Essential 7

Essential 7
The Name I Trust for Quality Essential Oils

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Cleanliness is Next to Dogliness: The Most Excellent Way to Bathe a Dog

My life has become a literal dogs' life over the last ten years. My husband and I run a Bed & Breakfast for dogs in our home, and we do quite a bit of dog bathing in the midst of it all. I was chosen at the onset as the official dog bather of the house, not because of my qualifications; but rather my height. My husband so delicately explained that I was already closer to the floor, and hence the tub; while he had an extra 12 inches to descend before resting his already-sore knees on the hard bathroom floor. I accepted this lot with a smile. I really do not mind bathing dogs. I've been bathing kids for years. How much harder could it be?

Well, the truth is that dog bathing can be a little tricky. Washing a statue of a dog would be pretty simple, but live dogs tend to be...lively! Some enjoy the water so much that they drink voraciously from the faucet while you try to wet them down. Others act like you are trying to torture them. They scramble and scratch as if they were wearing little doggie ice skates. And they always try to lean their heads over the edge of the tub at the exact moment that you spray the water on them, causing a veritable sea-spray to shower the bathroom floor.

Then there is the battle of the body-shake. Invariably, I would soak a dog's fur from head to toe, reach for the shampoo bottle, and be rewarded with a violent body twist that would make Elvis smile with hound-dog pride. Water droplets fly in all directions, and the nicely soaked dog in front of me is now too dry for a shampoo application. It's mildly frustrating...the first time. I have actually repeated this little routine with certain stubborn pups multiple times. It can try your patience and soak you to the bone in the process.
Thankfully I have learned, through trial and error, a more excellent way to bathe a dog. Here is a quick tutorial on the procedure.

First you must assemble your tools and get the bathroom ready for the dog. This means gathering up a clean towel (or two, if your dog is large or extra furry), an empty shampoo bottle (yes, I said "empty"), your favorite dog/people shampoo, and some essential oils. I often use tea tree oil and peppermint in combination for a fresh-smelling result that also repels parasites. Essential oil of lavender is a good choice for dogs with sensitive skin or skin allergies. 

Take the top off of the empty shampoo bottle. Add a dollop of your favorite shampoo. Then drop in a few drops (between 5 and 10) of each essential oil. Fill the bottle to the top with warm water, and replace the cap. Now shake the bottle gently to mix the ingredients together.
If at all possible, use a spray nozzle for soaking and rinsing the dog. We have a shower head with a hand-held sprayer that detaches easily and quickly. This works much better than filling a large cup or pitcher from the faucet. There are also spray nozzles that can be fitted over the bathtub faucet. Any spray head will do nicely. Just make sure that the hose is long enough to reach across the length of the tub.

Once your dog-bathing zone has been prepared, it's time to bring in the dog. Small dogs can easily be carried to the tub. Larger dogs must be led or coaxed - unless they happen to be water-lovers that know just how fun baths can be. For the reluctant large breed, I always speak softly and sweetly as I lead them to the tub. Once they are facing the tub and in a close proximity, I gently lift their front legs and place the front half of them in the tub. Some dogs take the hint and bring their back legs in to meet the front ones. Most dogs, however, need the hind-leg-assist maneuver, which can be gently done without straining your back. Be sure to hold onto the dog's collar as you do this. Otherwise, the dog may perform an about-face and spring those front legs back out of the tub just as you are maneuvering in the hind legs.

Now that you have the dog in the tub, turn on the faucet. Be prepared for the dog to retreat, especially if he is new to this game. I keep one hand on the dog's collar and talk soothingly during the bathing process. I may have even been heard singing silly songs with made-up words to keep dogs calm in the tub. Whatever works! Dog-bathing is like changing a baby. Your dignity goes out the window, and it's all about causing the least amount of distress while you focus on the mission.

Slowly pick up the sprayer and begin soaking the dog's fur. I usually start with the head and work toward the tail. Never shoot water into a dog's ears. For one thing, they will respond with a head shake/body shake that will cause you to start over. You can also cause water to become trapped down deep inside the ears, resulting in ear infections. As you rinse the dog's ears, carefully plug the inside of each ear with your finger, or shield the inner ear with the palm of your hand to direct the water away.

