How to “dry bathe” your animal for therapy visits

by Jasmine Marie, HABIC Program Coordinator and Dog Trainer

grooming your dogAt HABIC, keeping our community members, animals, and volunteers healthy has always been a priority. We require cleaning your therapy animal before every visit. This helps prevent the spread of Covid-19 and zoonotic diseases.

In a perfect world, the best way to get your therapy animal clean is a fully-immersed bath or a full grooming appointment within 24 hours prior to your visit.

However, weekly bathing can strip the natural oils and make their skin and coat dry. It can also be time consuming to bathe dogs with thicker coats such as Golden Retrievers, Great Pyrenees, or Australian Shepherds.

Rather than giving weekly baths, you can give your animals a full bath or groom at least once a month or as often as every other week with a gentle shampoo.

For those of you with kitties, usually they only need a bath if their coat is oily, greasy, or they have gotten into something smelly or sticky. If you would like more information on how to bathe your felines, feel free to reach out to me and I would love to talk to you personally.

Between your baths and full grooms, here are some alternatives! With any of the following products, please make sure they are species-specific as they could contain chemicals that could harm your furry loved one, especially for cats! And always try a small area on their body to make sure your pet doesn’t have an allergic reaction to a new product.

Sponge bath

First brush out your pet to get any loose hair out. Trust me, you don’t want to clean hair that is just going to fall out, AND they will dry much faster. Then put a couple inches of warm water in your tub or sink and add a small amount of dog/cat shampoo into the water. Use a sponge, loofa or washcloth to rub the tub water all over your animal.

Make sure to rub both directions the hair lies to ensure the undercoat is getting cleaned as well. I usually start from the neck and work my way down their body, leaving the head for last, making sure not to get water in their ears, nose or eyes.

Then with new clean warm water, repeat to rinse any shampoo out of their coat. Dry off with a dry clean towel. It is wise to brush your animal again after they have fully dried, to remove any other hair that has been loosened up by the sponge bath.

Dry Shampoo

Again, brush out your pet to remove any loose hair and make sure your product is safe to use on your pet. Some products come as a foam, while others come in a spray bottle. Whichever one it is, take the dry shampoo and apply to the coat, making sure to lift the hair to get into the undercoat. If using a spray bottle, I usually start from the rear and move toward the head, this helps them not feel worried about being sprayed in the face.

When I get to the animal’s head, I put the dry shampoo in my hand or on a washcloth to ensure not getting shampoo in their orifices. Make sure not to neglect any areas! I then take a warm slightly damp towel and rub all over their body. If your towel turned up quite brown, you may need to repeat the dry shampooing again.

Grooming Wipes

These are great for when you are in a pinch for time, or to help keep your pets tidy between their grooms or sponge baths. I’ve been trying out new products these past couple months and I find that they work great! Make sure the wipes are safe to use around eyes. My dog Leelou is white, and she LOVES to wrestle with her friends in the dirt, so we tend to have a grey dog instead of a white one! She has been a great practice dog for me to test wipes. Just like the sponge and dry bath, wipe all over their bodies.

Don’t forget their pads! The rule of thumb is to wipe your dog until your wipe shows none, to very little, brown color after wiping. You will need to use several wipes, depending on the size and coat of your furry friend. Even alcohol-free baby wipes can be used in a pinch. In fact, the working dogs at Denver Children’s Hospital use baby wipes from time-to-time.

Once you have cleaned your therapy pet with ANY of these methods, it’s crucial to make sure you do not take your pet out to different locations prior to entering the building where you will be visiting. This includes a walk! In fact, bring grooming wipes with you to wipe your therapy animal’s paws before AND after your visit. This will help limit bacteria from entering your car and home.

As far as products go, as a certified master groomer I’m a big believer in using natural plant-based products. That’s what I use on the dogs and cats I bathe, unless a client brings in their own product. Any of the products mentioned above can be found at local stores or ordered online. There are a TON of products out there but some I recommend are Earthbath All Natural Grooming, Pogi’s Grooming Wipes, Wahl Waterless Shampoo, and Begley’s Natural Waterless Pet Shampoo.

For more information, you can review CDC guidelines for service & therapy animals. Please also feel free to reach out to me at if you have any questions about grooming your furry friends!