Veterinarian-written / veterinarian-approved articles for your dog.

How to Give a Dog a Bath

How to Give a Dog a Bath

Sometimes, your dog will need a bath. While that might not sound like a big deal, it's not always an intuitive thing; there are certain things that you'll need to know.

Note: this article is a step-by-step guide on how to bathe your dog. It does not discuss the grooming or haircut that is required in certain breeds such as Cocker spaniels and poodles. We suggest professional grooming as recommended by your veterinarian or groomer for those dogs.



If your dog has just rolled in something awful in the woods, gotten dirty or stinky, or just needs a bath, here's what to do:

  1. Gather Your Supplies

    Before you bathe your dog, you'll need to collect the following items and have them ready to use nearby:

    • A brush and comb appropriate for your dog's coat
    • Mild shampoo for dogs (don't use human shampoo, which has the wrong pH for dogs) from your veterinarian or pet store
    • Ear cleaner from your veterinarian
    • Cotton balls
    • Towels
    • A hair dryer (maybe)

    With many dogs, the bath is made easier with a hand-held showerhead. Otherwise, use a large pitcher.

    You will get wet and soapy along with your dog, so wear old clothes. If it is a warm summer day, an outdoor bath is just fine. Consider warming up a pail of water if it is not really hot out, so the dog does not get chilly.

  2. Brush Your Dog

    Before putting your pooch in the tub, thoroughly brush her coat to remove any tangles. If these tangles get wet, they will be much more difficult to remove.

  3. Put Your Dog in the Tub

    If you are using a tub, put your dog in it. You may need a helper to keep her from jumping out while you bathe her. Most dogs feel more secure if you place a rubber mat on the bottom of the bathtub, so it is not too slippery.

  4. Wet Your Dog Down

    Get your dog thoroughly wet with warm (not hot!) water, and lather her all over with shampoo, taking care to keep the soap and water out of her eyes and ears. Until you are comfortable giving baths, it may be better to avoid soaping her head altogether. Certain medicated shampoos may need an increased contact time specified by your veterinarian. Make sure your dog doesn't lick the shampoo during this time.

  5. Rinse Your Dog Thoroughly

    Using the pitcher or hand-held showerhead, rinse your dog well. Take particular care to rinse up in the armpits and groin. Thick coats will need several rinsings. Rub your dog's fur between your fingers; if you see bubbles or it feels slippery, you need to rinse more. Soap left in the coat will cause dry, irritated skin, so rinse until all the hair feels squeaky clean.

  6. Dry Your Dog

    Let your dog shake in the tub, then start drying her with a towel. Depending on the size of your dog and the thickness of her coat, you may go through several towels. On cold days, with young or elderly dogs, or if your dog has long fur that tangles easily, you will also need to use a hairdryer. You must be careful because it is easy to burn the skin. Keep the hairdryer on a low setting and move it constantly in a back and forth motion. Keep your hand between the dryer and the skin—if it is too hot for your hand, it is too hot for the dog! Stop occasionally to double check the skin and make sure it is not too hot. Brush the coat as you dry to speed up the process and prevent tangles.

  7. Clean Your Dog's Ears

    Lastly, clean your dog's ears with a drying solution (check with your veterinarian to determine which one is best for your dog) to remove any water that may have gotten in. Place a small amount of cleaner in your dog's ears, rub it around, let your dog shake, then wipe the rest out with cotton balls.

When Should the Bath Be Done by a Professional?

You should take your dog to a professional groomer for baths if she has so many mats or tangles that you are unable to brush them out or if your dog objects to the bath and you have safety concerns.

How Frequently Should You Bathe Your Dog?

In general, you want to try not to bathe your dog more than once a month. Too much bathing can dry out your dog's skin and create problems. However, if your dog gets dirty, she may need more frequent bathing in the short term. Some dogs only need baths twice a year. Your veterinarian may recommend more frequent baths for certain skin conditions.

You May Also Like These Articles:

Foxtails: A Summertime Hazard for Dogs

Home Dental Care for Dogs

Dog Shaving: Helpful or Harmful?

Tips for the First Few Weeks with Multiple Dogs

How to Cope with Canine Anxiety and Fear by Using Adaptil(TM) (Formerly called D.A.P)

How To Remove Ticks

How to Find Ticks on Your Dog

Flea Control for Dogs

Disclaimer: This website is not intended to replace professional consultation, diagnosis, or treatment by a licensed veterinarian. If you require any veterinary related advice, contact your veterinarian promptly. Information at is exclusively of a general reference nature. Do not disregard veterinary advice or delay treatment as a result of accessing information at this site. Just Answer is an external service not affiliated with

Notice: Ask-a-Vet is an affiliated service for those who wish to speak with a veterinary professional about their pet's specific condition. Initially, a bot will ask questions to determine the general nature of your concern. Then, you will be transferred to a human. There is a charge for the service if you choose to connect to a veterinarian. Ask-a-Vet is not manned by the staff or owners of, and the advice given should not delay or replace a visit to your veterinarian.