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The Biggest Mistake You're Making When Bathing Your Dog, Vets Say

This common habit is probably doing more harm than good for your pet.

Giving your dog a bath is no one's idea of a peaceful way to spend an afternoon. The task takes time, patience, and, typically, lots of clean-up after your initial subject is rinsed and dry. However, it's an important ritual that will keep your pup's skin and coat healthy and make them smell better to boot. But bathing your dog isn't as simple as bathing yourself. What's more, your dog isn't able to easily communicate that something you're doing is making them uncomfortable. To help you give your best bath yet, we contacted the pros to learn the biggest mistakes you're making when you suds and lather your pup. Read on for some expert advice from vets and learn what the most common blunder is.

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You bathe them too often.

dog in bath with soap on head

The biggest mistake vets say people make when bathing their dogs is doing the task too often. "Unless your dog got specifically muddy that day, most dogs don't need more than one bath per month," says Patrik Holmboe, head veterinarian for Cooper Pet Care. "Just like humans, some dogs have sensitive skin, and too much bathing can cause skin flare-ups."

Frequent washing can also strip the skin of its natural oils, making it itchy or uncomfortable. "If your dog simply loves jumping into mud puddles, then see if you can avoid shampoo and use water to get rid of the dirt and mud," Holmboe adds.

But sudsing up too often isn't the only mistake owners make when bathing their dogs. Keep reading to learn the other things you should avoid to fine-tune your technique.

You get the temperature wrong.

golden retriever in bath

You probably have a preference for the temperature of your baths and showers, and so does your pup. "A common mistake people make when bathing their dog is that they don't get the water temperature right," says Melissa M. Brock, a board-certified veterinarian and an author at Pango Pets. "The best way to do this is to test the water before you put your dog in it. You should stick your hand in the water, and if you can't keep it there for more than a few seconds, then it's too cold for your dog; if you can keep your hand in there for a few minutes, then it's probably fine."

This can occur with hot water, too. "Hot water can cause burns on their skin, especially if they have short hair or no hair," says Brock. "Always use warm water when bathing your pups so that they stay healthy and happy."

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You don't use the right shampoo.

man bathing dog

No, bathing your pup isn't as easy as plopping them in the shower and sudsing them up with your personal drugstore shampoo. Before you start, you'll need to invest in a pet-friendly product. "One of the most frequent errors is giving our dog a bath using human shampoo," a veterinarian tells Best Life. "Since dog skin pH differs from that of people, and human shampoo can irritate our dogs' skin, it is essential to use specifically formulated dog shampoos." These products are also gentler on your dog's eyes and ears.

You bathe them on a slippery surface.

dog in bath

Just like slips and falls can be dangerous for humans, they can also be hazardous to dogs. "A bathtub is a common place to bathe your dog, but not all have a non-slip surface," says Holmboe. "Your dog will likely be moving around at least a little bit, and slipping can lead to injuries or getting [excess] water and shampoo in their eyes or ears." You can put down a towel or non-slip surface to keep them safe.

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You get too much water in their ears.

small dog upset in bath

While keeping all water out of the ear is likely impossible, you should try to avoid it as much as you can. "Bacteria love warmth, darkness, and moisture, exactly the environment of the ear canal," says Holmboe. "Getting too much water in the ear canal makes it easier to develop ear infections—humans get this too after a day at the beach." Avoid this by being careful around the ears and never submerging your dog's head underwater. "After the bath, make sure to dry the ears and surrounding area well," Holmboe adds. Et voila, you've given your pup a safe and effective bath.

Juliana LaBianca
Juliana is an experienced features editor and writer. Read more
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