Make Bath Time a Splashing Successfully – and Healthy – Event for Your Dog

Posted - August 13, 2020

By Arden Moore – The Pet Health and Safety Coach™

B-a-t-h time. Some dogs are major tail-wagging water fans. They love being in water – be it a lake, a backyard pool and yes, even a bathtub or walk-in shower. Others, like my terrier mix, Kona, see the tub of water or a spraying garden hose and quickly shift into reverse gear. And, then there are dogs like Bujeau, my Bernese Mountain Dog mix, who now tolerates regular baths because high-grade treats are being doled out and we make bath time pleasant and calm.

Bottom line: our dogs benefit in many ways when we treat them to a proper bath – especially when they roll in mud or worse, duck poo. Their skin, just like ours, represents the largest organ in the body. Regular bathing and grooming sessions help keep our dogs’ coats shiny and healthy as well as allow us to catch early signs of skin issues that can be treated before they get out of hand and expensive. And who doesn’t want to cuddle a clean-smelling four-legged pal?

Bujeau’s Painful Hot Spot Tale

Which brings me back to Bujeau. My 9-year-old sweetie sports a thick, shiny black coat. We regularly brush her and treat her a few times a year to a ‘spaw’ day with a professional pet groomer on staff at a veterinary clinic we use in Dallas.

Then came July 3 – the first of two days of non-stop celebratory gun shots and noisy firework eruptions in our neighborhood. Back-to-back boisterous thunderstorms also occurred during those two days. All of this proved to be too much for Bujeau. Like many dogs with noise sensitivities, Bujeau panicked and became highly stressed. She frantically bit her skin, creating reddish hot spots on her left side in less than a day.

The portion of her coat was shaved and she received a cortisone injection and antibiotics from my veterinarian plus a medical collar to prevent her from reaching her hot spot. We helped her skin recover at home by spraying the affected area with ZYMOX® Topical Spray, a non-sting, veterinarian-approved spray containing aloe vera, hydrocortisone and other ingredients that helped relieve her itchiness and tame her skin irritations. A few days later, we bathed Bujeau using ZYMOX Shampoo and Conditioner that gently and effectively cleansed her skin and promoted skin healing. Her hot spot is now gone. 

Bath Time Tips

Dogs sport many types of coats – long, short, curly and coarse – but all canines benefit by receiving regular baths and brushings.

Avoid these nine common at-home mistakes:

  • Being in a rush or impatient. Dogs can smell our emotional state. Speak in a happy, can-do tone and schedule a bath or groom when you have the time. Use this time to bond with your pet.
  • Using shampoo made for people. What’s good for your hair may be unhealthy for your pet. Never use shampoo formulated for people on your dog because some ingredients can cause skin issues.
  • Wetting the head in the wrong direction. To avoid water getting into your dog’s nose at bath time, hold your dog’s face down. Or even better, use a wet, warm washcloth to clean their faces (that also reduces the risk of soap getting into your dog’s eyes).
  • Forgetting bath accessories. Before you call your dog, make sure that you have all the bath items you need in the bathroom or other cleaning area. That means having at least two thick bath towels, shampoo, the proper brush, a hand-held hair dryer and bite-sized treats.
  • Picking the wrong ‘bathtub’ for the size of your pet. For small dogs, opt for bathing in a bathroom or kitchen sink rather than a large bathtub or walk-in shower.
  • Making your pet slip and slide. Place a nonskid mat in the tub or sink before your pet gets in to secure his footing when the bath time begins.
  • Failing to thoroughly rinse the coat of shampoo before drying. If you do not rinse completely, your dog can end up with skin issues. He may start to chew his coat, develop skin irritations or even hot spots. One way to tell if you have rinsed thoroughly is to bring your ear down to the coat and squeeze the wet hair. If you hear a squeaky-clean sound, that is means you have rinsed out all the shampoo.
  • Scaring your dog with your hand-held blow dryer. If you do use a hair dryer, only use the dryer at a low setting to avoid burning your dog’s skin. If possible, use a couple thick bath towels to dry your dog. Encourage your dog to do a full body shake before using the first towel. For a small dog, snugly wrap him in the second towel and hold him closely for about 10 minutes. Speak sweetly to your pet to help him feel calm and safe.
  • Final tip: get your pet used to being touched from head to tail early on. When you first adopt a young puppy, try using the bristles of a human toothbrush on your pet’s coat at feeding times. Your pet will quickly associate grooming sessions with a major desire – food.

Nifty Way to Keep Your Wet Dog from Shaking

One “hazard” of bathing your dog is his big shake that drenches you with the soapy water from his soaked coat. Dr. Marty Becker, “America’s Family Veterinarian,” offers this simple trick to stop the watery shake by your dog. Just gently place one finger on top of your dog’s nose and one below it, in sort of a horizontal peace symbol. This prevents your dog from getting his head turning in that whipsaw motion that is integral to the shake. Once you’re ready and have him in a suitable spot, let him shake all he wants. 

Bring on the cheese or peanut butter!

During the brush session, consider squirting some cheese or smearing peanut butter on a small paper plate as a yummy distraction. Temporarily tape that plate on the wall at eye-level to your food-motivated dog. He focuses on licking the cheese or peanut butter as you complete the brushing session. Win-win for you both!

Arden Moore wears many collars in the pet world. She is a best-selling author, master certified pet first aid/CPR instructor, pet behavior consultant, host of the Oh Behave Show on Pet Life Radio and happy pet parent to a Furry Brady Bunch in Dallas. Learn more at www.ardenmoore.com.