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Great Adventures Equal Dirty Dogs - A Step-by-Step Guide to Washing Your Dog

Updated: Sep 6, 2023

Updated to add photos

Dog in the shower

At Fetch the Sun, we're all about sharing outdoor adventures with our pups! And there are plenty of ways for dogs to get dirty when they're out exploring the world. They might go for a hike and pick up some mud, or play at the dog beach and get covered in sand. They might even just go for a run and end up with grass all over their paws and fur. And, of course, camping is another great way for dogs to get really dirty! Whether they're sleeping in a tent or running around in the woods, there's no doubt that dogs love getting dirty when they're outdoors.

PRO TIP: If your dog is always dirty from adventures, then you're an awesome dog mom or dad!

Dog getting dirty, sandy, and wet at the beach

So, how do you wash a dirty dog? Well, it depends on how muddy or sandy they are. If they're just lightly soiled, then a simple bath with some dog shampoo will usually do the trick. But if they're really muddy or sandy, then you might need to give them a more thorough rinse first.

Supplies Needed to Wash Your Dog

You don't need a lot of supplies to properly wash your dog. Typically, a good dog shampoo, towel, water source, and brush are all you need to wash your dog. Here's the list of essentials:

Dog Shampoo

Although temping, you should not use human shampoo on your dog. Dog shampoos are specially formulated to be gentle on a dog's coat and skin, and to effectively remove dirt, debris, and odors. You may find that your dog's coat is particularly dirty after spending time outdoors, playing in the mud or dirt, or if they have rolled in something smelly. In these cases, you may want to use a degreaser or de-shedding shampoo to help remove stubborn dirt and odor.

At Fetch the Sun, our pack is always out on adventures and therefore always extra dirty! For Lucy, our Mini Golden, we like to use an oatmeal and baking soda based shampoo as it works itself into her long fur and smells great; Bodhi Dog makes an amazing dog shampoo (pictured) that is perfect for her. For Snoopy, our Jack Russell Chihuahua, we've found that Well & Good whitening dog shampoo works the best for his shorter white fur.

A Towel

A good towel is important for drying your dog off after a bath. A regular bath towel may be too rough for your pup's delicate skin, so opt for microfiber or other soft material. It's also a good idea to have a few old towels on hand to drape over your furniture or flooring while your dog dries off. Snoopy loves to run out of the bath and jump on our bed and couch to dry himself off and his sister Lucy follows suit!

A Brush

An optional brush is important for detangling your dog's fur and removing any loose hair before washing your dog. It's also a good idea to brush your dog's fur after their bath while their coat is still damp - this will help distribute their natural oils and keep their fur healthy and shiny.

Water Source

Ideally, you'll want to use clean, fresh water for your dog's bath. A hose attached to an outdoor faucet is a great option for this, but please take the weather into consideration. If it's cold, it is recommended that you bath your dog inside. If you're bathing your dog inside, you can fill up a tub or sink with lukewarm water. Or you can use a shower nozzle head. Either way works great. Avoid using hot water, as this can be too harsh on your dog's skin.


There are a few other items that can come in handy for us dog parents when we're trying to get our dogs clean.

  • Bucket: You might need this if you're rinsing your dog off before their bath and don't have a hose nearby. Just fill it up with some warm water and bring it outside with you.

  • Mat: This can help keep your dog from slipping around in the tub.

  • Cup: Helpful for pouring water over your dog's head during their bath.

Funny Joke: Why did the dog roll in the mud? To get dirty, of course!

Steps to Wash Your Dog

Now that you have everything you need, it's time to get started! However, before you begin take note of the weather. If it's too cold outside, you should opt to wash your pup indoors. Here are the steps you'll need to take to give your pup a good cleaning.

Rinse Your Dog

Gently rinse them off, getting their fur nice and soaked. If they're really dirty, then you might need to spend a little more time on this step. Make sure to get all the dirt and sand out of their fur before shampooing. If you're using a hose or a shower head, make sure the nozzle is in a setting where it's not too rough on your dog's skin. Also, you should always check the water temperature. It is recommended that you use lukewarm water to bathe your dog.

Lather Up

Man washing his dog in the shower

Once you got all the dirt, mud, and/or sand off and your pup is nice and wet, apply some doggy shampoo to your hands and your dog's fur. Rub it in good and get a nice lather built up. Make sure to avoid getting the shampoo in their eyes as just like with us humans, it can sting. Get all around, including the belly, neck, and under the tail.

Rinse Again

Be sure to get off all that soap and foam. Check the belly, neck, and under the tail. Run your hands through your dog's fur to ensure you got off all the soap. It should feel smooth and free of film and residue. This final rinse may take a while as dogs with a heavy fur coat take a bit longer. However, you want to ensure all the soap gets rinsed as left over soap can irritate your pup's skin and can cause matting. Again, use a gentle setting on your hose nozzle or shower head.

Dry Off

Dog shaking off after a bath

Once they're clean, be sure to dry them off well so they don't get cold. A soft towel or two should do the trick. If you're bathing your dog outside and it's warm enough, you can also let them air dry. Just be sure they're completely dry before letting them back inside or going for a car ride. And that's it! You did it! Your dog is all clean and ready to go about their day - smelling fresh and looking great.

Precious Moments

Dog sticking tongue out in the bath

Dogs always seem to have a way of making us laugh, even when we're trying to bathe them. Here are a few funny moments that might happen while you're bathing your pup:

  • Your dog may try to run away as soon as they see the hose or tub.

  • They may sit down and refuse to move.

  • They may shake off all the water you just put on them.

  • Or they may give you a look that says, "I can't believe you're making me do this."

Despite all of these potential obstacles, just remember that baths are important for your dog's health and happiness. So try to have some fun with it, and maybe even snap a few pictures or videos of your pup's bath time antics!

Helpful Tips

  • If your pup wants to run away during the bathing process, you can use a leash and harness to hold them in the area you're cleaning them in.

  • Some dogs hate baths and will run when they hear you say the word bath. Try luring with treats, give treats while bathing, and treat some more after the bath. What you're trying to do is to associate treats with bathing so it becomes a more pleasant experience.

  • Cover furniture or close off rooms with furniture they love to jump on

  • Use a washcloth to wash their face. Dousing your dog's head in water can be unpleasant and may also lead to ear infections.

  • Provided they are not covered in dirt, mud, sand, etc..., you can brush your dog before giving them a bath, as this will help remove any tangles and mats in their fur.

Adventure, Wash, Rinse, Repeat

Little dog jumping over tidepools

And that's it! Your pup is now ready for another outdoor adventure. Just remember to repeat this process as often as needed, depending on how active your dog is and what kind of activities they like to do. If you live in an area with a lot of rain or snow, you might need to bath them more often. If they love rolling around in the mud, then you'll definitely need to do it more frequently. But as long as you keep up with it and make sure your dog is clean and healthy, they'll be happy - and so will you!


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