Whenever I pick my dog up from the groomer he smells so good! His coat is soft and fluffy, and that fresh smell lasts for days. Whenever I bathe/wash my dog at home between grooming appointments I can never get that clean, fresh, fluffy result. How on earth do you guys do it?!
Alright, it's this simple: We groomers have a magic touch ;) Just kidding! Well, ok I'm not really kidding. Think of it this way: Most groomers (or their bathers) will bathe at least 5 dogs per day, at least 5 days per week. That's at least 25 dogs per day, 100 dogs per month, well over 1,000 dogs per year! Practice makes perfect. If we weren't born with the touch, we sure develop it pretty quickly. Read on and I'll share with you what I have learned about bathing dogs.
Let's talk about shampoo. I recommend that you buy a quality pet grooming shampoo - preferably from your groomer - or a pet specialty store. I suggest you buy it from your groomer because he or she will be able to detail the benefits behind the products, explain proper dilution and usage instructions, and answer any questions that you might have. Plus, your groomer loves your pets and you love your groomer, right? So why not take advantage of her expertise and support her retail efforts? While you are talking to your groomer, be sure to ask about the dilution ratio of your chosen shampoo. Most dog shampoos are made to be diluted. Watery, diluted shampoo is sooooo much easier to properly work through the coat than the ooey-gooey full-strength stuff. It is hard to get used to if you've never done it before, but trust me when I say you'll never go back to gooey again!
*Note: I have noticed that my clients go nuts over Top Performance Fresh Pet shampoo because of the sweet, clean smell that lasts for weeks, as well as Bark2Basics High Concentrate shampoo due to the light scent and soft, fluffy finish. I'm always trying new shampoos, so stay tuned for reviews!
If you decide to listen to someone's wive's tale about human shampoo or dish soap and run with it, just be careful. I can usually spot the "human shampoo/conditioner" pets when I see them. I notice the dry, rough coat and ask the owner about it, then gently go over my pH spiel and set them strait. Whether you choose to use dog shampoo, human shampoo, dish soap, whatever, be sure to "listen" to what your dog's coat is telling you. Make sure the coat stays soft, lustrous, and healthy.
Next, let's make sure you are using the right equipment. When you bathe your dog, it's best to use a hand-held sprayer rather than the ol' cup method. You will get the water and product further into the coat and get a better rinse with a sprayer. That is, as long as your sprayer has some oompf! Some pet owners (and groomers) might like to use a rubber curry brush for scrubbing, and that's fine. I prefer to scrubadub with my fingertips! If you do use a curry be sure to use the right kind for your dog's coat. If the coat is short, use a short-nubbed curry. If the coat is long/thick, get yourself a curry with deeper nubs. Pretty straightforward, right? If you opt for the fingertip method, please be kind and keep your claws trimmed.
Now that you know a bit more about how to shop for doggie shampoos and proper equipment, let's dive right into technique. You'll want to thoroughly wet your dog from snout to tail. If you are not comfortable getting your dog's face wet, don't worry about it. You can wipe the face with a wet washcloth. Really work the water through the coat all the way to the skin. Don't forget about belly, chest, legs, feet, and tail! Make sure every inch of your dog is saturated. Now, take your diluted shampoo and give it some good zig-zag squirts on the top of the head, top and bottom of the neck, and on the underside of the muzzle and side of the face if you are going to scrub the face. Work the shampoo in with your curry or fingers. Really work it all the way to the skin, over every millimeter of you pup. Be sure to keep the ears and eyes dry. Go ahead and rinse. If your dog is especially dirty or you really want the scent of the shampoo to soak in then repeat the shampoo and rinse. Rinse again. Aaaannd one more time, for good measure! It's important to rinse out all of the product. If not rinsed properly, the shampoo could cause itching. Next, squirt your shampoo down the dog's back, sides, and chest, down the legs, and on the tail. Scrub scrub scrub, all through the coat and skin. Don't forget to wash between the toe pads! Once your dog is thoroughly sudsy (did you remember to scrub the belly?) go ahead and rise. Repeat, repeat, you know the drill. Pay special attention to rinsing the feet, as this is where your shampoo will want to settle. If you'd like, you can take a very thin rag/towel dampened with ear cleaner (or an unscented baby wipe) and wipe your dog's ears clean. If you see dirt deep down in the canal it's best to let your groomer or vet take care of that. They know how to dig in there without damaging the ear.
Once your pup is clean and sparkly, just dry as usual. Unless, of course, that means with a high-heat blow-dryer... No heat or very low heat only, for the health of your dog's coat and skin, please!
I hope this advice will help you to bathe your dog at home like a pro. If it sounds like too much work or you've tried it and it still doesn't do the trick, then you'll just have to wait for your next grooming appointment. Consider yourself and your furry baby blessed to have a groomer with the magic touch :)