How to Give Your Large Dog a Bath

Three Parts:Teaching Your Big Dog to Like the BathGetting Ready for the BathGiving a Bath

If you're gotten a new large-breed puppy, the best time to start teaching him to like bathing is when he is young. However, even older large dogs can learn to like a bath, though these large dogs come with their own unique challenges. You can bath your dog at home, as long as you prepare yourself and the dog ahead of time. Also, remember, you really only need to bathe your dog when he gets smelly or every 3 months or so, as long as you are brushing him regularly.[1]

Part 1
Teaching Your Big Dog to Like the Bath

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    Use a big enough bathing area. Use a shower if possible. If you have a large enough walk-in shower, that may be the best option with a big dog since they don't have to step into the tub.[2] With some large-breed dogs, you'll be able to use your bathtub. If that's too small for your dog, you may need to consider other options. If it's warm outside, you can take your dog outside and bathe him without a tub. If it's cold, you definitely need bathe him inside, as it can lower your dog's temperature too much to bathe him outside.[3]
    • If bathing him outside, be sure to keep him on a leash. That way, he can't run away from you as you try to bathe him.[4] Also, be sure to pick an area that won't get too muddy.[5]
    • If it's too cold and the bathtub is too small, try a kiddie pool. These pools are relatively inexpensive and inflatable. Just be sure to pick a location where you don't mind the floor getting wet.[6] You can also use a large tub or kiddie pool outside to help keep your dog and the water contained.[7]
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    Acclimate your dog to the bathtub. With the tub dry, lure your dog into it with a treat. Tell him he's a good dog, and offer more treats. If you're not using your regular bathtub, set up your kiddie pool a couple of days before you bathe your dog. Do this several times a day for a few days.[8] If you plan to do the job without a tub outside, you can skip this step.
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    Teach your dog the cue. The next time you want your dog to get in the tub, say "get in." When he gets in, give him a treat and praise. Next, say "get out." Move back so the dog knows to come towards you, and you can clap your hands to call him towards you.[9]
    • You don't have to offer a treat when the dog gets out of the tub. You are trying to convince that the most fun happens inside the tub.[10]
    • Practice this trick 4 or 5 times in a row. Do it again the next day or later the same day.[11]
    • "Stay" might be more appropriate if you are planning to bathe your dog outside. Have your dog sit or lie down. While he is still in place, say "yes" and give him a treat. Tell him to "stay" and walk a short distance from him. If he moves, tell him to sit again, then "stay," offering a treat. Continue putting your dog back into position as often as needed to get him to stay in one place. Work in short sessions over several days.[12]
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    Try the bathtub with the water on. The next time you invite your dog into the bathtub, try using a little water. Once your dog is in the tub, turn on some water. Don't actually spray your dog or get him wet. If he startles, tell him to sit or use a calming voice, then give him a treat. Offer praise for being a good dog.[13] If you're outside without a tub, try making him stay with the hose on near him, so he gets used to the idea.

Part 2
Getting Ready for the Bath

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    Gather what you need. Because large dogs can more easily refuse a bath time than small dogs, you need to be ready to go when your dog gets in the water. Get a dog-friendly shampoo at your local pet store. Have a handful of towels ready to go when the dog comes out of the bath.[14] You'll also want to have treats around.[15]
    • You can even warm the towels up in the dryer to make them feel better for your pup.[16]
    • You'll also need your dog's brush, a rubber mat, a washcloth, a pitcher, hose, or removable shower head, and either a showering glove or a regular latex glove if you prefer to not massage the shampoo in with your bare hands.[17]
    • You may also want cotton balls for your dog's ears, eye ointment to protect your dog's eyes (available from the vet), a blow dryer, and a screen to protect your drain.[18]
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    Make the floor non-slip. Large dogs, especially, can slip around on a slick surface, as they have more weight pushing down on their paws. If you're using a tub that's slippery, you can help keep your dog calmer by making it non-slip. Place a rubber mat or use a thick towel in the bottom of the tub or pool.[19]
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    Change your clothes. Try wearing a bathing suit or something you don't mind getting wet. Big dogs are notorious for getting water everywhere, including all over you.[20]
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    Brush your dog. It's important to brush your dog first, as it gets the mats out of his fur. Mats can be come worse in water if not brushed out, plus brushing helps get out other debris.[21]

