Grooming Tips, Part 2: Bathing your Dog – The New Waterboarding

(Continuing Grooming Tips: Best Practices for You, Your Dog, and Your Fingers, we now move on to shampooing, Lord help us! dj)

Understanding the challenges of bath time, the pet care industry has developed an array of shampoo products that ease the torment faced by your dog and the unpaid college intern you’ve assigned to the task. The most appropriate soap should be one formulated to lather well while convincing your dog that he’s done nothing wrong.

The industry trend is away from products fortified with unnecessary additives and a return to a more natural bathing experience. “Natural”, of course, does not mean primitive, such as the pet-grooming customs practiced by America’s early settlers. A strict, taciturn people, they bathed their equally strict, taciturn dogs by heaving them in the river, then slamming them on rocks until dry. (Historical note: This gave rise to the once popular expression, “As worthless as a hound heaved in the river and slammed with rocks. Prithee!”)

Today’s fur care products are rich in healthful emollients beneficial for a dog’s sensitive skin. Unnecessary additives have been removed from most shampoos, which are now marketed as “Fragrance Free for Twice that Wet Dog Smell!” Liberal applications during bathing result in a coat that is lustrously moisturized, as well as strict and taciturn.

And because canine coats vary widely, a range of shampoos specifically formulated for different fur textures are available – from soft-coated like an English sheepdog, to thick-, rough-, heavy-coated like an English sheepdog wearing a thick, rough, heavy coat. Possibly tweed.

Bathing tip: Use enough shampoo so that when rinsed, your dog has become an entirely different breed.
Bathing tip: Use enough shampoo so that when rinsed, your dog has become an entirely different breed.

Faced, then, with such a variety of products, how does the conscientious pet owner make an informed choice?

While professional groomers, veterinarians, and my therapist might disagree, I base my selection exclusively on the dog that’s pictured on the label.

Many consumers are drawn to product labels that feature a widely smiling dog. That is a mistake. Dogs don’t really smile. And certainly not as though they’re eager contestants in the evening gown competition. A dog’s smile can mean many things: “I am submissive” or “I am aggressive,” or “Wow! Look what I threw up!”

Rarely does it mean, “Rub detergent in my eyes!” Do not be influenced by the smile.

Likewise, avoid labels that feature a cartoon canine, even those dressed in evening wear. Why, we wonder, couldn’t the marketing department come up with a real dog? Is there a problem with the shampoo? Did none survive clinical trials? Shouldn’t that be on the label?: “May cause melting.” If so, that’s a concern.

What I look for on a shampoo label is a picture of a real dog that is clearly insane – the canine equivalent of Nicholson through the door with an ax; an arch villain the Batman locked away in Arkham; a Packers fan in a Chicago bar. This is the proof I need that the product can successfully be applied to the most dangerous, criminally insane.

Like Budleigh, who has been standing in the sink, wet and shivering, for quite a few paragraphs.

On paper, lathering a wet dog seems a pretty straight-forward process. Liberally apply shampoo to the body, then using the fingers you like least, massage shampoo into the fur, beginning at the neck, and moving downward toward the “business end” of the dog.

A note about this “business end.” As all dog owners know, canines lick themselves – an entirely natural, self-cleaning behavior that veterinarians refer to as “disgusting”, although probably not in the waiting room. The causes of excessive licking can be behavioral or medical, so scrutiny by a vet is a good idea.

Saint Brisby, our gentle, obedient schnoodle, sometimes licks his business end with the attention of someone doing a particularly difficult crossword puzzle. After an examination, our vet explained that Brisby’s business-end glands were impacted, a common occurrence in dogs, which could be relieved by moving him to the more expensive business-end glands de-impactor room in back.

If you know nothing about impacted dog business-end glands, trust me, it is well worth the price to have the problem remedied by a professional who also takes the time to explain the process while you stuff your fingers deep in your ears and loudly sing Battle Hymn of the Republic until he’s left the room.

Fortunately, Budleigh isn’t suffering from this or any other malady except for being a terrier, so The Lathering can begin. Provided all parties can agree on the removal of his collar.

Budleigh, readers might recall, has a “thing” about his collar. He prefers to keep it close much the way a sailor knocked overboard into shark-infested waters during a storm at night likes to keep his life jacket close.

Like many sovereign nations, the Republic of Budleigh stubbornly resists interference with his collar by foreign influences except during periods of civil unrest and bath time. However, thanks to an accord reached through marathon negotiations between me, Budleigh, and the International Atomic Energy Commission, access will be granted provided that specific protocols are followed:

1. Budleigh, and all contiguous territories know as Budleigh, will be referred to as “A Good Dog!” And in certain cases, “A Very, Very Good Dog!”
2. No yelling.
3. In exchange for safe passage, foreign diplomats will present a cookie to those regions of the Republic of Budleigh designated as his mouth.
4. While the Republic of Budleigh is distracted, the collar may be removed.
5. The collar will then be presented to Budleigh who will hold it securely between his teeth until the universe ends or it is returned to his neck.
6. Processing of all fissionable materials will cease immediately.

So now, with collar safely in Budleigh’s death grip, fur fully saturated, a fresh bottle of Psycho Pup™ Shampoo and Conditioner at the ready, and Brisby standing by to lend his “support”, we are, at last, prepared to lather up!

GIANT 1: “Who’s ready for his bath? Budleigh’s ready for his bath!”

BUDLEIGH: “I need to see your visa.”

GIANT 1: “What a Good Dog! I’m just going to unhook your collar—”

BUDLEIGH: “Unhand that symbol of my people’s oppression! Guards! Guards!”

BRISBY: “Yes, well, I’m just going to head upstairs to meet with the Security Council under the bed in the dark behind the duvet.”

BUDLEIGH: “But he’s removing my emblem of office, yet has offered me nothing!”

BRISBY: “You have my compete support!”

GIANT 1: “Budleigh’s a Very, Very Good Dog!”

BUDLEIGH: “Don’t touch that! Do our laws, our history, our fissionable materials mean nothing to you? Well, we will fight. Oh yes, fight you to the very gates of our mouth! And when one tooth falls, 10 shall spring up in its place! And rivers of patriots’ blood will—”

GIANT 1: “Who wants a cookie?”

BUDLEIGH: “I love you!”

GIANT 1: “Now hold your collar while I soap you up. Ohhhh, so clean and beautiful! Doesn’t that feel good?”

BUDLEIGH: (Dreamily) “Fissionable materials…”

GIANT 1: “Oh, yes you are! So Very, Very Good! Now we rinse. Aaaand you’re done! That wasn’t so bad.”

GIANT 2: (Carrying Brisby) “Look who I found upstairs under the bed in the dark wrapped in our duvet.”

BUDLEIGH: “Traitor!”

GIANT 1: “Perfect timing. Dump him in.”

BRISBY: “Unhand me, you filthy dogs! I am the Prime Minister of The United Brisby Emirates!”

Next post: The Drying Game


Sleeping Between Giants explores life – if you can call it that – with a terrier.

Your feedback is welcome, probably. dj

Permission to re-use this material for non-commercial purposes is granted provided that Dave Jaffe,, is appropriately credited as the author and source. Please feel free to link to this page.

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