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Tips for a Less Stressful Pet Bathing Experience

Tips for a Less Stressful Pet Bathing Experience


If you have been a pet parent for any length of time, you have undoubtedly encountered pets who love taking baths and those who despise it and will do anything to avoid getting wet.   From dogs jumping into bathtubs as quick as you can shake a stick or cats nearly hitting the ceiling to avoid the water and pets straddling bathtubs while doing the limbo with all four paws, bath time can be a unique experience.

For many years, conventional wisdom suggested bathing your pet once a month, or when they needed a really good cleaning.  But according to Vet Street, that is changing.  Veterinary dermatologists are now saying that if you want to bathe your pet once a week, it is not such a terrible thing.  A lot depends on a pet’s skin type.  If their skin is on the well lubricated, oily end of the spectrum, then this wouldn’t be such a bad idea.  If the pet’s skin is more on the dry side, weekly bathing could lead to drier skin and more dander to contend with. 

Now that summer is here and temperatures are warmer, bathing once a month or each week can migrate from indoors to outdoors when the weather is nice.  Not only does it provide for a change of scenery, but the mess can be much less if handled properly.  The key is to have everything prepared, staged and the pet put on a leash to control where they roam once they are finished with their bath.  The last thing a pet parent wants is for a wet dog to break loose and roll around in the grass or mud after a thorough cleansing.

With luck, the helpful tips below will aid in achieving a good balance between pets having fun during bath time versus being petrified at the sight of a bathtub or spray nozzle.   With the right preparation and positive attitude, pet bathing will be more pleasant and civil for all parties.


Younger the Better

If you have a puppy, kitten or another young animal, the earlier you get them used to taking a bath, the better.  Just be sure to pay extra attention to drying them off quickly when finished so they don’t lose too much body heat.  Towel drying is best, but there are some instances where a blow dryer on low heat and gentle power is appropriate for drying the pet more quickly.  And yes, contrary to popular belief, cats can be bathed.  Cats typically don’t like water and are self-grooming, but if a cat’s coat gets all fouled up or the cat has fleas or a skin condition, a bath would be appropriate.




Pet Prep

Many pets are anxious about taking a bath.  Some are horrified at the thought.  Yet, others take the bathing process in stride and have fun from the get-go.  However, before tempting fate and getting into any of the not so pleasant stages above, proper preparation is recommended.  Get your pet tired out before their watery adventure.  A good walk or play session can go a long way toward a more peaceful bath time.  Your pet will be more tired and hot after exercising, so hoping in the water should seem more appealing.  Encouraging your pet to practice getting in and out of an empty bathtub, perhaps with treats as an incentive, can be a good way to introduce the bathing area to your furry family member.  Splashing around in ankle deep water would be a logical next step for gradually getting your pet used to the bathing experience.  Just make sure your towels, shampoo, leash, and other aids are within arm’s reach before you begin.  It makes for an eventful experience when a dog shakes uncontrollably and the towels are across the room.  According to Vet Street, a towel or a slip-free mat at the bottom of the tub greatly aids in maintaining better traction for your pet when taking a bath.  Along with an anti-splash towel, which your pet can then stand on as he exits the tub or bathing area, one or two additional towels to dry your pet off with is a good idea.

Ear Protection

Dry pet ears are a good thing.  A small amount of cotton placed in the ears can prevent a lot of issues down the road in the form of an ear infection that can be difficult and costly to remedy.  Just be sure to remove the ear protection when finished.  Many pets don’t like their ears getting wet, so additional anxiety can be eliminated by washing below ear level.



Comfortable Water

Lukewarm water is the best temperature for bathing pets.  If the water is too cold it can upset your pet and make it harder to convince them a bath is in their best interest.  If it is too hot it can scald or frighten your pet and prove to be a difficult barrier to overcome.  It’s easier to control the water temperature in a bathtub or shower situation, but a little less precise from a water hose.  Luckily it’s summer and the water coming from the side of the house will become warmer as summer progresses.

Protect the Drain

Adding some steel wool or strainer cloth to the drain will keep all the hair from clogging up your pipes.  This becomes important if you bathe your pet frequently in the same tub or bathing area.  Another advantage of giving a bath outside is you won’t have to worry about this issue.



Correct Shampoo

Pets typically don’t have as much oil on their skin as people do.  Human shampoo is designed to strip away oil and therefore has a different PH than pet shampoo.  The key to a good pet shampoo is that it smells pleasant to your pet and takes away odors without removing important oils essential for keeping a pet’s skin healthy.  Of course, there has to be some compromise in the “smell good” department.  What smells good to us doesn’t necessarily smell good to our pets who are used to enjoying much “smellier” things in life.

Neck Down

Washing from the neck down is the best way to bathe from both a pet and owner perspective.  It avoids the eyes and ears and leads to less stress and shaking.  And according to Vet Street, if you hold a dog’s muzzle with your thumb and forefinger, they won’t be able to effectively shake since dogs shake from the head down.

Make it Fun

Making bath time fun is imperative.  Bring the toys, treats and other temptations that will distract your pet from realizing they are standing in and being splashed with water.  Toys that float or even sinking toys they can “dig for” are appropriate.  Creating bubbles can be a fun twist for all.



Keep Calm

If we stay calm during a wet mishap, our pets will usually remain calm.  Pets take their cues from us, so the more calm, cool and collect we remain when our furry friend shakes all over the wall and floor, the more relaxed the entire experience will be for all involved.

Bonding Experience

This is a great opportunity to bond even more with your pet.  They are getting individualized attention, becoming cleaner and getting a new lease on life.  What’s not to like?  By remaining positive, employing distracting measures such as toys and treats, and working together to achieve a healthier lifestyle, the human-pet bond will become even stronger.



A Drying Time

Pets love to be dried off.  Wrapping a dog in a towel can be a very fun experience as they wiggle through the wrapping while becoming drier.  They also enjoy the additional one on one attention from their master.  Three towels are an appropriate countermeasure for a shaking dog.  One can be used for standing on, one for draping over and drying off the pooch, and one for backup when the first towel gets soaked.

Bath time for pets can be both fun and a challenging experience.   With the handy tips above, it should become easier to give your pet a bath once a month, every few weeks, for a special occasion or when an urgent cleaning need arises.  Proper preparation, a comfortable water temperature, a neck down policy, good pet shampoo and lots of toys and treats will make for a much more pleasant bathing experience for both pets and pet parents.


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