Cavalier getting washed in a DIY dog station

Make Your Own DIY Dog Wash Station - The Overview

Do dogs need baths? Not all the time, but sometimes they really do - and you can tell either by seeing them or smelling them. Getting your dog to the groomer for a bath is nice, but not always an option.

Today, we’ll go over everything you need to do in order to set up your own DIY dog wash.

Dog Getting a wash in a DIY wash set up

What You Need - The Essentials

A Good Bathing Spot

Before you start with the bath, you need to find the right spot to do it - and think it through. No one wants to chase a wet dog running around the house!

Where you wash your dog will highly depend on the breed. If you have a small dog with short hairs, you can literally just pop your canine companion into the sink, or the shower, or use any kind of small bathtub.

If your dog is large and a serious shredder (all double-coated breeds, for example), you might be shocked at the amount of hair that come out after a bath. If you wash your dog in the shower, rest assured that the drain will be full of hairs. Best solution? Get outside.

With large and hairy doggos, showering outside with a garden hose might be the best solution. That is, of course, if you have space. If not, you might want to consider getting a dedicated dog bathtub. These can be used both indoors and outdoors, and it’s simply more hygienic to have a dedicated space for bathing your dog.

Shampoo

As you might have expected, you’ll need some shampoo if you want to wash your dog thoroughly. However, don’t just grab that bottle of human shampoo you have lying around. Shampoo made for humans might smell great, but it’s not made for the canine’s gentle skin.

“Always use a puppy or dog shampoo, not a people shampoo. Shampoos made for people aren't toxic, but they may contain fragrances and other ingredients that irritate pets' skin.” - Stephen L. Zawistowski, animal behaviourist and science adviser,FETCH.

Quality dog shampoos can get quite pricey, but what they contain is just a couple of simple natural ingredients. Making your own dog shampoo [1] is easy and fun. As a plus, you can adjust the recipe to your pup’s needs.

Dog Brush

Brushing your dog before and after a bath is highly recommended. Every pet parent probably already owns some kind of brush for the dog, and you can use that - there is no need to get anything special. The ideal brush will depend on the type of coat your dog has.

Towel

This one doesn’t need too much explaining - you’ll need something to dry your dog a bit after the bath. Any old towel will do.

For dogs with long and thick coats, a blow dryer might be a good idea - but it’s certainly not necessary. A dryer made specifically for dogs is recommended, but one made for humans with a low and cold setting could also help.


Do It Yourself Dog Wash Step by Step

Bathing your dog is not hard, but there are always things that can go wrong. Follow the simple steps below and everything should be fine.

1. Start With Brushing

This is something that is perhaps not obvious, but it’s always a good idea to start bath time with a brushing session. This way, you will get rid of most of the hairs that would fall out anyway before you start. This will make the bath more effective and prevent piles of hairs from clogging your drain.

Even if your canine companion has a very short coat, this is always a good idea.

Brushing is also a good idea after the bath, especially for long-haired dogs. You might not want to do it immediately, while the dog is still wet, as the moisture could lead to the brush getting stuck thus causing painful pulling. However, you should give the dog a quick brush-through every 15-30 minutes until the coat is completely dry. This will prevent the fur from matting.

2. Start Slow

Washing a dog is somewhat like washing your hair. The process is entirely the same.

However, we recommend getting your dog settled in before you start - especially if it's their first bath. If you know your dog is a runner, you might consider restraining them on a leash while bathing. Some dog’s love baths - but some simply hate them.

The next step should be ensuring the water temperature is pleasant. You don’t want the water too hot, but also definitely not icy. Lukewarm is the best. Spray the dog gently with water and see how they react. You want your pet to be calm and not develop an aversion to bathing. 

PRO TIP: Soothe them with treats

Some dogs love water, but some tend to run from a bath like it’s the devil. If your dog is feeling nervous at bathtime, try soothing them with treats.  A slow-feeding licking mat can keep them busy until you’re done. A nice chewy treat could probably also do the trick - it all depends on your dog’s personality.

3. Lather - Rinse - Repeat

Once your dog is all settled in, it’s time to start washing. First, make sure all your dog’s fur is completely wet. For double coated breeds, it could take some time as water takes longer to penetrate all the layers.

Doing two rounds of shampooing is usually a good idea. The first time, you’ll be separating the dirt and oils from the hairs. Once you rinse that and shampoo again you should be able to get to your dog’s skin and get everything sparkling clean.

4. Drying

Drying your dog might seem like the easiest part, but it’s definitely one that shouldn’t be neglected (2). Especially when it comes to dogs with long coats or double coats, it’s important for the coat to be dried thoroughly. If the dog stays indoors and remains damp for a long time, this can lead to skin irritation.

So how should one go about drying a dog? Well, right after the bath a thorough rub with a towel will be helpful. Most dogs will want to shake the water off first, and this is completely fine. You should just make sure there is space to do this that’s hopefully not your living room.

While drying with a towel will help, it will almost certainly not get all of the moisture out. And what’s a dog’s instinct in this case? Roll on the floor! An easy way to stop the dog from rolling and getting all dirty again is to take them for a walk right after a bath. By the time you are back, the dog will be dry and calm.

Some dogs are more problematic than others when it comes to drying. Professional groomers use blow-dryers made specifically for dogs. While this is not necessary, this is something you could do too - that is, if your dog is not scared of the sound of the dryer (many are). Buying a dryer made for dogs is always the safest option, but a human blow-dryer could do the job. However, remember to always use cold air! Hot air from the dryer is too much for dogs and can lead to skiing damage. If you notice the dog is uncomfortable, stop immediately and let them dry out naturally.


Final Thoughts

Washing your dog can be an enjoyable experience for both you and Fido. All it takes is some preparation, and the right tactic. We hope this guide has helped you get dog washing into your routine!

FAQ

How often should I bathe my dog?

In general, dogs don’t need to be washed too often. You’ll often find recommendations that say once every 2 or 3 months is ideal, but in practice, the frequency will depend on a lot of factors. If your dog has been rolling around in the dirt or something stinky, you can wash them more often. However, one should be careful not to overdo it - bathing too frequently can dry out the dog’s skiing and lead to irritation. 

Can I wash my dog with just water?

Washing the dog with just water is always an option. If the only reason for the bath is mud on their fur, for example, water might be all you need. However, consider using proper dog shampoo at least two times per year.

Is it OK to let your dog air dry?

Letting the dog air dry is probably the best option. Just make sure they do dry completely. You can ensure this by brushing your dog shortly after the bath and by taking a walk to ensure they dry on fresh air.

References
  1. Kam, K. “Pet Health: Why Bathing and Brushing Are Important”. FETCH by WebMD. Retrieved May 11, 2021. https://pets.webmd.com/features/pets-bathe-groom-important#1
  2. “Splish Splash: How to Give Your Dog a Bath”. PetMD Editorial. Retrieved May 11, 2021. https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/life/pets/a32187380/how-to-bathe-dog/
Vedrana Nikolic

Vedrana Nikolić is a professional writer, anthropologist & dog lover with a B.A. in Cultural Anthropology. Currently pursuing a Masters degree in Semiotics studying the communication between animals and humans. Vedrana is able to use her expertise to analyse and review dog products and write informative posts on canine behaviour and training.

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