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13 Tips To Clean And Bathe A Chihuahua (How-To Guide)

Clean And Bathe A Chihuahua

Wondering how you can clean and bathe a Chihuahua?

Search no more, you’ve found your how-to guide.

Read on to find out:

  • 13 must-read tips on how to bathe your Chihuahua.
  • Which part of your Chihuahua’s body you shouldn’t forget.
  • How to effectively observe your Chi’s behavior before cleaning your Chi and why it’s so important.
  • And way more…

How can you clean a Chihuahua?

You can clean a Chihuahua by bathing them. Since Chihuahuas are small, you can bathe them in the sink. Depending on fur type and health conditions, you may have to choose between different kinds of shampoo. You should also prepare some treats to help them associate bathing with rewards.

13 tips on how to clean and bathe your Chihuahua

#1: Start by brushing

Chihuahuas tend to have a lot of excess fur, especially during certain times of the year.

Double-coated Chihuahuas tend to shed during spring and fall, while single-coats gradually lose hair over the course of a year.

They don’t shed a lot on a daily basis, however, enough fur can fall off and get in the way when you are bathing your Chihuahua.

As such, before you get them near your bucket of water, eliminate excess fur with a brush first. 

Here’s how you do it:

Stroke their coat gently

Tangles are not immediately visible to the naked eye and can take time to extract. To make tangles more noticeable, it’s a good idea to massage their coat first. It’s also a good way of reassuring them before bathtime.

Start from the head and work your way to their tail. Do this at least 2-3 times.

Note: Use this time to figure out if your Chihuahua is sore or sensitive anywhere.

Search for tangles and mats

With the same process, scrub their fur with a brush. If it gets stuck somewhere because of a tangle, don’t yank it off your dog. Gently wriggle your brush until the fur is removed. 

Keep doing it until the fur is smooth enough. You can remove tangles for good in two ways.

Cleaning Option 1: Brushing

To remove the tangle with a brush, stroke the affected area first to soften it. Straighten the hair surrounding said area until the matting is obvious.

Brush the matting gently, then use a detangling comb. Hold the base, then stroke the matting until the comb runs smoothly again.

Note: You can use a conditioner to help straighten it for longer periods of time afterwards.

Cleaning Option 2: Cut and Trim

Search for tangles by stroking or brushing them. When you find the area, spray it with a detangling solution and then cut the hair with a mat splitter. Remember to put your fingers on the base. 

Brush the hair gently to keep hair straight.

Reward them for their obedience

Give your dog a treat after brushing. This is a good way to entice them for a bath later on. You can also resume massaging your Chihuahua briefly since they also enjoy being pampered by their owner.

When you’re done brushing, be sure to dispose of the fur first. This will prevent clogging if you brush them in a sink or tub.

#2: Observe their behavior

Observe Your Chihuahua Before Bathing Them

Bathing your Chihuahua isn’t just about splashing water on them until they’re clean. It’s also about making sure your pet will love their future bath.

Thus, it’s necessary to observe their mood before you bathe them. Your dog will let you know if there’s a chance they’ll like bathing with you. It’ll also help you figure out what to do specifically for your dog.

There are three questions you need to ask:

What are they doing now?

Bathing can be a restricting affair for Chihuahuas. It’s not a good idea to clean them if they’re still feeling hyperactive. 

Typically, it’s better to get them during lunch or afternoons when they’re feeling restful.

How is your pet around water?

Try to recall each moment your pet has interacted with water. How did they feel about rain? How did they react when you accidentally splashed water on them? 

If they became evasive at some point, there’s a chance they might be scared of bathing.

Note: You can find out more about this on tip #5!

Does your dog display aggressive behavior?

Aggressive Chihuahuas can be difficult to bathe, let alone pin down. They might even start to bite if you restrain them in the sink. Note aggressive behaviors like growling or nipping and let your local behaviorist know about it.

This will help them come up with a program to reduce aggressive behavior and make bathing easier.

Read also: 7 reasons for Chihuahua aggression

#3: Choose the right shampoo

Bathing Chihuahua With Shampoo

When it comes to bathing Chihuahuas, choosing the right shampoo is a must.

Chihuahuas have naturally thin coats that provide relatively poor protection from the heat or cold. They also shed a lot less than thicker-coated dogs like Corgis.

This also means that their skin is more exposed to dirt and other irritants. As such, you need shampoos that will provide their skin with more lubrication.

A widely-recommended shampoo that you can use for your Chihuahua is Vetericyn FoamCare’s Low-Density Hair variant.

This quick-spraying shampoo will allow you to cover most of your Chihuahua’s body after bathing them in warm water. 

