5 Foolproof Strategies for a Mess-Free Dog Bath

updated May 3, 2019
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(Image credit: Liz Calka)

Your dog needs a bath. You don’t. You also don’t need a wet bathroom floor. Or muddy paw prints all over your carpet. And certainly no stand off pitting damp-and-grumpy you versus grouchy-and-dripping-wet Fido.

Instead, you can make doggy bath time stress-free and mess-free. Follow the five tips below to keep your home and your pet nice and clean.

1. Pick the Right Spot

Unless your pooch is a giant Saint Bernard, you can probably avoid bathing them outdoors, where it’s far more likely that Fido can—and will—escape (and you’ll spend most of bath time chasing him). And since most dogs hate being wet, he’s going to take the first opportunity to get the water off. How? By shaking and rolling around in the grass. If your dog is tiny, try the kitchen or bathroom sink instead, or a laundry or mud room sink, if you’re lucky to have one. The best place to contain the situation for a medium-to-large size dog is a bathtub. Or, if you have the funds, invest in a standing dog tub—your back will definitely thank you.

2. Have Your Supplies Ready

Make sure you’re equipped for bath duty with the following:

  • Doggy Shampoo: Shampoo for humans doesn’t have the right pH balance for Fido. Your vet can even provide you with shampoos and soaps that can keep fleas and ticks away or help with skin conditions. And if your pup is hairy, don’t forget his conditioner.
  • Towels: You should use at least 3 or 4 if you have a large dog. A good trick is to drape a towel over your dog between washes and rinses. The towel keeps Fido from shaking off the suds. This will keep you, your floors and your walls dry.
  • A Brush: For dogs with long, thick or curly coats.
  • A Hair Trapper: You can buy a cheap bathroom drain hair stopper or use steel wool. Either will save you from dealing with a messy, clogged drain.
  • Treats: Let Fido know you appreciate him being such a good boy! While he’s chomping on his faves, he isn’t freaking out about the bath.

Here’s a tip for hairy dogs: Prep your shampoo and conditioner. Just applying the product right onto their coat can lead to globs that get stuck in their fur. Instead, mix your shampoo or conditioner with water before applying for an even, thorough distribution.

3. Get Your Dog Ready

You prep before you wash your hair and bathe. Fido needs his prep too. Cut his nails beforehand. If he has long hair, brush it out to remove any matting or tangles—it will also make it easier for the cleanser to reach the skin.

Dogs, like people, hate to get water in their ears. It can cause infections, too. Be careful when rinsing or try placing cotton balls in their ears prior to the bath. Just make sure you don’t push them down too deep or forget to remove them after.

4. Make the Bath Comfy

Before you fill your sink or tub with water, place one of your towels at the bottom for Fido to step on. His paws will stay securely planted without sliding around. Also, make sure the water isn’t too hot or too cold. And if you’re in the bathroom, close the door. It will keep the setting serene for you and your pup. Plus it keeps him in the room so you don’t have to chase after him when drying.

5. Leave Your Dog Dry and Happy

It’s tempting to let him air dry, but don’t. Even with hairless dogs, trapped moisture can lead to rashes, fungus and other infections.

If you towel dry, be careful not to rub too vigorously. You don’t want to damage sensitive skin. You can also use a regular blow dryer, if the noise doesn’t scare your pooch. Keep the temperature low so it doesn’t cause any burns. Another option is a pet dryer. It blows air that’s not too hot with little noise. When compared to taking your dog to a professional groomer, it’s also economical.

Fido is now clean and dry, and you don’t have a gigantic mess to clean. You’ve shared a bonding moment with your best friend. Hand him another doggy treat. And treat yourself to a glass of wine!