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How to Give a Dog a Bath: A Complete Guide (Vet Approved)

Written by: Matt Jackson

Last Updated on July 4, 2024 by Dogster Team


How to Give a Dog a Bath: A Complete Guide (Vet Approved)


Dr. Lauren Demos  Photo


Dr. Lauren Demos

DVM (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Some dogs only need baths very rarely, and most dogs only need to be bathed when they smell or are dirty. Ideally, you should start bathing your dog occasionally when they are young because they will get used to the process. Bathtime can be filled with anxiety for some pups and their owners, but if your dog has been rolling in dirt or is starting to smell, you’ll be grateful when you are finished.

Below, we look at the steps required to bathe a dog while ensuring that it is as easy as possible for you both. You don’t have to take your dog to professional grooming sessions whenever they get dirty.

dogster face divider The Complete Guide on How to Give a Dog a Bath

1. Buy Supplies

Image Credit: Africa Studio, Shutterstock

You will need dog shampoo, which has a pH value balanced for dogs, so it won’t irritate their skin. Depending on the shampoo you buy, it will also contain natural ingredients that not only prevent itching and irritation but can also help soothe your dog’s skin. In addition to shampoo, you might want to buy a face cloth and towel for your dog after bath time. Alternatively, you can use your towels and wash them.

Our Favorite Products

Selecting the right shampoo and conditioner makes the world of a difference when grooming your pup. Our favorite products are the duo by Hepper. The Oatmeal Pet Shampoo is formulated with aloe and oatmeal to soothe skin and hydrate the coat. The Pet Conditioner works at eliminating tangles and taming frizz and static. Both products are pH-balanced and formulated with pet-friendly ingredients, free of harsh soaps, chemicals, and dyes. Give this duo a try to heal and nourish your dog's coat, and leave them with an irresistible just-left-the-spa cucumber and aloe scent. 

Hepper Oatmeal Shampoo for Dogs, Cats and Other...
Hepper Pet Conditioner and Moisturiser - Scented...
Hepper Oatmeal Shampoo for Dogs, Cats and Other...
Hepper Pet Conditioner and Moisturiser - Scented...
pH balanced
Gently cleanses
Cucumber & aloe scent
Free of harmful additives
Combats tangles & static
Soothes & hydrates
Hepper Oatmeal Shampoo for Dogs, Cats and Other...
Hepper Oatmeal Shampoo for Dogs, Cats and Other...
pH balanced
Gently cleanses
Cucumber & aloe scent
Free of harmful additives
Combats tangles & static
Soothes & hydrates
Hepper Pet Conditioner and Moisturiser - Scented...
Hepper Pet Conditioner and Moisturiser - Scented...
pH balanced
Gently cleanses
Cucumber & aloe scent
Free of harmful additives
Combats tangles & static
Soothes & hydrates

At Dogster, we’ve admired Hepper for many years and decided to take a controlling ownership interest so that we could benefit from the outstanding designs of this cool pet company!


2. Get Everything Ready

Before you even get the dog ready for the bath, it is a good idea to have everything you need, including shampoo, towels, and a jug for pouring water. By having everything ready, your dog won’t have to wait while you disappear to find a jug for the water or a face cloth to clean around their eyes.

Make sure the bath is prepared, and you have extra towels near the tub in case your pup makes a mess.

3. Offer Reassurance

female owner hugging her cavalier king charles spaniel dog
Image Credit: Nestor Rizhniak, Shutterstock

Speak gently to your dog in a reassuring voice before you put them in the bathtub. Continue with this during and after the bath.

4. Stay Calm

You must stay calm during the bathing process. Your dog will look to you for emotional guidance and if you seem edgy and anxious, they will likely adopt the same feelings, which will make bathtime a lot more challenging.  Even if your dog wriggles, struggles, and attempts to get away, stay calm and remember that it is more stressful for your dog than it is for you.

5. Brush the Coat

Image Credit: Liftwood, Shutterstock

Before you put your dog in the bath, brush their fur. This will get rid of knots, and it will also loosen dirt and debris that you want to lift out of the coat. If you put a dog with matted fur in the bath, the coat will retain the water, and it can cause skin irritations.

6. Wet the Coat

Make sure the water is warm. It shouldn’t be too hot, and it shouldn’t be too cold. Test the water and ensure it’s slightly warmer than lukewarm. Once you’re sure it’s the right temperature, wet the body, legs, and tail, but don’t soak your dog’s face. Most dogs dislike having their face soaked. Make sure the coat is wet from the tips to the base.

7. Apply Shampoo

English cocker spaniel dog taking a shower with shampoo, soap and water in a bathtub_andriano.cz_Shutterstock
Image Credit:, Shutterstock

Apply a small amount of shampoo and rub it into the coat until you get a good lather. Spread it around the whole body, including the belly, legs, and around the tail. Many of the smells emanating from a dog come from the tail and rear end, so ensure that these areas are well-coated.

8. Clean the Face Gently

Use a damp cloth and clean around the face. Pay particular attention to the mouth and eyes, but ensure you don’t get water in your dog’s eyes. Don’t use shampoo on the face because even sensitive formulas can cause discomfort if it gets in their eyes, and your dog may react negatively to the next bath.

9. Rinse

wet yorkshire terrier dog after the bath
Image Credit: VLADJ55, Shutterstock

You don’t want to leave shampoo in your dog’s coat because when it dries, it can be irritating. Once you have soaped your dog thoroughly, use warm water to rinse every bit of shampoo out. Depending on the density of their fur, you may have to rinse them for several minutes to remove the shampoo

10. Dry

You can use a towel to dry your dog. Many dogs enjoy being rubbed dry, and it is a good opportunity to rub and massage your dog. Ensure they are thoroughly dry, especially before letting them outside, or they will get dirty again. You can use a hairdryer, but make sure it’s on the cool air setting and as low a power as possible. Don’t put the nozzle too close to your dog’s skin.

11. Praise and Reward

beagle dog chewing some treats
Image Credit: Iryna Imago, Shutterstock

When everything is done, praise and reward your dog. Give them lots of attention and some of their favorite treats. You should also ensure their water bowl is full because the anxiety and stress that some dogs feel when they have a bath can cause them to be thirsty. By making it a positive experience, your dog will remember they get treats at the end of the whole ordeal, and it should make it easier to bathe them next time.

dogster paw divider

How Often Should I Bathe My Dog?

You don’t need to bathe a dog unless they smell or get dirty. Bathing a dog too often can damage the coat and leave your dog with sensitive skin. Generally, it is a good idea to bathe every 3 months, but if your dog is prone to becoming smelly or rolling in the dirt, you can bathe them every month.

Do I Have to Bathe My Dog?

It isn’t necessary to bathe a dog unless it needs it. Dogs with skin allergies may need baths with prescription shampoos, but the frequency will depend on what your vet recommends.

dogster face divider


Bathing a dog can be a challenging process for some dog owners. Ideally, you should start bathing your dog when they’re young so they get used to the experience. Make the experience a positive one, avoid wetting or soaping the face, and offer treats and rewards when the bath is finished.

When you provide praise and rewards, your dog will associate the bath with a positive outcome, and they will be less likely to run or wriggle away next time.

Featured Image Credit: 135pixels, Shutterstock

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