It’s also more efficient because you won’t need to pour shampoo into your hand or hold your Chihuahua in place more often.

For the best results, spread the spray evenly throughout their coat and massage your dog thoroughly with it. Rinse them off afterward to prevent their skin from drying up.

Caution: Do not use human shampoo as it can dry up your dog’s skin. It also makes them vulnerable to parasites and allergens.

#4: Check for injuries

Some pets will not be able to bathe due to certain conditions. 

One common example is patellar luxation (dislocated kneecaps). This can make massaging the knees extremely painful.

They might end up developing water phobia in the process because they’ll associate water with pain.

If your Chihuahua is adopted, you should send them to your vet first before you bathe them. 

Ask for an x-ray to keep track of the following problems:

  • Arthritis
  • Hip Dysplasia
  • Patellar Luxation

If you’ve had your Chihuahua since Day 1, observe any changes in their behavior. If they start limping or making pained noises, avoid bathing them. Arrange an appointment instead.

This is crucial because dogs are good at hiding their pain. They won’t tell you where the affected regions are, so have your vet diagnose them to be sure.

Once your vet identifies the affected area and treats it, ask if or when you can start bathing your dog. Their answer will often depend on how bad the injury is and how much time they need to rest.

#5: Be sensitive to water phobia

Not all Chihuahuas are going to appreciate being bathed in water- and not just because they’re hyperactive!

Some Chihuahuas may have a fear of water due to being punished with it before. They may also associate water with their fear of rain.

Others may find the whole experience taxing afterward. Water is a new substance for younger Chihuahuas. They may become afraid of it if they are overexposed.

There are also studies that show how dogs become stressed when their owners are. If they show frustration with heavy rain or their pet, they may dislike water altogether.

They can also be sensitive to the way owners handle them. If you squeeze on them too much, they might not like your bathing massages.

Research also shows that phobias will only get worse when handled improperly. Thus, you need to desensitize them with care.

Here are a few things you can do to help conquer their fear of water:

Wet petting

Bathing your pet is about giving as many positive stimuli as possible. Petting or massaging them with slightly wet hands can go a long way here. Do this once a day and observe your pet’s reaction. 

If they don’t mind it, do it for 2-3 more days. Supply them with treats every time they don’t react. You may do this once or twice a day between the afternoon and nighttime.

Note: Slowly increase the volume of water until they’re comfortable being fully wet. This can take weeks, so be patient.

The Sponge Trick

Some trainers may recommend using a wet sponge. Before feeding your dog, glaze their backs with a wet sponge. Leave them to eat beside their bowl afterward.

After 2-3 days, include their belly and tail and do the same thing. If your dog continues to express comfort, settle for this washing routine until they can tolerate more and more water.

Note: Wipe them off when they’re done eating. Remember that progress for dogs is incremental.

Use water for playtime

Owners can help trick their Chihuahuas into liking bathing by engaging in water-based activities. If you have a yard and a hose, try playing with your dog enthusiastically there.

Make yourself an example by bathing yourself and put treats in your hand. Play games like fetch with your dog while you are drenched. Sprinkle water around to make playing with water look fun!

You can also put their favorite toy in a child’s pool or basin. Repeat this for several days and wipe off your dog after each session.

Note: You can also make them chase bubbles or the water coming out of your hose. Make sure you don’t hurt them with the water by squirting on their face.

For the best results, you should hire a dog trainer with extensive experience on water phobia. 

Ask them for their advice and make them demonstrate if possible. Expert opinion will help you desensitize your pet more quickly.

Reading Tip: Check out #10 for steps to dry your dog and reduce the risk of catching a cold!

#6: Make sure the water isn’t too warm or cold

Chihuahuas are low-coated dogs who have less tolerance for heat and cold alike.

If you bathe them in cold or hot water, they will feel overwhelmed and shocked. This can discourage them from bathing next time.

To bathe your Chihuahua safely, check your water’s temperature before bathing. Make sure that it’s between 98°F and 104°F (36.7°C – 40°C).

Alternatively, you can place your hand in the water. If you don’t feel freezing or the sudden shock of heat, it’s perfect. 

Many owners opt to bathe their dogs in running water, but in some cases, it’s better to simply have water prepared in a tub.

This is because outdoor temperatures can fluctuate and influence how cold or warm running water is going to be.

By preparing water beforehand and letting it rest for 10-20 minutes, it’ll adjust to room temperature and become lukewarm.

#7: Be careful with the face and ears

When bathing your Chihuahua, it can be easy to pour shampoo or running water into their face or ears by mistake.

