What You Need to Know to Safely Bathe Your Aging Dog

How to safely bathe a dog is one of the things that many dog owners struggle with when it comes to taking care of their pets. Many dogs owners take their elderly dogs to a groomer. However, there are reasons why this may not be possible, due to expense, travel time, or pet sensitivities.

Bathing your senior dog can also create wonderful bonding moments with your pet. Learning how to bathe your senior dog at home safely is key. It takes a bit of dedication and planning, but in the end, it can be well worth it!

Equipment you need to safely bathe a dog at home

1. Bathing container and related supplies

You will need a large container in which to bathe your dog. You can use your bathroom bathtub or get a big container and set it up in the basement or garage. Ensure that the place you choose to bathe your dog is enclosed and has a door you can close to keep your dog from making an escape!

Have a container you can use to pour water onto the dog when washing, since it’s not a good idea to submerge the dog in the water. Place a non-skid mat at the bottom of the tub or basin to avoid slip and slide accidents, especially with dogs who suffer from aching joints. You can also put a drain plug with a permeable cloth around the bath drain to catch any hairs and avoid clogging the drain.

2. Shampoo and conditioner

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You will need a gentle shampoo and conditioner for senior dogs. It’s a good idea to buy a shampoo and conditioner specially made for older dogs, or if possible, your particular dog type.

You can get advice from your vet on the best mild and effective shampoo and conditioner for your dog.


3. Towels

You will need a couple of towels for your senior dog’s bath time. You will lay some towels around the bathtub or bath container, and others you will use to dry your dog off. Keep in mind that senior dogs do not take well to cold, so they must not be left dripping wet for longer than necessary.

4. Brushes, comb, and grooming scissors

You need to brush your dog’s fur down before and after his bath. So find a gentle brush you can use for this purpose that is not rough on the skin. A comb comes in handy if you need to pick out fleas or ticks from your dog’s coat. Grooming scissors are helpful if you need to cut off any matted fur.

5. Hair dryer and antibacterial essential oil

You will need a hair dryer to dry off your dog’s coat after a bath. Also, get an antibacterial essential oil to use in the rinse water to protect your dog from fleas and other insects. It also makes your dog smell nice, which is always a bonus!

How to safely bathe a dog at home

Once you set everything up for the bath, you can bring your dog into the bath area. Here are the steps to follow during bath time with your senior dog:

1. Prepare the dog for the bath

You can do this by feeding her treats, brushing her coat and lavishing it with lots of rubs and cuddles. Make sure you get any kinks out of the fur before the bath, otherwise it will matt further in the water.

Also, put some cotton wool in her ears to avoid getting any water into the ear canal. The idea is to get your dog to calm down so that you can take her into the bath without incident. Have someone with you to help if your dog is large or suffering from an ailment such as arthritis so that you can handle the dog with ease.

2. Fill the tub or bathing container

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If you have a helper, fill the tub with water as he or she holds on to the dog while brushing or petting him in another room. Make sure the water is not too hot and that it fills the tub halfway.

If you don’t have a helper, fill the tub or basin before you bring the dog into the bath area.


3. Washing the dog

Gently lift the dog into the bath while talking softly to her. Pour water over her body to wet the entire coat until it is thoroughly soaked. Then lather on your shampoo and conditioner, massaging it while talking in a calm, soothing voice.

If you have a helper, ask her to help you hold the dog as you lather the shampoo into hard-to-reach places. Use a washcloth to wipe the edge of the eyes and ears. Massage thoroughly, not only to get all the dirt out, but also to soothe any aching muscles.

4. Rinsing the dog

Once you have scrubbed, massaged, and wiped the body as much as possible using shampoo and conditioner, it’s time to rinse. You have to let the soapy water out of the tub or container while your pet is in the water.

Then use a shower head or some warm water you had set aside to rinse the dog thoroughly. You should not leave any residue as it may irritate your dog’s skin later. Your last rinse can have a couple of drops of essential oil, such as tea tree oil, to protect the dog from fleas and other vermin. Once your dog is free of soap, gently lift him out and wrap him up in a warm towel.

5. Drying the dog

Do not leave your dog with a half dry coat! Wet dog fur often ends up smelling musty and can attract pests back to your dog. Instead, use a hair dryer on the cool setting after patting him dry with a towel.

Once dry, you can give him a treat for being a good dog throughout the bath experience. Remember to give him plenty of praise and extra loving!

Final thoughts:

Some senior dogs are prone to getting warts or other bumps on their bodies. Be sensitive to these areas. Aging dogs can also have thinner skin, which is why they get colder more easily. Be extra gentle and keep them warm!

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  1. Great post! Thank you for taking the time to write this George. I like that you brought up how to treat even senior dogs. They need the most gentle service.

  2. […] reasons. Professional grooming can cost anywhere from $50 to $100. Many dog owners choose to do their own grooming. Although it may take longer to get the same result, the cost of clippers and a bottle of shampoo […]

  3. Your instructions are answered prayer this morning. My elderly Cavalier had a terrible night. She was so sick, but so quiet. I awoke to her snoring comfortably on my slippers by my bed. I sneaked away to the kitchen to the scene of what had to be a horrible night for my little dog. Without details, if you have earned the love of an old dog, you can imagine what comes out of an upset GI tract. Floors are scrubbed, yoga mats are washing and now it’s time to freshen up the patient.
    I’d say, “Bless you”, but if you’ve earned the love of an old dog, you are blessed already 💔