How to Wash Dogs

What do a stinky dog, an itchy dog and a muddy dog all have in common? The fact that they need to be washed, stat! Time to round up the dog shampoo, towels, comb and brush, and you may want to put on some rain gear, since most likely you’ll be getting a bath too, whether you like it or not.

Where to Wash the Dog

There are three places where people usually wash their dogs:

In the bathtub

This is the most convenient place, but it also subjects your bathroom to a barrage of dirt, water and fur. Don’t forget to shut the bathroom door so your dog can’t run out.

In the yard

Your house will stay clean, but your dog will have very convenient access to leaves and dirt after his bath. It helps to use a metal tub to keep the water and dog contained during the washing.

At a self-serve dog wash

This is best for getting your dog to stand still, and shampoo and soap may be provided, but it also costs you extra money.

How to Wash the Dog

Once you’ve decided where to wash your dog, you can go ahead and get started. Before you start, make sure you have at least three or four old towels nearby. You’ll either need them for yourself during the bath or for the dog after.

The first thing you need to do is add water to the tub. Remember, your dog will be immersed in this water, so don’t make it too hot or too cold. Room temperature is best for the sake of his skin. Don’t fill the tub all the way full. You just need two or three inches.

1. Wet your dog’s fur

There are two ways to wet your dog’s fur. One, use the shower nozzle or the hose and spray your dog down. Again, use lukewarm water. The other way is to use a plastic tumbler or bucket to scoop water out of the tub and dump it on your dog’s fur. Use the method that will make your dog more comfortable.

Make sure to wet his entire body – belly, legs, chest and tail. Your dog may resist your getting his face wet, which is perfectly fine for now.

2. Start soaping him up

Once you’ve gotten Rover all good and soaked, you can start the shampooing process. Grab your bottle of dog shampoo and start lathering him up. The amount of shampoo you use will depend on your dog’s breed and size, but a general rule is to make sure all of the hair is covered in a decent lather.

It may be easier, especially if you have a bigger dog, to wash your pooch in sections. For instance, lather up his tail and hindquarters, then scrub his back and belly, and finally take care of his head and chest, instead of tackling him all at once. Make sure you don’t miss any of the nooks and crannies: his paw pads and underneath his head and tail. And remember what mother always said, “Don’t forget to wash behind the ears.”

Your dog may be more comfortable, and you will lessen the risk of getting soap in his nose or eyes, if you wash his face with a washcloth. Simply wet his head with a clean, wet, washcloth. Then, put one drop of shampoo in the washcloth, lather it and scrub him down. Finally, wet a clean washcloth and wipe all of the soap out of the fur on his face.

3. Rinse him off

To rinse the rest of his body, it would take ages if used a washcloth. You’re much better of using the shower nozzle or the hose. Be sure to use lukewarm water in order to avoid scalding or freezing your pet. Again, if it is easier or your dog is uncomfortable, you can use the cup or bucket method instead.
Work your hands through his hair as you rinse, making sure to get all of the soap out of his fur. If your dog has longer hair, it may help if you begin by massaging his hair at the roots and rinsing downward. Keep rinsing until there is no sign of soap. Soap residue can harm his skin and weigh down his coat.
If need be, empty the water out of the bucket or tub during the rinsing process. If he is standing in cleaner water, it will be much easier to rinse his legs and feet.

4. Dry him (and yourself) off

After your dog is thoroughly rinsed, it’s time to attempt to dry him. This is when you’ll be glad you have that pile of towels. If your dog’s outside, you may want to let him shake a few times before you hit him with the towels. You can also do this in the tub (just make sure you close the shower curtain first!)

Towel-drying your dog is similar to towel-drying yourself. Have him step out of the tub and immediately wrap a towel around his body and start rubbing him down. This may take one or several towels. If it’s not too cold outside or in the house, you don’t have to worry about drying him completely. Just make sure he’s relatively dry (not dripping), and let him air dry the rest of the way on his own.

If your dog is comfortable with the idea, you can dry him with a hair dryer. Some dogs enjoy this, while others are terrified. Just make sure to keep the dryer on a medium setting and angle it away from his skin onto his fur. Blasting the dryer straight at him could cause tangles or frizz, not to mention the fact that direct contact with the dryer can burn his skin.

What’s next?

It’s important to brush or comb your dog after his bath to prevent tangles, especially if he has long hair. If you have a severely shaggy dog, you may want to apply a leave-in conditioner. Just stop by the nearest pet supply store to pick one up.


  1. Bob McK says:

    When washing a dog in a bathtub, buy an inexpensive rubber mat to put in the bottom of the tub. He can stand on this without slipping around. It will make him feel safer and easier to control while washing him. Also, when you finish washing a small or medium size dog, let him stand up in the tub with his front paws on the edge of the tub while you dry his head, front quarters, back and chest. Then, when you take him out, let him stand on a towel on the floor while drying his hind quarters. By the time you take him out of the tub, most of the water will have drained from his hind legs and you will have less mess to clean up.

  2. Ccaudill says:

    When I dry off my large short hair dog, I use a rubber squeeze like the kind you buy at the dollar stores to wipe down glass showers or windows. Works great and really does get the water off quickly. Also I use a nylon fabric ball (the kind that are designed for putting soap on in a shower) to soap up my dog. Better then just pouring the soap straight on the dog.

  3. Maxine says:

    My dog rolled around in human feces at a park. What can I use to wash her properly? I’m so disgusted!

  4. C. Doyle says:

    1. EARS – Protect your dog’s ears while bathing. I put LARGE cotton in ears to keep water out. Clean ears with ear wash for dogs.

    2. SHAMPOO – Dilute shampoo about 50/50 shampoo to water. Mix in a large plastic cup or squirt bottle. (Old bottles from water, dish-soap, etc., work well, but be sure to rinse them well before using for shampoo). Diluted shampoo is easier to distribute over a dog’s body and helps the rinsing process, which is essential in preventing skin irritation.

  5. How to wash your dog says:

    Grooming has become increasingly recognized as an important part of your dog’s health care. It helps to minimize skin problems because grooming will distribute the natural skin oils evenly throughout the coat. Another benefit is that if you are grooming regularly, you can monitor the dog’s overall condition.

    It will help you to notice the presence of any unusual bumps and lumps that shouldn’t be there. Helping to address conditions before they take hold. This sort of prevention has helped so many dogs over the years.

    One of the tricks is getting your dog to not only tolerate being groomed, but learning to love the process. So taking your time and being very patient at the beginning will pay off in the long run. So learning how to wash your dog is a very important part of owning a dog.

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