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I consider myself very fortunate to have short-haired dogs. When Boxers are your passion, you really don’t have to worry all that much about grooming, and you pretty much never have to bathe them, unless of course they roll in something disgusting. Which is what my big sweet doofus, Leroy, did last week.
I don’t know where he found it, since he’s not allowed to roam. He has the full run of a huge back yard, though. I can only assume that something ventured into the yard to take its last breath, and sort of stayed there for a while, since Leroy most definitely smelled of carrion.
Well, if you’ve never had the pleasure of coming across a long-dead animal, perhaps you’ve had a freezer fail and not discovered it for a couple of weeks? It’s something like that. As meat breaks down, it reeks to the high heavens, and also takes on a very greasy quality, which is extremely difficult to wash away.
Obviously, Leroy needed a bath. I didn’t want to wash him in the house, since I figured the bathtub cleanup afterward would be a horrendous job. So, I hauled out an old metal washtub, and filled it up in the yard, using the hose and some hot water that I carried out from the house. That was the easy part of the job. The hard part was coaxing Leroy into the tub.
Not being accustomed to baths, Leroy was resistant, to say the least. I tried coaxing him, offering treats, talking in that annoying voice that people use when speaking to dogs and children. You know, your voice goes up a couple of octaves, and you’re going, “Come on sweetie! Who’s a good boy?Hmmmm? Who’s a good boy? Leroy is; oh, yes, he is! Come on, baby, into the tub, him will just love him’s bath, yes him will!”
Well, no. Leroy wasn’t going to love him’s bath at all. So, finally, still being pretty strong thanks to clean country living and also thanks to outweighing Leroy by a fair bit, I manhandled him into the tub. The bath itself went pretty smoothly, once Leroy got it into his big sweet doofus head that he wasn’t going to die, and that I was going to look after him. It took several applications of shampoo, and lots of rinsing, but finally I got the nasty greasy stuff and the carrion stench gone.
Then all hell broke loose.
Leroy went completely nuts, and I finally came to understand what other dog people are talking about when they refer to the “zoomies.” Other people call it the “rips,” and some also use the term FRAPS, which stands for “frantic random activity periods.” Whatever you choose to call it, it basically means the same thing – the dog goes crazy after a bath. Why does this happen? What’s so different about those moments immediately following a bath that make our dogs act as if they’ve gone temporarily insane?
There’s actually no single answer – usually, it’s a combination of things, as follows:
One reason why a dog might go crazy after a bath is simply that he’s so very happy that it’s over! The dog has built up a fair level of stress during the bath, and it needs to be dissipated. Dogs are funny creatures, and sometimes I think they have the memory of a goldfish – at least I’m sure Leroy does.
What he was doing was, in essence, forgetting that I was the horrible person that put him into the tub in the first place. Nope, I was the hero who freed him! His expression of pure, boundless joy was probably largely rooted in his belief that I’d saved him, and all the bouncing, running and rolling was his way of saying, “You rescued me, and I’m the luckiest dog in the whole world to have such a wonderful human, and I just love you so much!”
Basically, when a dog is finally out of the bath, if he generally dislikes baths, he feels free, and he experiences an adrenaline rush. You’ve probably felt the same thing from time to time – like when you exit the office after a really hard day at work. You know that feeling of excitement as you exit the building and you’re heading for your car? That’s adrenaline. Or you’ve just done something that really scared you (maybe ridden a roller coaster, gone skydiving, or done something else that you just wanted to cross off your “bucket list”), and once it’s over and done with, you feel such a sense of exhilaration! Adrenaline again.
That’s how your dog feels when he’s out of that horrible bath.
Of course, there are other reasons besides relief and gratitude that can cause your dog to go nuts post-bath.
Dogs have such an incredible sense of smell – it’s smell, more than eyesight, that causes your dog to recognize you, other humans, and other dogs that he knows. When you take away his own smell, he probably wonders, “What happened to me? Am I still here?” so he goes looking for places that smell “right” to him in order to get his scent back. That’s why dogs are so prone to rolling after a bath. Shampoo doesn’t smell like him, so he goes looking for places in the yard or the house where his scent lingers, and rolls in an attempt to get it back.
