Bath time is always an interesting time in the home of any dog owner. Some dogs, like my Janice, will handle the water like it’s no big deal. They get in, they stand still, and then they get out. Sure, they may spray you and the walls with that shake-off, but at least they’re clean. Other dogs, though, make bath time something like a cross between gymnastics class and herding cats.
My dog Leroy isn’t fond of baths at all. He doesn’t like to let me bathe him in the house and really isn’t fond of baths outside either. His idea of getting clean is to hop in a lake and call it a day. But he, like all dogs, needs a bath from time to time. When I mention that Leroy gives me trouble on bath days, I often hear friends saying the same thing about their dogs. They talk about how they can barely lift their dog off the ground to get them in the tub when they don’t want a bath, or how their dogs flee the scene with shampoo bubbles everywhere, covering the house in slippery soap. I’ve had all of that happen to me.
Last update on 2019-01-18 at 14:04 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
Getting your dog to accept bath time can be tough, especially if they are an older dog that was never trained to sit still for a bath. I had to go through a lot of trial and error with Leroy, and it took every ounce of patience I had. These seven tips helped me figure out how to make the process a little bit easier, so hopefully, they will give you some solutions as well.
A slick bathtub and dog paws just don’t mix. Where we people have flat feet that are good for just balancing on a surface, dogs have pads with long nails, meant to dig into the earth and grip firmly. They use that grip to move around and balance, and when they are on a totally slick, solid surface that has no natural way for them to grip, they feel unsteady and unsafe.
Once I figured out that Leroy was having a hard time standing upright in the bathtub due to this fact, I got him a bathing mat. This is basically just a rug you put down in your bathtub that has a porous surface where dog paws can grip. They are made out of a material that is textured and doesn’t get slick when wet, so dogs can easily stand in a natural way. The one I purchased can also be tossed into the washing machine, so it doesn’t have bacteria growing on it. Another upside of this tool is that it keeps the bathtub safer from scratches – maybe not a big deal for fiberglass tubs, but if you have an old porcelain clawfoot, you’ll thank me.
One thing that many homeowners don’t think about is the fact that their dog doesn’t usually get handled the way they do in the bath. You probably pet your dog’s head often, but how often do you scrub dirt out of their tail? With all the unfamiliar touching going on, dogs can get uncomfortable. It’s easy to fix this, however – just spend some time outside of bath time handling your dog’s paws and tail. Play games like tag or “get the paw” to help your dog be comfortable with this.
Doing this isn’t only useful for baths. It can also make doing checkups or grooming easier as well. It does take some time to get a dog used to this kind of touching, but it can save you a lot of trouble in the future.
Dogs like to be comfortable just like we do. Would you want to take an ice cold shower or one that is burning hot? It can be hard to figure out what feels good to your dog, so do a little experimenting. Most dogs will be fine with warm water that you would use for a baby’s bath. But if they have been playing outside in the heat all day, they may like a cool bath. If your dog is cold from the outdoors, or if they are a tiny dog that loses body heat quickly, they might want a warmer bath.
One great way to regulate temperature without having to stick your hand in the water over and over is to get yourself a shower head with a thermostat built in – I like this one by YOO.MEE. Once you figure out what kind of temperatures your pet seems comfortable with, you can set the water to that every time. Learning what your pet likes will just take some trial and error. Shift the water temperature just a little when your dog is in the bath and see how they react. Find a temperature that they don’t seem to be as agitated by and stick with it.
A shower head can be a scary thing for a dog. A dog that is pretty small or young may feel like the shower pressure is too harsh. Any dog might find the noise frightening, and the way the shower head is just thrust towards them could be terrifying. Do you notice that it’s easy at first to get your dog in the bath, but they want to run the moment you turn on the water? In that case, the shower head may be the problem. You can use other things to clean them in the bath besides the shower head.
