Today we returned from a lovely weekend away. We were fortunate to be able to take our two dogs to a family reunion located on a lakefront. Abby, at thirteen, finds great pleasure wading in the water and lying down in it to submerge her body. I think that the cool water soothes her aching muscles, which are characteristic of her age. I love watching her take pleasure in the water with all of her five senses. Upon our arrival home today, I felt that a shampoo was in order. The lake was fairly shallow and with the heat this past summer, it probably would not be the best to leave any lingering bacteria on her fur. Additionally, Abby has a hypo-thyroid problem which presents more skin issues and makes her more sensitive to environmental factors.
I have been shampooing Labrador Retrievers all of my life and would like to point out that I am not a professional groomer. I have learned tips for shampooing dogs with short hair due to decades of personal experience. I would like to share some pointers that I think are very useful for dog owners at home.
- The best tip is to choose a warm sunny day and do it outdoors! Leave your hose water filled, but turned off in a sunny location. This allows warm water for your dog to experience from the get go. Dogs are clever and any negative experiences are remembered!
- Try and find a location that is fenced in if possible, so that if the dog bolts by accident he/she is contained in a safe area.
- Be organized before even bringing the dog to the hose. Have towels set aside for the final drying off. Have the shampoo bottle opened on the top so you can manage squirting it out with one hand. I have even removed the lid to the shampoo bottle to allow a faster flow of shampoo onto my palm, while holding the dog with my other hand.
- Wear clothing that you don’t mind getting wet! Rubber boots are helpful if you don’t want to get your feet wet. Personally, I like to shampoo the dogs in my bare feet, which saves my shoes from getting drenched.
- Brush your dog prior to the shampoo. Doing so removes a lot of a dog’s dead hair prior to the shampoo. It really helps to be a step ahead, so that you don’t end up with extra fur all over the place!
- Don’t have the dog on your grass if you love your lawn, as the soap may damage it. I figure with two dogs in our house our lawn will never be a show piece but thankfully my husband and I have learned to let that go.
- I try to purchase eco-friendly dog shampoo if I’m using it outdoors. The different kinds of shampoos are often over whelming at pet stores. If you look closely, you can find shampoos which are tailored to your dog’s needs. For example, I try to find shampoos which are meant for dogs with dry skin – they provide extra soothing, calming ingredients which are great for anti-itch.
- Keep the mood happy and friendly with your tone of voice and body language. I talk throughout, rewarding my dogs for standing nicely. I keep my tone light and reassure the dogs that they’re very good, and telling them that I’m almost done the job.
- Try and be quick and avoid getting soap in your dog’s eyes or water in their ears. I usually start at the head and finish at the tail end.
- Hold the dog’s neck firmly with one hand throughout the shampoo; this stops them from shaking which is their natural reflex.
- Towel off your dog afterwards and give them a nice yummy treat. Abby, despite her age, forgets how old she is and does a little dash around our garden. She spins in circles, which brings me great joy. This is usually followed by a drop to the grass and a wonderful roll to further dry off.
If you need to shampoo your dog indoors here are a few other tips.
1) If bathing your dog in your bathtub, put down a bathmat on the base of the tub to protect the finish from claws and to give your dog traction. Fill the tub prior to putting your dog in so the water hits the dog mid leg. Then simply use a small jug to scoop the water from the tub to pour over and wet the dog. This is a much faster version then holding the dog and filling jugs from the tap.
2) Close the shower curtain most of the way so that if your dog shakes water is not flung all over your bathroom!
3) Laundry tubs do work for smaller dogs but I have found that they break your back when bending over for the shampoo if low down. Try and be on your knees if shampooing your pooch in your bath tub. This saves your back but also has you at their height if not washing a huge dog.
4) My last tip that applies to all shampooing is to wash your dog’s collar! This is often neglected by owners and you will be amazed at the dirt that gathers on a collar or oils from your dog’s fur. Some collars cannot be washed, but a wipe down might do the trick! Check your tags to see if they are in need of a loop replacement; securing their information is vital. Many ID tags get scratched over time and become illegible; they are not pricy to replace and often need to be replaced from every day wear and tear.
Finally, after all your hard work it is important to enjoy your sweet-smelling dog and all your shampooing efforts. This can be a positive experience for all involved. Having a “bathing routine” can help make the experience easier for everyone, and taking the right precautions can help avoid surprises. Shampooing also allows for a wellness check as you run your hands over your beloved canine. Sometimes there are areas that we seldom pat. A lump, sore spot or skin issue may be discovered which would normally remain undetected. However, as a final thought, there are certain breeds which require a professional groomer to prevent matting. The previous tips are intended for dogs with short coats.
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