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Get pooch used to bathing early

The Baltimore Sun

Why is it so many people find themselves wetter than the dog they're bathing?

"It's a matter of technique," says Caryn Stichler, director of marketing at Sergeant's Pet Care Products Inc.

The fact is, a bath is a good thing, even if your dog doesn't agree.

Dr. Cecilia Friberg, a veterinary dermatologist in Chicago, says it's "an old dog's tale" that you can't bathe a dog daily. In fact, she prescribes daily bathing for some of her canine clients with allergies. Some allergens are absorbed through a dog's skin. A daily hosing can provide a temporary fix to help these allergic pets feel better.

"Here's where the potential problem is with daily bathing," says Friberg. "It's the same as you washing your hands really often; they get dry. So, to avoid that dryness, either use a conditioner or a shampoo with conditioner in it."

However, only use shampoos for dogs. "Dogs have a different pH than people, and using a human shampoo on a dog is definitely not a good idea," Friberg says.

Of course, not every dog requires a daily bath, and many might see a daily soaking as absolute torture.

"The secret is -- if at all possible -- to acclimate the dog to all grooming as a puppy," says Marion Lane, special projects editor at the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in New York City.

Lane, who was a dog groomer for six years, says that you can take any puppy, or even a dog who already has an adverse view of bathing, and adjust their attitude.

Begin by just turning on the water in the basin or tub you use while the pet is close by. Then offer the dog treats. After a few days of this routine, place your pooch in the tub or basin but don't turn on the water until the pet seems to accept being there. When you're ready to start hosing, keep the first session to 10 seconds. Gradually increase the time until you really can give your dog a good bath. While you scrub, always sound happy and provide treats for calm behavior. (Be sure not to reward your dog for raising a ruckus).

"Rinsing is the magic word," says Stichler. "It's how you avoid those flakes that come when you don't rinse well."

Lane says she places cotton balls in a dog's ears before bathing (be very careful not to push them in too far) and puts a drop of mineral water in each eye in case shampoo runs into the eyes.

You can dry off most dogs with a hair dryer for humans, but never at the highest setting, says Lane. Hold the dryer at least 6 inches from the dog. Really large and/or very hairy dogs may require an investment in a dryer made for canines. Very small dogs or those without much hair can usually air dry.

Clearly, if your best friend has rolled in a pile of dead fish at the beach or splashed in a mud puddle, bathing is your only option. It's also a good plan anytime your dog has gone swimming in salt water or in a lake or river where the water may not be pristine.

"Generally, a bath is warranted if the dog's coat seems greasy (you don't need conditioners with greasy coats), smells awful, if the dog is itchy or the fur just feels dirty," Friberg says. However, an itchy or smelly coat may be due to allergies, fleas or an infection, so a vet visit may be warranted.

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