I find that products made for small children and babies can be beneficial here. Small kids are also often frightened by shower heads, and babies can’t have a shower blasting on them. Try using one of these soft, moldable pitchers on your dog. When you fill it with water, you press it to your dog’s side and pour water out. The pitcher forms the shape of the surface it’s pressed against, which gives you more control – they are made to keep water out of a child’s face when you wash their hair. If you don’t need to control where the water goes so much, just using a cup to pour water over them could be better than the shower head.
If you want something specifically for a dog, try this pet shower sprayer, which gives you more control over shower pressure for your dog’s showers. You can use the shower on its standard pressure setting to get caked-on mud off your dog’s back or belly, and then apply the lighter pressure setting to deal with the face, paws, tail, and other areas where your dog isn’t fond of baths.
I know it’s a big pain to have your dog shake water all over the house. But there’s a trend among many dog owners that I don’t understand: They blow dry their dog’s hair! Imagine someone coming at you with a strange contraption that blows very hot air all over you, and you can’t move or get the heat to move when it gets to be too much in one spot. This is how dogs feel with a blow dryer.
The loud noise may not be great for a dog either. It’s a good idea to consider spending more time with a towel and letting the air dryer go. Consider getting a very absorbent towel, like the Bone Dry pet bath towel if you are really concerned about water and dog smell getting on your home. Keep in mind that dogs can’t tell you when they are getting too hot, and that’s why blow drying their hair can be dangerous.
Just like you have to teach your dog to enjoy following commands with treats and rewards, you also have to teach them to enjoy bath time. You can start by trying to make the bath more fun, by giving them toys that are made for water like the ChuckIt! Amphibious Toy. They’ll be having fun playing with the toy while you get the bathing done.
Consider that the bathroom is an unfamiliar place for a lot of dogs. They don’t spend time there playing with you. Next time you are cleaning the tub, consider inviting your dog with you and give them tons of attention and praise while you clean. They’ll start to see that the bathroom is another place to earn attention, and that could make them more comfortable. You may need to have a special treat that you only give out when they join you in the bathroom. This could help them think of this place as a special place with good memories attached, and that will make it easier to get them into the tub for a bath.
The last way to conquer bath time is to get prepared before bath time. Don’t wait for your dog to show up – have everything you need like shampoo, a towel, or anything else, all ready to go. That way if your dog is in the tub, you can start right away and avoid them running off while you have to go grab the dog shampoo.
So you have a bath mat in the tub, a cup to pour water on them, some good dog shampoo, maybe some toys or treats ready to go, and a towel within reach so that you can dry them off before they shake. Great! Now line it all up so that it’s easy to use in the moment. Once your dog is in the bath, get started right away to prevent them from escaping.
The things above are ways that I conquered Leroy’s distaste for baths, for the most part. I was able to get him to at least tolerate it, if not enjoy it a single bit. But those are not the only tips I ever tried for bath time with him, and I have some other nuggets of wisdom to share. Here are a few more tips to make bath time a bit easier.
When you are first training a dog to enjoy a bath, consider having them sit in the dry bath once a day for a few days before their bath time. This can help them get used to the place before there is the added stress of the water and being handled. Add some water after the first few days so they can get used to that.
Another good tip is to avoid baths if your dog has recently had some anxiety. If they just came back from the vet, or if there was recently a thunderstorm that made them nervous, just hold off if you can. It’s best to approach bath time with a calm dog.
Also, consider washing their face with just a warm, damp cloth. Don’t spray or pour water onto their face. Just wipe around the eyes and mouth, to get rid of any debris or stain on the fur. Make sure you check that the ears and any skin folds are dry after a bath – leaving these wet can cause irritation, infection, and other medical issues.
Last update on 2019-01-18 at 14:04 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
As I said, I did manage to get my dog Leroy used to the water – but it’s still a challenge from time to time. I’ve tried all those tricks where you put peanut butter on the shower wall so they can lick it while you bathe, but honestly, I think that’s just adding needless calories to his diet. The best method, in my opinion, is to work with your dog patiently and find some ways to make the experience more comfortable. The best outcome is where your dog will let a groomer work with them in the future – but as long as you can bathe your dog without a wrestling match, I’d call that a win!