Tips for Bathing a Large Dog

March 7, 2014

By Laurie Darroch

A larger dog can be more difficult to bath than a small dog that you can simply pick up to put in the water. If a large dog is resistant to bathing, it can be quite the ordeal convincing him that he needs a bath. Dealing with bathing can turn into a unpleasant task if they aren’t cooperating. Make bathing an enjoyable experience for both you and your big dog with these tips.

Be Prepared

Set everything out ahead of time that you will need to give your dog a bath. That way, you won’t be darting out to get the things in the middle of bathing and wrestling a resistant dog. Put the shampoo and towels in easy reach. A dog can have an allergic reaction to shampoo made for humans, so be sure to use a shampoo specifically made for dogs.

Choose an Appropriate Bathing Area

A walk-in shower, regular bathtub or large portable bathing tub that can be used indoors or out, work well for a large dog.  In warm weather, an outside bath might be the best option. If it is very hot, a nice cool dip in a bathing tub or quick scrubbing with a garden hose will help the dog stay cool in the heat. It is more difficult to contain a squirming dog outdoors though.

Dress Down

Be prepared to get wet. Wear old clothes or a bathing suit; even better, if you are using your bathtub or shower to bathe your dog, strip down and stand in the bathing area with your dog. For a nervous dog, your presence in the water with them might help to keep them calm.

Shower Head

Instead of using pans or bowls of water to rinse your dog, the best way to get them thoroughly washed and rinsed is with a long hosed movable shower head that can reach all parts of the dog. Outside the house, a garden hose works well. You want to make sure to rinse the dog thoroughly to remove shampoo. A dog with layers of thick fur will require more rinsing time and effort.


For a hesitant bather, it may take more than one person to get the job done. Recruit another friend or family member to help bathe your big dog if you need to.


If your dog is likely to try and run away when bathing time arrives, give the bath in a confined area. Close the doors before you start bathing your dog, or blockade the entrance to the shower so they can’t run out. A sturdy kitchen chair may do the trick. If all else fails, use the helper to block the escape routes. You don’t want a large wet soapy dog making a beeline for the nearest escape route.

Massage and Other Tricks

If your dog is nervous about bathing, takes coaxing to get in the bath, or is simply so big that getting him into the bath is a major task, make the experience pleasant. Try massaging the dog’s limbs and body while you wash them. Talk in a soothing voice while they get their bath. Praise them if they are behaving well during the bath.

Use a treat to bribe the dog to get in the tub or shower. A favorite flavor of tasty CANIDAE TidNips or CANIDAE Grain Free PURE Heaven treats works well.  Give the dog a small reward and praise after the bath too. If they associate good feelings, praise and rewards with bathing, your dog will enjoy the experience more and make it easier for all involved.


A large dog needs more towels to dry off the excess moisture. Keep 2 or 3 beach towels on hand for bathing time. When your dog steps out of the bath, immediately cover him with a towel. Do it before he has a chance to shake the water off all over the room. Rub the dog down well. Remove a soaking towel and use another until the excess moisture is gone.

The dog will still be wet and will most likely shake its whole body to fluff up again, but the room won’t get soaked if you have toweled them off. A handheld hair dryer is a good option to use to continue drying your dog. Be aware though that some dogs are afraid of the blow dryer so that may not work.

Be sure to get your dog as dry as you can. They often run out of the bathroom and rub against furniture or people when they get free. A frenzied “darting around the house burst of energy” after a bath is not uncommon with a dog. You feel invigorated after a good bath or shower. So does your dog!

Top photo by Augie Schwer
Middle photo by Madaise
Bottom photo by MCA/Mike Allyn

Read more articles by Laurie Darroch

Share this: