Keeping a dog clean sometimes feels like an uphill battle. We love our furry children, but not so much the stink, am I right? And so, when the stink comes, so does a bath and drying.
How to blow dry your dog’s hair safely and correctly is more an art than a science. Pups with short hair are easy peasy to dry off with a towel, but what about their longer haired friends?
Bath time is a critical aspect of caring for our furry children. We’ve talked a lot in prior posts about this topic. If you missed them, scroll all the way down to the read further section.
One detail we haven't really dug into, is drying off your fur baby. Properly drying off your dog is essential to their health and well-being, but unless you have an hour and a stack of towels as tall as you are, you're probably looking for a better way to do it.
Why not give blow-drying a try? It might just be the solution you're looking for. Here are our tips to make sure you're drying off your fur baby the right way.
As always, for pet parents 🤓 looking for more dog fur care guides, never ever ever miss the further reading section at the bottom. My blog is simply packed 📚 with useful resources.
The answer to this question from a health perspective depends a lot on your pup’s hair length and thickness.
Breeds with short coats generally don’t need to have their coats blown dry, but when done properly it can safely speed up the drying process.
For longer haired pups this is more of a necessity. When left to air-dry you’re risking your pup developing hot spots from areas that remain damp for long periods of time. For these pups, towel drying isn’t sufficient.
Did you know that a clean wet dog often smells worse than a dirty dry dog?
The reason is the natural yeast and bacteria that live on your pup’s skin become airborne as the water evaporates. Blow drying your pup, regardless of coat length, will help limit the length of time your nose is offended by that wet dog smell.
Blow drying your pup may likely come down to how well they tolerate the process and if you have the right tools to do the job safely. Safety is the key aspect here as a how blow dryer can harm your pup.
See How Your Dog Reacts to Blow Dryers
The first thing you want to do, long before bath time, is make sure your canine companion is okay with the blow dryer.
Many dogs will have never heard or encountered something so continuously loud before, and it can be frightening. If your dog is nervous around vacuums and other constant whining appliances, they probably won't enjoy a blow dry either.
You can train all but the most nervous dogs to tolerate the blow dryer, but it may take some time.
Start by turning on the blow dryer when your dog isn't in the room, so they can hear the noise and react to it when they're free to do so. Stay positive with interactions with them, and don't force them to encounter the dryer.
Training sessions like this should last no more than a few minutes and can be done each day to gradually desensitize your dog to the blow dryer.
If they aren’t bothered by the sound from afar, bring your pup in the room with you to see if they are still comfortable in a confined space. Once they get used to the noise, you can introduce it as a part of bath time.
As with any training, make sure to heap praise and positive reinforcement on your fur baby throughout the process.
If your pup continues to be uncomfortable with the noise of the blow dryer, you can tuck cotton balls into your fur baby's ears as a way to muffle the noise.
Make sure not to pack them too tight, though! And, if you use cotton balls as part of protecting their ears from water during the bath, replace them so they don't have damp cotton lingering too long.
Watch this practical very short video by dog trainer Timothy Flanagan on how to train your dog to get used to the blow dryer.
Use the Correct Type of Blow Dryer
Many pup parents are inclined to use a human hair dryer on their pup, it seems reasonable right? After all, we have hair, they have hair, what’s the difference?
While you can use a human blow dryer on a dog, it's risky and potentially dangerous. Human hair dryers often get much hotter than dog dryers, which can result in you scalding your fur baby's skin.
Human hair dryers are also less likely to be sound-muffled, so they're louder and more irritating to your pup’s sensitive ears. If you choose to use your human hair dryer, make sure to keep it several inches away from your pup’s skin and be sure to use a low heat setting.
When possible, pick a blow dryer designed for dogs so you're not heating up their coat or making them uncomfortable.
There are three different kinds of blow dryers for dogs – and I’ll be honest, they’re not cheap.
Cage Dryers. These are low-power, low-noise dryers meant to be aimed at a cage where a damp animal is placed to dry. They're generally most useful for nervous dogs and cats and are more of a passive than an active drying system. Basically, they accelerate air drying rather than active blow-drying.
Fluff Dryers. These are blow dryers on a stand, which can be used like a handheld dryer or aimed and pointed so you can use both hands to ruffle through fur. They're good for light drying and fluffing, as well as helping remove shed fur.
Force Dryers. These are your typical blow dryers and are the most likely kind of dryer to use. They blast air quite forcefully – hence the name – so you need to be careful in using them, but they're by far the fastest kind of blow dryer to dry your fur baby off after a bath.
Start With a Towel Dry
The point of blow-drying is to be faster and more efficient than towel drying, but you shouldn’t just blow dry a dog straight from the bath.
Not only will it take longer, but it will also blast water all over your bathroom, leaving you just as damp as your dog!
Instead, start with a towel dry. You want to use a dog towel rather than a human towel for the most absorbency possible.
Most pet parents would use any regular towel to dry out their fur children. While this may work well for most short-haired dogs, it may not work as well for long-haired ones.
Just as with us humans, long hair tends to trap more moisture than short hair, and so a regular towel may not do a great job. For long-haired dogs we recommend using dog towels made from micro-fibers for faster drying.
Microfiber material is a fabric type woven from polyester and nylon fiber. Together, the polyester and nylon fibers create a strong, absorbent, and flexible material.
Whichever type you choose, the towel drying process should go as follows:
Drape the towel over your dog's body, so it covers them from neck to rump.
