How to Bathe a Golden Retriever

From looking at puppies to adopting a dog, there is quite a bit involved in dog ownership before you even invite them into your home, your life and your heart.

If you think preparing for a dog is a lot of work, wait until they are living with you. Like children, pets can fill a space in our hearts with love, but there is also a lot of work that goes into maintaining their care, and bathing is just one part of that.

How to bathe a golden retriever: The steps to bathing a golden are similar to most other dogs, with a few exceptions due to their dual-layer coat:

  1. Prepare, get everything you need from wetting to drying ready.
  2. Brush out the fur first to remove dirt and debris.
  3. Get the dog wet. You may need to scrub a bit due to the thick coat.
  4. Use dog shampoo to wash. Avoid the head, face, and ears.
  5. Rinse completely. Leftover shampoo can cause skin irritation.
  6. Dry completely. Wet golden coats can cause bacteria growth or even mold.
  7. Brush again (optional)

Bringing a new dog into your home can be exciting, but it is not all fun and games. There are things you need to be prepared to do, and preparations that need to be done.

I want to focus on bathing your new Golden Retriever and all of the questions you may have surrounding it. With the proper preparations made and following all of the steps, bath time can be a fun time for him.

How to Bathe Your Golden Retriever

Bathing a Golden Retriever is not too much more complicated than bathing any other dog, though special care does need to be taken because of their coat.

Golden Retrievers, like many sport dogs, are also water dogs or what is referred to as aquatic dogs. This is because their outer coat is basically waterproof and will help them to be able to dry faster when they swim.

When bathing them, however, you are getting the undercoat wet as well, which will take a bit more time to dry than with certain other dog breeds.

I want to go over the specifics of bathing a golden to make sure you are comfortable with bathing them without causing them any issues. As long as you stay calm during the bath, chances are your golden will too.

Due to the aquatic nature of the golden retriever, it is usually pretty easy to bathe them, so for this article, we will assume that you don’t have that rare dog that hates getting wet.

As a matter of fact, some aquatic dogs enjoy water so much that the issue isn’t getting them into the tub for a bath, it is getting them out of the tub after it is done. You may be done, but they may want to play longer.

If you have the type of dog that likes to play in the tub after a bath, allow them extra time to play. Making bath time enjoyable for them will make it easier and more enjoyable for you as well.

The more a dog enjoys bathtime, the easier it will be for you to be able to bathe them in the future. Fighting a 20 lb puppy is one thing, an 85 lb adult is something completely different.

Step 1: Prepare Before You Start Bath Time

Before you even start to bathe your Golden Retriever, you should set yourself up for success. Here are some ways you can prepare for bath time.

Collect Your Items

From the shampoo you will use to wash them to the towel you plan to dry them with, make sure that you have everything ready and set out.

The last thing you want to do is leave a wet and potentially soapy dog in a bathtub while trying to go grab something to help you rinse them. Worse is a wet and potentially soapy dog trying to get out of the tub to go run around the home.

To help with bathing your Golden Retriever, you will want, bare minimum, the following:

  • Brush
  • Hose attachment for the shower
  • Dog appropriate shampoo
  • Towels (for both yourself and the dog, some dogs do splash)

There are a few optional things that you can use when washing your Golden Retriever as well:

  • Flea comb (if you have issues with fleas or to help get burrs out)
  • Hairdryer (if your dog is willing to handle getting blow-dried)
  • Helper (young children may like to help or if your dog is a handful at bath time)

Check the Water Temperature

Preparation also means doing things like making sure you have the right water temperature. Cool is ok, cold is not. It is best to work with temps around 70-80 degrees.

This will help to keep them from getting chilled since a dog’s body temperature is higher than a human’s temperature is.

While dogs usually don’t mind playing in cooler water when they are active and playing, when a dog is sitting relatively motionless, cold water can start to drop their body temperature. A degree or two will not be a major issue, and they will warm back up within a few minutes of being done.

