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Bathing How To

December 5, 2011

There was a lot to figure out about bathing once Fig grew too large for the kitchen sink. I can’t seem to get things perfect, so that Fig loves bathing, we are near perfect now. Bathing Fig is crucial at home because I have allergies. Most people with dog allergies are reacting to dog saliva that is dried on fur from licking or wrestling. After Fig plays with other dogs, he must be rinsed when brought indoors for my health. Today have bathed him in so many setups that I am probably a dog-bathing expert.


Wet Fig

The easiest way to get Fig done quickly and painlessly is with a handheld showerhead. I can wet him down, pause the water (which calms him unless he is cold), soap him, and then rinse all sides quickly. I use water that is the same temperature and pressure that I use personally when bathing. When I used lukewarm water, he shivers if the water is not actively running on him when he is wet. As a general rule, when I am wearing a sweater in the house I drag in a portable heater and preheat the bathroom, so he is not freezing when he is standing wet in the tub. Before I added the extra heater Fig was like a shaking leaf. Bathing was always a pitiful event. Now he tolerates bath time with mild displeasure. This is a major improvement.


too tall for bathI gave him a bath in a filled bathtub once, but Fig is on the tall side (14.5” tall) and the amount water required to get it deep enough is ridiculous. Far too water wasteful. Completely stupid idea. I guess you could reuse your own bathwater for a dog, but it will probably have soap in it that would make your dog itch.

The second time I tried a deep Rubbermaid plastic tub filled with water in the tub, but the water was so heavy that the Rubbermaid container was not able to hold a lid afterwards due to permanent stretching under heavy water weight.

Ultimately, I didn’t get enough soap out of his fur using bathwater. With my allergies, I easily noticed the difference in cleanliness. He still made me sneeze after an hour in the same room. I figure salvia allergens were evenly redistributed on his body and not rinsed entirely. When Fig is really clean, I have zero allergic response.

On the upside, I definitely got more mud out of his feet and it was supper easy to free up clumps. I reserve the bucket method for flea shampooing only now. Mid-flea-season, even with his top spot flea treatment, Fig picked up too many adult fleas on an outing that  were not dead and I didn’t want then hopping off in the house. The bucket method and flea shampoo (water down shampoo and put on dry, let dog stand 5 minute with soap on then rinse in bucket) works when you want to get all the adults off and dead in under 15 minutes.


I have also washed him under a normal running shower. I had to turn the water on high to get enough pressure for a rinse. I get rinsed myself in the process. When I use this method I plan to take a shower myself after washing him. I don’t wear much clothing and don’t worry about getting wet. Unfortunately Fig now panics if you take your pants off in front of him. We joke about dropping our pants at a party to get a rise out of friends.  You can pull them up and he comes running back to you, drop them again and he bolts…it’s sickly hilarious.


I used a running bathtub spout and nearly drowned Fig by shoving his head under the running water. Fig took in a nose full and choked because he struggled and looked up into the rushing water. It was traumatic and he tried to flee for his life the next few times.

Mini Schnauzers are tiny under that beard

Why did I put his head under heavy gushing water? Because when shampoo is not completely rinsed, Fig itches uncontrollably once dried. This forces me to rinse him a 2nd and sometimes 3rd time. Heavy water pressure rinses soap completely in a couple seconds, while water from a cup or wet rag does not do the job as well.  When you don’t get soap out completely, it is easy to confuse simple soap irritation with seasonal skin or food allergies.

Today I can easily rinse Fig with a running spout holding his head down by the nose, I don’t get his underside soap-free easily, so I just give him a rinse with warm water this way. If soap is required, I only do his shoulders and back (where he is covered in dog saliva from wrestling). Fig has a hard time standing under the spigot because of the curved walls of the tub. WARNING: Dogs can scratch enamel and plastic coatings on tubs, so be forewarned. If they are slipping in a tub get a mat for them to stand on. Towels don’t stay put.

toweling off in shower

A spigot is the #1 method in some situations. We have a shower stall with a foot spigot higher than the tub’s. Fig can stand straight and tall. He doesn’t have to curl around the the bathtub walls, fearful of slipping. This setup is my husband’s favorite because of the sheer speed. Water pours like a high pressure wash and you can get a miniature schnauzer washed in 1 minute:  3 seconds soaking Fig tail to head, water turned off, 30 seconds soaping and scrubbing from tail to head, 10 seconds rinsing from head to tail, water turned off, 5 seconds squeezing body to drain water, 2 second towel dry, WALA!  You have to get in the shower stall and close the doors to use this method, so plan to shower yourself afterwards, because you will be truly soaked from the back splash.


It’s too cold for washing a little dog outside most of the year where I live. This is not true for large dogs. This is a surface area to body weight issue. Small dogs are like hummingbirds and they struggle to maintain internal body temperature when hit with cold water. With a longhaired dog (we keep him fuzzier than typical mini schnauzers) washing him outside is harder because if he escapes he dashes for grass and rolls. Untangling grass and seeds from wet longhaired legs is really hard. We can bring him inside to towel off and dry indoors, but the hassle of holding him in place with a leash while hosing is not worth it. The bathtub or shower stall holds him like a pen for the first bit of toweling off. Mini Schnauzers don’t really shed so it is easy enough to clean up a bathroom afterwards.


Fig is always a crazy happy dog afterwards – even when traumatized in the process. We love to let him run off this energy. Fig excitedly looks forward to Towel Time (swaddled like a baby to dry his longhaired legs and running like a wild bull into a dry towel repeatedly to get his back and head dry.

So, if you are not a master bather yet – no worries, just work on doing things quickly and you will be fine. Your dog will love you again instantly once it is over.


From → Equipment, Health

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