Home Dog Bathing Essentials

Pet owners who take a do-it-yourself approach to grooming their furry friends are a great customer base for retailers that offer a broad selection of products for making bath time convenient and effective.




Although self-serve pet washes, professional grooming salons and mobile groomers abound, many pet owners prefer to wash their pets at home when possible. Small dogs that fit neatly into a sink, medium-sized ones that are relatively easy to clean in the bathtub and even big dogs that are washed in the yard with a hose all need the right supplies.


That’s where retailers come in. Helping pet owners achieve good results with home bathing will lead to repeat business, and suggesting appropriate solutions to keep their pet in optimum condition will create goodwill.


The biggest things that pet owners experience trouble with are detangling, deshedding and proper drying. To many people, bathing a pet may seem simple—just wet, apply shampoo, scrub, rinse and voilà—clean dog. Except it’s not quite that simple. Washing and drying a coat with tangles can make them worse and set them like cement, making it impossible to brush them out, and perhaps necessitating a very short trim from a professional groomer.


According to Tom Wien, director of marketing at Cardinal Pet Care, this is a common error among pet owners. “Brushing before bathing will separate the hairs, making it easier for the shampoo to penetrate the coat down to the skin,” he says. “And, of course, a good pre-bath brushing will remove loose hairs, preventing them from clogging the drain.”


Based in Azusa, Calif., Cardinal Pet Care has long been a leading manufacturer of home-grooming products. The company’s newest introduction is the EcoBath Manuka Honey line, which includes shampoo, conditioner, spray detangler to make brushing easier and an anti-itch spray for after or between baths. All of the products in the line are made with natural Manuka honey from New Zealand, which is known for its natural healing and restorative properties.


Understanding the challenges that come with home grooming, retailers should think of every step that goes on in a professional grooming salon and offer products that will help pet owners achieve similar results themselves. Ear and nail grooming, skin and coat maintenance, deshedding/dematting, brushing and comb-outs, washing, and drying may all be part of the process of bathing at home.


Beyond the right product assortment, the greatest thing retailers can provide to their customers is education, and manufacturers can be quite helpful on that front. Wahl is a great example. While many people tend to think of the company mainly as a clipper manufacturer, Wahl offers many other products that are invaluable during the grooming process—nail trimmers, brushes and combs, shampoos/conditioners, between bath wipes—as well as an online resource that helps pet owners identify what products are best for their dog’s breed and coat type. The company also has a YouTube channel that offers instructional videos on many aspects of home grooming.


Not surprisingly, Steven Yde, vice president of marketing at Wahl, is a proponent of providing education for pet owners, particularly in areas where they may be hesitant to take a DIY approach. For example, he says, “Pet owners are intimidated by trimming nails, especially on dark nails, but there’s no reason they can’t learn to do it at home.”


Selling Solutions

As they often are with nail trimming, pet owners may be reluctant—or even forget—to clean their pet’s ears.


“Folks bathing their pets at home tend to forget about the ears,” says Debbie Guardian, owner of Opie & Dixie based in San Francisco. “They’ll give their pup a good scrub in the tub, but forget all about their ears. They should consider ear cleaning an essential part of their home grooming routine. Not only will cleaning out the external flaps keep their dogs’ ears free of bacteria and debris, it will keep them smelling clean and fresh. Nobody wants a squeaky clean, fresh-smelling pup with stinky ears!”


With this in mind, selling ear-cleaning products, like Opie & Dixie’s ear wash, to pet owners bathing at home is important.


Seattle-based Pura Naturals Pet offers another solution that is not only convenient and effective, but also natural and ecofriendly. The company’s Pura-Tips Ear Cleansing System consists of 25 reusable bio-based, medical-grade foam tips and a cleaning serum.


In fact, Pura Naturals Pet makes a number of items that are ideal for DIY grooming, including shampoos/conditioners, wipes and no rinse shampoos, as well as paw pad and nose care products. The company also offers all-natural flea and tick control products, which are a must-have for everyone who grooms their pets at home.


“Retailers were asking us for a natural solution,” says Julie Creed, vice president of Pura Naturals Pet. “We added a new Flea & Tick Natural Dog Shampoo this year. Our solution safely and effectively kills and repels fleas and ticks. Our skin soothing formula is made with organic peppermint oil, cedar oil and rosemary oil—a natural antiseptic with disinfecting properties. We also have a natural flea and tick spray that’s ideal for when you’re outside.”


According to Creed, in addition to offering customers a good selection of safe, effective flea and tick products, retailers should be ready to dispense with some valuable advice on how to keep pets free of pests. “If your dog is scratching or chewing excessively, it’s time to check their skin and coat for fleas and ticks,” she says. “Check the warm places fleas like to hide, armpits and groin, and don’t forget the ears.”


