Your adventurous pup is no stranger to water. He’ll play in puddles, dive in the lake and snap at the garden hose. But, when it comes to bath time, forget about it! Your once-fearless fido avoids the tub like the plague. New owners and doggy experts alike often face this problem, but don’t worry! We’re here to help with some simple tricks to make bath time easier for both of you.
Where to start
Before you do anything, choose where you’re going to bathe your dog and stick to that location. Teaching your dog to like baths relies on conditioning. Too many stimuli can decrease the strength of your dog’s response, so choose a location that’s easily accessible to you and your dog. This can be your tub, your bathroom or kitchen sink, or a kiddie pool in the yard. Wherever you choose is fine as long as you only use that space. Be sure that it’s a space that you can keep all of your bathing and grooming gear is close by (dog shampoo, towels, etc).
Condition your dog to enjoy being in the bath space on a day when you are not bathing him. Sit in the space and call your dog. When he comes to you, reward him with a high reward treat. Give him plenty of praise and attention, then leave the space. Keep this up for a while until he gets excited to go into the space on his own. Then, continue reinforcing his positive feelings for the space by rewarding him when he gets into the tub, sink or kiddie pool, either on his own or with your help. Eventually, you can turn on the water, let it run, and turn it off before rewarding your dog again. Once your dog is comfortable with the water, you can actually begin the bath. Remember to keep giving him treats!
Bath time can be a time of high anxiety and fear for many dogs. Different noises and feeling surround them that they aren’t used to. Let’s go over what to keep in mind during the bathing process to ensure that it continues to be a positive experience.
- If you’re stressed, your dog is stressed. Dogs feed off of our emotions and will respond in the same manner. Don’t use an apologetic tone while you bathe your dog. Instead, talk to him like you normally would. This helps him to relax and feel safer. Also avoid quick movements that might startle your dog. Go slow and massage the shampoo and water into his fur, rather than scrubbing (p.s. dogs enjoy massages so if done properly, they can learn to love the bath!)
- Dogs don’t like slippery surfaces. If he feels unstable, your dog will panic and flail, making it difficult for you to bathe him. Use a non-slip mat or towel to give him something to grip onto.
- Loud, running water can be scary! If your dog hates the sound of the tap or hose, fill the tub, sink or pool before you begin. Use water that’s warm, but not too hot.
- You dog can get overwhelmed. Too many sights and smells can distract and distress your dog. Keep him busy with a smear of peanut butter or other spreadable treat on the wall.
- Know where to put shampoo and where to avoid. Water in the ears, burning eyes, and pain can cause your dog to hate baths forever! If your dog is young, you can avoid this by never shampooing your dog’s head and making sure the soapy water runs away from his eyes, not into them. Place cotton balls in his ears to prevent water from getting in them, and always dry them thoroughly just in case, as water in the ears can cause infection.
For older dogs who may have had prior bath time trauma, spend a little extra time conditioning them to the bathing space and the products you’re going to use. Keep plenty of treats on-hand while you’re bathing him to reward for good behavior. Bathing your dog doesn’t have to be a nightmare. With these helpful hints, your furry adventurer will love getting clean as much as he loves getting dirty.