Part 3
Giving a Bath

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    Shut off the area as much as possible. Large dogs are more likely to get loose while bathing, since they have more muscle behind their struggling. Close the bathroom door, or put barriers in place such as a kitchen chair. Have someone help you keep hold of your dog, if possible. Outside, it can be a bit harder, but if you have a smaller fenced-off area, make sure to use that to help contain him.[22]
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    Protect your dog's ears and eyes. Put cotton balls in your dog's ears. The cotton balls protect your dog's ears from water. Also, you can add ointment to the dog's eyes to protect it from shampoo. Your vet can show you how to put the ointment in when you get it from her.[23]
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    Tell your dog to "get in." Have your dog get in the tub. If you're going outside, put him on the leash and lead him outside to where you want to bathe him. Remember to praise him, and offer him a treat for being good.[24]
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    Put your gloves on. If you're using gloves or a shampoo glove, now is the time to put them on. Just be sure to test the water in the next step on bare skin.
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    Test the water. Turn the water on. Make sure it is not spraying too much much, as it can hurt your dog's skin or frighten him if it is. Also, make sure it's warm, not hot. If it's hot out and you are outside, you can make the water cooler.[25] If your dog seemed frightened by the water being on during your test runs, fill the tub before bringing your dog into the room.[26]
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    Wet your dog. Starting from the shoulders, work your way down, making sure to get your whole dog wet. Use you pitcher or soft-spraying nozzle to get the job done.[27]
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    Lather up. Add shampoo. Start lathering your dog from his shoulders down.[28] It's best to create a ring of lather near his shoulders so that any pests (think fleas or mites) don't have a chance to run towards his head.[29]
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    Be gentle and upbeat. While you're lathering your dog, be gentle in your massages. Try working in the soap with gentle, circular motions. Talk to your dog in a soothing but upbeat voice the whole time, telling him what a good dog he is.[30]
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    Use a washcloth on his face. Avoid using shampoo around his nose and eyes. Instead, wet a washcloth, and use it to wash around his face and eyes, removing any dirt in the area.[31]
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    Rinse your dog with clean water. Using clean water, thoroughly rinse your dog. It can take awhile, especially if your dog has long hair. Massage the clean water into your dog's coat, just as you did with the soap, being sure to clean all areas. Watch to make sure the water is running clear before deciding that all of the soap is out. Not getting the soap out can lead to itchiness and your dog not being as receptive to a bath next time.[32]
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    Drape a towel over him as soon as you're done. As soon as you're done rinsing, throw a towel over your dog. His natural inclination will be to shake, and with a big dog, that can mean a large amount of water all over you and your house, if you're inside. Throwing a towel over him helps contain the water.[33]
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    Scrub him gently with the towel. Rub the towel all over his body, soaking up as much water as possible. With a big dog, you're going to have to use a couple of towels to dry him off. Move to a second towel when the first becomes too wet.[34] Once you get him mostly dried off, you can try using a blow dryer. However, be aware that the noise may scare some dogs, so be ready to turn it off.
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    Give him treats. Praise him again for being a good dog. Also, offer him more treats to show him that bathing is a fun time. Another treat could be playing a game with him, or letting him curl up next to you if that's his favorite thing.[35]
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    Keep him contained. Your dog will want to rub himself on furniture and carpet afterwards to finish drying off. If you don't want him rubbing on the nice furniture, don't let him in those areas while he's finishing drying off.[36]


  • If you want to keep the mess out of your home, try taking him to a self-service grooming store. They offer large tubs, gentle spray, and all the supplies you'll need.[37]

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Categories: Dog Grooming