Want to know how bathing a dog can be done without tears and tantrums? Our handy checklist will show you how your dog's bath-time can be lots of 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 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 get your dog smelling sweet and looking clean 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 simple check-list on how to bathe your dog.
Some groomers recommend gently teasing out all knots and matting and brush the coat before bathing a dog because they believe that if tangles and mats are left in the fur, they'll trap dirt and shampoo and simply 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.
There are other groomers however, that say you should wash your dog first. They believe that the grit and/or dirt in an unwashed mat or coat will blunt their (very expensive) scissors and trimmers.
Personally, I like to remove tats and matting before I bath 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 groom him first. Whatever you decied, 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 and remove all the dead and loose fur, it will eventually clump together and cause matting.
Apart from helping you and your dog to bond, brushing also gets the circulation going and helps to distribute natural oils evenly around his coat.
The lifestyle of your pooch can help you to 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 no doubt 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, 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? Max loves to roll in fox pee, which has a particular aroma!)
On the other hand, if your Cocker Spaniel is getting on in years, he may be fairly 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 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 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 a dog too often could be harmful because it will strip the coat of its essential oils, and can cause dryness and irritation leading to skin disorders.
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.
If he smells bad, it's bath time - very scientific!
In the summer, when the weather's warm, you can bathe your dog outdoors. Simply 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. It's not safe. Cold water can chill to the bone!
When bathing a dog indoors, it's best to use lukewarm water; common sense tells us that hot water can burn his 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 your dog.
You could buy your Cocker 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.
For me, 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!
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 to soothe the skin, 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 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 your groomer to recommend a more gentle shampoo for him?
If you're using a medicated shampoo, only use 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. I find approximately 10 percent of shampoo to 90 percent 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 to lather up much more easily. The shampoo lasts longer too!
I don't recommend diluting medicated or flea
treatment shampoos as this will reduce their effectiveness. Use as recommended by your vet, or by the instructions on the
When bathing a dog, a non-slip bath mat is essential to stop him from slipping and sliding in the bathtub. It will help your dog to feel safer and could also stop 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 to lay on later, until he's fully dry.
When bathing a dog, I think it's advisable to keep a couple of treats handy. Giving him a small treat two or three times during his bath may help to 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 it molts 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 the fact that 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!
Many professional groomers use hair-dryers (or crates with 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, and will often fall 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.
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