With the weather as slushy and soggy as it’s sometimes been, my furry friends have lent an air of the outdoors inside. Not surprising, though, since they’re keen on rolling in the wet grass and not hesitant to walk through the dirty snow and mud. If your pets are like mine now is a good time to bathe them and wash off that winter dirt.
I’ve assembled tips from my own experience and from “Brushes, Baths and Bubbles,” an article sent to me by a Buddy volunteer and written by Susan McCullough for the Fall, Winter 2000 edition of Healthy Pet.
Dogs don’t need to be bathed as frequently as we might think. Under normal circumstances, three times a year is sufficient, but more fastidious owners can do it every one to two months. McCullough says that bathing a dog more frequently can rob your dog’s coat of its natural oils and possibly cause skin irritation.
Prior to bath time, give your dog a good brushing. This loosens and gets rid of the undercoat. A good brushing will leave more hair on the brush and less in your tub. Brushing will also give you a good opportunity to check her for lumps, bumps or rashes.
Decide where you will bathe your dog. McCullough suggests and my own experience has shown that the bathtub is the best place. It’s warm, secure and easy to clean up. Place a rubber mat in the tub so your dog will have good footing.
“Never use a shampoo formulated for people,” said Dr. Lowell Ackerman, in McCullough’s article. “Shampoos for people tend to dry out an animal’s skin.”
Use shampoos specifically formulated for dogs. McCullough suggests that most dogs just need a moisturizing shampoo, while dogs with skin or coat problems might need a medicated shampoo.
Since many dogs are not keen on being bathed, McCullough suggests pre-bath run-throughs. Days before, put your dog in the tub a few minutes at a time and reward her with treats. These “dry” runs may help her be less stressed during the real thing.
When bath day comes, get prepared before you bring your dog to the tub. Gather lots of towels, dog shampoo, washcloths, bath mat, leash and collar and a good sense of humor.
The following three items have proved invaluable to me when bathing my dogs: A hand-held shower sprayer; a removable plastic hair catcher that fits over the drain and; a device called “Stay ‘n’ Wash Grooming Noose.”
Before I had my husband install the hand-held shower sprayer, I used a big plastic cup to wet down and rinse off my dogs. It was time-consuming and a lot of work. With the shower sprayer, it goes so much faster and I feel I really get all the shampoo off.
The plastic hair catcher is a great little item because it’s inexpensive, easy to remove and clean, and does a good job of keeping hair out of the drain.
This simple device consists of a big suction cup that attaches to the tub wall and a padded “noose” and cord that attaches to the suction cup with a leash clip. Once the “noose” is slipped over your dog’s head and snuggled up to fit, your dog will stay securely in place. This allows a one-person bathing operation. My pup was quite happy to stand there, albeit with her ears down, while I wet her down, sudsed her up and rinsed her off You can order one of these devices from dog supply catalogs or ask your local pet supply store.
When you’re all prepared and your dog’s in place, roll up your slacks and wade in. I’ve found it’s much easier to stand in the tub with your dog than to bend over the side.
In McCullough’s article, professional groomer Laura Watts has the following tips for the bathing process:
– Always dilute the dog shampoo. Dilution helps the shampoo lather more easily and spread through the coat better. It also makes rinsing easier.
– Adjust the water to a nice warm temperature and wet down your pet starting from the neck, then along the back, and down the body. “Make sure you get all the way down to the skin,” Watts advises. This will take more time with dogs like Labs whose coats are naturally repellent to water. Gently work your fingers down through the coat to the skin.
– Apply the diluted shampoo and work up a lather. But don’t overdo it. “You don’t want billowy bubbles or clouds of suds,” says Watts. “The more suds … the longer it takes to rinse.”
– Be careful around the face and ear area. Keep soap out of eyes and water out of ears. Use a washcloth to wipe your dog’s face with clear water.
– Rinse your dog off completely until the water runs clear. Watts suggests that you “rinse until you think the animal is completely rinsed off – and then rinse one more time.” Soap residue can irritate your dog’s skin.
– Grab the towels and rub your dog down. It’s natural for a dog to shake after getting wet. If you’re quick enough, you can catch her before she sprays the whole bathroom.
And, according to Watts, “that after-bath running around and frenzy are genetically wired into a dog.” So go with it and wipe up afterward.