How To Clean Your Dirty, Mud-Soaked Dog

March 11, 2014

Bucket-headed dog
What we love about dogs: their mud-slinging, trail ditching, wreckless abandon.  What we dislike about dogs: their mud-slinging, trail ditching, wreckless abandon.

Whether you live in the wet valley of the Pacific Northwest (like we do), the high altitudes of the Rockies, or the cloudy bays near the ocean, there is one thing that every dog owner is plagued by in the spring: mud.  It just comes with the trail territory.  And the more fun your dog has, the muddier they get!

Just because your dog gets muddy, doesn't mean they should be confined to the yard during mud season, it just means a little more effort on your part to keep them clean.

For those of us who consider a dip in the lake or a run through a sprinkler "bath time," we thought we would post the appropriate way to clean your dirty, muddy dog.

How to Clean a Dirty Dog

1. Prepare a workspace.  Depending on the size of your dog (and bathroom), you may decide the best place to clean your dog is outdoors.  If this is the case, prepare the area with a source of water (like a hose), a bath area (such as a shallow, plastic pool), a bucket of warm water, and the necessary tools: towels, soap, and brushes.

If you determine that indoors is best for dog washing, prepare your area with the essential tools, and fill the bath or sink with enough water to reach your dog's bend in their hind legs.

If your dog dislikes water, you may need the help of another set of hands, and leash to help hold your dog in place.

2.  Brush the dog's coat thoroughly.  This will help remove excess hair and dander.  This is also a good time to check your dog for fleas and ticks. If the dog is still wet or muddy, you may have to forgo this step.

3. Have the dog enter the bath or pool.  Have the dog enter (or jump wildly!) into the prepared bath or pool.  The water should be lukewarm if possible to help regulate body temperature and stress level. Rinse the dog throughly using buckets, the hose, or a hand-held shower head, whichever disrupts your dog the least.  Work the water into the fur of the dog's coat while you rinse.  Depending on how dirty your dog is, you may have to drain and refill the bath or pool at this time.

4. Shampoo and condition the coat.  Pick a shampoo based on your dog's needs.  Some dogs are more sensitive to product than others, and are more prone to irritation (click here for a recipe on making your own homemade dog shampoo).  Start at the neck, creating an invisible necklace of shampoo around the neck, and work your way down the dog's back, massaging the shampoo into the dogs coat and undercoat.  Work your way down the legs and hindquarters, under the belly, down the tail, and up towards the head, be sure to get into the creases, rolls, and folds of the skin.  This is especially important around the neck area.

5. Wash the face and head.  Using a cloth and warm water, work the shampoo into the neck and head of the dog, using circular motions.  You can carefully wash around the ears and snout, but be careful not to get the shampoo into the dog's eyes, ears, nose, or mouth. Many dogs have ears that are prone to infection, so it's very important to avoid getting water into the ear canal.

6. Rinse well.  The best way to avoid skin irritation is to rinse your dog extremely well. Using a bucket, hose, or shower head, rinse and massage simultaneously until the water runs clear and free of soap.

7. Air Dry. If you are one of the lucky ones, you can train your dog to shake themselves dry before they exit the bath.  But most dogs will wait to do this until they are within inches of you and your furniture.  So, starting with their back, massage them with a towel, working your way down their back, belly, and legs. Give their paws a good rub (especially between the toes) to get any dirt you may have missed, as well as give them a clean paw to run through the house with. Also pay good attention to the ears, which should be dried thoroughly to prevent infection.

Some like to blowdry their dog, but most Rad Dogs are the "air dry" type.  A good brushing and a couple hours in the atmosphere ought to be all you need to style your dog.

As much as you would probably like to avoid the smell of wet dog from permeating your home, if you let a wet dog outside, they will most likely find the dirtiest patch of yard to roll their freshly-cleaned self in. So, consider putting them in the garage or letting them roam around the house until they are dry.

And that's how you clean a dirty dog, Rad Dog style!

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