Dog Bath 101: Everything You Need to Know About Bathing a Dog

dog bath 101

Getting a bath might not be found on the list of “top 10 favorite things to do with your dog“. Some dogs even don’t mind putting up a fight to get away from bath time.

However, like it or not, bathing is the injustice needs to be done (in a perfect world, any dog would prefer to be stinky and smelly!). Not only does bathing help your canine more pleasant to be around, but it can also help to keep the coat and skin healthy, reduce allergies, keep your dog clean and free of dirt and parasites, and decrease the chance of infection.

Whether your dog willingly hops in the tub or ready to wrestle and claw to get away as far as possible from you — here are few tips to know, which can help you navigate through a dog bath time easier.

How Often Should I Bathe My Dog?

How often you should bathe your dog depends on a number of factors such as general health condition, dog’s environment, breed, type of coat, and activity level. Here are two simple guidelines to follow:

  • For most dogs, bathing once a month is enough.
  • But if you have a dog with an oily coat, you need to bathe them more frequently, once a week if possible.

Of course, if your dog often spends their day outside rolling around in who-knows-what or has skin problems, then you may want to bathe them more frequently. That said, you should not bathe your dog more often than truly necessary or you will strip natural oils from your dog’s coat, leaving them prone to dryness.

Some people bathe their dogs whenever their dogs smell bad.  In theory, overbathing won’t cause any harm but if you bathe your dog more than once a month, and they don’t have an oily coat, you may want to add a spoonful of olive oil to the shampoo or use a moisturizing shampoo to prevent the skin from becoming dry.

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Where to Bathe Your Dog?

There are two options as to where to bathe your dog, you can choose to bring your dog to professional groomers or you can bathe your dog yourself. Each option has its own pros and cons.

When you bring your dog to a professional groomer, your dog will get a whole package of treatment. The groomers will clip their nails, express anal sacs (which you should exclude by request), trim near the eyes, and dry them off.

Professional groomers’ service is a must for long-hair breeds such as Poodles, and Yorkies.  And even if your dog is not long-hair breeds, I would still recommend bringing your dog to a professional groomer once in a while just for the sake of learning. There are so many tried-and-true techniques that you can learn from a single session with professional groomers.

Beware of Anal Sacs

Many professional groomers are taught to express the anal glands of dogs during bathing (anal sacs service). This service is offered to you as an extra service free of charge.

But the truth, this service will do your dog more harm than good. When a dog’s anal sacs are forcefully emptied at one point, your dog will lose the ability to empty their anal glands themselves and as a result, they will become more and more dependent on the help of you or the groomer to help them emptied their anal glands — or this is what every marketer often calls “the client for life”.

The second option is to bathe your dog at home…

Bathing Your Dog at Home

You may want to bathe your dog at home if you have free time and want to spend quality time with your dog. I know it will not become the most pleasant thing that you will ever do with your dog, but learning how to handle your dog during bath time can actually teach you so many things you might not know before about your dog. You will learn firsthand how to make your dog behave in what perhaps their scariest activity ever (bath time).

You can choose to bathe your dog outside or inside your house.

Bathing Your Dog Outside

If you have some space at your home whether in the front yard or backyard garden and your dog loves the hose then you may want to bathe them outside. Prepare your dog’s leash and hold one end to a fence to fix their position.

Some dogs might not like it when you point a forceful flow of water from the hose. In this case, you need to prepare a few empty jugs and fill them with lukewarm water, not very hot or cold. The simple rule to measure the proper temperature is to feel the water using the back of your hand, the temperature should be cooler than you would like. Then you can use the water to bathe your dog using a watering can.

Bathing Your Dog Inside

The second option is to bathe your dog inside. For small dogs, you can bathe them in the kitchen sink, or laundry tub. But if your dog is too big to fit the kitchen sink, you can bathe them in a shower or a regular bathtub. A portable dog tub can also be a good choice. Some portable dog tubs are collapsible and can come in handy when you have limited space to bathe your dog.

Regardless of where you bathe your dog, you need to remember the bottom of tubs is slippery, therefore, you should put something, like a towel, down in the bottom of the tub so your dog has something to grip during their bath.

What Do You Need to Prepare?

