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Bathing and Grooming Your Dog

Skin issues, how often to wash your dog and what dog soap or shampoo is best?

The skin is one of the biggest organs and absorbs everything put on it. To wash your dog regularly strips the coat and skin of natural oils and can have a detrimental effect. I wash my dogs come spring with a simple natural soap such as Dermacton shampoo bar or a kefir soap. They get extra washes if, for instance, they have rolled in fox poop or something else they think is a lush aftershave or perfume. Less is most definitely more in my experience.

Food for thought on this one, how often do people wash their cats or rabbits or hamsters.

Dogs get skin issues through an inappropriate diet, anxiety issues, environmental allergies and over washing with chemical shampoos.

Changing their diet to a raw species-specific diet such as Bella and Duke is a great start and give the body time to cleanse naturally, stop washing them, maybe just rinse off seawater and if you take them to hydrotherapy rinse off the chlorine with warm water.

Also they may have allergies to grass, mites and chemicals we use in our homes, so it’s also worth looking at ditching chemical air fresheners etc. if you’re having real problems getting to the bottom of any allergies or sensitivities causing skin and digestive issues then try these guys https://www.homednadirect.co.uk/dog-allergy-test/ to find the root cause. 

So to recap.

  1. Review your bathing regime
  2. Change to a raw diet and you will see results once the dog has detoxed.
  3. Worth getting your dog tested for allergy cause if results are not seen in a few weeks.

Starting with a puppy or a new dog or starting again with a dog who hates it!

When we get a new dog or puppy do get grooming advice from the breeder or rescue. There are also many groomers who are more than willing to help and advice, so even before you get your new addition. So do ask them what you’ve got be prepared for as far as grooming is concerned. Some dogs need a groom every day and some once a week. Whatever coat your dog has, grooming weekly is very important to not only check for lumps, bumps, scratches and ticks etc. but a massive bonding experience for one and all.


I know some rescue dogs come caked in yuck and have tangles and mattes from their toes to their heads. In this situation IMO it is preferable to get the job done asap. Give them a couple of days at home then crack on, but be mindful of how they feel at any given moment and take breaks rather than do it one long session, it may get messy and your bathroom covered in hair and mud and poo, but that can all be addressed when the job is done. A little CBC oil goes a long way to help the anxious, you and your dog!

clean dog chilling on grassWith any dog or puppy, you have no idea how they will react until you start. So do take it in stages. A hand-held brush is attacking them, it’s not your loving hand and some dogs and puppies have never been well handled before they arrived with you. So its imperative that they find a loving touch with you before the “Weapon” arrives on the scene.

Even long-haired pups have short hair on arrival so a glove will do for the first few days and then dependant on their coat and the advice you’ve had from any of the above mentioned can come in slow but sure if you’re going to need something with a bit more oomph!

If you will need to use a brush etc then be mindful that the prongs (even if protected with blobs of plastic/rubber), will be alarming when their delicate skin if touched. It’s a really weird sensation particularly if they are not in a relaxed state and trusting you first.

Use hands first, ensuring lovely soporific massage. Move onto a glove for a few days and then on to the back of a brush. When happy with that add in the stroke of the brush with the brushing surface, then back to the reverse side and gloves if necessary. Take it at your dogs/puppies pace and not your expectations. If they have matts then you can grab a pair of small blunt-ended scissors and do the odd snipp snopp. Far better, than trying to tease it out.

Many have heard or have slicker brushes, no brush should actually touch the skin, so a backcombing job is awesome here. Go get a lesson from a groomer ( find great groomers by word of mouth) If you wish your dog to be groomed by someone else, then ensure you’re able to stay and watch … IMO very important to see what goes on and how your dog is handled and treated. For first experiences take before you need to so the dog can just have a few quick brushes and slowly move up to a full groom.

When you are grooming, you don’t have to do the whole dog in one sitting. Great, to have 15 mins or less a few times in the day. Unless of course when you stop your dog gives you that filthy look “Madam/sir …why have you stopped, I was rather enjoying that!”


You must have a knot and matt free dog before you bath it or it will matt and knot even better. You may well have a dog who just hates the bathroom or goes in daily but when you call him in, it’s breaks on and welded to the floor!

Hey, let’s make this less stressful and start calling your dog into the bathroom for his meals. Take a Lickimatt into the bathroom and pop it in the bath or shower so they get to know that it’s actually a rather lovely place to be again. No attacking wet snake etc When they can do this with easy and stress-free, pop an inch of water in the bath or shower (block off the water escape). They can have their food, snack or Lickimat there. Standing, in a little warm water. As they lick the matt, just cup your hand and pop water on their paws, no fuss and no intention of going any further.

As the week (or with some dogs weeks) go by you will be able to do more. Get your dog used to having water about his legs and tummy then move to the shoulder and down their back and tail. You can then introduce the washing process and all should be great. Do not first time through wash your dogs head, we don’t want soap in their eyes at the best of times, but the first wash is the most important to get right.

When you get round to doing the head and ears, forget the muzzle and just try to wash it over with a damp cloth. Light the dogs muzzle up very slightly so water does not run in their eyes. Wash and again when rinsing tip head up very slightly. So feet, then legs, then tummy to next back and neck and tail. Warm water you’ve tested with your elbow. Have clean water to rinse ready and waiting. As the sound of the water zooming down the plug hold may scare the living daylights out of your dog initially. (so practice this water down the hole right at the beginning when you have an inch of water in the bath whilst licking a Lickymat. If you have a shower then have it on low power and start at the feet and work up.

Remember it’s best to have a wet dog and not wash it rather than force the issue. You can always try again another day or later.

How often do you wash your dog? Can you wash too much?

I wash my dogs on sunny days. I tend not to wash them in the winter (unless of course, they have rolled in something less than lovely to my nostrils!) as it’s important for them to have the oils in their coats for waterproofing and warmth. On a fresh natural diet from Bella and Duke, your dogs won’t get smelly.
Of course, I have Spaniels and a Labrador, so fairly easy coats, so I live in cloud cuckoo land really when it comes to big fluffy poodles and Bernese Mountain Dogs living under my roof.

Hair dryers or towel dry?

As above with washing and grooming take it slow. Get them used to the noise initially over a couple of weeks etc and then the slight breeze to a full-on gale. Remember not all dogs will accept any of this, (they may have gone through a huge trauma and will never accept) but start slow and you’ll hopefully succeed. I’m a towel dry girl and pop lots of towels and soaker uppers on the beds and floor if I have to wash in winter. Or towel dry and let the summer breeze do the rest. Always ensure you dry their stomach and back really well.

So why does your dog love jumping in the pond but hates the bath?

They can get out and in when they want to and it’s not in an enclosed space which they may hate as no escape. They can get wet in their time and won’t be smothered in stuff that makes them smell like anything but a dog. So here comes the next one…

Why does your dog roll in the mud after a bath? How does your dog feel about it all?

Smelling like a dog’s dinner is what they love. Smelling like a non-dog is what they hate. Smothering them in stuff that disguises their natural smell, is for many dogs absolute disaster. They can’t express themselves, they don’t smell like them. Bearing in mind dogs live by their noses and gather info about all around them. Some dogs get attacked after a session in the pooch parlour … they don’t smell like dogs, some dogs may get grumpy after a posh hairdo, they feel vulnerable as don’t smell right. So be aware with the change in behaviour and body language when you’ve done the deed. Going for a simple castile soap may be far better for your dog than even the Dermecton.

My favourite shampoo/soap bar for dogs can be found here!

Lastly, it might be worth looking at this link, so you can get an idea of what might be too much bathing for some dogs! 

By Caroline Spencer

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