Bathing A Dog

I hope you find this guide to bathing a dog invaluable. It includes tips and advice on the best way to bath your Cocker Spaniel as well as a handy checklist to help you bath your pet without tantrums or tears!

Bathing A Dog Without Tears!

Bathing a dog outside in a bucket, loads of lovely soapy bubbles!

Bathing your pet can be stressful for you both - especially if your Cocker Spaniel decides he doesn't want to be bathed!

However, giving your dog a bath from time to time is essential to help his coat stay clean and shining, his skin healthy, and to stop him from smelling less than fragrant!

Read on to learn how to bathe your dog with the minimum of fuss. I aim to answer your most frequently asked questions about bathing a dog such as:

And then, I put it all together into an easy check-list on how to bathe your dog.

Is It Best To Brush Before  Or After Bath-time?

There are some groomers that recommend you gently tease out all knots and matting before bathing a dog because they believe that if tangles and mats are left in the coat, they'll trap shampoo and dirt and simply make matters worse by tightening them.

They also believe that it could cause skin complaints, or aggravate existing skin conditions.

There are others however, that would disagree and say that cutting into an unwashed mat or coat will blunt their (very expensive) scissors.

Personally, I like to remove tats and matting before I bath my Cocker Spaniel, but I believe it's entirely a personal choice.

Decide for yourself which way around you prefer to do it - bathing your dog first and then brushing him, or groom him first - it's not life threatening!

Whichever way you choose to do it, brushing your dog is an important part of his grooming schedule as brushing helps to remove dirt, loose hair, tangles and that all important undercoat - if you don't reach the undercoat when brushing, it will eventually clump together and cause matting. Brushing also gets the circulation going and helps to distribute natural oils evenly around his  coat.

How Often Should I Bath My Dog?

The lifestyle of your pooch can determine how often you need to give your dog a bath.

For example, if your Cocker is very active and free to run around in the countryside, his coat will no doubt collect half a ton of vegetation - picking up burrs, leaves, bits of twig, and other debris of dubious origin.

If your pet is lucky enough to swim in the sea, or in rivers, or even if he romps through all the muddy puddles he can find, it probably means that bathing your dog will be a fairly frequent event in your household - especially if he enjoys rolling in muck! (and they do, don't they?)

American cocker spaniel wearing shower cap, sitting in a bucket waiting to be bathed

On the other hand, your Cocker Spaniel may be fairly sedate, owing to old age perhaps, or he may be content with just a little gentle exercise in the garden, or a short stroll along the pavement - in which case, bath-time may only be required once every three months or so - if this applies, lucky you!

The type of coat your pet has is another factor involved in determining how often you should be bathing your dog. If his coat is heavy or thicker than normal, your Cocker Spaniel may need frequent baths to keep him clean, but dogs with shorter, smooth hair, may not need so many.

Cocker's coats are naturally water-repellent and bathing your pet too often could be harmful because it will strip the coat of its essential oils, and can cause dryness and irritation.

Keeping bath-time to a minimum will help to preserve those essential oils which keep his coat waterproof.

If you have any doubts about when to wash your dog, this very scientific test can help.

Have your dog sit in front of you, get down to his level, lean over him and...sniff deeply - if he smells bad, it's bath time!

Best Place For Bathing A Dog

In the summer, when the weather's warm, you can bathe your dog outdoors, in your yard or garden - lather him up and hose him down!

Using a garden hose in winter is fine too but only to hose down your Cocker's paws and legs to rinse away any mud that he may have picked up on his walk. I don't recommend bathing a dog outside in winter - cold water can chill to the bone!

Always use lukewarm water when bathing a dog; common sense tells us that hot water can burn our Cocker Spaniel's skin, but it can also cause dryness and irritation.

Either way, water that's too hot or too cold can make bath-time a miserable experience for him.

You might want to consider buying a special dog bath which can be placed at a level to suit you (and your back!).

The bath can be set up in a garage, or a shed, but the bathroom is ideal; even better if you have a utility room. They're both easy sources of warm water and can be easily cleaned afterwards.

My Cocker, Max, is such a 'muck magnet' and always seems to find the muddiest places to roll in. When he gets really muddy, I carry him through the house (cream carpets!) and dump him into the shower. Here, he can shake himself as much as he wants to - all the muck, soap and water is contained within the shower - keeping the rest of the bathroom clean!

It does mean, however, that I have to take a shower with him!

Best Bath-Time Essentials


There are many types of dog shampoos available for bathing a dog; medicated, treatments for fleas or skin conditions, beautifully scented shampoos, shampoos with aloe vera, conditioning shampoos, dry powder shampoos, and many more.

Bathing a dog with a good quality, tear-free, dog shampoo or conditioning shampoo will help to keep his coat clean and healthy looking.

Don't be tempted to use shampoos formulated for humans, except perhaps for no-tears baby shampoos, as all others will be far too harsh for him and may cause skin complaints or allergies.

Cocker spaniel trying to get out of the bath - I don't think he enjoys his bath time.

If you're unsure, or if your pet has skin problems, ask your vet or your groomer to recommend a more gentle shampoo for him.

If you're using a medicated shampoo, only use as prescribed by your vet.

I recommend you dilute the shampoo with water before using it on your Cocker's coat as it will lather up much more easily and will last longer too.

Use an empty bottle to mix it - approximately 10 percent shampoo and 90 percent water.

