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How to wash a dog – Australian Shepherd Style

Most dog owners are familiar with how to wash a dog.  If you have an Australian Shepherd, you are probably aware of how challenging it can be to give one a quick bath.  As I described in an earlier post on grooming Australian Shepherds, they have an overcoat that is typically medium length and texture and is weather proof AND an undercoat that is soft and dense.

Earthbath Dog Shampoo

This coat combination makes it very challenging to give an Aussie a quick wash.  For example, if Trooper shakes in the middle of the bathing process or if I’m just not fast enough getting soap on after wetting him, he will become almost completely dry.  I usually have to work in one small area at a time:  get it wet, add soap, scrub scrub scrub and move to the next area.  It seems that if you can get soap worked into the undercoat, the quick-dry dilemma is ameliorated.

Just as with the increased meat needs, the addition of Sydney has meant that I have had to become very efficient in order to not give up a lot of my time to simple dog care.  I love donating time to play, tricks, training and outings.  But slow baths or inefficient meat prep – nah huh, not for me.


How to wash a dog – Australian Shepherd Style

The abbreviated process is this – get dog in tub, wet dog, scrub dog with soap, rinse dog, dry dog and release dog.  The Australian Shepherd method is not as straightforward.  The beginning and end are the same, but I have adapted the washing portion to be more efficient and thorough.


Getting Ready – Organize space and tools

  • Remove everything from the tub/shower that is unnecessary for the dog bath.

AvoDerm Dog Shampoo

  • Get dog soap out and ready.  I use AvoDerm or Earthbath because they contain natural ingredients and are not a huge hit to the wallet.
  • Layout towels and hair dryer if you use one (I do not).
  • Run water until it is at the correct temperature – room temperature works fine for my Aussies – and then turn off.  You don’t want to run the water once the dog is in the tub because they’ll get impatient and concerned.  I also don’t like the water to be running as I’m setting them down because it adds more concern (in their eyes) to the process.


Bath time – Lift, Sit and Execute!

Trooper during the final rinse

  • Get dog in tub – My Aussies are small enough (or I am strong enough) that I can pick them up, step into tub, close door and put them down.  They don’t stand much of a chance.  Remember to lift with your legs and support their body with proper hand/arm placement (refer to video below).
  • When I had a tub without shower doors, I sat on the edge with legs in.  Now that I have shower doors, I stand in the shower with them, one leg on either side.  These strategies allow me to prevent them from moving around.
  • Wet starting area – pants and rear legs.  I start in the back because A) It’s usually pretty dirty and B) The longer I can wait to wash their heads, the calmer they will remain.
  • As soon as a small area is thoroughly wet, I turn the water off, grab some soap and scrub it up.  I have discovered that wetting the whole dog in order to soap the whole dog does not work.  They dry very quickly.
  • Work toward head – wet and soap, wet and soap, combine soaped areas, wet and soap.
  • When I done with washing their necks, I rinse their head and scrub without soap.  I don’t want soap in their eyes or ears and I’m sure they don’t either.
  • Once they are all soaped up (I am not stingy with soap), I spend a few minutes scrubbing all over and gently massaging them.  They enjoy it and it gets the soap deep into their undercoat.
  • Rinse time!  I rinse from the top down – starting with head, then back, then sides, etc.  Logically, this keeps the soap moving down and I’m not repeating effort.


Wrapping them up, literally – Dry, Isolate and Enjoy the Show

Sydney getting dried off

  • IMPORTANT – Dry their feet first!  Both Trooper and Sydney collect massive amounts of water in their feet hair.  It’s absurd how much comes off into the towel.
  • Once feet are done, dry the rest of their body.  I like to end with the head, using a damp part of the towel and gently wipe their eyes, nose and ears.
  • After you release your dog from the tub, you may need to isolate them somewhere so they don’t rub against expensive furniture or undo all the hard work you just did.  Trooper and Sydney get super silly, which aside from the resulting cleanliness, is the best part of the whole process.


How to Wash a Dog – Video of Trooper and Sydney


  1. Very helpful, and I agree with going in the opposite direction of the hair growth. I had a pure bred full-size Collie and it took about 40 minutes to get through the whole process of washing, rinsing, drying, and grooming. Trooper is such a doll!

    • Thanks for watching! I can imagine a Collie would be a challenge. I’m lucky – Trooper is very agreeable and makes the video process easy and fun.

  2. THANK YOU! I had to bathe my aussie today and I used your theory. It worked so much better. Also, she thought the shower curtain was glass, so she didn’t try to escape! I really appreciate your videos. They have been so helpful!

    • Thank you so much! I’m glad they’ve been helpful. Aussie owners unite!

  3. Lol very helpful definitely trying on Chance our toy aussie the next time we bathe him he doesn’t like baths at all! Its really hard just to get him in the tub he wont go in :) now I now what to do we were doing this all wrong

    • Thanks for visiting! I’m glad I could help!

  4. I have a question my mini aussie has a skin irratation n he bites his fur away on the top part of his hind end n is itchy all the time i have seen other aussies that do that also is there a medicated soap i can use to give him releif? N so he would stop biteing his fur off n it can grow back

    • Trooper used to lick and bite his belly and feet. Our vet recommended allergy testing (which we did), but the only thing that has had lasting results has been to increase his exercise. Have you talked to your vet? There may be medicated soaps but we have not used any.

  5. How many times do you wash your aussies

    • It depends on the season and what we are doing for fun. When the rivers are running (during/after monsoons and then in winter), I tend to only wash them when they stink. Otherwise, it is a wasted effort because they get in the water whenever it is available.

      I previously washed Trooper once a month. Now I only do it if they get into dirt/mud, are starting to have a little stink, or are starting to look greasy.