Should I be washing saltwater off my dog?

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Most dogs love a day out at the beach, and some love nothing more than diving into the salty water.  It can be hard to know though if you should be washing saltwater off your dog after a swim, or if a little is okay.

Just like for us humans, saltwater can have a lot of beneficial properties for dogs.  However, saltwater is naturally much more drying than freshwater so your dog’s skin may become dry and flaky, and the coat dull, particularly if they are more susceptible to skin irritations.

Breeds like Labrador Retrievers, Chesapeake Retrievers, Portuguese Water Dogs, Irish Water Spaniels and others were bred for saltwater swimming, so their coats are naturally oily and can resist absorbing the saltwater as much.

However, double-coated dogs such as the Husky, Border Collie, Samoyeds, Shiba Inu, Pomeranians etc. tend to trap saltwater between their dense inner-coat and softer outer-coat, which can irritate the skin and even promote bacterial growth, so washing saltwater off your dog with clean, fresh water and ensuring you have dried it properly is recommended every time.

Dogs that have fine or silky hair may also experience skin problems from exposure to the saltwater and sun, so washing saltwater off the breeds with thin coats is also recommended to help avoid irritating their skin.

When you’re on holiday it isn’t always easy to have the space to wash them properly so you it’s a good idea to see what local grooming services are available.  If there is a local PETstock store in the area you are travelling to or in, you can take them along to do it yourself in their DIY Dog Wash, or even book in to see a groomer if it’s time for their regular full groom.

If your dog is a little nervous about a wash, then you can always ask a PETstock staff member to give you a hand.

Top Tips for washing your dog

  • Too much bathing strips away your dog’s natural oils, so if your dog is a water lover, then leave unnecessary washes for those times you know you will be heading to the beach.
  • It’s important to create a positive association with being washed, so use praise and treats to reward them for being calm and tolerating the process.
  • Speak calmly and in a positive tone.
  • When rinsing them off, run your fingers through their hair top to toe –  the massage creates a good association and also helps ensure the shampoo & conditioner are rinsed off properly.
  • After a swim or a wash, ALWAYS dry your dog’s fur thoroughly, as lingering moisture can cause skin irritation and infections.
  • Gently wipe their ears and eyes with a towel.
  • Don’t forget lots of praise or a treat at the end, so it finishes on a good note.

As with any interaction with our dog, we want to ensure we are always creating good positive associations with activities they may not be a fan of, and not reinforcing the  anxiety or forcing them to do something they are really not comfortable with or they may develop more anxiety issues.   Slowly but surely is the key, and asking for the help of a professional groomer or qualified trainer to help if you really do have a dog with severe anxiety to washing or any other activities.


About the Author: Lara Shannon is a NDTF certified dog behaviourist and trainer, Executive Producer and Host of Pooches at Play on Channel 10 and editor of Poochesatplay.com. Lara also runs her own dog training and boarding business in Melbourne’s Bayside area and is the Author of Eat, Play, Love (Your Dog).

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