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8 Easy Steps to Bathing Your Dog Outside

Pet Health and Safety  •   Richard Rowlands  •   Mar 28, 2022

 

Your dog's coat traps allergens, dirt, bacteria, and odor. That's why it's important to bathe them at least a few times a year, possibly more depending on their breed, coat condition, and overall health.

If you don't have enough space to bathe your pup inside, outside is still a great option to keep them healthy, clean, and smelling fresh. Bathing your dog outside keeps your home mess-free, and it's easier than you might think! Follow these 8 simple steps, and your dog will be squeaky clean in no time!

1. Choose the Right Day to Bathe Your Dog

Never wash your dog outside if the temperature is too cold. Wet fur will only work to make your pup colder, even if they have a thick coat. Choose a warm, sunny day (preferably in the summertime) when your dog can enjoy the water and stay comfortable – even when they're wet.

While you're bathing them, keep an eye out for any sign of shivering. If your dog starts to shiver, it means they're too cold and you need to finish the bath quickly and get them inside.

2. Tire Your Dog Out

Bathing a dog isn't always the easiest experience, especially if your pup gets anxious around water. Exercising your dog before bath time is a great way to burn off excess energy and keep them calm while you bathe them.

Even if your dog is a fan of bath time, exercising them beforehand is still a good way to make bath time more efficient. A dog that's too excited about bath time can take more time to bathe and cause a bigger mess.

3. Gather Your Tools

To bathe your dog effectively, you'll need the right tools and products on hand. So, before you bathe your furry friend, make sure you're prepared with:

  • Dog-safe shampoo
  • A comb or brush
  • Cotton balls for your dog's ears
  • Absorbent towels
  • Your choice of water supply (buckets, a water hose on low pressure, outdoor basin, or small pool with water)
  • Treats
  • Your dog's leash and harness

4. Set Up the Environment

Setting up a dog washing station in your yard or outdoor area is a good way to keep bath time running smoothly.

First, decide how you'll be washing your dog. If you choose to wash your dog in the grass, make sure you have the water hose or buckets of water set nearby the bathing area.

If running water is stressful for your pup, or if you have a smaller dog, a small pool or basin may be an easier option. Fill the pool or basin with lukewarm water, and set all of your bathing supplies nearby for easy access.

No matter what water source you choose, make sure the water is an appropriate temperature. Lukewarm is the easiest temperature for your dog to handle, but if it's a very hot day, cold water from the hose can work.

For added safety, you can attach your dog's leash to a nearby tree or use a grooming loop secured to a fence post or outdoor stake to prevent them from running away. Even if they're secured, never leave your dog unattended.

5. Prepare Your Dog for a Bath

Before you bathe your dog, start by combing their fur to remove any tangles. This will help make bathing quicker and prevent their fur from matting.

You should also put cotton balls into your pup's ears to help keep them dry. Excessive moisture in the ears is a common cause of ear infections, especially in dogs with floppy ears. For large dogs, you can use a whole cotton ball, but smaller dogs would do better with half a cotton ball in each ear.

6. Bathe Efficiently

Thoroughly wet your dog, including their underbelly and legs, until they're fully saturated. Double check the instructions on your dog's shampoo before applying, as some need to be diluted before use. Slowly massage the dog-friendly shampoo into your dog's fur, starting at the tail and working up to the head.

Avoid getting any soap in your dog's nose and eyes. These areas are sensitive, and shampoo can easily irritate them. If your dog isn't the biggest fan of bath time, positive reinforcement can help make the process more enjoyable. Use your pup's favorite treats or consider a chew or lick mat as a distraction to make the process easier.

7. Rinse Your Dog Thoroughly

After you're done shampooing, make sure to rinse your dog thoroughly with lukewarm water. Check your dog's fur carefully for leftover shampoo and rinse again if needed.

Leftover shampoo can dry out your dog's skin, leading to flakiness and irritation. Spots like your dog's belly, under their armpits, and in their genital area can hide shampoo spots, so be sure to check thoroughly.

8. Dry Your Dog Quickly

Once your dog is clean, dry them off right away. If you don't dry them quickly, they may start to roll around on the ground in an attempt to dry themselves. Obviously, this is less than ideal if you just spent all that time getting them clean!

Dogs that have thick coats need to be dried exceptionally well to prevent any moisture from staying on their skin. These damp spots can turn into painful hot spots for your dog later.

Use a towel (or multiple towels) to dry your dog all over. If possible, move them inside to keep them warm. You can also use a blow dryer on the lowest setting if your dog's fur isn't dry enough.

Clean Your Dog Without Dirtying Your Home

Washing your dog outside can be a great alternative to keep your home clean, and it provides more space to bathe your pup thoroughly. Plus, a cool bath on a hot day can be refreshing, especially if your dog has spent time playing and exercising outside.

With the right tools, treats, and techniques, bath time outside can be a fun experience for you and your pup, and a great way to spend a summer afternoon. Follow the tips above to get started, and consult with your veterinarian if you have any questions. Happy bathing!


Pet insurance can help pay for unexpected vet bills. Get a dog insurance quote from AKC Pet Insurance today (underwritten by Independence American Insurance Company) and prepare for accidents, illnesses, and much more.

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