If their body temperature starts to drop too much, there is a risk of them getting sick, and they will always associate that with a bath, making future bathes more difficult.

Get Some Help

If you have issues with parts of bathing your Golden Retriever, make sure you have your helper on hand, ready to go as well. This will help to prevent any wasted time that could lead to a soapy, wet dog running riot through your home.

Whether that helper is a child helping to dry a dog afterward or an adult helping you to scrub, a helper can always be useful in bathing a bigger dog.

Step 2: Brush Out any Dirt of Debris from Your Dog’s Fur

By taking a few moments to brush out the fur before you even get your golden retriever into the tub, you have a chance to remove a good amount of dirt and debris that could be hiding in their fur.

Especially dogs who have found mud puddles to play in, the mud or dirt could cake under the fur, which could cause mats or skin infections.

Brushing a dog before a bath also helps to break up tangles that may hold dirt in that could cause issues afterward.

Starting from the top and front, by the back of the neck, work your way back towards the tail and down towards the belly. This will help to remove dirt and debris that might otherwise end up in your tub or down your drain.

Taking the extra 5 or 10 minutes needed to brush your dog before his bath can also help him to prepare mentally for the whole bathing process, which could help it go more smoothly as your dog knows what to expect next. Follow the same steps each time will help your dog be prepared as well.

Step 3: Get Your Golden Retriever Wet

It is best to use a hose attachment in your tub to be able to get your golden fully wet. Due to the waterproof nature of their coat, it may take a bit of work and scrubbing just to get the coat saturated.

It is important to make sure that you get the full coat fully wet otherwise, it will make it more difficult to try to wash your golden.

While you can remove your dog’s collar during a bath, it is not necessary. It is possible to wash around the collar.

If you have a dog that has issues putting a collar on or occasionally goes outside without it, it is best to just leave the collar on your dog during the bath, just in case he gets out. This way, a bath does not cause him to be outside without a collar on.

Step 4: Use Dog Shampoo to Wash

Once your dog is completely saturated, you can start massaging shampoo into his or her fur. This is not a difficult process, but there are some tips you should follow.

– You will need to scrub gently but deeply to make sure that you get all of the fur clean. Due to the thick coat of a golden, it can be hard to really get down to the skin of them, so you do need to pay special attention to this. You want to make sure that you are getting down to the skin when scrubbing them, but not to the point that you are injuring their skin.

– Use a quality dog shampoo to wash your golden. If you are concerned about fleas or other parasites, it is best to use a dog-specific flea shampoo rather than some home remedies that you may find online. Some of them have not been tested for safety on a dog and could lead to more issues.

– If you will be or recently used topical flea treatment, hold off on a bath. These types of treatments need natural oil on their skin to work right, so do not bath 48-72 hours before OR after a treatment. If you bathe too soon before or after, you could render the treatment ineffective.

– Don’t use anything to scrub your dog other than your hands. Due to the sensitive nature of a dog’s skin, you could easily scratch or hurt your dog’s skin and not even realize it, since most dogs hide minor pain. Be careful not to use your nails either, try to wash them using your fingertips so you can feel their skin and not hurt them.

Step 5: Rinse Out All the Shampoo

Again, you are going to want to use a shower hose attachment to do this because of your Golden Retriever’s thick fur. A hose will also help with rinsing the soap out of the hard to reach the belly and chest of your dog.

Make sure that you pay special attention to getting their legs and tail rinsed as well. Many dogs don’t like these parts of their body to be washed or rinsed, but it is important that you do your best to get them clean.

Paws and pads may be especially difficult since dogs tend to be protective of these sensitive areas. This is a good time to make sure there is nothing hiding between the pads or toes, such as burrs or ticks.

If you can, try to inspect the pads to make sure they are not injured or cut as some dogs may not give any signs that they are injured. Be patient and very gentle as your Golden Retrievers feet are very sensitive, and they are injured easily.

