What to Do When Your Dog Hates Taking a Bath
by Jessi Larson
Oh, bath time. It can be such a struggle with dogs.
And why is it that some dogs love jumping into the water and will gladly swim in a lake or romp around in ponds and puddles, but are absolutely terrified of getting into a bathtub?
Toby hated baths as a puppy. He would sit down and refuse to take one step closer. And when you’d grab his collar to coax him in, he’d pull back with all his might.
But over time, he slowly warmed up to the idea, and bath time became a breeze. However, for whatever reason, he has started to regress and is now a stubborn pill when I try to give him a bath. And at 110 pounds, this can be troublesome. It takes both my husband and me to do the job. (After we both work on physically getting him in, I do the job of cleaning while Kyle holds him gently and reassures him it’ll be OK.)
This whole process is exhausting, that’s for sure. So what can you do to make bath time easier for determined dogs? Here are the best tips I’ve found.
1. Pair with something they enjoy
According to Vetstreet, bath time can be much more enjoyable if it includes something your dog likes, like their favorite treat or the chance to play with their favorite toy afterward. This will give them a positive connotation of the event.
We’ve started using treats to get Toby into the tub and rewarding him with a Bully Stick afterward, and that does seem to help.
2. Use warm water (but not too hot)
Definitely monitor the temperature of the water at all times. Cold water can shock your dog’s system and send them into a panic. On the flip side, hot water can burn their poor little bodies.
A nice warm temperature will be much more tolerable and perhaps could even be relaxing.
3. Watch the water flow
Another factor is water flow. Dousing your dog with water, especially in their face, is scary! A better alternative, according to Vetstreet, is to sponge them off with a washrag, use a shower attachment or grab a pitcher or small bucket.
Also, it helps to hold your dog’s chin up at an angle so the water doesn’t get in their eyes and nose. As a rule of thumb, your pup’s nose should be in the air and the highest point of their body during bath time.
4. Tire them out
If your dog is pooped out, they’ll have less energy to fight back when you try to get them in the tub. Depending on your dog, it could be a long walk beforehand, a trip to the dog park or a vigorous game of fetch – whatever works best for your pooch.
5. Don’t rush tub time
People have the tendency to want to rush through the bathing process. (Guilty as charged.) After all, it’s a sloppy, demanding job and really not all that fun. Also, you’ve got things to do. But, as the great Cesar Millan notes, dogs pick up on our energy, and if you’re rushed and frantic, they’ll get hyper and excited, too.
The best thing you can do is stay calm, cool and collected. This will help ease your pup’s fears.
6. Be positive and make it fun
Speaking of your attitude, another great tip is to make sure you stay positive and upbeat. Again, this will help ease your dog into things. If you’re happy and having fun, there’s a better chance they will be, too!
Another plus: With a happy attitude, your dog will have a more positive connotation with bath time and see it as a good thing. So rather than getting frustrated and angry, try to channel that into a more positive response.
7. Buy a stability mat
Water and a squirrelly dog don’t exactly mix. If they’re anxious and trying to escape, there’s a good chance they could slip on the slick surface of the bathtub itself or on the floor when they step out.
This is scary for dogs, and even worse, could lead to a wipeout.
So, to provide your dog with a steady safe environment, we recommend buying a stability mat for inside the tub. This makes it much easier for them to get a firm grip and feel safe.
Also, check out floor mat options for when they leave the bath. If they have a steady surface, there’s a greater chance they’ll hang out and allow you to dry them afterward. (Fingers crossed!)