23 June 2009

Bathing and grooming your dog

There are no strict guidelines on how often you should was your dog, and it mainly depends on the breed of your dog and your lifestyle.

Why your dog needs a bath?
You might think that your dog needs a bath as often as you. It may come as a shock, but in fact, most dogs usually never really need a bath.

There are no strict guidelines on how often you should was your dog, and it mainly depends on the breed of your dog and your lifestyle.

Here are some guidelines to help you determine when to wash your dog:

  • If your dog has fleas, ticks or mites, a good bath is the best way to start the treatment plan. Use a shampoo recommended by your vet that kills the pests and their eggs. You might have to do a follow-up bath in a week or two. A bath together with an effective, safe topical insecticide will ensure your dog stays flea- or tick-free.
  • If your dog has long hair, he or she will need a regular grooming routine. Depending on the breed, long-haired breeds’ coats usually get matted and knotty; other breeds’ hair grows like human hair and needs a regular trim.
  • If your dog rolls in something smelly it is wise to give him or her a bath. If it rolled in bird droppings (which dogs love to do), a bath is not always necessary, a good wash with a facecloth or wet wipes will also do the trick.
  • If your dog has skin allergies, dandruff or other skin or coat conditions your vet may recommend that you bath your dog in a special shampoo to alleviate the problem.

Tips for bathing your dog

Timing. Although it is not always possible to plan the bath well in advance, you should try to bath your dog in fair, warm weather so it can sun dry afterwards. Midday in the summer and on a sunny winter’s day is usually the best time, this allows enough time for dogs with long hair to dry as well.

Give your dog a good brush before and after the bath - this will also speed up the drying process. If your long-haired dog is not dry to the skin an hour after the bath you should consider blow-drying its hair - especially in winter. When using a hairdryer make sure that you put it on its lowest heat as not to burn your dog’s skin. Most dogs don’t like the sound and sensation of hairdryers, and drying in the sun stays the best option.

The right shampoo. Always use a good shampoo recommended by your vet. You can’t wash your dog with your shampoo – shampoo intended for humans can be harmful to dogs because it is formulated for a different skin pH. Read the instructions on the shampoo bottle. If you are bathing your dog because he has a skin problem you might have to leave the shampoo in the coat for a certain period before rinsing it out.

Location, location, location. Where you bath your dog usually depends on the weather and the size of the dog. The options are: a bathtub, a basin and outside. This brings us to the temperature of the water – the water should be lukewarm, don’t bath your dog in cold water only, even if you are bathing outside. Your dog is as sensitive to cold water as you are.

If you are going to bath your dog in the bathroom or the kitchen basin be careful that it doesn’t jump out, slip and hurt himself.

Be prepared. Have everything you need at hand before you put Fido in the bathtub, it is not a good idea to leave them alone in the tub to find a towel or shampoo.

Lather and scrub well. Dilute the shampoo in a jug of water to allow it to spread well. Be sure to wash your dog all over, with a gentle but firm rubbing motion to loosen dirt and oils. Be careful around the eyes and avoid getting water and soap in the ears.

Rinse well. Make sure you rinse your dog very well. Soap residue can irritate the skin and cause it to itch and flake. The easiest and fastest way to rinse your dog is with a spray hose attachment. Some dogs are scared of the noise or sensation on their skin in which case a plastic jug is the best alternative.

Brush well. Brush down your dog's coat before the bath to get rid of all the dead and dry hair - especially in long-haired dogs. Any mats or tangles not brushed out before you wet the dog will tighten into felted mats and become almost impossible to brush out later.

Standing trick. If you have a small or medium dog, try to teach him to stand with his paws on the side of the tub. This will help you to wash him as quick as possible and also help with the rinsing.

Shaking. When taking your dog out of the bath, hold it tight and put the towel over his back, keeping your hand on his neck (so that he doesn’t shake) and then towel dry him. If he is small enough, pick him up and hold him tight while you towel dry him, starting with the face.

Lots of love. Most dog despise having a bath, so try and make it as pleasant as possible by giving him lots of reassurance and love. Also praise him before, during and after the bath. Keep his favourite treat handy for after the bath.

Safe bathing - things you need

  • Put a rubber mat in the bathtub to prevent your dog from slipping.
  • Put cotton balls in your dog’s ears to prevent the water from going into his ears. It can also prevent him from shaking vigorously. Another tip to try and stop your dog from shaking is to place one hand over the back of his neck when washing – this can stop the shake before it starts.
  • Wash his face with a facecloth rather than trying to wash his face and then rinsing the soap off, although most of the dog shampoos are tear-free the soap is still harmful to the eyes. This will also keep water out of your dog’s nose which can lead to choking.

Although you might be tempted to bath your dog often, be careful not to overdo it – speak to your vet before establishing your dog’s bath routine. The fresh shampoo smell and soft snugly coat might be nice for you, but remember your dog is still a dog and the doggie smell is his best. - (Hilda Geyer/Health24, June 2009)

Reviewed by veterinarian Dr Katja Bier.

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Caring for your dog


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