By Elizabeth Anderson Lopez
When you get ready to take a bath, you look forward to a nice soak in a warm tub. Washing your pet isn’t quite as relaxing, but establishing a routine for bath time can help make it less of a chore. You just need to keep these few simple tips in mind.
Getting in a Bath Time Mindset
Recommendations on how often to bathe your dog range from weekly to monthly; less often for cats. Because of breed and coat variations, you may want to ask your vet for a suggested frequency.
Let’s say you designate the first Sunday afternoon of every month as doggie bath time. One of the most important things you can do is have a positive mental outlook before you get started. If you’re rushed and don’t want to do it, imagine how your pet will feel.
To help both of you relax, consider Zack Grey’s advised approach to grooming. The owner of The Urban Pet and Moon Shine Grooming in Los Angeles says, “Make grooming day like a trip to the park.” One way to do that is by taking an actual walk before the bath to help your dog work out some extra energy.
Any part of the bathing experience that you aren’t sure of should be tested before bath time to gauge your dog’s reaction. For example, see how your pet reacts to a blow dryer on a non-bathing day. Get your restraint techniques down, especially with cats, because they may jump out of the water if you hesitate during the process.
Another pre-bathing ritual is brushing, which is a win-win: It relaxes your dog or cat, and helps remove loose, shedding hair.
Long before it’s time to bathe your pet, determine the best place to do so. Depending on your pet’s size, the most common locations are the tub or a sink. But don’t rule out getting into the shower. This may be the easiest option for a larger dog—and your back. Whichever location you choose, be sure to put down a rubber mat; the lack of traction is stressful to pets.
Bath Time Supplies
Gather all of the items you need and have them next to the sink or shower. These include shampoo—a pet-specific formula—cotton balls and towels. A rubber nubby brush can help remove extra hair. You’ll also want either a large plastic cup or pitcher, or even better, a hose attachment, such as the ConairPRO Dog™ Deluxe Pet Washer, which includes soft, rubber fingers for deep cleansing.
Less obvious supplies include treats and toys. A dog’s toy in the tub can keep it preoccupied during the bath, and also serve as a source of familiarity. And if you give a treat inside the tub or sink, it helps reinforce that it’s a fun place to be. “As a behavioral specialist, I suggest one incredible treat that is given only before and after grooming,” Grey said. “We want our animals to associate grooming as a good thing.”
Before you turn the water on, place a cotton ball in each ear—securely, but not deeply—to help prevent water from entering. A shower cap can work well, too, if your pet will tolerate it.
Talk to your pet throughout the bath for reassurance. If “it’s okay, it’s okay” gets old, tell your pet about a recent project or sing it a song. The easygoing tone of your voice is what will make the big difference.
Create a routine of the bathing process, too. Start at the base of the neck, working your way down the body, all the way to the tail, then the legs and underside for each step: wetting your pet, working the shampoo in, and rinsing thoroughly. This system helps you wash your pet’s entire body without wondering if you already did the chest or feet, potentially leading to missed or duplicated areas.
After your pet is thoroughly rinsed, gently towel dry it and keep your pet away from any drafts until it is completely dry. Again, if your pet is ok with a blow dryer, use it on the low/cool setting to speed up the process.
Before your pet’s next bath, develop a routine that includes the right attitude, treats and maybe even a rubber ducky. It will make bath time a lot more enjoyable—for both of you.