet interested in the activity and wanting to participate. Talk to your pet in a calm and reassuring voice."