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Give Your Pup a Doggie Spa Day

By Colleen Williams
published: February 16, 2015 - updated: October 5, 2023 • 3 min. read

Key Takeaways

  • Some dogs love baths, while others hate them.
  • But you can make bath time more enjoyable with a spa-like experience.
  • Set the mood with pleasant scents and a pre-bath brushing.
  • Test the water temperature and choose the right shampoo for your dog’s coat.
  • Dry your dog with a high-quality towel to avoid getting yourself drenched from the shake.
Westminster Dog Show
A bear-like pooch gets groomed before the Westminster Dog Show. Image via

Got a dirty dog? Some pets see bath time as the ultimate betrayal, while others love a good soak in the tub. A dog spa day is the perfect treat for your dog’s birthday or when Fido is feeling blue. If your pet has an upper respiratory infection, a nice steamy bath is the perfect at-home remedy.

Make bathing your dog a bonding experience for you both, as well as relaxing and stress-free. Check out these tips for giving your pup a doggie spa day.

Set the mood.

Human spas are relaxing environments, full of tinkling waterfalls, oddly calming gongs, and pleasantly scented. Recreate a canine-friendly version of this in your own bathroom – dim the lights and put on nature sounds to create some atmosphere. Lavender, chamomile, and lemongrass are pet-safe smells guaranteed to soothe the most savage beast.

Your body language and demeanor are also important to a home dog spa. Move slowly and use gentle movements, putting your pet at ease with a soothing voice and praise. Some dogs just aren’t comfortable in baths, so make sure to give Fido plenty of TLC.

dog brush
Most dogs love a good old fashioned brushing. Use a rubber-tipped massage brush for extra luxury. Image via Creative Commons license on Flickr.

Do a pre-bath brush.

Most pets find a good brushing relaxing! Removing excess fur before a bath cuts down on shedding and makes post-soak grooming easier. Pick a brush best suited to your pet’s coat length or style; dogs with fluffier fur should use a comb, while flat-coated pets can use a wire brush. Extreme shedders should check out the Furminator, a miraculous dog brush with rave reviews from pet parents.

When brushing your dog, use long, slow strokes for maximum relaxation. For the ultimate dog spa experience, invest in a massage brush, which has rubber-tipped bristles that stimulate coat oil production. Don’t brush your dog too much – animals and their coats are naturally self-cleaning and have a delicate balance of natural oils.

Test the temp!

Dogs are very sensitive to temperature. Water that is results in pathetic shivering, while too hot can scald paws. If your pooch is a temperature Goldilocks, err on the side of caution and fill the tub with lukewarm water. Too chilly? Fill a pitcher or large cup with warmer water and use to rinse off Fido as you go.

Water can cool quickly in a chilly bathroom, so it’s important to maintain room temperature as well. If your pet is sick, leave the steam to clear out congestion in the sinuses and chest. Consider using a space heater to warm small rooms before and after a bath. If you think the room is too hot, your dog probably does too! Again, the key is to follow your Goldilocks of a pup – not too hot, not too cold, but just right.

dog bath
This pooch loves to rub a dub dub! Pick an all-natural shampoo for sensitive skin. Image via Creative Commons license on Flickr.

Select a shampoo.

These days, there are almost as many dog shampoos as human ones! The options can be overwhelming, so focus on your pet’s fur type or skin needs. Dogs with sensitive skin should avoid scents and bubbles, which can result in environmental allergies and skin irritation. Select a hypoallergenic dog shampoo, which often has soothing oatmeal or aloe.

There are plenty of all-natural dog shampoos in pet stores and online. Recipes for DIY dog shampoo are plentiful on Pinterest and pet lifestyle blogs. An easy mix is one cup baking soda and one cup oatmeal; mix with four cups of warm water and a teaspoon of dishwashing liquid. Don’t worry, Dawn and similar soaps are very gentle – rescuers use it to clean seabirds after oil spills.

Toss in the towel.

Finish off your at-home dog spa day with a gentle yet firm toweling to remove excess water. Beware of your pooch’s own method of drying – the ol’ shake and drench! Even dogs can appreciate a fluffy towel, so save the rags for cleaning and put your pet in the lap of luxury. Using a high quality towel also reduces drying time and how much your pet drenches you: a win-win.

As an extra amenity, give your dog a dental chew for a minty fresh taste. This is also the perfect time to brush your dog’s teeth, clip nails, and any other minor grooming. Be sure to provide your pet with positive reinforcement for a job well done.

colleen williams
By Colleen Williams

Over the past decade, Colleen has written about health, wellness, beauty, and even pets for The New York Times, The Cut, Refinery29, xoVain, Healthy Paws Pet Insurance, and Seattle Met Magazine, as well as many beauty brands. She has a BFA in Art History from the University of New Mexico and an AAS in Fashion Design from Parsons School of Design in New York.

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