Bathing & Grooming Your Dog

You open the door to let your dog in after he's been outside for awhile only to discover that he's managed to find the only wet spot in the yard and thought it a splendid idea to take a mud bath. Or perhaps he's like our little Border Terrier friend next door, TJ, who loves to dig (much to his mom's dismay) and manages to get a great deal of dirt ground into his coat. Or maybe your CBF has found something delightfully stinky to roll in. Whatever the situation, your pup is in desperate need of scrubbing (your idea, not his--he doesn't understand why in the world you would find the fragrance of deer poop offensive). Whatever the reason, he's too dirty and smelly, and you've got to do something about it. You can always take him to a groomer, which can get to be expensive, especially if you have a dog that gets really dirty frequently or has a long or high-maintenance coat. Or you can take the plunge and bathe him yourself.

If you're going the DIY (do it yourself) route, you'll need the right tools for the job. Basic items are doggie shampoo and conditioner, towels, a sprayer, cotton balls, and, last but certainly not least, a place to wash him. If he's a little guy like our friend in the photo, you can bathe him in the kitchen sink or the laundry tub. If he's a bigger fellow, you can use the bathtub. If you'd rather not have Rover sharing your bathing facilities, you can get a doggie bathtub. These usually have one end cut lower so the dog can step in and out easily, which saves wear and tear on your muscles because you don't have to lift him in and out of a tub. Look for one with short legs for easy in/out for your dog--or you can get a ramp to fit.

Sudsing Up

There are so many different shampoos. How do you know which one to choose? Think about his skin and coat. If he has dry, itchy skin, a shampoo containing oatmeal or aloe will soothe him and make him more comfortable. A good one to try is the Oatmeal and Aloe Shampoo from 1-800-PetMeds. Here's the link for this terrific product--and a conditioner is available in the same formulation. 1-800-Petmeds Oatmeal & Aloe Shampoo & Conditioner Combo Pack If you're bathing him because he got into something stinky, sticky, or greasy, pick a shampoo that's specially formulated for your paricular situation. If he has had an unfortunate counter with a skunk, don't wash your CBF in tomato juice!! It doesn't work. Instead, here's an inexpensive, effective formula you could make yourself that should eliminate the odor: Mix 32 oz. of hydrogen peroxide, 1/4 cup baking soda (NOT washing soda), and 1 or 2 teaspoons of dishwashing liquid. Thoroughly wet your dog's fur, then pour the mixture over his whole body. Massage it well into his fur and leave in for 3-4 minutes, then rinse thoroughly. This should eliminate the odor--at least, until the next time he decides to make friends with Pepe LePew.

For quick cleanups, or if water isn't available, waterless shampoos do a pretty good job of freshening your pet. The Bio-Groom Waterless Bath, 16 oz is a great product. We've used this on several occasions. It's easy and has a fresh, clean scent. (Buster probably would be embarrassed if he knew that I was telling this story, but one time, he had either gotten into something that disagreed with him, or he had picked up a tummy bug. Either way, he had a nasty case of diarrhea. Since Buster has VERY thick fur (especially around his hindquarters), diarrhea can make quite a mess. We went through most of a bottle of this waterless shampoo just keeping his backside clean. We give this shampoo two paws up!!

One thing we DON'T recommend is using a shampoo meant for humans on your dog. Most 'human' shampoos are too strong for dogs and can cause irritation.

If you and your dog are traveling, be prepared for messes along the way by keeping a package of wipes such as the Deodorizing Wipes for Dogs handy. We keep a package of these in the glovebox in our car. They keep Buster fresh and clean-smelling while we're on the go.

Grooming Tools

It's helpful to brush your dog before his bath, as it will loosen dirt and also get rid of loose dead hair so it doesn't clog your drain. You'll also want to deal with any mats before bathing as these are much easier to comb out when the fur is dry. And, of course, you'll also want to keep your CBF neat and tidy between baths.

The type of grooming tools you'll use depends on your pup's coat. If he has short straight fur, like a Labrador Retriever, a Beagle, or a Boxer, you can use a soft-bristled brush to loosen dirt and dead hair. You certainly won't have to worry about matting as this type of coat is too short to mat!

Longer fur becomes a little more complicated. If your guy has a straight, thick double coat like a Siberian Husky or an Alaskan Malamute, you'll need to brush him at least once a week, especially during spring, as these breeds are big-time seasonal shedders. (If you don't brush him thoroughly, you may end up with little 'tumbleweeds' of dead hair floating around.) The best kind of brush to use on this type of coat is a pin brush (as long as it isn't matted). This brush has metal pins for bristles and is sturdy enough to get through your dog's thick coat and remove the dead hair. If your long-haired guy is matted, you might try a mat breaker. (Of course, frequent brushing will reduce the incidence of mats.) If your pup is a wire-haired breed (like most terriers), you may want to 'strip' his coat--and no, we don't mean undressing him!! 'Stripping' is a technique for removing the faded, dead hairs from a wire-haired dog's coat to allow new healthy hairs to take their place. The dead hair is hard near the tip, but is soft at the base, and will pull out fairly easily. It may feel a little strange to your pup at first, but if you introduce the technique slowly, he'll soon get used to it. You can do this by hand or use a tool called a stripping blade. A good one isn't cheap, but it will last a long time. A good one to try is the Chris Christensen Wood Handle Stripping Knife - Coarse Right. This is also available in a finer-blade version. Stripping your wire-haired guy's coat is essential if your dog is going to be shown, plus it keeps his coat healthier. If your dog isn't headed for the show ring, you should still strip him, but you won't need to do it as often.

If your dog has a fine, soft coat, you can use a pin brush on him, but a metal comb will work as well (again, as long as he isn't matted). One tool that I will recommend (with some reservation) is the Furminator. This is a wonderful tool for removing dead hair from your long-haired dog, but if you're not careful, you can pull out too much fur. The Furminator is a very sturdy grooming tool. It's on the pricey side, but you should only need to purchase one and count on it to last pretty much forever. The newest version of this grooming tool has a button that ejects the dead fur from the blade.

The type of coat your dog has will determine how often he needs to be brushed. A Golden Retriever will need to be brushed much more frequently than a Labrador Retriever. This may seem like a lot of work, but it will help to keep your dog looking his best and feeling comfortable. Mats can pull on the skin, and regular brushing and combing can also help you keep tabs on the condition of your dog's skin and coat. It also gives you a chance to touch every part of his body and see if there are any unusual lumps or bumps. Your CBF will enjoy the attention-- and you'll be removing the dead hair that would otherwise end up on your furniture, your floor, and your clothes.

Letting the Pros Do It

If your dog is a purebred and you're preparing for a show, or perhaps he just has a heavy or thick coat and you'd rather not tackle the whole bathing/grooming thing yourself, you can take him to a groomer. Most communities have at least a few groomers. How to pick the best one? Ask your friends and neighbors who have pets. That's how we found Buster's groomer. We were new to the community in 2001 and needed to switch groomers. Our neighbor told us about the groomer that he and his wife had used for their pet. This particular grooming facility had been in business for many years (since 1969). We've gone to them ever since and like the job they do and how they treat Buster. Word of mouth really is one of the best ways to find a groomer.

Your CBF is now clean, soft and least until he gets into something else! Please visit our other pages for more fun and useful dog stuff.
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