Don't dilute medicated or flea treatment shampoo, however, as this will reduce the effectiveness of the shampoo. Use as recommended by your vet, or by the instructions on the packaging.

Bath Mat

When bathing your dog, a non-slip bath mat will help to stop him from slipping and sliding in the bath and apart from making your pet feel safer it could also stop him from hurting himself.

Bath Towels

Have two or three towels nearby; two to dry him off with, and another to wrap him in, or to lay on later, until he's fully dry.

A Handful Of Dog Treats

When bathing a dog, it's advisable to keep a couple of treats handy; giving him the occasional treat may help to keep bath time fun and rewarding for your Cocker Spaniel.

A Shower Hose Or A Large Plastic Jug

A shower hose on your bath will make it easier for you to rinse him thoroughly, but a large plastic jug will do just fine.

Sink-Hole Protector

If your Cocker Spaniel's coat is heavy, or moults quite a lot, it may be a good idea to invest in a sink-hole protector to catch fur and hair, otherwise you may create a blockage.

Bathing A Dog - A Simple Check List

Before bathing your Cocker, collect everything you need, towels, shampoo etc., and put them within easy reach of your bath.

  • Collect your dog, bring him into the bathroom and close the door behind you in case he feels like making a bolt for it!
  • Place your Cocker Spaniel in the bath on a non-slip bath mat.
When bathing your dog it's easier if you stand in the bath with him
  • If your Cocker is a wriggler, you can use a short nylon collar and lead (never leather) and link it to a hand grip (if your bath has one) or to a tap. This will give you the freedom to use both hands and will help to make the job much easier!

    Please note, if you decide to use a lead, it's very important that the lead is short enough to make it impossible for your dog to jump out of the bath. If it's not, it could cause a very nasty accident.

  • Some owners place a cotton wool ball inside each of their Cocker Spaniel's ears to help keep water out of the ear canal. However, others believe the cotton wool could act as a wick and don't recommend it.

    I recommend using cotton balls, but advise that you take extra care around your Cocker Spaniel's ears when rinsing.

  • Gently spray your pet with warm water - always test the water to make sure it not too hot as it could not only burn his skin but cause irritation too.

  • Don't wet his head and ears at this stage of bathing your dog as he will only shake himself and cover you with water!
  • Shampoo his hind legs first, then his bottom and his tail.

  • When you've done that, move on to the body, underbelly, chest and front legs - don't forget his paws and in between his toes.

  • Only shampoo your dog once unless he's really, really dirty.

  • Don't use the shower spray directly on your Cocker Spaniel's face or genitals unless the water pressure from the spray is very gentle.

  • Smooth the shampoo into the coat in the direction that the hair grows and gently massage. Be careful not to rub too vigorously otherwise you may create knots and matting.

  • If your Cocker Spaniel has short hair, (ie, his coat is trimmed using trimmers and not hand stripped) you can massage and lather the shampoo as vigorously as you need to in order to get his coat clean.

  • Bathing a dog should be fun - not a stressful exercise for either of you so keep things light and easy. Praise your dog quietly as you work. It will help him to enjoy his bath time, and it will also strengthen the bond between you.
  • When you've finished washing his legs, tail and body, you can now wet his head, face, and ears. Apply the diluted shampoo solution carefully and lather those areas well, but be gentle.
  • Don't forget to soap behind and under his ears, and under the chin and take care not to get soap in his eyes - even if using a no-tears shampoo. You could use a small cloth for washing his face if you prefer.
  • Thoroughly rinse the soap from your Cocker's head and ears and then follow up with his body and his legs, not forgetting his underbelly.
  • Never spray water into your dog's ears - it will only cause problems.
  • When you've finished rinsing him, rinse again. If there are any signs of lathering as you glide your hands over your dog's body, his coat is not yet fully rinsed.
  • Continue spraying him with warm water until the water from his coat runs clear. Soap left in your pet's coat can cause skin complaints and irritations.
  • When you've finished rinsing, gently squeeze as much water out of his coat as you can and then quickly throw a towel over him to stop him from shaking himself. If you dry his head and ears first it may stop him from shaking.
  • Towel dry thoroughly, but don't rub too vigorously otherwise you may cause tangles and matting.
  • Gently squeeze the feathers and his fur in the towel as this may help to absorb excess water.
  • Use the dry towel to pick him up and take him into another room where he can be warm and lie on the towel to dry off.

    Some dogs go crazy after having a bath - dashing and rolling around. For this reason, it's important to keep your dog inside otherwise he'll end up dirty again!

    My dog Max, pushes his face along the floor - alternately rubbing each side of his muzzle on the towel or carpet - with his bottom stuck up in the air, and will then roll around on his back, kicking his legs in the air - this is quite amusing and so endearing to watch!

  • Most professional groomers use hair-dryers on their dogs after bathing. If you like, you could use a hair dryer on him (on a cool/warm setting) but make sure you don't get too close or you may burn him.

    Max is quite the little hedonist; he loves being dried with a hairdryer and will lay on the floor in ecstasy whilst being blow-dried!

Bathing Your Dog

After reading my advice on bathing a dog, I hope you'll be more confident about the whole bath-time process. However, if you're still unsure about any aspect of how to bathe a dog, I recommend you have a chat with your groomer who will be more than happy to help.

Learn about grooming your dog here.

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