As you achieve the initial soaking of the dog, be ready to lay down the sprayer (turning it off first) and pick up the shampoo bottle in one smooth motion. Don't give the dog time to shake all of the water off. Placing your hand on his neck will also deter him from doing this. Now flip the top or remove the cap on your shampoo/water mixture, and squirt it liberally all over the dog's neck, back, tail, and hindquarters until you have used the entire bottle.
Remember, this is a very diluted shampoo that contains only a dollop of soap. Applying it this way ensures even coverage and quick disbursement. It also prevents an over-concentration of soap in one area, which makes rinsing difficult and more time-consuming.  As you squeeze the soapy water onto the dog's fur, begin to work it into a lather with your other hand. Now give the dog a nice body massage as you suds him up from head to tail. Be careful not to get any soap in his eyes. Carefully lift each paw, one at a time, as you work the lather in between his toes. Don't forget his undercarriage and his chest too.

Now it's time to rinse. Giving him no time to stand and think about shaking, pick up the sprayer and begin a thorough rinse from head to tail. Aim the sprayer into the fur, and watch the water as it streams off of the dog's coat. Do not stop rinsing until the water runs clear. Even then, spend a few extra minutes on the rinse cycle. Leaving soap residue on the dog can result in an itchy skin condition later. Soap is also a magnet for dirt, so a poor rinse job soon makes for a dirty dog. That's counterproductive, don't you think?

Oh, and remember those essential oils that you added to your shampoo mix? They are left behind as a beneficial residue. Water doesn't rinse away oil very well, so the soothing lavender, the crisp peppermint, and the flea-fighting tea tree oil will remain in your dog's fur. This also leaves your dog smelling fresh and clean instead of wet and doggie.

Well, you have now reached the drying phase of your dog's bath. I prefer to let the dog help me out with this process. After all, a dog knows right-well how to remove excess water from his coat. If the dog is calm (and most dogs are after a soothing body massage accompanied by my repertoire of silly bath songs), I simply draw the shower curtain closed and wait a minute or two. He will usually take this private moment to do the shimmy-shake he's been longing for since the water first touched his fur. My shower walls end up looking like a giant yeti rubbed against them, but at least the fur fling is contained this way. The alternative leaves me cleaning the entire bathroom afterwards, instead of just the tub and shower.

With a rousing "attaboy" to let him know you are pleased, it's time to throw in the towel. Well, at least wrap the towel around his cute little face as you swab off the rest of his body with the corners. Rub down his legs and feet before you allow him to jump out of the tub. Don't be surprised if he wriggle-shakes again on the bath mat. He knows that you don't do nearly as good a job as he does at drying his wet fur.

Before you open the bathroom door, get a firm hold on the dog's collar or place a slip-lead over his head. This gives you some control over your wet hound as you guide him to a tiled area for further drying. I have gasped in horror as an exuberant, freshly bathed shagapotomus leaped up onto my bed and began rubbing his wet self all over my clean sheets!
My jazz hands have extended seconds too late to stop a sopping canine-bullet from making a beeline for our living room sofa, where he proceeded to squeegee himself off on our couch cushions! 

The most important rule immediately after a dog bath is this: Do not let the wet dog outside off-leash! Even if you have him on-leash, please stick to concrete areas like sidewalks and patios. Cleanliness gives dogs a kind of "high". They zoom. They bounce. And worst of all - they roll! They roll to show their excitement, and they roll to remove this yucky fresh scent that smells nothing like the great cat poop that they rolled in yesterday. (Ugh!) So do yourself a favor and hang onto that leash. Better yet, wait until the dog is completely dry before going outside. Nothing will make you cry more than seeing your dog-bathing efforts get coated in dirt and leaves!

There you have it! From my experience, this is the most excellent way to bathe a dog. Rinse and repeat as necessary, and remember - cleanliness is next to dogliness!