Bathing a dog doesn't need to be traumatic for either of you!
This handy checklist will show you how your dog's bath-time can be fun! Read on to learn the best and easiest way to bathe a dog.
'Who's tears?' you might ask, 'His or mine?'
Bathing a dog can be stressful, especially if your Cocker Spaniel decides he doesn't want to be washed!
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!
Learn how to get your dog smelling sweet and looking clean with minimal fuss. I aim to answer your most frequently asked questions about bathing a dog, such as:
And then, I put it all together into a simple checklist on bathing your dog.
Some groomers recommend gently teasing out all knots, matting, and brushing the coat before bathing a dog. They believe that if tangles and mats are left in the fur, they'll trap dirt and shampoo and make matters worse by tightening the mats.
Trapped dirt and chemicals (yes, they're even in the gentlest of dog shampoos) so close to the skin can cause skin complaints and can aggravate existing skin conditions.
However, other groomers say you should wash your dog first. They believe that the grit and/or dirt in an unwashed mat or coat will blunt their (costly) scissors and trimmers.
I like to remove tats and matting before I bathe my Cocker Spaniel, give him a quick brush, and then brush him thoroughly afterwards. However, this is entirely a personal choice.
Decide for yourself which way around you prefer to do it, bathing your dog first and then brushing him or the other way around. Whatever you decide, it's not life-threatening!
Whichever way you choose to do it, brushing your dog is an essential part of his grooming schedule as brushing helps remove dirt, loose hair, tangles, and most importantly, brushing removes the dead hair from the dog's undercoat.
If this isn't removed regularly by brushing, it will eventually clump together and cause matting.
Apart from helping you and your dog bond, brushing also gets the circulation going and helps distribute natural oils evenly around his coat.
Your pooch's lifestyle can help you determine how often you should be bathing your dog.
For example, if your Cocker is very active and free to run around in the countryside, his coat will undoubtedly collect half a ton of vegetation, picking up burrs, leaves, bits of twig, and other debris of dubious origin.
If your dog is lucky enough to swim in the sea, rivers, or even if he romps through all the muddy puddles he can find, it probably means that bathing your dog will be a reasonably frequent event in your household, especially if he enjoys rolling in muck!
(And they do, don't they? Max loves to roll in fox pee, which has a particularly unpleasant aroma!)
On the other hand, if your Cocker Spaniel is getting on in years, he may be relatively sedate and content with just a little gentle exercise in the garden or a short stroll along the pavement. In his case, bath-time may only be required once every three months.
If this applies, lucky you!
The type of coat your pet has is another factor in determining how often you should be bathing your dog.
If his coat is heavy or thicker than usual, your Cocker may need frequent baths to keep him clean, but dogs with shorter, smooth hair may not need to be bathed so often.
Cocker's coats are naturally water-repellent, and bathing a dog too often could be harmful because it will strip the coat of its essential oils and cause dryness and irritation, leading to skin disorders.
Keeping bath-time to a minimum will help preserve those essential oils that keep his coat waterproof.
If you have any doubts about when to wash your dog, this very scientific test can help.
If he smells bad, it's bath time - very scientific!
When the weather's warm, you can bathe your dog outdoors in the summer. Simply lather him up and hose him down!
I don't recommend bathing a dog outside in winter. It's not safe as the water will be too cold for your pet. It's probably okay to use the hose to wash off the mud from his paws and legs, but make sure you get him indoors and dried off quickly.
When bathing a dog indoors, always use lukewarm water; common sense tells us that hot water can burn his skin, but it can also cause dryness and irritation.
Either way, too hot or too cold water can make bath-time a miserable experience for your dog.
If you have a bath for your Cocker, it can be placed at a level to suit you (and your back!) and can be set up in a garage or a shed.
For me, the bathroom is ideal; even better if you have a utility room. Both rooms offer easy access to warm water sources 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 messy, 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 are contained within the shower cubicle - keeping the rest of the bathroom clean!
However, it does mean that I have to take a shower with him!
There are many types of dog shampoos available for bathing a dog; medicated, treatments for fleas or skin conditions, beautifully scented shampoos; shampoos containing Aloe Vera to soothe the skin, conditioning shampoos, dry powder shampoos, and many more.
Bathing a dog with good quality, tear-free dog shampoo or conditioning shampoo will help keep your Cocker's coat clean and healthy-looking, and it will also take good care of his skin.
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 trigger allergies.
If you're unsure which to use, or if your pet has skin problems, why not ask your vet or groomer to recommend a more gentle shampoo?
If you're using a medicated shampoo, only use it as prescribed by your vet.
Trying to get the shampoo into all areas of your dog's coat can be a real challenge. However, this great tip will help you to do just that.
Use an empty bottle, pour in enough shampoo for one wash and top it up with water. Put the top on and give it a shake to mix it up. Approximately 10 per cent of shampoo to 90 per cent of water works very well.
Using a bottle to dilute the shampoo with water before using it on your Cocker's coat helps the shampoo lather up much more quickly and easily. The shampoo lasts longer too!
I don't recommend diluting medicated, or flea treatment shampoos as this will reduce their effectiveness. Use as advised by your vet or the instructions on the packaging.
A non-slip bath mat is essential to stop him from slipping and sliding in the bathtub when bathing a dog.
It will help your dog feel safer and prevent him from hurting himself.
Have two or three large fluffy towels nearby; two to dry him off with, and another to wrap him in or lay on later until he's thoroughly dried off.
When bathing a dog, I think it's advisable to keep a couple of treats handy. Giving your Cocker a small treat two or three times during his bath may help keep bath time fun and rewarding for your Cocker Spaniel.
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.
If your Cocker Spaniel's coat is heavy or moults quite a lot, it may be time to invest in a sink-hole protector to catch fur and hair; otherwise, you may create a blockage.
Before bathing your Cocker Spaniel, collect everything you need, towels, shampoo etc., and put them within easy reach of your bath.
Only shampoo your dog once unless he's really, really dirty, in which case you can give him a second lathering.
If you dry your Cocker's head and ears first, it may stop him from shaking. Try it!
Some dogs go crazy after having a bath, dashing and rolling around. For this reason, (and you want to keep him warm), I recommend you don't let your dog outside; otherwise, he'll end up dirty again!
My dog Max goes mad after his bath. He runs for the nearest rug or towel and slides his face along the floor (alternately rubbing each side of his muzzle) with his bottom stuck up in the air and will then roll around on his back, kicking his legs happily. This is quite amusing and so endearing to watch!
After bathing, many professional groomers use hairdryers (or crates with dryers) on their dogs. If you like, you could use a hairdryer 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, lying on the floor in ecstasy, and often falling asleep!
After reading my advice on bathing a dog, I hope you're now more confident about the whole bath-time process. However, if you're still unsure about any aspect of how to bathe a dog, perhaps a chat with your groomer would help?
You can now go on to learn about grooming your dog here.