Sometimes, dogs also want to mask their scent, and that’s why they roll in disgusting things. This goes back to their ancestral days, when rolling in something that would mask their scent made it easier for dogs to sneak up on potential prey. Rolling was also a way of “carrying” information back to the pack – a way of letting pack members know where they’d been, and what they’d experienced.
If rolling is a problem after you bathe your dog, sometimes it’s helpful to provide him with a strong scent that’s pleasant to you, in order to prevent him from rolling in something that’s less pleasing. You don’t have to go nuts buying expensive doggie perfumes – a spritz of your favorite cologne or aftershave will do the job just as well. Dogs really don’t care what kind of scent you use, as long as it’s strong. That’s why groomers use perfume – often, we think it’s just a way of pampering little “foo foo” dogs, but there’s much more to it than that. People aren’t generally all that pleased when they get a dog home from the groomer, and he immediately goes looking for something revolting, and perfuming the dog helps to prevent this.
I’m not sure what the purpose of those silly little bows in the ears might be, though.
It can be very difficult to get your dog completely dry after a bath, no matter how many towels you use. Groomers use professional dryers, but most of us who look after our own bathing and grooming are disinclined to spend a small fortune on something that might not be used all that often. So, we dry our dogs off the best way we can, and then we put up with frantic running, and of course the inevitable shake – which isn’t too horrible when you have a short-haired dog like Leroy, but still isn’t something that most dog owners enjoy experiencing.
You’ve probably noticed that your dog shakes vigorously any time that he gets wet – not just post-bath. If he goes for a swim, or comes in out of the rain, you can expect that he’ll shake. It’s just his way of drying off. Some dogs will also rub up against upholstered furniture in an effort to get dry, or squirm, cat-like, against your legs. It’s natural behavior.
Most dogs really don’t like baths all that much. Usually, though, they’ll tolerate them, because they trust us and know that we won’t let them come to harm. When animals are stressed (and humans too, for that matter), they choose between one of two ways of dealing with it – fight or flight.
Post-bath, there’s really nothing to fight – your dog isn’t going to be mad at you for putting him through the ordeal, so he really has nowhere to focus a “fight” response. The alternative, then, is flight – zooming around the yard, blowing off stress.
You’ve probably been in situations, too, where “fight” wasn’t much of an option. So, you wait for the situation to be over, and then you find that you have a whole lot of energy that you need to expend. Maybe you’ve had a conflict with your horrible, manipulative, critical boss. You can’t exactly punch him in the nose (at least not if you want to keep your job), so after work you go to the gym for a vigorous workout, hit the tennis court and whack a few balls around, or maybe you just go home, crank up your stereo and sing along to Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It.” These are your “flight” responses when “fight” isn’t going to work.
Your dog needs to blow off energy in the same way, and that’s why he gets the “zoomies.”
If you notice that your dog isn’t shaking his whole body so much as he’s tossing his head around, it’s possible that the reason he’s crazy after his bath is simply that he has water in his ears. Another sign that this could be the case is if he buries his head in the towels that you’re using to dry him with, or rubs his head against the ground or against furniture. He’s just trying to get the water out. This is often a problem with dogs that have upright ears, so post-bath, pay close attention to your dog’s ears, wiping them out gently with a dry towel.
Leroy’s bath probably didn’t go any better or any worse than most dog bathing experiences, except for the need of repeated applications of shampoo to get all that greasy carrion off him. And even though I did say that all hell broke loose, I doubt if Leroy’s post-bath reaction was any worse than that of any other dog. In fact, if I’m completely honest, I found his antics pretty cute.
I hope I won’t have to bathe Leroy again any time soon, because it was a bit of a job, but watching my dog go crazy after his bath certainly made me smile.Of course, I ended up soaked from head to toe, and had to toss my drenched clothes in the water and have my own bath.
How does your dog react after a bath? I’m thinking he’s probably equally prone to the “zoomies.” Do you have any tips to share with the rest of us as to how to make bath time easier and less stressful for your dog? Any funny stories about things that caused your dog to need a bath, or things he did post-bath? Leave a comment!