Working a section at a time, press in and squeeze handfuls of coat to pull water out. (Be careful not to squeeze or pull too hard! You don't want to hurt your fur baby.)
If need be, replace the towel if it gets too damp and isn't pulling water out.
You're aiming for a damp, but not soaked or dripping, canine coat. You're not trying to fully dry them with the towel, just get most of the water out of their fur. The blow dryer will do the rest.
When towel drying, make sure not to rub, shake, or vigorously dry back and forth. This doesn't dry any faster, and it can leave their fur tangled up and matted, which makes it harder to blow dry and requires more work to de-mat later.
Alternate Warm and Cool Air
Temperature is the single biggest risk with bath time blow-drying. Dogs have limited options when it comes to regulating their own body temperature, and even relatively small changes in temperature can be distressing.
With a blow dryer, you want it either on a warm, neutral, or slightly cool setting. You don't want it to be too hot because that can scald or burn your fur baby's skin, and you have no way of knowing if it's reaching that point until you've already hurt them.
With cold air, you run the risk of giving them too much of a chill. Avoiding that is the whole reason – well, most of the reason – why you're blow-drying them rather than air-drying them in the first place.
Many blow dryers don't have a neutral air setting, so you'll most likely want to alternate between warm and cool to ensure that neither one builds up too much. When set to a warm temperature, test it on your arm occasionally to make sure it isn't too hot.
Start Tail-First to Minimize Discomfort
Contrary to what most pet parents would do instinctively, you generally want to work from back to front.
A good blow dryer is going to blow water up and away from your dog rather than further down their fur, but you still want to start from the rump to minimize discomfort.
The actual process for blow-drying your dog is fairly simple. Start at the back and work forward, using small circles with the dryer held at least 2-3 inches away from their coat (unless the pet dryer instructions say otherwise.)
Try not to linger in any one place; even if the temperature isn't bothersome, the pressure can be irritating. As you work, pay attention to how the fur reacts to the air.
You want to avoid blowing the hair back, which can cause whip knots. Whip knots are when the fur wraps around itself and twists, forming simple knots that build up into mats.
While you can usually brush these out afterward, it's still better to avoid causing them in the first place. Thus, blow-drying "with the grain" of the fur is best.
Use a Free Hand to Comb, Massage, and Inspect
Blow dryers are one-handed (or zero-handed, in the case of fluff dryers) for a reason. You need to use one hand to work into the fur and fluff it up, massaging out the water and blowing it away bit by bit.
You generally don't benefit from trying to use a brush or comb at this stage. You don't need as fine-toothed control, and you can accidentally brush more mats into the fur when the air is twisting it all around.
Instead, using your fingers is enough until your pup's fur is feeling dry to the touch - you can switch to a doggy brush after.
This is also an excellent time to give your dog a thorough inspection. You can check for skin issues, lumps, and other abnormalities during this process, which can help you spot problems before they become issues.
Take Extra Care Around The Face and Ears
The face and ears are especially sensitive on your fur baby, so you generally want to be very careful with the blow dryer. In fact, if you're new to blow drying your pup, it's probably better to not use it on their face at all.
Instead, use the blow dryer up to their neck and stop there. For the back of their head, their ears, and their face, a towel will do fine.
Patting and gentle rubbing is fine and will get enough water out of their coat that they'll dry the rest of the way on their own.
If you used cotton balls to muffle the sound of the blow dryer, don't forget to take them back out! You don't want them to get shoved in too deep, pulled out and eaten, or otherwise cause problems.
If your dog has longer ears with long fur on them, you may still want to do some light blow-drying to dry them out. Be careful not to over-dry, too; you don't want to dry out their ears and leave them itchy.
Above all, be very careful not to accidentally aim the blow dryer directly into an ear canal, eye, nose, or mouth.
All of these can be painful, irritating, or damaging, depending on the circumstances. If they get water in their ears, there are much better ways to get it out.
Make Sure You Don't Over-Dry
One of the biggest mistakes pet parents make when blow-drying their canine children is over-drying. You don't actually need to get every drop of water out of their coat.
In fact, trying to do so is more likely to leave their skin dry and irritated. It can also dry out the fur itself and leave it dull and brittle. Instead, just get them most of the way dry, such that a little bit of air drying will finish up the process.
Learning how to blow dry your dog's hair safely and correctly takes a little bit of skill, practice and knowledge.
If you need additional help with grooming your furry friend, you have a lot of options. You can reach out and talk to me (I'm always happy to help), or you can check out my Dog Grooming book.
Alternatively, talk to your vet or your local groomer and see if they have any tips for you to do a better job at home.
Do you blow dry your pup after a bath? What type of dryer do you use and how does your pup respond? I always love a good story, so share your experiences below!
If you are feeling like getting a little something for your fur baby that is unique, made right here in the USA (or anywhere but in China), 100% dog and cat safe and, USDA certified organic, check out Toe Beans online pet supplies store!
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K Marie Alto
K. Marie is an animal lover, wife, kitty mom, dog auntie, writer (https://www.amazon.com/author/kmariealto), and co-founder of Toe Beans, a proud American family-owned online boutique pet supplies store focused on the improvement of the life of furry family members via pet parent education, better products, and advocacy. She has over 20 years of experience as a pet momma. She loves sharing her personal journey and experience as a pet parent via her blog and Facebook page where she currently has more than 45K followers (@furrytoebeans) and counting :-).