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Baths

Giving a Maltese a Bath

Overview

How often you give your Maltese baths and the products that you use on the coat will make a big difference in how your Maltese looks, for good or for bad. And the timing of baths will be crucial to keep skin and coat healthy. 

In this section we will cover how often to give baths, why timing is crucial, bathing tips, and full bathing instructions. 

How Often to Give a Maltese a Bath

You will want to carefully time your Maltese's baths. Whether you have a puppy or an adult Maltese, baths should be once every 3 weeks.

This is not an arbitrary number. 

A dog's body is constantly producing body oils. These are needed to keep the skin and coat moisturized and to provide a natural layer of protection. And the timing of baths centers around these oils. 

If you give your Maltese too many baths, those oils will be removed (as is expected); however, if this is done too frequently, the body cannot keep up.
Even with terrific bathing products, the skin may become overly dry. Weather can cause chapping, drying can easily domino into peeling, and since those oils will not be protecting the roots of the hairs, this can affect both texture and growth.

Opposite to that, if you wait too long in between baths, those body oils accumulate. 

When a heavy layer is present on the skin, this blocks skin pores and prevents natural air circulation. In addition, oils will start to slick onto hair follicles which can cause the coat to lie flat and even appear greasy. Finally, a bad sour smell can start to develop. 

Bathing Tips

Hopefully, you look forward to giving your Maltese a bath, because this can be a wonderful bonding experience. 

There are some guidelines that can help make this enjoyable for both of you.

1) It is best to use the kitchen sink as opposed to a bathtub. With a dog as small as a Maltese, tubs can seem very overwhelming. Also, you'll find it easier to handle and scrub your Maltese when he is higher up off of the ground. 

2) Have the sink completely clean before starting. Be sure to rinse out any dish soap residue. 

3) Have all of your supplies right on the counter to the side of your dominant hand. 

4) Place a no-slip mat or small washcloth at the base of the skin to help prevent your Maltese from slipping. 

5) A spray nozzle will work best, if you have one, as this will help you properly rinse off the products. 

6) Have the sink filled 2 to 3 inches before you gently slip your Maltese in; placing a dog in an empty sink and then running the water can cause the dog to become startled.  

Prepping Your Maltese for a Bath

1) Prep your Maltese by first brushing and/or combing the coat. If the coat is medium to long, first comb to carefully check for any mats, and then brush to separate the hairs. If your Maltese has a short puppy cut, brush the coat first, taking care to cover all areas of the body. 

2) Place loose pieces of cotton in both ears; the goal is to simply provide a barrier to stop water from entering the ear canals, which can lead to ear infection, so there is no need to place these deep. 

Bathing Instructions

1) Fill the sink with 2 to 3 inches of warm water; use the your inner wrist to check the temperature. 
2) With your products in place to the side of your dominant hand and a non-slip mat or a towel at the base of the sink, hold your Maltese with two hands, and gently place him down. 

3) First, wet the coat. While this can technically be accomplished using cups of water, it is best to use a spray nozzle on a gentle setting. You will want all areas thoroughly saturated. 

4) Apply your chosen shampoo and do not be afraid to use a good amount. You will want to be sure that all areas can be properly scrubbed. 

This breed does best with hand scrubbing, as bath brush-scrubs are often too rough on such a fragile little body. 

If you are looking for a great product for white coats, Earthbath's All Natural Coat Brightener Shampoo is a great choice; this has natural mineral optical brighteners, which make white coats sparkle without dyes or bleach. 

At the same time it is very moisturizing and great for healthy skin and coat. 
Young Maltese dog looking at camera
Harley, photo courtesy of Dianne Stein
There are two other fantastic options. One is Chris Christensen White on White Shampoo, which is super effective in taking out yellow stains from the coat without using irritating chemicals. It also uses optical brighteners and is very gentle. 
And Bio-Groom Super White Shampoo is always a favorite; this one is a concentrated formula, so you will want to dilute this 4:1, which means 4 parts water to 1 part shampoo. This product uses coconut oils to whiten coats, which is another great chemical-free option. 
5) You'll want to massage the shampoo into all areas except for the face (more ahead) for a good 3-5 minutes.
6) To clean the face, dip a small, soft wash cloth into the bath water that now contains some of the shampoo, wring it slightly to remove excess water, and gently run this over your Maltese's face.

At the eyes, swipe from the inner eye, down under the eye. And then from the inner eye up over the eye brow area. 
7) When you are done shampooingpreferably using a spray nozzle, completely rinse the coat. 

While it may seem as if this could be a quick one-minute task, do take your time. A great shampoo should do its job, and part of that job is to be rinsed out thoroughly; if not, any remaining residue can block skin pores and prevent the hairs from soaking in the conditioner. 

8) Now it is time for the conditioner. You'll want to use a product that is enriched with nourishing nutrients. Steer clear extra-thick conditioners with heavy oils; these do not rinse out well and any residue left behind will block skin pores.  

A great choice is Earthbath's All Natural Oatmeal and Aloe Conditioner; this is a no-chemical formula infused with soothing aloe for the skin and vanilla for a great scent. 

Again, do not be shy with using a good amount. The goal is to completely encase every hair from root to tip. 
maltese-puppy-snow-white-coat
Daisy, at 7 months old,
photo courtesy of The Muller Family
If you find that the sink contains too much water for the conditioner to be worked in on the underbelly, chest, and legs, drain some of it until you have 2 inches or so left. 

Work this in for a good 3 minutes. While you may assume that 5, or even 10 minutes would be better, all of the conditioning will happen in those first 3 minutes and any time after this will not bring about further results. 
9) Rinse out the conditioner. While you may think that it might be a good idea to not completely rinse it out, you will indeed want to. If you use a quality product, it will be rather thick and some of the main ingredients will be oils. 

This is very nourishing to hairs; however, you will not want this to be left on the skin or coat. If so, it can block skin pores and cause the coat to lie flat. The leave-in spritz that you will use later will be the product that will protect the coat. 
10) Remove your Maltese and dry him. With a warm, soft towel readied to your dominant side, lift your Maltese out of the bath with two hands, and place him onto the towel. 

Allow him a moment to shake himself off, and then gently wrap the towel around him.

You may now be tempted to rub him dry. Do not. Rubbing the coat can be damaging to the hairs and vigorous rubbing can cause a huge mess of tangles (depending on coat length). Rather, gently scrunch, blot, and dab. 

Air drying is best. If for some reason you need your Maltese to be dry very quickly and you wish to use a blow-dryer, be sure to hold this 5 to 6 inches away, use a low setting, and only do this after you have sprayed the coat with a leave-in (next step). 

11) For medium to long coats, you will want to comb the damp hairs, using light spritzes of your chosen leave-in coat conditioner spray.

For shorter puppy coats, wet your hands with your chosen leave-in coat spray and scrunch the hairs, making sure to get the tips. 

If you are not happy with your current leave-in spritz, you may wish to try Chris Christensen Ice on Ice Leave-in Conditioner; it is a really great coat-spray that works particularly well with silky coats. In addition, it contains a sunscreen which is a huge bonus year-round for dogs with white coats.
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