How to Wash a Dogs Face [Guide and Video]

Whether you’re a first-time dog parent or you’ve recently welcomed a new furry friend to the family, washing a dog’s face is a critical skill that will keep their eyes, chin, and ears clean and fit for friendly scritches.

While washing your dog’s face isn’t difficult, you’ll want to consider a few factors: Where’s the best place to wash your dog’s face? Should you do it while you’re bathing the rest of your dog? How do you keep soap out of their eyes?

In this guide, we’ll explore the ins and outs of washing your dog’s face. From choosing the best shampoo to removing tear stains, this step-by-step guide will leave your dog with a soft and sparkling clean snout. 

washing a dog close up
Washing a dog up close

Gather Your Gear

To really do your dog’s face justice during bath time, you’ll need the following supplies:

  • Gentle shampoo that won’t sting if it gets into their eyes
  • A washcloth or loofah
  • Cotton balls
  • Q-tips
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • A warm and dry towel
  • Lots of treats!

It’s also important to decide where you’re going to be bathing your dog. A shower or bathtub is usually the perfect spot for an indoor bath, but for small dogs, your kitchen sink might just be big enough to get the job done. 

If you’re washing your dog’s face during their regular bathtime, make sure that the soap you’re using is gentle enough to use around their eye area. If you’re not sure which soaps are safe for use around your pup’s peepers, consult with your vet. 

Hydrogen peroxide is a helpful tool for removing tear stains around the eyes, but make sure to thoroughly dilute the solution. You’d rather have an over-diluted solution than sting your pup’s eyes, so dilute one tablespoon of peroxide with at least eight ounces of water before application.

Best Dog Shampoo For Shedding
A dog prepares for a shampoo. Is a dog ever truly ready for the bath though?

Step 1: First Rinse

Once you’ve coaxed your dog into their bathtime locale (reward them for simply stepping into the bathtub or shower or for settling into the kitchen sink), it’s time to get them nice and wet with a first rinse. 

Your dog’s face must be completely saturated for optimal soap sudsing and dirt removal. During the first rinse, rub their coat to make sure the water reaches their skin. 

But, when you’re wetting their face, make sure to turn down the pressure on the showerhead or faucet. Facial skin is sensitive, and you wouldn’t want to be blasted in the face with hot water either. 

Additionally, make sure to set the water to the right temperature before you begin spraying down your dog. Test the water on your wrist instead of your hand (like you would with a baby’s bottle before feeding time) for a more accurate temperature reading. If the water is too hot, your pup will try to escape the bath. If the water is too cold, your dog will end up shivering. 

And, as always, reward your pup after the first rinse is complete to keep them motivated to continue and to reinforce good behavior during bathtime. 

Step 2: Suds Up

Now that your pup is thoroughly soaked, it’s time to suds up. Follow the instructions on the shampoo bottle to determine how much soap you should use, and begin lathering up your pup. 

Pro-tip: Instead of scratching your skin with your fingernails or trying to work up a good suds with your fingertips alone, use a washcloth or a loofah. Not only can you get more suds than you can with your hands, but you also won’t have to apply as much pressure, which will keep your dog more calm and comfortable during the bathing process.

When sudsing their face, steer clear of their eyes, mouth, and ear openings. You’ll want to avoid getting the soap into these places as much as possible, and during the first suds, focus on generally washing your dog’s facial coat instead of getting into all the nooks and crannies. 

labradoodle in a towel
Labradoodle Max enjoys a cuddle in a towel after a shower and bath

Step 3: Get Up Close and Personal

While your pup’s face is still sudsy, grab your additional tools: the q-tips, cotton balls, and hydrogen peroxide dilution will be super helpful as your clean your dog’s more sensitive facial areas. 

Use a cotton ball (suds with soap and water, of course) to wash around your pup’s ear openings and their mouth. 

The cotton ball will give you more control over the soap and water without getting too much into your dog’s ears and mouth. You know how unpleasant it is to have water in your ears or get soap in your mouth, and you should protect your dog from these discomforts as well.

Finally, use q-tips to get close to your pup’s eyes. While holding their chin firmly to stabilize their head, use a q-tip suds with soap and water to clean the fur around their eyes. Your dog will likely try to squirm during this process, so make sure to verbally praise them while you’re working and reward them with a treat once you’re done.

If your dog has more aggressive tear stains, dip a q-tip into your hydrogen peroxide dilution and rub the stains until they lighten. 

While the solution may not clear up the stains entirely, remember that your dog’s comfort is more important than a few minor tear stains. Be gentle, don’t overdo it, and pay attention to your dog’s behavior during this up-close-and-personal cleaning ritual. 

Step 4: Rinse and Dry

Once you’re done sudsing and deep-cleaning, it’s time for the final rinse and dry! Remember to use lower water pressure than you would for the rest of their body, and make sure that the water is at the right temperature. 

Rinse them very thoroughly to prevent post-bath itching or skin irritation. Plus, make sure to dry them as much as possible before giving them a treat and letting them out for a post-bath potty break.

Best Smelling Dog Shampoo
A good smelling dog shampoo means a good smelling dog! (Well for a little while at least)

Cleanliness Is Close to Dog-liness

To keep your pup’s face clean and ready for constant cuddles, wash their face thoroughly during regular bathtime or with specific face-washing sessions. 

Remember to keep the following in mind:

  • Use gentle products recommended by your vet
  • Use a washcloth or a loofah for improved comfort and increased suds
  • Rinse your pup thoroughly
  • Reward and praise your dog throughout the bathing process

Keeping your dog’s face clean takes some effort, but the time investment in your dog’s skin health and comfort is worth every moment.