Let’s quickly recap what you need to prepare to bathe your dog:

1. Dog Brush

Dog brush is needed for before and after every bath. Each brush has a different function and uses, for a list of the best dog brushes check out our article here – best brush and comb: reviews of top grooming brushes and combs.

2. Dog Shampoo

Picking the right shampoo for your dog is often neglected but important matter. Pick wisely, their coat will smell good and shine brightly weeks after bath time. Pick poorly, and you will cause your dog more harm than good.

More resources:

Now, let’s continue with the question that has been asked over and over again by dog owners all over the world:

Can I Use Human Shampoo on Dogs?

When it comes to picking the right shampoo for your dog there is only one cardinal rule that you must not break no matter what: “You must not use human shampoo on your dog!” Doing so puts your dog’s health at extreme risk.

Shampoo for humans is formulated differently than for dogs. Human shampoo is formulated for human skin which has a PH around 5.5 to 5.6, while a dog’s skin has an average PH between 6.2 and 7.4.

In other words, human shampoo is too acidic for your dog’s skin. It disrupts the PH balance of your dog’s skin which will dehydrate it and cause your dog’s skin to be more prone to bacteria, parasites, fleas, ticks and so on. Not just disrupting the PH balance, it also strips oil from your dog’s coat.

Oil is the most basic form of natural protection that your dog has, and together with other substances in their coat, they fight off parasites and bacteria. Then, you can imagine what will happen if they lose all these important natural protection.

How to Choose the Right Dog Shampoo

Choosing the right dog shampoo is the task that is easier said than done as there are many factors to consider. But don’t worry, the following guidelines will help you to make the job easier:

Dry, Itchy, Flaky Skin

For a dog with a dry, itchy or flaky skin, you should use a moisturizing shampoo or oatmeal shampoo (both are essentially the same), which can help to relieve itchy skin, symptoms of allergies, dry skin, hot spots, and flea and tick problems (for handling flea and tick, I would recommend using the Adams flea and tick collar).

A good moisturizing shampoo contains natural ingredients such as oatmeal, honey, and vitamin E. For the best oatmeal shampoo for a dry, itchy or flaky skin I would recommend Earthbath All Natural Pet Shampoo.

Fleas and Ticks

Even though bathing your dog with fleas and ticks shampoos can offer only short-term protection, but it is necessary to protect your dog especially during fleas season, or year-round. I regularly use Paws & Pals Natural Dog-Shampoo And Conditioner to protect my dogs from fleas and ticks. During fleas season, you may want to bathe your dog more often, about every two weeks, as the effective ingredients in this shampoo won’t last long.


If you have a puppy, then you should look for shampoos that are specifically designed for puppies. These shampoos are popularly known as tearless dog shampoos, my favorite is John Paul Pet Tearless Gentle Puppy Shampoo which contains gentler and a no-tear formula.

Adventurous Dogs

If your dog happens to be one of those adventurous dogs that love to jump into a garbage can, rolling around in muds, or who-knows-what, then your dog needs deodorizing shampoos. These shampoos are stronger than regular dog shampoo and can eliminate any unpleasant odor coming emitting from your dog’s coat effectively (my favorite deodorizing dog shampoo is Wahl Dog/Pet shampoo).

Healthy Skin Coat

If your dog’s coat looks dull and lusterless, then your dog may need all-natural shampoos. The all-natural shampoo is a nourishing shampoo packed with minerals, vitamins, and proteins needed to restore your dog’s coat healthy shine.


For a dog with tangles and matted coat, try to use a dog conditioner. Dog conditioner is used for detangling tangles and matted hair, replenish natural oil, and restore moisture. For the best dog shampoo and conditioner, I would recommend the Pet Care 5-in-1 Dog Shampoo.

When You Are On The Go

When you and your dog are on the go, you can use waterless dog shampoos to clean up your dog. Some dog owners also use these shampoos for dogs who are scared off and do not like water.

However, I don’t recommend using waterless shampoos as a permanent replacement for conventional shampoos and bathing. When you clean your dog with waterless shampoos, it often leaves a greasy layer behind, which actually attracts more dirt and dust.

3. Where to Bathe Your Dog?

If you have a small dog, then you can easily plop them in a sink or laundry tub. If you have a bigger dog, you can use the bathtub, or get them in the shower. Another option you may want to consider is a portable dog bathtub.

