Can I Bathe My Dog in Cold Water? It’s Not Recommended

It’s best to avoid bathing your dog in cold water for several reasons. The primary reason is that it’s an uncomfortable experience for your dog. This uncomfortable experience may cause them to resist bath time in the future.

If you regularly hose your dog down outside, you might be wondering if bathing your dog in such cold water is a good idea.

Cold Water Baths for Dogs

We’ve all done it: grabbed a bottle of dog shampoo and headed out to the yard to give the dog a bath outside.

It’s understandable, especially if you’re picky about making a mess inside. But is it really the best way to bathe your dog?

When bathing a dog, there are a couple things to keep in mind to make the experience as pleasant as possible.


Imagine being sprayed down with a cold hose in the middle of winter. That would be really uncomfortable!

Well, dogs don’t appreciate it any more than humans do, so unless the weather is really hot, the dog is going to prefer lukewarm water if possible.

Because many dogs already dislike bathtime, it’s important to make the experience as stress-free as possible, which means paying attention to water temperature.

If you don’t have access to running warm water where you’re bathing your dog, you can use a container of warm (not hot) water. Dip a pitcher or large drinking cup in the container and gently pour it over the dog for a relaxing bath.


In addition to considering the comfort of your dog, using warm water will get him cleaner and will also better rinse out soap residue.

Warm water is better at breaking up dirt and grime and will also cause the shampoo to lather better.

Failing to thoroughly rinse out the shampoo, or using cold water, which causes some to be left behind, can cause problems such as:

  • Skin sensitivity
  • Dandruff
  • Dermatitis
  • Dry skin
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Just like you wouldn’t wash your own hair with cold water, it’s best not to use cold water on a dog if it can be avoided.

If the weather’s hot and you want to cool the dog off, a cool water rinse once the shampoo’s already out might be a refreshing treat. This depends on the dog and whether he likes water or not, though.

Bathing in Winter

Bathing a dog in winter can present specific challenges, especially if you’re used to cleaning your dog outside rather than in the house.

Bathe Inside

If at all possible, do not bathe your dog outside during winter.

It will not only be extremely unpleasant for the dog, but it can lead to illness if he’s outside in the cold soaking wet.

You’ll also be exposing yourself to wet clothes out in the cold and will likely try to hurry and finish the job to get back inside, rather than taking your time and doing it properly.

Self-Serve Dog Washes

If bathing your dog inside your home is entirely out of the question, check into self-serve dog washes, which are in a lot of pet supply shops.

Similar to a self-serve car wash, they have all the space, equipment, and supplies you will need to wash and dry your dog without either of you having to freeze, and without you having to make a mess in your house.

Dry Completely

Whether you bathe your dog inside your home, at a self-serve place, or outside, make sure to dry him off completely right away.

A wet dog in winter is susceptible to hypothermia and frostbite, among other things.

Dog Bathing Tips

Most dog owners aren’t exactly excited when bathtime rolls around, and neither are their dogs. These tips will help make the process as quick and painless as possible.

Test the Water Temperature

Cold water is uncomfortable for the dog and doesn’t clean as well, as discussed above.

On the other hand, water that’s too hot, of course, can also be uncomfortable.

To make sure the water is at a safe and comfortable temperature, test it with your elbow.

Use a Gentle Stream

It’s not uncommon for dogs to find the harsh streams of water from hoses or showerheads scary.

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Instead, use a pitcher of water to gently pour over the dog.

Alternately, block the stream from the hose or shower head with your hand to soften the impact.

Gather Everything in Advance

Since most pet owners and their dogs want to get bath time over with as quickly as possible, it’s a good idea to make sure you have everything you’ll need gathered in one place before you even bring the dog in.

The last thing you want is for the dog to be stuck in the tub longer than necessary while you wander around looking for shampoo or a towel.

Having towels handy for the end of the bath is also an excellent way to prevent a wet dog from escaping while you find a towel so your house doesn’t end up smelling like a wet dog.

Use the Right Shampoo

Make sure to use a shampoo specifically formulated for dogs since their pH balance is different from humans’.

If your dog has allergies or sensitive skin, take that into account when selecting a shampoo. Keep an eye on the skin during and after the bath to make sure there are no adverse reactions.

Get Help

If your dog really hates baths, and you struggle to keep him in the tub, it might be a good idea to get someone to help out.

One of you can be in charge of holding and calming the dog, while the other focuses on the washing.

If the dog is very strong or uncooperative, it might be necessary to leash him, tying the leash to a stable object to prevent movement.

Make it Fun

Part of the reason that so many dogs hate baths is because some of them naturally hate water. But an arguably larger part of the reason is because so many pet owners hate giving their dogs baths.

If you stress out when giving your dog a bath, or make a big deal of chasing and catching him to put him in the tub, it’s no wonder why they learned to hate it.

On the other hand, if you stay calm and use positive reinforcement, your dog can learn that bathtime is not a big deal.

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If you save a favorite treat that’s reserved only for the end of bathtime, he may even come to see baths as a positive experience.

Hire a Pro

If your dog is too strong for you to control, you don’t have an appropriate place to bathe him, or if you just hate playing the bad guy and bathing him, calling a professional dog groomer is a good solution.

There are all kinds of groomers with varying prices, so you’re sure to find one in your price range that will work best for your schedule and your dog’s personality.

Traditional groomers have locations where you drop the dog off and pick him back up when he’s done. You can also choose to wait there for him if you don’t want to leave him alone.

Mobile groomers, often found in larger cities, have dog grooming vans that park outside of your home. This is a convenient option if you’re busy or don’t have a vehicle.

There are even some mobile groomers who will show up at your home with all the supplies they need and wash the dog in your home. This works well for anxious dogs who don’t do well with strange places like the groomer’s shop.

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