When preparing for bath time, many dog parents associate the ideal dog bath temperature with the temperatures that we would enjoy for a relaxing bath. However, what the average person finds relaxing and comfortable in terms of bath water may turn your dog off the bath experience entirely.
To create a positive bathing experience for your dog, you need to make sure that you’re setting the stage for something comfortable and inviting. Your dog’s experience will set the tone for how he will react to the idea of a bath in the future.
To help you make the most of bath time, we have put together this guide discussing not only the ideal water temperature but also our tips and tricks for a successful dog bath at home for everyone involved!
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The Best Dog Bath Temperature
When drawing a bath for our own needs, the average person enjoys hot water with steam rising off, giving us that warm, cozy feeling. Our pups have a very different opinion on the best temperature for an ideal experience!
Do dogs prefer warm or cold water for baths? It’s an important question! One that is worth a good discussion. This includes both identifying the ideal temperature for dog bath time as well as understanding why that temperature is preferred. You may even be surprised to learn that there are benefits that can be experienced by sticking with bathwater at a temperature that makes your dog comfortable.
The average ideal dog bath temperature falls between 90 and 98 degrees Fahrenheit, also known as lukewarm water, although this can vary slightly from dog to dog. Some pups are more comfortable with water that is warmer or cooler than this range. One reason that your dog may prefer a different bath temperature is that their own average body temperature may be higher or lower than the normal dog temperature range. Therefore, they feel the temperature of this water differently. You may also find that your dog’s tolerance for cold water, for example, changes as he ages.
Before bringing your dog into the equation, there are a couple of easy ways that you can test the dog bath temperature yourself without a thermometer. First, try spraying the nozzle directly onto your elbow or forearm. If you feel a shock from the water being too hot or too cold when it first hits your skin, then you need to adjust the water temperature. Keep in mind that your dog’s skin is more sensitive to temperature than your own. If you’re at all unsure, err on the side of caution and make a change.
Another way that you can easily check the temperature of your dog’s bathwater is to put a drain plug in place, allowing it to gather in the tub then place your hand directly into the water. Once again, pay attention to the initial response to the water. The ideal temperature for dog bath water is just warm enough that you can comfortably stick your hand into the water without a feeling of shock or discomfort either from the water being too cold or too hot.
If you’re still unsure about whether the temperature is right for your dog, cup your hands under the water and drip just a small amount onto your dog’s back and shoulders. This will give him a chance both to react to the temperature of the water as well as to adjust to it. This is a great option for those pups that are a little nervous about the bath time experience.
Pay attention to your dog throughout the course of his bath. If you notice your dog is shivering or reacting uncomfortably, take a pause and reconsider the temperature. The key to success is to find the best temperature for YOUR dog as an individual. Once you are familiar with this, it will be easier the next time!
Benefits of Using the Ideal Temperature for Dog Baths at Home
When it comes to bathing your dog and using water of the proper temperature, there is more to consider than just your dog’s comfort level. In fact, ensuring that your dog’s bath water is the ideal temperature carries some important benefits including both setting up a long-term positive experience with the bathing experience as well as benefits for your dog’s overall health and well-being.
Avoid Unnecessary Stress
By sticking to the ideal dog bath water temperature, you are increasing the likelihood of your dog viewing the bathing process as a positive one. If your dog climbs into the bath to find water that is too hot or too cold, it can create unnecessary stress and anxiety. The next time that you are setting up bath time, they will remember the shocking feeling of the water temperature before and it can even cause them to resist bath time altogether.
If your dog’s bath water is too hot, it can lead to your dog’s internal body temperature climbing too high. This can happen with any dog; however, it is even more common with large dog breeds. If your dog is a large or giant breed, it is recommended that you stick with a slightly cooler water temperature than you would for a smaller dog.
Avoid Drying Out Your Dog’s Skin
If your dog’s bath water is too hot, it can strip his skin of the natural oils that keep both his skin and his coat looking healthy and shiny. If this happens, his skin will dry out causing itchiness and discomfort. Over time, this discomfort can lead to itching and biting at his skin, pulling out his fur and causing lesions that can become infected. Using lukewarm water will help to keep his skin hydrated and prevent complications.
More Tips for Dog Baths at Home
Obviously, there is more to consider than just the ideal dog bath temperature when creating a positive bathing experience. Here are a few more tips and tricks that will help you to avoid some of the most common bathing mistakes and struggles.
Choose a Gentle Spray Nozzle or Avoid Direct Spray
Most bath spray nozzles come with a variety of settings, ranging from a super gentle rainfall feeling to a strong spray to clean household items with ease. A heavy spray option can upset your dog in multiple ways, turning them off bath time entirely. The sound of a high-pressure spray hitting the tub can create a loud and frightening sound, especially if you have a dog that is already nervous around loud noises. Also, the feel of the spray on their fur can be shocking and uncomfortable. Either select a gentle option to eliminate these concerns or use an alternative bathing solution to avoid the direct spray, such as the use of a cup to pour water.
Limit the Bathtub Size
If you have a smaller dog, your full-size bathtub may be overwhelming. It can also make it more challenging for you to keep your pup close at hand when trying to lather up or rinse the shampoo out of their coat. While you obviously can’t physically change the size of your tub, you can reduce the space that is available for your dog during bath time. One easy solution is to place a laundry basket into the tub. The smaller size of the laundry basket will feel more secure for your dog and keep him contained while the open sides of the basket will allow the bathwater to effectively drain. You may also choose to bathe your dog in a laundry tub or specially-designed dog tub if those options are available to you.
Consider Using a Distraction
For dogs that are unsure about bath time, a lick mat can make the experience a more positive one. These are silicone mats with textured surfaces that are designed to hold softer foods that can be spread onto the mat. Lick mats have been known to trigger a calming reaction in dogs, helping to reduce anxiety. This coupled with the fact that their favorite treat can act as a great distraction can help to make the process of a dog bath at home more enjoyable for everyone involved! Some examples of foods that you can use on your lick mat include peanut butter, soft canned dog food, pure pumpkin puree, plain Greek yogurt, mashed fruits or vegetables, and cottage cheese.
Keep a Towel in Arm’s Reach
When bath time is coming to an end, most dogs want nothing more than to hop out of the tub and give themselves a good shake. This causes a big mess in the bathroom, often stressing you out which, in turn, stresses our pups out (after all, they feed off our emotions). To prevent this chain of events entirely, keep a towel nearby that you can easily reach when bath time is over. This will also make the process of drying your pup off quicker, helping to prevent them from getting cold post-bath.
Use a Non-Slip Mat
As you may already know, your tub can become quite slippery when it’s wet. This can leave your dog feeling anxious or stressed due to concern that they are going to fall due to unsure footing. It’s a situation that most dogs will go out of their way to avoid. You can make your dog much more comfortable in the tub by adding a non-slip mat to provide traction. If you don’t have a mat, you can also add a towel to the bottom of the tub for this purpose.
Often written off as a minor fact with no major importance in your dog’s overall health and well-being, their bath water temperature may be a bigger factor that you realize! This single detail can make or break your dog’s bathing experience while also encouraging a lower anxiety level and better overall health.
Do you bathe your dog at home? If so, how do you check to make sure that you have the right bath water temperature?
About the Author: Britt Kascjak is a proud pet mom, sharing her heart (and her home) with her ‘pack’ which includes her husband John, their 3 dogs – Daviana, Indiana, and Lucifer – and their 2 cats – Pippen and Jinx. She has been active in the animal rescue community for over 15 years, volunteering, fostering and advocating for organizations across Canada and the US. In her free time, she enjoys traveling around the country camping, hiking, and canoeing with her pets.