On your part, it may not seem all that bad. However, getting water into the nose, eyes or ears can be extremely irritating for your pet. It may even endanger them.

If you mess up, they may not give you another chance at bathing them. Thus, you need to approach their face and ears differently.

Here’s what you can do:

Stroke downward

When bathing your Chihuahua, it’s important to always begin from top to bottom. This will lower their ears and prevent water from entering the ear canals. It’s also a good way of cleaning the back of the ear better.

Don’t use shampoo on the face

Chihuahuas already have thinner hair on the face. The risk of obstructing airways due to stray shampoo drops is also high.

Use special tools for places you can’t spray

For the ears, you can use a wet cotton ball to gently wipe off dirt. Make sure the cotton isn’t dripping with water. Dry off the ear with another cotton ball once you’re done.

For their face, use a wet towel and wipe each corner slowly. Do not rinse their face directly with water as they are particularly sensitive there. Avoid wiping the eyes or nostrils directly.

Note: Ask your vet if they can recommend any cleaning solution for the ears. This will help make ear cleaning healthier and more efficient.

Here’s a good example of how Chihuahuas bathe. Observe how careful the groomer is with the face and ears:

#8: Be particular with parasites

Before bathing, be sure to check your Chihuahua for fleas and other parasites.

Typically, it’s easy to detect fleas just by massaging them due to their thin coat.

Chihuahuas also tend to display all kinds of other symptoms including:

  • Hair loss.
  • Infections.
  • Flea bite marks.
  • Frequent scratching.
  • Skin having red patches.

Search for the parasites on the armpits, the backside, chest and near their tail. Once you see their hiding place, check their skin.

This is because research indicates that Chihuahuas with ticks will scratch themselves compulsively.

This can cause lesions and wounds to develop, changing how you have to bathe your Chihuahua in the process.

For starters, you need to change your dog shampoo to medicated shampoo. Consult your vet regarding your dog’s condition so they can tell you which type will work best.

If there’s an open wound, you can’t afford to apply dog shampoo as it can irritate the wound. This means you’ll have to take dirt, poop and excess fur off your dog’s coat by hand.

Here’s what you need to do next:

Get a wet towel

Prepare a wet towel and wipe their whole body with it until your dog is slightly wet. This will help soften up hardened dirt and even remove some of them. 

If you aren’t able to rid your pet completely of dirt, it’s okay. The goal here is to just help your dog clean themselves slightly.

Manually remove dirt

For hygiene, prepare a glove. Search for dirt in particular areas where dogs get it the most including their paws, their backs, and the area near their tail. Remove said dirt by hand. 

Rinse them again with your wet towel if you’re done.

Wipe them off again with a dry towel

When you’re done, clean them with a dry towel. Be careful to avoid scratching the wounded regions. Be gentle while wiping them off. 

Refrain from using a dryer as it can irritate both the dog and the wounded area.

Note: This cleaning method is only a stop-gap measure. When there’s an open wound due to scratching, contact your vet promptly for a more permanent solution. Ask when you can use medicated shampoo and if possible, the brand they recommend.

#9: Be careful with location

Bathing your Chihuahua is also a matter of choosing the right location. This is because they’ll not usually be able to stand on all fours.

When cleaning their armpits, for example, you usually have to raise their front legs to help reach them better.

As a result, only their hind legs will support them for some time. This can cause some accidents if you aren’t careful about location.

Worse, it could trigger certain bone-related ailments which could complicate the bathing process.

Another reason why location matters is due to your Chihuahua’s size. When bathing, you want both you and your pet to be comfortable.

As such, you want your Chihuahua to be on an elevated platform that doesn’t get slippery when it becomes wet.

There are several areas that come to mind here:

  • Sink.
  • Table.
  • Bathtub.

If you’re bathing them on a table, do it in open air (e.g, garden). This will keep the mess outside the house.

Make sure it’s wooden. Concrete tables with smooth finishes or tiles can be slippery when wet. 

While doing so, use a chair for treats, shampoo, and bathwater. This will open up more table space and lessen the effort needed for outdoor baths.

Sinks and tubs are often the best places because you can quickly drain the water there. Just be sure to put a plastic mat to keep the area from becoming slippery.

You can also bathe them in your garden or yard if it helps them associate bathing with fun, but be sure to also clean your dog’s paws.

Make sure that your Chihuahua is at least on your stomach’s level when you bathe them so you won’t have to bend over a lot.

#10: How you dry them matters

Drying Chihuahua

Drying your Chihuahua is essential to prevent flakiness and keep the fur fine and well-groomed.