While you’re rinsing, take the opportunity to check your dog for scabs, lumps, or parasites such as ticks. Anything unusual should be checked thoroughly and, if needed, also checked by your vet.

Step 6: Dry Your Golden Retriever Completely

Drying a golden retriever is just as important as washing them. Once the bath is done, let them shake off, which should remove most of the water from their fur, but you will want to try to remove the rest of the water the best that you can. This can be done by towel drying or even using a hairdryer on the lowest setting if they will tolerate it.

If you do not get your Golden Retriever’s coat fully dry, there is a risk of bacteria or even mold building up in their fur near the skin. Since their fur is waterproof, it can be an issue getting all of the fur dried if you just let them air dry.

Even if you are unable to get them to stay still for a hairdryer, make sure they stay in a warm area until their fur has a chance to fully dry out.

Oftentimes a dog that is wet will also be more high energy. While there is speculation as to why this happens, it is a real thing and could be an incentive for you to put your dog outside until it wears off, but this is a bad thing for Golden Retrievers.

Golden retrievers must be kept indoors until their fur is completely dry. If you need to isolate them in a separate room until they have calmed down from the bath, this is definitely a better option than letting them go out in cooler weather or where they could get dirty all over again. Wet fur can pick up dirt more easily than dry will, and they will roll in it to dry off.

Step 7: Brush Him Again

While this step is optional, if you towel dry, I do recommend it.

Brushing your Golden Retriever after a bath can help to prevent tangles and will help to remove any fur that the bath helped to loosen.

This is especially important if you completely towel-dried your golden as that can cause tangles in their long fur. Granted you are not dealing with an Afgan Hound, but their fur it still long enough to get tangled up.

Start with small strokes to make sure that you don’t hit any tangles. Most dogs, goldens included, tend to get insulted when their fur gets pulled, so you do need to be careful.

The brushing after a bath does not need to be extensive or as involved as a between bath brushing. It is just used to make sure there are no mats or tangles in their fur.

Tips for Bathing Your Golden Retriever

Now that we’ve gone over the bathing process let’s talk about some questions you probably are still wondering about bath time with your Golden Retriever.

What Shampoo to Use

If possible, always try to use a shampoo that is specifically made for a dog. Using things like DIY recipes may cause skin irritations, and human shampoo is too harsh for a dog’s sensitive skin.

Human shampoos have chemicals in them designed specifically for human hair and skin, for cleaning off the oils that are created by the human body. Canine bodies and the oil they produce are different, so the soaps used must also be different, as well.

If need be, there are some substitutes that can be used if you are in a pinch. Baby shampoo can be used as it is not as harsh as adult shampoo.

Pro Tip: If you are trying to remove oil or grease from a dog that played in the wrong area, Dawn dish soap can be used to cut it.

How Often Should You Bathe Your Golden Retriever

As a rule, dogs should be bathed at least every six weeks at most, and a better interval is every 3 to 4 weeks. With Golden Retrievers, you want to avoid bathing every week as it will leave them without the natural oils that their fur needs to be healthy. It is best to let the oils protect the skin as nature intended.

If you are in an area that gets particularly muddy or your dog has gotten into something like oil or grease or rolled in a rotting carcass, then bathing more often may be needed. It might be better for your dog to keep indoors more often when weather conditions make things muddy outside.

Just because you shouldn’t bathe your dog every week as a habit does not mean that just because he got into mud last week and you bathed him that you can’t bathe him again when he got into it this week too.

Starting Bath Times With Your Golden Retriever Young

If you get your golden as a puppy, it is best to get them used to bathing rather than trying to teach an adult to tolerate it.

Even if you are just letting your puppy play in the bathtub, this still helps them to associate the tub with positive things rather than negative.

Trust me, if your dog starts to associate the tub with negative experiences, you will have a huge fight on your hands.

Puppies are a lot easier to train than adult dogs, so starting your training on a puppy is best. The younger, the better when training a puppy, but do not bath dogs younger than 8 weeks of age unless it is absolutely necessary, such as to treat for fleas or they are severely dirty.

