Bathing your dog in the winter can certainly be more of a challenge than when the sun is shining.
When it comes to dogs, warm weather can mean rolls in the dirt, dips in the lake or the ocean, and all sorts of outdoor fun and mischief—with plenty of cause for a bath. But just because cold winds are blowing this time of year, “winter” doesn’t exactly translate to “clean doggie.”
Just ask Kris Brekke, owner of Shaggy’s Self-Serve Dog Wash & Grooming in Fargo, North Dakota. Come wintertime, his do-it-yourself grooming business draws more customers than ever. Brekke offers specially-sized washtubs for large and small dogs and waterproof aprons for their human counterparts.
“They’re still going out in the snow,” Brekke explains, “and they’re still getting dirty.”
When it comes to proper cold weather bathing, says Brekke, “there’s no big secret. You just don’t want to keep your dog in the elements if it’s really cold out. Get them inside.”
Tips for bathing a dog in winter
- Dog bath basics. Whatever the season, lukewarm to warm water is best. Check the temperature with your hand first, use mild shampoos that are specially made for dogs, and never allow soap or chemicals to come in contact with a pet’s eyes.
- Consider—really consider—the elements. Especially in winter, anyone bathing a dog should have soft, clean towels at the ready, with a hairdryer or wall dryer on hand to ensure Spot is prepared to face the cold—even if you’re just taking a 30-second walk to the car.
- Go easy. Let’s say your four-legged friend spends a fair amount of time in the backyard. Break the rules this time, says Brekke, and let him relax indoors after he leaves the bathtub (or sink, depending on his size).
- Don’t forget to have fun—really! Not all dogs think indoor baths are worth a wag of the tail, and many would just as soon wriggle away from the sound of running water. So try turning a would-be chore into a bonding experience with toys, snuggles, praise, and even a treat or two.
If your typical dog-washing M.O. involves a hose, a yard, and a happily shaking canine, try enlisting the help of a mobile groomer when winter arrives. In many cities, grooming trucks will putter right up to your front door and do the legwork for you, from bathing and nail trims on up to full haircuts.
Or take a field trip to a self-serve grooming station, like Brekke’s. When you’re using someone else’s space and equipment to bathe your dog, he points out, “You’re not messing up your house, or smelling a wet dog, or going through a bunch of towels.” Besides, groomers’ washtubs are higher off the ground than a bathtub, which makes for a better scrubbing job. “It’s a bonding thing, too,” says Brekke.