Bitty in the tub

Bitty gets dried off

Bathing Your Westie

To most people bathing the pet dog is a given, the only questions are how often? And what products to use? However, these questions take more thought than might be expected. If you bathe a Westie too often, the skin will become dry and itchy, and overuse of shampoo products can leave the hair with a dull unhealthy look. In other words, the more often you bath the dog, the more often you will feel he needs a bath. Your clues as to the real need for a bath are if the skin actually really looks dirty, and/or if the dog smells. Westies can go for many months without a bath and keep healthy skin and great looking coat. The tricks for success here are good nutrition (and that includes healthy treats), regular outdoor exercise and a thorough brushing twice a week. If you do the brushing twice a week, it only takes a few minutes.

Whiteners etc.
Westies do not need extra whiteners for their hair. The coat in its natural healthy state is not an even electric gleaming white - it is slightly off-white with highlights. This effect is best gotten with good brushing, whether you strip the coat for show, or keep it clipped, as the brushing keeps the highlights and thus gives the coat a sparkle.

The Bath
For the times when baths are necessary, select a good quality shampoo, most likely found at the vet’s. Groomers are in the same business as human beauty salons and may pressure you to buy shampoo products with whiteners , ‘body’, fragrances etc. The vet shampoo for Westies will likely have oatmeal in it, basic to helping Westies with itching problems - a condition found in many lines of Westies.

The bathtub with hand-held shower extension and a padded stool for you to kneel on makes things comfortable and roomy for both dog and owner. Always put cotton in the dog’s ears before wetting him down to help keep ear canals dry. Test the water so that it is just warm, not hot, to the touch. Start at the tail and wet the coat thoroughly, all over . Then with the water turned off, apply enough shampoo to make a nice lather, starting with the dog’s back. Be sure to lather the whole body without getting any in the eyes. Rinse thoroughly twice so no shampoo remains in the coat. Rub dry - it usually takes two large bath towels, and it’s easy if you have him sitting on a towel on your lap. The dog can finish drying himself if crated with three fluffed up bath towels in with him.

Use of dryer
There are dangers to using a hair dryer. The heat can dry or even burn the skin if held too close, or if the heat is too high. Dryers also make the hair very dry, dull, and hard to manage. If heat is blown into a crate, it can cause suffocation, so, if you decide to use a dryer, be extremely careful.

Training for the bathtub
Many dogs don’t like taking a bath, and will struggle and thrash about, especially if this is the first time or two. To forestall any long-term problems here, prepare all your equipment first, towels, kneeling stool, shampoo, non-skid mats for the tub etc. Test the water temperature. Then, carry the dog to the tub, talking calmly and confidently to him, give him a little treat when he is placed in the tub. Treats can be offered at any time throughout the bathing process if it helps keep him calm. Wrap a towel over him to lift him out to your lap, and give him a treat. He may never enjoy his baths, but he will learn to endure them calmly and quietly. Once dried, comb and brush him thoroughly, trimming any hair on the tail or feet that is too long. Be sure the ears are dry, and clean them if necessary. Also, cut or file nails if necessary.

Whenever you use the services of a groomer, you can supply that groomer with whatever shampoo you choose, and she should be willing to follow your instructions about how you want the dog clipped, as well as whether or not you prefer ‘towel drying’ to a dryer being used.

As you can see, there are choices to be made at every step of this simple process. The dog’s health and safety are foremost considerations for your complete satisfaction. A little training, a few treats, and calm reassurance, go a long way to ease any potential problem.

Author: Anne Matheson