It’s also the closing act of their bathing experience. If you don’t dry your pet epically, they may not want to get bathed again.

There are two common ways to dry a Chihuahua: the towel method and the dryer method.

Between the two, the towel method is simpler. After applying shampoo and rinsing your dog, dry off your dog with a large towel. Cover their body and leave room for the face and ears.

The dryer method is more efficient but also carries risks if used improperly. Chihuahuas have highly sensitive skin behind their thick coats. Dryers might burn or make the skin extremely dry.

When drying off your dog, don’t stick the dryer close to their fur. Keep the dryer at least half an arms’ length away and set it to low.

You can also do the same with a space heater, bearing in mind that they should still not come too near.

Note: Use room temperature water if you’re going to use the dryer. This is important to make sure that your dog doesn’t get rattled by the heat.

#11: Brush their teeth well

Part of a Chihuahua’s cleaning routine involves brushing their teeth. Typically, they’re best brushed twice a day.

However, it can be even harder to get your Chihuahua to brush than bathe because it’s harder to make them open their mouth.

The first thing you need to do is to pick toothbrushes and toothpastes. It’s best to have several different kinds with different textures and flavors.

Next, you need to test your pet’s tolerance for these pastes and brushes. Start with the paste first by coating your finger with it. Place it near their cheek teeth.

If they open their mouth, spread the paste and see how they react. A dog that likes their toothpaste will lick the area repeatedly and spread it across their mouth.

If you see them spitting away or not wanting another dose of the toothpaste, stop and try a new one the day after.

Remember to keep the flavor close to their dog food/treats. It’s recommended that you buy paste from the same brand if possible.

Once you’re done, test your brush next. Have them open their mouth through the cheek teeth with your brush. Be sure to coat it with their preferred toothpaste.

Note: Start small with a finger brush, then work your way up to longer brushes. If your dog doesn’t like any of the brushes, buy new ones or stick to using your fingers.

The key is to find a brush that will make them want to keep their mouths open. In some cases, they might only let you brush their teeth if you use your finger. 

Slowly spread the paste across their molars and frontal teeth. Your pet will take care of the rest if they like the flavor.

Reading Tip: 5 Tips To Clean Your Chihuahua’s Teeth (With How-To Video)!

#12: Trim their nails meticulously

Another crucial aspect of cleaning your Chihuahua is trimming. Getting your Chihuahua’s nails clean is crucial because they can be prone to wear and tear.

If you don’t clean their nails frequently, they might hurt their paws while playing. Their nails can also cause cuts and lesions every time they scratch themselves.

Before you get started with trimming nails, you need to find a proper nail trimmer. Chihuahuas are small dogs, meaning they’ll also need smaller trimmers. 

If you need some advice on specific sizes, bring your pet to the vet or an expert dog groomer.

You also need to make sure that your dog is sufficiently tired before you trim their nails. 

Note: This is also true for bathing, since a tired dog will follow your commands more happily and move less.

From there, pay attention to the color of your Chihuahua’s claws. White claws are easier to cut because the blood vessels that connect it to their body are more visible.

These vessels are called the ‘quick.’ If their claws are white, cut just right before the pink part of the nail. Trim all the way to the dew claw located at the farthest end of their paw.

If the claws are black, cut each nail into very small sections. Stop trimming when you see a grayish spot as blood vessels are right underneath it.

Pet your Chihuahua and reward them for a job well done. Trim your dog every 1-3 months as needed.

#13: Don’t forget the paws

Chihuahuas are active dogs whose paws are always on the front line. They’re the first things that gather dirt everyday. Cleaning them regularly will prevent irritation and even injury.

The recommended frequency for paw-cleaning is at least once a week. When you start cleaning your dog’s paws, be sure to check for debris between the pads first.

Since the pads are quite deep, it’s possible for small rocks and dry earth to get stuck between them. Eggs from certain parasites might make their way in from this area too.

Rinse their feet with lukewarm running water and have it run through every gap. This will help eliminate most of the dirt. Pick off debris that you can find manually.

From there, apply a small amount of shampoo on the paws. Slowly massage the gaps and the pads to spread the shampoo.

Once their feet are clean, rinse off the paw again with running water. Wipe off each gap with a thin towel. 

Note: You should also trim the hair on the paw to match the height of the pads. This will prevent fur from clumping up together and gathering more dirt.

It is also recommended that you maintain your dog’s paws daily after a long walk. Instead of rinsing with water, however, simple moisture wipes will do the trick.

Wipe off the paw’s gaps with the moisture wipe. Give them a treat for being on their best behavior.