The Best Water Temperature for Bathing a Puppy

Since a dog’s body temperature is higher than a human’s, they will feel the cold faster than we do. For this reason, I have always found it best to use warmer water for them, such as you would use with an infant human.

Puppies, like any baby, can have body temperature dropped too low by being in too cold of the water. For this reason temperatures around 75 to 80F are appropriate.

Maintaining the Fur on a Golden Retriever

Once you have that beautiful golden fur washed, you’re going to want to keep it looking healthy and beautiful (or handsome) for as long as possible. Caring for your Golden Retriever’s fur takes a little extra work, but you’ll see great results.

Although a dull-looking coat can begin with their diet, so if you see that their coat is beginning to look dull even after brushing, take a look at the food that they are eating. It may not be a balanced diet for the age of your golden.

How to Keep Golden Retriever Fur Soft

One of the best ways to help maintain the soft fur on a Golden Retriever is just brushing them. This is something that needs to go slow and start at a young age.

Be careful not to pull at tangles or scrape their skin with the brush as this is not comfortable. Starting with a puppy is easier as you can teach them how to behave while you are brushing them.

1- Start with a sitting position. By having your dog sitting down, preferably on the floor even at a young age (prevents bad habits in the long run), you want to get them used to feel the brush. Use the same brush every time and let them sniff it. This may help them to feel more comfortable with being brushed since their smell will be on it.

2- Start on the back. Due to this being one of the lesser sensitive areas of a dog, starting on the back is usually more comfortable for them. As your dog becomes more comfortable with the brushing, you can move to the tail and the head. You want to be careful around the ears as they are hypersensitive. You should also brush the chest and belly area to get out dirt and tangles.

3- Be gentle, but get down to the skin. You want the brush to just barely touch their skin. Imagine that the brush is an extension of your hand, and you are using the brush to pet your golden. You want to go slow, apply gentle pressure, and stop if you get to a tangle. Golden’s fur can get mats or tangles, and this needs to be dealt with individually.

4- Deal with mats and tangles carefully. Mats may need to be cut out if they get too severe. Tangles may need to be worked slowly to ensure you don’t put the fur or hurt your dog. You may need to use a comb to help get tangles out or mats. Try to remove mats as soon as they are noticed to prevent them from growing in size. Shedding season this can become an issue.

5- The question of how often. This all depends on your dog’s temperament and the condition of their fur. Some dogs are happy to be brushed and will let you do it daily. With Golden Retrievers, I would recommend that they get brushed at least once a week to limit tangles and to help distribute their natural protective oils throughout their fur.

Safe Home Remedies for Irritable Skin

Sometimes dogs, especially older ones, can start to suffer from dry or itchy skin, and taking a bath can actually make it worse because it can remove the protective oils from their fur and skin.

Treating their skin with home remedies can be safe, as long as the ingredients are not toxic to dogs. I have listed a few here for you.

Oatmeal. This can be used for dogs that have issues with itchy skin. Oatmeal is safe if consumed by the dog in its raw form if used during a bath.

Used topically or in the bathwater, oatmeal can help to soothe irritated skin as long as it is not broken. Broken skin would include things like:

  • Sores
  • Scabs
  • Scratches
  • Rashes

Olive Oil. Olive oil can be used to help hydrate dry skin. Used very sparingly, it is ok to put on patches of dry skin if needed. Especially if the skin becomes irritated, which causes your dog to scratch or lick it, olive oil can help to soothe it enough to reduce the scratching or licking. Since Olive Oil is non-toxic to dogs, it is safe for them to lick it off of their skin.

Vitamin E. The same capsules that you can buy at your local health food store can be used on your dog, just not orally. You can break the capsules open and use the Vitamin E oil inside to help with soothing irritated skin. This is especially helpful for sunburned areas on dogs because it does offer some UV protection, though it is not the same as using sunscreen.