The Benefits of Portable Dog Bath Tub

  • The portable dog tub prevents your dog from running away during bath time. A dog bath time can be quite a mess especially when your dog is distracted and run after something while they are still full of suds. With a portable dog tub, this kind of thing would never happen again. Why? Because a portable dog tub is elevated so your dog won’t be able to jump off and run away whenever they feel like.
  • It relieves you of lower back pain. Before using a portable dog bathtub, the only place to bathe my dog was on the floor. This means I had to bend and strain my back every time I want to bathe my dog, giving me a painful backache. But ever since I used a portable dog bathtub I don’t need to worry anymore because a portable dog bathtub is often elevated so I can bathe my dog without bending.
  • Bathe your dog when you are on the road. A portable dog bathtub can be a lifesaver when you are traveling and need to wash your dog immediately.

Different Types of Dog Bathtubs

All portable dog bathtubs can be categorized into three different types, they are domestic tubs, portable tubs, and professional grooming tubs. Let’s take a look at each one briefly:

Domestic Tubs

The domestic tubs are often used mostly by moms and pops (not professional groomers) for daily grooming needs.

Most of the domestic tubs sold are made of plastic, and easy to carry and store away for later use. They are often small enough to fit in the back of your car so you can bring them along with your other gears when you are on the go.

In some ways, the shape resembles large basins. Some models have built-in drains that you can use to plug directly into your garden hose while other models are plain and don’t have too many features. For a recommendation of a portable dog bathtub that you can use for your next camping trips, I would recommend the Flying Pig Grooming Portable Dog Bathtub.

Intermediate Tubs

Although intermediate tubs look similar to domestic tubs, they have a lot more features than the domestic ones. Many have features such as an automatic drain plug, a faucet with hose and sprayer, shampoo rack and many more. Professional dog groomers often use intermediate tubs for their mobile grooming service.

Nowadays, the differences between domestic tubs and intermediate tubs are often blurred as more and more manufacturers incorporate features of intermediate tubs into domestic tubs as added selling points.

Professional Grooming Tubs

As the name implies, these bathtubs are used mostly by professional groomers and vets. They are made of stainless steel and are extremely durable. The shape is also different from conventional portable dog tubs; I cannot stop thinking that my dog might scream whenever I see these professional grooming tubs at my vet’s office. Take a look at the following picture, you will understand what I mean:

Luckily, in spite of the expensive price tag, these professional dog grooming tubs do have many luxuries that help make professional grooming jobs so much easier.

4. Dog Bath Mat

Regardless where you bathe your dog: whether in a sink, laundry tub or portable dog tub, it is a safe practice to put a towel or dog bath mat down on the bottom of the tub so your dog has something to grip during their bath.

5. Towel

A towel is used to dry your dog off after the bath. Don’t just use any bath towel, use one of those absorbent dog towels which you can find on Amazon or at most pet stores (click here to see my recommendation).

6. Pet Grooming Dryer

Pet grooming dryers can be used together with an absorbent dog towel to dry your dog after the bath. Make sure you use dryer specifically designed for pets such as the Go Pet Hair Dryer. Don’t use the human hair dryer because the noise and heat can be too much for some dogs.

How to Bathe Your Dog: Step-by-Step

Remember the key to bathe your dog is to keep calm and assertive while you are bathing them. If this is the first time you bathe your dog, do everything that you can to make them feel fun. Give them toys, treats, compliments, affections every time they come to the bath.

You have prepared everything that you need to bathe your dog. The next step is to start bathing your dog right away. Take a look at the video below to learn how to bathe your dog in the right way:

After The Bath

The last step is to warm your dog after a bath. No matter how thoroughly you dry, your dog will still be damp, and no dog likes a post-bath chill feeling. Use a towel and pet grooming dryer to warm them and cover their beds with an old towel to absorb the damp from their coat.

Optionally, you may want to give your dog a pedicure since after a warm-water bath your dog nails will be softened. This is a perfect time for some nail treatments that you have in mind.

Once they are fully dry, don’t forget to give them one last thorough brushing to remove all the loosened-hair.

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John Doe

John Doe

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