Snuggling up to a canine that has a dirty face isn't pleasant, but if Fido freaks out when you try to bathe him, cleaning his soiled countenance might prove difficult. With a little training, positive reinforcement and daily grooming, you should be able to keep your pooch's adorable mug clean.
Clean the Face
Washing just your pup's face doesn't require a full bath, which your pup really only needs every four to six weeks, according to Dogster. Instead, moisten a paper towel or soft washcloth. Use the damp cloth to wipe away stains and debris from your pup's face, all while giving Fido a series of tasty treats to occupy him. Most pups who don't like a full bath will tolerate this type of gentle cleaning without hassle, especially those who enjoy your handling but hate running water or soapy suds. If your pup runs for the hills upon seeing you with the cloth, show it to him daily and give him a treat so that he associates it with something positive.
Provide Positive Reinforcement
While a damp cloth may remove some dirt, a full bath or more intense washing of your pup's face may be necessary, especially if he's really dirty or matted. Observe your pup to see what triggers his anxiety about bathing, and counter-condition this response with something positive like food or praise, recommends the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. For example, if the sound of running water scares him, turn on the water and reward him with treats, but don't bathe him. If the tub scares him, tempt him over to it with treats until he sits in the tub comfortably. Work on every step of bathing until Fido doesn't put up a fight before a bath. Once he's accustomed to bathing, reward him during and after the bath as well.
During a bath, avoid causing any situations that could result in your pup becoming bath-phobic. Use only shampoo designed for dogs so you don't irritate your pooch's skin by upsetting the pH balance. Opt for tear-free shampoo, typically designed for puppies, when washing dirt off his face. With tear-free shampoo, you won't have to worry if a little of the cleanser gets in Fido's eyes because it won't irritate them. Don't pour water directly onto your pup's face, either; Vetstreet warns that could scare him or irritate his eyes and nose. Instead, use a wet cloth with a little bit of soap to wipe around his eyes, nose and mouth, gently rubbing away the dirt. Rinse out the cloth and use it to wipe away the soap and dirt.
Perform Maintenance on the Face
With regular face grooming, you won't have to scrub stubborn stains away during a full face wash or bath. Between baths, brush your pup's face daily to remove tangles from the facial fur. Clean Fido's face with a waterless dry shampoo powder every few days to avoid having to wash it with water. Gently clean around Fido's eyes daily with a sterile saline solution, found in most drug or pet supply stores, using a cotton ball, recommends the Partnership for Animal Welfare website. After meals or play, quickly wipe down Fido's face with a pre-moistened baby or pet wipe to prevent food stains from forming.
Based in Las Vegas, Susan Paretts has been writing since 1998. She writes about many subjects including pets, finances, crafts, food, home improvement, shopping and going green. Her articles, short stories and reviews have appeared on City National Bank's website and on The Noseprint. Paretts holds a Master of Professional Writing from the University of Southern California.