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Ask A Minnesota Expert: Tips For Giving Your Pet A Quality Bath

Getting your pet into the tub for a good clean can become a wrestling match. It's not the water they object to, it's being soaped, washed and scrubbed. Most dogs will take a recreational swim. In fact, some canine resorts have swimming pools just for dogs. But getting Rover to jump into the tub is another story. Now cats, naturally clean and wholesome, must also get wet to perfect their hygiene. With friendly persuasion, you can coax kitty into the tub without the fur flying. Professional pet groomer Jennifer Anderson dispels the myths behind bathing pets. Owner of The Cat's Meow and Paws At Your Door Mobile Grooming, she has tips for making pet bathing time quality time instead of a struggle.
Dog Bath
(credit: Thinkstock)

Jennifer Anderson
The Cat's Meow
8579 Lyndale Ave S.
Bloomington, MN 55420

(952) 582-4429

Paws At Your Door Mobile Grooming
612) 499-0399
Serving Northfield, Webster, Elko, New Market, Lakeville, Apple Valley, Farmington, Burnsville, Eagan and Rosemount.

Jennifer Anderson is a Nationally Certified Master Groomer (NCMG), one of the few in Minnesota. Early in life, she became involved with pets. At age 16, she began pet grooming. After graduating college with a degree in social work and several certifications in pet grooming, she managed various grooming salons. Making dogs and cats beautiful and creating the best look for a pet is her passion. "Styling opens up a creative, artistic side," she said. 

Skilled in grooming all dog breeds, Anderson is also one of the few cat grooming professionals. Recognizing that dogs get all the attention although just as many people favor cats, she opened The Cat's Meow, a grooming salon just for felines. Cats, she discovered, are under-served in the grooming department and need a space all their own. But when it comes to bathing a cat or dog both receive her undivided attention. Anderson helps pet owners who struggle to give a pooch or kitty a healthy bath get through the (sometimes dreaded) task with helpful tips.

Reinforce Bathing With Affection And Treats, Not Force

"Animals, like people, don't like being pushed into anything," Anderson said. Pets don't like being forced to take a bath. Coercing a dog with treats or a favorite toy is more likely to get them into the tub.

Never have extra pairs of hands to hold a dog down while you scrub. Don't tie a dog down and don't throw a dog under a shower. "Such human behavior only makes your dog more reluctant to be bathed," she said. "Tub bathing is more relaxing than being sprayed with water, unless you're using a shower with a wand and directing the spray." To keep your dog in the tub, Anderson recommends using, "gentle massage, warm water and dog safe shampoos." If your dog continues to resist being given a bath, she said, "You might be better off bringing it to a professional pet groomer."

Cat owners assume their pet doesn't need a bath because cats clean themselves and don't like water. "It's actually a myth that cats dislike water," Anderson said. "Most cats are receptive to bathing if properly introduced."

A cat's tongue does not contain properties that thoroughly sanitize the skin and coat. "Regular grooming helps the cat feel calmer and more secure, as it's part of a regular routine," Anderson said. "Grooming also prevents painful matting and tangles. A once-per-year groom session can be stressful to the cat. The more cats are groomed, the more they accept it."

At The Cat's Meow, the most frequently used bathing technique is to place the feline in the tub and gently spray water to wet the coat. "We allow the cat to see and listen to the water before applying. Then we wet very slowly from the feet up. This allows the cat to get used to the feeling of water," she says. To keep a cat in the tub, the attendant gently holds its shoulder. "Once the cat is ready, we scrub with special cat safe shampoos, rinse thoroughly and wrap in a large soft towel. We're able to bathe 95 percent of cats this way, with little fuss or drama," Anderson said.

Prepping A Bath Is As Important As Giving The Pet A Bath

Before bathing your pet, comb out all tangles from the fur to prevent matting. "Bathing tightens matted fur, and your pet might not dry off properly. This can lead to skin infections," Anderson said.

Place a towel or rubber mat in the tub to prevent slipping.

If prepping your feline for a bath, see your groomer or vet first for shaving services if the fur is tightly matted or has dreadlocks.

Choose the appropriate shampoo. Do not use dog shampoo on a cat or cat shampoo on a dog. "Like people, dogs and cats have different chemistry," Anderson said.

Bathing Your Dog Or Cat

For Dogs:

Use a diluted shampoo solution to help spread the shampoo evenly through the coat. Lather up with a rubber curry or sponge and work the shampoo all the way to the skin.

Do not get shampoo into the dog's eyes and ears. Use a pet safe, tearless shampoo on the head. Rinse away the shampoo down to the skin. After the final rinse, repeat the rinse! Soap residue in the coat is the most common reason dogs scratch themselves after a bath.

Don't forget the ears. "Dogs need their ears cleaned with ear cleaner regularly to prevent infection," Anderson said. "Use a gentle touch and a cotton ball to swab the ear." Consult a veterinarian if there are ear mites.

Throughout the bathing session, reward your dog with praise and a few dog treats for being so cooperative.

For Cats:

Be sure the shampoo is cat safe and labeled for cats. Lather the coat down to the skin at least twice.

While bathing your cat, communicate with the animal in soothing and reassuring tones.

Don't forget the ears. "Cats need their ears cleaned with cat safe ear cleaner about every month," Anderson said. Consult a veterinarian if there are ear mites.

Use slow and deliberate motions and gentle touching when bathing Kitty or Tabby. Pat the cat's head and use a "slow blink" when looking at your cat to convey a sense of calm. "If you are calm and confident, your cat will be too," she pointed out.

Be sure to do a thorough rinse after shampooing to avoid irritation and scratching. A conditioner after shampooing is optional.

Shower your cat with affection; reward with treats during and after its cleaning. Awakening the tiger throws water on a good pet relationship. "Cats command respect and kindness," said Anderson.

Finally, Anderson told us, "We recommend a professional, certified cat groomer for your cat's bathing needs. Most owners are not able to bathe their cats; the experience is often traumatic for both. A trained cat groomer can ensure a positive, beautiful bath and dry. The result is a happy cat — clean, combed out and fluffy!"

Related: Best Pet Groomers In Minnesota

Handling Different Dog Breeds

Most dogs need two good scrubbings with a quality dog shampoo. All dogs must be thoroughly and completely rinsed down to the skin from head to toe. Some double coated breeds, (German shepherds, golden retrievers, Labradors, Pomeranians, etc.) need conditioner to help remove and untangle shedding fur. For these dogs, apply diluted conditioner to their entire coat and let it soak in. Use a rubber curry or brush to remove shedding hair. When finished with brushing, thoroughly rinse off the conditioner. Dogs with dry skin also appreciate a conditioner treatment. "Non-shedding breeds such as poodles, Shih Tzu and Maltese benefit from conditioner if their hair is prone to tangles and matting," Anderson said.

Learn Bathing And Grooming Techniques From The Pros

Let's face it. Many of us think we know how to manage our pets until it comes to bathing and grooming. But these things must be done to keep the pet healthy. The next time you bring your cat or dog to a professional groomer, watch the pet handler do a bath, brush and comb-out. Pet groomers are more than happy to teach you how to bathe your dog and cat. Some pet grooming services have do-it-yourself pet tubs. If  your pet raises a fuss, a staff groomer will lend a helping hand.

Related: Ask A Minnesota Expert: Tips For House Training Your Dog

Linda Cameron has written home design, home improvement and lifestyle articles for The Boston Globe and City Shopper Magazine. She has related interests in the building industry, travel, real estate and financing. She is a contributor to Examiner, House Spot, Techsling and Behance, covering topics on career, people, businesses, education and technology.
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