Even if your dog hasn't rolled in the mud, an occasional bath is the best way to keep your dog clean and fresh. Follow these step-by-step bathing tips to learn how often to bathe a dog and which gear you'll need, plus grooming tips to keep its coat looking its best.

By Doug Jimerson
Updated October 25, 2019
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Giving your dog a bath is one of the best ways to keep it looking and smelling good. It's also an opportunity to check your pet for pests, abrasions, and abnormalities. In general, dogs can be bathed as often as every other week and at least every three months, but how often your dog gets a bath depends on its lifestyle, activity level, and coat type. For example, long-haired dogs can benefit from a monthly (or more) bath because their coats are likely to catch debris. Here are some tips on how to bathe your dog without it turning into a wet, soapy struggle.

1. Ease Your Dog Into the Idea of Bath Time

Never wrestle with your dog to give it a bath. Gradually acclimate your dog to the concept of a bath by placing it in the tub when it's dry and then giving the dog a treat if it calms down. Repeat the process several times until your dog is completely comfortable sitting or standing in the tub. Then, follow the same procedure by adding a little warm water to the bottom of the tub. Keep praising and offering treats when your dog is calm. You want bath time to become fun for your dog. Be patient at all times.

2. Brush Before Bathing

Before you give your dog a bath, be sure to thoroughly brush and comb your dog's coat to remove any tangles that could get worse once they are wet. Brushing your dog before a bath will also help remove loose hair that could clog your drain.

3. Pick the Right Tub

Always use a tub that is large enough for your dog and provides solid footing. One way to do this: Place a rubber mat on the bottom of your tub to keep your dog from slipping and become fearful.

4. Shampoo

Wet your dog down with lukewarm water and apply a gentle pH-balanced shampoo designed especially for dogs. If you have a handheld sprayer, use it to gently soak your dog's coat. Avoid spraying your dog in the face. It's best to use a wet washcloth around your dog's muzzle and eyes. Then, use your fingers to massage the shampoo through the entire coat.

5. Rinse and Condition

Thoroughly rinse away all the shampoo from your dog's coat, and then apply a conditioner designed for dogs. (If your dog has a short-haired coat, a conditioner might not be necessary.) Many dog conditioners will help prevent future tangles and will keep the coat moisturized. Never use shampoos or conditioners designed for people.

6. Rinse Again

After applying the conditioner to the entire coat, rinse, rinse, and rinse again to remove all traces of the shampoo and conditioner before you dry your dog. Soap and conditioner left on your dog will dry its skin.

7. Towel Off

Once your dog is rinsed clean, remove it from the tub and rub it down with dry towels. You can also use a blow dryer on a low-heat setting as long as it doesn't frighten your dog.

8. Wait for the Shake

No matter how much you dry your dog, it will still want to roll around on the carpet to dry itself. So, be sure your dog is in a room where you won't mind a little moisture on the rug or the walls if it decides to shake away excess moisture.

9. Stay Inside

If possible, keep your clean pup indoors for several hours after a bath. Otherwise, you run the risk of it rolling in the dirt and grass to dry off, basically ruining all your hard work. Plus, if the weather is cool, you want to prevent your dog from getting chilled.

10. Brush Again

Allow your dog's coat to thoroughly dry before attempting to brush it. Combing or brushing a wet coat can be painful for the dog.

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