You’ve prepped everything for your dogs bath. Dog shampoo? Check! Towels? Check! Wait, where is your dog? You wander around the house looking…Uh oh, they are cowering behind the couch hoping you don’t find them… It doesn’t need to be like that! There are ways to help if your dog hates the bath.
It’s not uncommon for dogs to hate bath time, but some small changes can make bath time more enjoyable for both of you!
In this post we’ll cover:
- Why your dog might hate bath time
- What you should do BEFORE bath time if your dog already hates the bath
- How to make bath time more enjoyable for your dog
Why does my dog hate the bath?
A hatred of bath time can seem confusing to dog owners. Perhaps your dog loves splashing in puddles and happily swims in the river, yet they become a shaking, tail-tucked pooch at bath time. If it’s not water that they hate, what is it?!
There can be many reasons your dog may hate baths! It may just be loss of control or the unfamiliarity of it, but they could have also (unknowingly to you) made a negative association with bath time.
Dogs quickly make associations between things. This is helpful for training, but may have caused their fear in the tub. One bad event such as uncomfortably hot or cold water, slipping in the tub, getting sprayed in the face, overly scented dog shampoo, scary sounds, or rough handling can all cause dogs to associate bath time with unpleasant feelings.
If they already hate bath time, is there anything you can do?
What you should do before bath time if your dog hates the bath:
There’s no way to know for sure what made your dog hate the bath, but the good news is you can actually reprogram how they feel about it. It just takes a bit of time & commitment.
Dogs build associations easily, so use that to your advantage!
If your dog already dislikes the bath (or if you have a new puppy that hasn’t had a bath yet!), start working on positive associations with the bath long before their actual bath day.
How do you do that?
Make the bathroom & bath tub a place where good things happen!
Progressively expose your dog to positive times around the bath tub. Make sure you go slowly and back off if you see signs of stress (yawning, panting, lip licking, whining, rigid posture, whale eye).
Perhaps the first day you work on getting them to voluntarily come to the bathroom with you. Offer treats and praise to start changing their emotional response to the bathroom. Eventually the bathroom should seems like the fun place treats happen, and your dog should happily follow you there.
Once they’re comfortable with the room slowly progress closer to the tub and then into a dry tub. Go at an exposure pace that your dog is comfortable with! Work on building comfort to the sound of running water without them touching it! Eventually you can gradually get your dog used to the bathing process by getting their feet wet, then their legs, then eventually a full bath.
Using desensitization and counter-conditioning to change your dogs emotional response to bath time will not happen overnight, but with time & consistency you can make it something they’re ok with.
How to make bath time more enjoyable for your dog:
You’ve worked hard to get your dog used to entering the bath, now it’s time to make sure that you keep the bath as positive as possible! There are a few easily avoidable bath time mistakes.
Have you ever slipped in the shower? It’s a terrifying feeling! For some dogs, the sensory feedback of a slippery bathtub makes the whole experience awful. This can easily be fixed by putting a mat or towel down for them to stand on. I get a towel wet and put it down before my dog goes in the tub so that she has something to grip.
Keep the water warm
Most dogs do not like water that is either too cold or too hot. Our normal shower temperature is not one that a dog would enjoy!
Make sure you’re setting the temperature for your dog, not for yourself. Lukewarm is usually perfect, but pay attention to what your dog responds to.
Consider using a bucket rather than a sprayer
Sound sensitivity varies from dog to dog, but some dogs find the sound of running water scary. If your dog seems nervous about it, try pre-filling some buckets with water and using those rather than running water.
Avoid strong smells
Dogs noses are incredibly powerful. There’s a reason we use dogs to sniff out bombs, drugs, and more! Did you know that they can detect a single drop of a substance in a volume the size of 20 Olympic swimming pools?? It’s incredible!
It may also mean that the lavender & mint shampoo that you think smells amazing is WAY too strongly scented for your dog.
Use an unscented dog shampoo!
Avoid their face
Would you enjoy getting sprayed in the face/eyes with water or shampoo? No? Either does your dog!
Be careful around sensitive areas like the face. Rather than using a sprayer or bucket, try a wet face cloth to clean these areas instead.
Give them something else to focus on
Food is highly motivating for many dogs. There’s no reason you can’t use it in the bath too! I add peanut butter and crumbled dog treats to a lick mat, then freeze it for bath time so that it lasts longer.
As you can see in this video, it keeps my dog focused for the entire bath. After the bath I just pop it into the dishwasher. No mess!
Make sure you have the right attitude at bath time
If you’re stressed, rushed, or unhappy during bath time your dog is going to pick up on your energy. Save the bath for a time that you are more relaxed! This will result in a better experience for both you & your dog.
Remember- if your dog hates the bath right now, it does not need to stay that way!
Making bath time enjoyable for you dog may take some work, but it’s worth it. With time, commitment, and patience baths can become a more enjoyable event for both of you!
Happy training 🙂
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