Like the foundation skills; sit, down, come, etc., desensitizing your puppy to life activities are important. Bathing, toenail trims, ear cleaning, etc. These things aren't done daily but should be taken seriously. Even if you personally aren't going to be the one bathing your dog, your Groomer or Veterinary Technician will appreciate the work you put in to make their lives easier. No one wants to fight a 70+lb dog just to trim their toenails. Sadly, though most people don't realize that this can be avoided by simple body handling while young.
It's easy! When your puppy is young, touch them everywhere. Constantly touching their paws, tail, ears, lifting their lip to look at their teeth, etc. Even if you're not doing anything but these motions, it'll help tremendously. If you want to take it a step further though, learn how to trim toes or/and brush their teeth.
Today though, we'll be talking about bathing. Just like people dogs should be bathed, they get stinky and like to play rough. If your dog is anything like my dog, you probably think they need a bath right after they get a bath! Bathing is simple and can be made into a fun experience for both you and your dog.
Kai is not a fan of the water, that includes bath time. But that does not mean he is bad during bathtime, in fact, he's wonderful. He sits and/or stands when I tell him to and doesn't wiggle around or try to jump out of the tub. It would seem he isn't enjoying himself when explained this way, but when the bath is over you can tell he's happy. He zooms up and down the hallway, and if given the chance out the door and back into the rocks and dirt! I always give him a small treat after a bath, even though he isn't a puppy anymore. This just continuously reinforces his good behavior. He knows, if he sits there he'll get a treat and playtime. It's worth it. Even if we're doing a 'deep clean/deshed' with shampoo/conditioner where he has to sit while the shampoo and then the conditioner sets before getting rinsed and toweled off (or if I'm at Bark Place blow dried).
So, how do you give your dog a bath? Keep in mind that these instructions are how I bathe my dogs; two border collies. Some breeds do need extra care and attention to certain parts, but overall these are basic bathing instructions. Nothing fancy or very time consuming at all. I bathed Kai at my job when I worked at the Vet's office, in the backyard in the kiddie pool, at the Groomer's without me, at Bark Place with me and in my own personal bathtub. The instructions are basically the same for every location, but I recommend starting with one location until your dog is comfortable. Then if need be move on to another area. If your dog has a good stay, sit and/or stand (we call it "still") that'll help greatly. But, if not don't fret! Bathing is still very possible. In fact, Kita got her first bath the minute we got home from the airport.
I'm giving these instructions under the circumstances of my home bathtub, no tie-down, or a second person. If you have the time get your pup used to the tub, put him in the tub, and give him treats and playtime. So he isn't scared of the walls of the tub, or the sound of the water, and thinks its a great place! If you don't have time; as I didn't with Kita, then get in the tub with them! It's a lot less scary when they're not alone.
Get your dog shampoo out, roll up your pant legs, and jump in the tub. Ideally, you have a moveable shower head, so you can control where the water hits your pup. NEVER have the water hot, warm-cool is best. Being this was Kita's first bath, I started off turning the water on and having it face the tub, soaking her paws and not directly on her. She loves water, and so this made it easier. Though, when the water moved up to actually touching her she was very apprehensive and wanted out of the tub immediately. Unfortunately, this was not an option. Kita had just been on a plane ride from PA all the way to NV and then we drove to AZ. As you can imagine, she did not have the puppy smell everyone loves.
Because of her hesitation, I sprayed my legs and put her in between them before moving slowly over her hindquarters. Moving towards her back, up and down to her chest then her front paws again. I did not wash her face or ears at this time. Keeping the water facing my feet, I poured the shampoo on her (I used DermAllay at that time since it was her first bath) starting again, from her back end moving to her front-ending between her shoulders. Lather her up, just like I would my own hair. Make sure you get a good lather and don't forget in between the toes (especially if you know there is fecal or anything else nasty in there). After satisfied with the lather of the shampoo, I began rinsing off. Starting with going down her back, constantly running my other hand over her, pushing water, and excess soap off of her. This is for a more efficient clean and also for her comfort. Again, don't forget about her toes! Just like when you wash your own hair, make sure you get all the soap out. Dogs can get dry itchy skin if all of the shampoo has not been rinsed. Towel dry off, treats, and lots of love! Bath = success! Now my puppy smells great and we are both happy.
Now it's not as dramatic when I give her a bath. Make sure after a first bath with any new shampoo and/or conditioner you keep an eye on their skin, making sure they aren't doing any extra itching or any bumps or rashes develop. A lot of dogs are allergic to perfumed soaps if you can try to stick to a hypoallergenic dog shampoo and conditioner. If your dog does have sensitive skin, look for DermAllay or find a shampoo with ceramides in it. It's great for anti-itch and dry skin.
But, wait - what about her face and ears? Especially in the beginning, please don't spray your dog in the face. This will only make them scared and make bathing that much more difficult in the future. Instead, dampen a cloth and wipe her face down gently. Most pups won't put up a fight and will get further desensitized by someone touching their face. Ears are a little different, again breeds take a big part in this. For instance, floppy-eared dogs like Basset Hounds and Beagles tend to get ear infections easier than dogs with erect ears like Huskies and Akitas. This is simply because their ears don't breathe as well, so getting them wet and not drying them properly will end up being a vet visit.
As you know I am not (currently) a Professional Groomer, but I have many great groomer friends at Bark Place who would be happy to help bathe your pup if you have at all any hesitation. The sooner you start your pup off with their bathing needs, the better they will be when they're fully grown!
Now go get clean and...
& remember, every day is a great day for an adventure with your best pup!
*As of this blog post, I am affiliated with Amazon and will get a small percentage of the sale if you follow the link I provided for the product. Thank you so much for your support.