A sunny summer afternoon is the perfect opportunity for you and your dog to enjoy some time outside, be it at a beach, park, hiking trail, or just in your backyard. However, outdoor adventures can lead to your pup covered in mud, grime, poop, or who knows what. And this means bath time.
But during the summer, cleaning your dog requires some special considerations to ensure he stays cool and comfortable.
Fortunately, Tommy Bedid, a certified master groomer and founder of Doggy Stylez Grooming, shared his best practices for maintaining your dog’s coat during the hot weather.
Know your Dog’s Skin Type to Determine Bath Frequency
During the hotter months, some people think they should be giving their dog more often, but according to Bedid, this is a big no-no, as a dog’s skin is sensitive and can dry out. So unless your dog rolled around in something nasty right after a bath, space out washing your pup.
Talk to your veterinarian or groomer about how frequently you should be giving your dog a bath. Often, short-haired dogs and those with healthy skin, don’t need to be cleaned often. Long-coated dogs and curly haired ones may require more frequent bathing sessions to prevent matting – and same goes for those with oily skin. For dogs with lots of wrinkles, keeping folds clean with wipes should do the trick.
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Preparing Your Dog for the Bath
Most dogs hate the bath. It is an unfamiliar experience in which they don’t have control of the situation and this can create negative associations with it.
The key is being patient and taking things slow, according to Bedid. Using cool to lukewarm water, let your dog get accustomed to the sounds, the smells and process, such as allowing her to sniff the washcloth or sponge you use to lather her up. (Never pour a bucket full of water over her head, as this can traumatize your dog, and if water gets in her ears, can cause health issues, like infections.).
Use a lot of positive reinforcement, including encouraging words, treats, and even bath toys. You can also try distractions, like a lick mat, so your dog can focus her attention on eating up yummy peanut butter.
For dogs that are extremely difficult to bathe, Bedid recommends consulting with your groomer to see what steps can be taken to provide a safe and hygienic bathing experience for your pup, or just taking your dog to a reputable groomer for bath time.
Picking the Right Shampoo
Bedid recommends avoiding strongly fragranced shampoos and sprays, as not only are our dogs’ noses much more sensitive than ours, but they can also attract unwanted company.
“These sweet-smelling products can attract bugs,” says Bedid. Instead, he recommends look for clean and lightly fragranced shampoos, or ones that have ingredients like oatmeal or lavender, which can soothe itchy skin.
For dogs who have sensitive skin or allergies, this shampoo provides much needed relief. Using a soap-free formulation, it won’t strip the coat or dry out the skin. Plus, the oatmeal and aloe vera help with skin irritation and re-moisturizing. The result is a soft, clean, and happy pup!
During the summer, he adds that you may want to consider giving your dog flea or tick shampoo treatments (after you speak to your vet).
And never use human shampoo, as our pH levels are different from dogs – meaning what works for us can cause dry skin, irritation, and bacteria growth on our four-legged friends.
Post-Bath Drying Tips
If your dog has a shorter coat or summer cut, you can let him air dry, says Bedid. If you have a dog whose coat holds water, he recommends towel drying to absorb excess water for quicker drying times.
For curly-, wavy-, or double-coated dogs, Bedid advises brushing them out while still wet. “Dogs, especially ones with long coats, that air-dry after swimming in lakes or pools, or being bathed at home, risk severe matting and tightening of their hair,” he says.
When to Visit the Pros During the Summer
Bedid recommends not going too long between grooming sessions. You should be bringing your dog in regularly for nail trims, clean-ups, and baths. (Plus, groomers often spot ticks that owners may overlook, saving you a trip to the vet.)
But how regularly depends on what you want for your dog – and what is best for your pup.
If your dog has a long coat, he may benefit from a summer puppy cut.
“We suggest avoiding super long coats on breeds such as Doodles, Shih Tzus, and Cocker Spaniels to avoid overheating,” says Bedid. “If you absolutely want to keep your dog’s coat long for the summer, make sure to hydrate them often and take walks during cooler hours such as early mornings and late evenings.”
He adds, “If you’re looking for a tight, short summer cut, you should bring them in as soon as the hair gets long enough that you can run your fingers through it,” he says. “The benefit of keeping them short for the summer is that your dog will stay cool and be able to enjoy swimming and playing in the grass, without running the risk of getting matted.”
However, a short cut is not the equivalent to a shave. Entirely removing the hair can expose your pet’s sensitive skin to harmful UV rays and other dangers, and if your pooch has a double coat, like a husky, don’t cut the overcoat, as it acts as an insulator to the heat.
Regardless of the style, set your groomer up for success.
“We recommend bringing in reference photos to any groomer, so that they can have an idea of what you’re expecting for your dog’s haircut,” Bedid says.
Keep Your Dog Clean Between Bathing Sessions
To keep your dog smelling fresh between baths and grooms, Bedid recommends “wiping them down in the places that matter most,” including their paws and between their toes. You can use a dampened washcloth or dog-specific wipes that have nourishing and soothing natural ingredients like aloe vera. You can also consider dry shampoos. Bedid says deodorizing sprays can do the trick, however he recommends not overusing them, as they can cause greasiness on your dog’s coat.
When it comes to summer or anytime of the year, bath time can be an enjoyable experience, but it is on you, the dog parent, to make sure your pup is comfortable with it.