Many dogs love a warm, sweet-smelling bath as much as we do, and naturally you want your beloved pet to look his best. But let’s not get carried away. There are a few things you need to know about doggy bathtime before you get started.
First, dogs shouldn’t be bathed more than once a month. More often, and you risk washing away the natural oil that insulates and protects their skin.
Second, you should use a specially formulated dog shampoo. These are free of irritating agents and adapted to canine skin pH, which is different from ours. Miki Lluch Blanco of Luzcan dog grooming salons explains: “The type of shampoo depends on the type of hair, its condition and the kind of finish we’re aiming for. But the pH must be between 7 and 7.5. And it should contain silicone rather than oil as a base, because oil can damage the dog’s skin.” If your dog already has skin problems, opt for one of the shampoos designed for that. There are also sprays to soothe irritation.
As an occasional alternative to bathing - perhaps there isn’t time, or your pet is sick - it’s possible to use a foam shampoo that is simply sprayed in then brushed out.
So at what age should you start bathing your pet?
According to veterinarian Ana Anglada: “The ideal is to wait until the puppy’s vaccination schedule is completed at three months old, especially if it is going to go to a dog grooming salon where it may be in contact with other animals. You should use puppy shampoo and lukewarm water, and dry him thoroughly to prevent him developing respiratory problems.”
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Whether you are trying to make sure your puppy enjoys his first bath, or dealing with a wary older dog, her advice is the same:
- Use a bath mat under your pet’s paws to prevent him from slipping.
- Play with him before you start, making the bath a continuation of the game.
- While you are washing him, speak to him gently and calmly.
- Dry him carefully. If you’re using a hairdryer, try not to focus it directly on the face, which he may find frightening. Hold the dryer at a distance and pet him while you use it.
“Afterwards, give a reward. Positive reinforcement is the best way for him to understand that he has behaved well and want to repeat the experience.”
Finally, she adds that very nervous dogs can benefit from pheromone sprays or diffusers. These release a synthetic version of the chemicals secreted by nursing females, and have a calming effect.