Itching, whether from fleas, allergies, dry skin or other causes, is a popular reason for owners to bathe their pets at home, and Glo-Marr Products, Inc. is ready to help with a broad range of easy-to-use products, including its Oatmeal Moisturizing Shampoo and Spray combo.


“These products are great for treating dry skin and is very effective against grass and flea bite allergies,” says Steve Nicolosi, national sales manager. “Bathe with the shampoo and re-moisturize with the spray in between.”


Deskunking is another common reason to bathe at home. While effective, many home remedies for skunk odor can dry out a pet’s skin. With this in mind, retailers that offer products labeled for use on companion animals can be a helpful resource for pet owners. Thornell’s Skunk Off is a tried and true solution, while Nature’s Miracle offers several skunk solutions. Best Shot’s One Shot line—shampoo, conditioner and spray combo—also works well.


For keeping pets clean between baths, consider carrying wipes and rinseless shampoos. The Lawrenceburg, Ky.-based company, for example, has a spot cleaner with a mild cleanser that foams up a bit and wipes away, leaving a fresh smell with no residue. It comes in sizes up to 1 gal., with the 8-oz. size being perfect for pet owners to keep in the car and for retailers to display near the checkout.


“We have noticed a huge increase with the sales on this product in our lines, as well as people who are private labeling with us,” says Nicolosi. “This just reinforces the fact that pet owners are looking for convenience and results with little to no effort.”


Wipes are available for eyes and/or ears, as well as full body or spot cleaning. Nearly every major pet grooming brand offers wipes, rinseless shampoos, or both—a testament to the fact that these products are becoming ever more popular with pet owners.



Why Dry?

When it comes to the home grooming process, drying the pet may often be an afterthought. Yet, not drying a coat completely can ultimately lead to odor and skin infections.


So, how can pet owners accomplish the thorough drying that’s necessary? In summer months, most dogs can simply be towel dried, allowed to play or rest in the sun, brushed and then toweled a bit more.


Still, not all towels are created equal when it comes to their effectiveness in drying pets, so it’s no surprise that there are products made specifically for this task. For example, Wahl’s Dry Dog microfiber towels are designed to be super absorbent, yet not as thick or hard to handle as some others products on the market. Pura Naturals Pet, on the other hand, has Fur Drying Gloves to wick moisture away, allowing quicker drying and reduced allergens.


“As a member of most families, dogs deserve their own towels,” says Yde. “Dogs actually enjoy the swaddling that happens when drying and it helps relax them.”


If humidity is high or the weather is either cold or rainy, though, a dryer may be required to do a thorough job. Metro Vac and B’Air both have affordable portable dryers, and handheld dryers can also used. Be sure to advise customers to keep their own hands under the stream of air, so they know how hot it is to avoid burning the pet’s skin. PB



At-Home Bathing Tips

Many pet owners love the bonding opportunity that grooming a furry friend provides, not to mention the convenience of being able to clean a dog that’s rolled in mud—or something much more odiferous—by themselves. And, according to Tom Wien, director of marketing for Cardinal Pet Care, there are a variety of other benefits to a regular at-home grooming regimen.


“Although it was once thought that dogs shouldn’t be given baths too frequently because it would strip the coat of oils, many veterinarians are now recommending weekly bathing, since research has shown it can reduce allergies, help clear up skin infections, and alleviate itching and scratching,” he says.


To help pet owners complete this rewarding task easily and effectively as possible, Wien suggests that retailers offer the following advice:

  • Be Prepared

Before bathing, pet parents should gather all the tools they need (shampoo, conditioner, towels etc.) and make sure they have a proper-sized tub for their dog. Small breeds can often be washed in a sink or laundry tub, while larger breeds typically require a full-sized bathtub or shower. It’s a good idea to place a towel at the bottom of the tub to prevent the dog from slipping.

  • In the Tub

Use water that’s lukewarm and wet the dog with the spray hose thoroughly before applying shampoo. Many experts recommend washing and rinsing the dog’s body before working up to the head, which is the most sensitive area. Dogs tend to start shaking themselves off once their head gets wet, and this can make bathing more difficult.

  • Easy on the Ears

Dogs’ ears are very sensitive. They can be protected by placing cotton balls inside, but make sure the cotton balls are large enough that they won’t get stuck in the ear canal.

  • Drying Right

After rinsing out the shampoo thoroughly and turning off the water, take a large towel and drape it over the dog like a blanket. All dogs are going to try to shake themselves dry after a bath, but a timely, well-placed towel can slow down the shaking and prevent the whole room—and the pet parent—from getting soaked. Then another towel should be used to dry the face, ears, stomach and feet.

  • Don’t Forget the Reward

Another important thing pet parents shouldn’t forget: give the dog a treat immediately afterward, so they come to associate bathing with a pleasurable experience.


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