Washing Dogs

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Dr Chris Brown discussed some little known facts about washing dogs. He also had some tips to make bath time less stressful for both you and your dog.

Dogs are self-cleaning!

People live in close contact with their dogs, which come inside, get on the furniture and travel in cars. Many owners wash them regularly, so that they look and smell clean. However, most healthy dogs really do not need to be washed very often, because they have coats that are designed to be self-cleaning. Any dirt that comes onto the skin finds its way along the hair shaft and flicks off the end. Skin oils are essential in this whole process. They moisturise the skin and give the coat a nice shine, keeping warmth in and water out.

What makes a dog smell?

The smell comes from surface skin oils that have become rancid due to the normal skin bacteria and yeast feeding on them. Also, dogs seem to find some repulsive things quite attractive and will seek them out and roll in them.
Some breeds have had their coats modified through domestication and their self-cleaning abilities have changed too. Breeds such as Bulldogs, Pugs and Shar-Peis have excessive skin folds that trap grime and cause odour and irritation. The Chinese Crested (a hairless breed) is prone to pimples.
Warm, humid conditions create a more inviting environment on the skin for bacterial and fungal growth, hence increasing the need for bathing. Breeds such as the Samoyed and Malamute have thick double coats adapted to cold climates and do not cope as well in temperate or tropical areas.

Dr Chris’ tips:

Bath on a warm, sunny day before 1pm. This will allow the dog time to dry off before the sun sets and the temperature cools down.
Some dogs may find being lifted into a slippery tub very stressful. Try and bath at ground level, ideally on a paved area.
Fill two buckets or watering cans with luke-warm water, one for washing and the other for rinsing.
Be sure to remove all the soap – when you rub the hair between your fingers, it should literally be squeaky clean.
When washing your dog, always keep one hand on it – this will stop the dog shaking and giving you a bath!
Do not wash your dog too often – certainly no more than once a week.
Never use human shampoos. Use a veterinary grade pH balanced, low fragrance shampoo, which won’t burn the dog’s skin and won’t strip the oils out of its coat (see pics below).

Anyone for a swim?

Ironically, dogs that hate being washed often love to jump into the cold water of a swimming pool. An occasional dip won’t do your dog any harm. Frequent swimming in pools will produce a similar effect to frequent bathing in tap water

As for the pool, provided the water is properly balanced and the pH and chlorine are maintained at the right levels, any bacteria from the dog will be killed in seconds. However, dog hairs may clog the skimmer baskets and filter.

Further Information

Good quality pet shampoos are priced from around $10.00 for 250ml.