Most dog owners know the dread of bath time approaching. Either your dog seems miserable in the bath, they do everything in their power to escape the tub or both. However, there’s no way around the fact that all dogs need to be bathed regularly. If they don’t, they’ll become a smelly mess. Certain breeds may even get terribly matted if they go long enough without proper baths and brushing. Bath time doesn’t have to be a miserable chore to suffer through. There are numerous ways that you can make bath time easier and more enjoyable for you and your dog.
Teach Them That the Tub is a Positive Place
During days when you’re not planning on giving your dog a bath, it’s a good idea to continuously train them that the tub is a positive place. Giving positive reinforcement during bath time is only half the battle. To help them learn that the bathtub is a positive place, put their favorite toy or a treat in the tub every day. They should be able to sniff it out, but give them some help if they’re not understanding. You can also toss a toy into the tub a few times during a game of fetch.
Have you ever gotten your dog into the tub only to find that you’re almost out of shampoo, or you forgot to have a towel nearby? Being ill-prepared for a bath makes bath time almost as frustrating for your dog as it is for you. Before you even turn on the faucet, get everything in order. Ensure that you have plenty of shampoo on hand. Put a towel on the floor to keep the floor from getting soaking wet. Have one or two towels right by the tub. If there is bedding or blankets in your dog’s crate, now is a perfect time to get those into the washing machine.
Brush Before the Bath
While you’re preparing everything for the bath, it’s a good idea to get the brush out. Brushing before a bath can help mats from forming, and it can make the scrubbing process easier. If your dog enjoys a nice brushing, it can also be a great help in relaxing your dog before bath time comes.
Go for a Walk Before Bath Time
Just like humans, dogs love to enjoy a nice rinse after some exercise. Following up a walk with a dip in a tub will be much more welcome to your dog than if you just randomly gave them a bath. In addition, going for a walk before a bath will allow you to put off letting them out afterward. This will give them time to dry and will postpone them going out and dirtying themselves up again.
Stop Them from Slipping and Sliding
Many dogs hate bathtubs because it’s easy for them to slip and slide. Just like some dogs avoid tile or laminate floors for fears of falling, some dogs want to avoid bathtubs for the same reason. In order to prevent slipping and sliding and to help instill a feeling of safety in the tub, install sticky bathtub grips on the bottom of your tub. You can also use a bath mat or place a towel at the bottom of the tub.
Fill the Tub Before Putting the Dog In
Many dogs hate being right next to the sound of the rushing water coming out of the faucet. While some dogs may grow to be wary of the sound as a signal of a bath, filling the tub before putting your dog in for a bath will make the overall experience a bit less scary or anxious for them.
Use Low Water Pressure During the Rinse
There’s no avoiding the need for a rinse, which means your dog will inevitably have to deal with the sounds of the faucet. However, this does not need to be frightening. Keep the water pressure as low as you can while still being able to properly rinse your dog in a reasonable amount of time. It’s a good idea to use a detachable showerhead with a gentle spray option. The soft flow of water will make it easier for you to rinse your dog and will be much more relaxing for them. If you have one, put it on by default instead of letting the faucet run firs
Lead Them Into the Tub Kindly and Offer Rewards
When you finally reach the tub, you’re probably prepared for that familiar wresting contest to pick up your dog and set them in the tub. You’re probably also prepared to act as a human wall to prevent any and all attempts of your dog escaping from the tub. This common routine only serves to make your dog extremely anxious, scared and agitated before the bath even begins, and it also doesn’t do any favors for your patience or your back.
Instead of going through this struggle, gently lead your dog to the tub with a leash or by their collar. Don’t pull or drag them over. Let them get as close as they feel comfortable then coax them the rest of the way with toys or treats. Always keep your voice happy and calm. If you have another dog that is used to the tub and gets in and out on their own, have them demonstrate. If you don’t have one, many people find it effective to step in the tub and act as the example themselves. It continues to prompt your dog to follow you further and shows them that the bath isn’t scary. Just be careful on your way out since your dog might also follow you then.
For dogs that are elderly, have limited mobility or still have difficulty braving the hop into the tub, you may want to invest in no-slip tub steps.
Use Soft Scrubbing Motions
Your dog may need a good scrubbing, but working in that shampoo can be very uncomfortable for dogs. Softly work in the shampoo in a petting motion with your fingers splayed out over your dog’s coat. To work up a good lather, start lightly scrubbing the fur in a manner similar to when you might scratch their ears or bellies. Always go with the fur instead of against it. Using familiar petting motions on their heads while scrubbing will help reinforce the bath as a positive experience.
Talk to Your Dog in Kind and Positive Voice
Throughout the bath, continuously reassure your dog that they’re being good and speak in a gentle positive tone. This will help keep your dog calm and relaxed as they get cleaned.
Immediately Get Them Warmed Up
It’s not just the bath itself that can be off-putting. Many dogs will find baths to be unpleasant if they have to deal with hours of chilliness afterward. To help avoid this, use a hair dryer on low with medium heat to dry your dog after a bath. If you can’t do this, get them into their crate and have it lined with a few dry towels and blankets. For small dogs and puppies, it’s a good idea to wrap them up in a fluffy towel and hold them on the couch for a little while. Your body heat and comforting embrace will ease them through the chill.
A dog’s bath time has long since been a nightmare for both dogs and dog owners, but it doesn’t have to be something to dread. As long as you follow these steps, your dog’s bath time will be easier, faster and maybe even fun.