The Transformation Begins-
Not every dog likes a bath nor does its owner! So how do you transform bath time into something a bit more special? How often should you give your dog a bath? These are questions I’m often asked. Many owners wonder how frequently they should give their dogs a bath. Don’t be tempted to think you should bathe them as much as you wash your hair or yourself. The easy answer to this is that it depends on the dog’s breed, coat, and lifestyle. Generally once monthly is enough. Your dog needs natural oils in its coat to maintain the skin and promote hair growth. Over bathing could lead to skin irritation and dryness.
You might want to bathe specific areas of your dog, especially if your dog has rolled in fox poo or something worse. There is a condition known as ‘Alabama Rot’, otherwise known as Cutaneous and Renal Glomerular Vasculopathy (CRGV). It’s a disease affecting dogs by causing damage to the skin and kidney’s blood vessels and can lead to small blood clots to form resulting in blockages that can lead to damage of the affected tissue. This damage causes visible ulceration in the skin, but when the kidney is affected it can lead to severe organ dysfunction and ultimately kidney failure.
One of the ways that may help is to wash all mud off your dog’s feet after a wet and muddy walk; especially if you’ve been walking through woodland. Spot washing your dog can be done as frequently as needed. In winter you will want to wash the salt off your dog’s feet if they have been walking on the pavement. In the winter when it’s very muddy I wash my dog’s paws otherwise he tramples it around the house.
There are dogs that share the bed with their owners and so they bathe them more frequently. There are dogs that have skin conditions that may need to be bathed in specific treatments more often.
Transform Bath Time by Planning.
Make sure you plan everything for bath time. Make it a fun event. A good idea is to take your dog for a walk first so they can use up some energy. They will be relaxed and you will too. If you are using the bath make sure the dog has got used to it first. You can do this by putting them into the bath and feeding them so they have a positive association with it. Do this well before you decide to bathe them.
Have all your equipment at hand when you decide to give them a bath and leave plenty of time so you and your dog can relax. It shouldn’t be a hurried affair. Take your time when bathing your dog and use praise and encouragement. You can also give treats so the dog enjoys it and in the future may even look forward to it.
Where do I give my dog a bath?
You may not be able to use the bath for your dog. You will need to consider where and how you can bathe them safely. It really depends on the size of your dog. I have a very large German Shepherd so cannot lift him in the bath. He is bathed outside and I fill buckets with warm water. Obviously, you need to pick the right weather and don’t want to be doing this on a freezing day. You also need to have everything at hand or else you’ll have a very wet dog running around.
I have a friend who showers with her dog but this isn’t possible for every owner. You can sometimes hire a bath for DIY bathing and there are also dog showers that can be fitted outside. Whatever method you use the process is the same:
1.It’s always good practice to brush your dog’s coat before the bath. If you don’t do this when the dog is drying any knots will tighten and it may hurt when brushing out.
2. Always ensure that the shampoo is well rinsed from the coat.
3. Avoid the eyes and ears by covering them to avoid shampoo stinging eyes or water entering ears.
4. Always check your water temperature.
5.If towel drying, use a patting motion not circular as that can cause knotting.
6. Some dogs don’t mind if you use a hairdryer but don’t have it too hot or you may burn their skin.
Annie (Foxfold Shadow Dancer) being prepared for Crufts
What shampoo should I use?
What products should I use?
There are a lot of different products on the market but obviously, I am would go for natural products. I started making dog shampoos for this reason. I wanted to avoid any chemicals or harsh shampoos on my dog’s skin. One of the advantages of using cold process dog shampoo is that the glycerin is maintained in the bar and there are no nasty chemicals that can strip the dog’s coat. I do three types for differing coat types. They only contain plant-based oils and I use botanicals for their colour and the properties they bring to the shampoo. One is Charcoal & Nettle Unscented. Nettle is an amazing plant and really useful for dandruff, and the reason it’s unscented is so it can be used on pregnant bitches and young puppies.
I also make a Lemongrass & Tea Tree with colloidal oatmeal. This again has anti-bacterial qualities and is good for the skin with soothing oatmeal. The third one is a deodorizing and nourishing Lavender & Peppermint with Neem & Turmeric. Neem oil is a flea and tick repellant and also very moisturising on the skin. The beauty of all these bars is that they come on a rope. This makes them easy to use as they don’t slip from your hand and you can also hang them up to dry when you’re done. They also come in a smaller paw size for the smaller dog in your life.
Pre-bath- groom your dog
Grooming is something you should do before the bath. This is to prevent any knots or tangles which would be made worse if they were wet. Brushing your dog’s coat can be a regular occurrence depending on the breed. I have a long-haired German Shepherd and he is brushed every few days and more often when he is moulting. We both enjoy the experience as it gets your dog used to being handled and also builds up the time you spend with them and builds the bond. Some dogs really enjoy the experience and you should be careful not to be too harsh when brushing their coat as it puts them off. Other dogs can become very stressed with the experience. You need to choose a proper brush that isn’t too harsh and doesn’t hurt them, especially if they are puppies. Introduce the experience slowly and gently and praise your dog. It might be a good idea to introduce them to being bathed by taking them to a professional groomer. My dog was very fearful when he was young and I decided to take him to a groomer to have him handled by someone else. Although initially, he was quite anxious about it he soon became more confident and enjoyed the experience.