Blow drying a dog after a bath

Dog groomers do it, but can you blow dry a dog at home? Is it safe, and should dog groomers be doing it in the first place? The short answer is yes to all of those questions. But there’s more to it than just turning on the blow dryer and pointing it in the dog’s direction. Blow dryers designed for humans can reach high temperatures of around 140 degrees Fahrenheit.1 That’s more than enough heat to burn your pup if you’re not careful. So yes, you can use a blow dryer, but you need to take a couple of precautions and use a smart blow-drying technique.

Turn the Blow Dryer on Low Heat

Groomer blow drying a dog

First, put the blow dryer on the lowest heat setting possible. Your dog can’t tell you when he’s getting too warm. Unfortunately, he could yelp or nip in pain by the time you know the heat setting is too high. Check the air temperature on your hand every few minutes to make sure it’s still comfortable. A malfunctioning blow dryer could make your dog fearful of bathtime or the blow dryer.

Low heat settings also reduce the chances of over-drying the dog’s skin.2 Dry, itchy skin opens the door to skin problems down the road. For example, the dog may bite or scratch its itchy skin, creating a case of acute moist dermatitis, also known as a hot spot.3These painful sores get infected and require medicated ointments and time spent in the cone of shame to prevent further licking or scratching.

Keep the Blow Dryer Moving

That brings us to number two—keep the blow dryer moving.  When you’re blow-drying your own hair, you naturally move the blow dryer around to keep the heat from concentrating in one area. Again, your dog can’t tell you when the heat becomes too intense, so use the same moving technique to avoid keeping the heat focused on one area too long.

Sometimes it’s easiest to remember to move the blow dryer by following a consistent pattern every time you blow dry the dog. For example, start at the top/front and work your way down toward the back feet. As water runs down your dog’s body, the blow dryer will continue to push water off or evaporate it as you move toward the belly and paws.

Get the Right Equipment

dog hair dryer

You can use a blow dryer intended for humans or a dog blow dryer, although to be safe, it’s recommended to use a model designed for dogs. These blow dryers rely on airspeed rather than heat like your typical salon blow dryer. Dog blow dryers also help blow out shedding hair, so the dog doesn’t shed as much after the bath.

Dog hair dryers are portable with a long, flexible hose and a detachable nozzle. The long hose lets you keep the body of the vacuum in one place while you use the hose to move over and around the dog’s body. Most models include different nozzle types from narrow to flat, giving you options that may work better with your dog’s hair type.

These models also have low heat settings and variable airspeeds.  Variable airspeeds give you more control over noise levels. Many dogs are afraid of loud noises, and variable speeds let you alleviate his anxiety.4

How to Blow Dry Your Dog

Dog being blow dried and groomed

Blow-drying should start with a towel. When you’ve finished bathing your dog, put a large towel over his body. Squeeze his body one section at a time, soaking up the water with the towel. You don’t want to rub because the towel may cause the hair to tangle. Use the towel to remove water all the way down the legs and tail.

Now it’s time to pull out to the blow dryer. Introduce the blow dryer slowly the first time. Let your dog smell and look at it. Take a few steps away and turn it on so he can hear the motor and feel the air from a distance. Keep it on a low setting to reduce the noise.

The blow dryer should stay five to six inches away from the dog. Start at the top and work your way down. Avoid blow-drying directly into his eyes to prevent irritation. Be careful around the ears, moving the blow dryer further away so that the noise doesn’t startle the dog or damage his hearing.

A Dry Dog

As long as you use a blow dryer on a low heat setting and keep it moving, you can safely blow dry your dog. Your dog’s hair may still be slightly damp when you’re done, especially if you’re using a blow dryer with no heat. However, after a good shake, it shouldn’t take too long for his hair to fully dry. Once he is, he’ll be clean and ready to go.

  1. Hair Dryer. Encyclopedia.com. Updated May 14, 2018. Accessed March 28, 2021.
  2. Burke A. Dry Skin on Dogs: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment. Akc.org. Published May 19, 2016. Accessed March 28, 2021.
  3. Aufox EE, Frank LA, Grieco LF. Acute Moist Dermatitis. Brief.vet. Published September 2019. Accessed March 28, 2021.
  4. Overall, KL, Dunham AE, Frank D. Frequency of nonspecific clinical signs in dogs with separation anxiety, thunderstorm phobia, and noise phobia, alone or in combination.  Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. 2001; (219)4: 467-473. doi: 10.2460/javma.2001.219.467
Dr. Suzanne Harrington