How to Bathe a Dog That Bites

Hard
20 - 40 Minutes
1 Month

Introduction

Do you have a dog that bites because he hates being bathed? Or maybe a dog that bites period, and bath time is no different. 

Since you need to work in close proximity to a dog when bathing, a dog that bites is quite the hazard! Sometimes guard or working dogs that are not used to being handled are likely to bite when being handled in an unfamiliar situation like a bath. Also, a rescue dog that requires bathing but has had a traumatic past and bites out of fear and lack of handling can be difficult to bathe. Another situation can occur when health problems, especially painful orthopedic conditions, suddenly make bathing uncomfortable and results in a dog that bites during bathing. Still, other dogs just hate water, hate baths and--if you are not the dog’s owner, as may be the case if you are a professional groomer-- may hate you!  

What to do?  If the dog is your dog, and you need to be able to bathe him in the future, working to get the dog's behavior to change during bathing will be your first choice. In the meantime, or if it is a “one-off” situation, there are steps and equipment that can be used to handle a dog that bites when you bathe it.

Dog's Perspective

A dog that bites during a bath is probably acting out of a false sense of self-preservation. Maybe he does not like being picked up;  many working and guard dogs are not familiar with being handled. Perhaps he is frightened or does not like being contained in a tub, or the sights and sounds of the water. An injured dog may be experiencing pain and feel insecure in a slippery bathtub. Some dogs hate the feeling of being wet, others are just unfamiliar with the whole experience and afraid you are going to hurt them. Whatever your dog's reason for trying to bite when he is bathed, mitigating the risk to you and any assistants who are bathing the dog and working to make the dog comfortable will make the process a whole lot safer for everyone.

The Restrain Method

Effective
0 Votes
Shampoo
Towel
Step
1
Check with vet
Check with your veterinarian to determine if your dog has a medical condition that is causing pain or discomfort resulting in him biting while being bathed. Address the condition if possible. Also, you can discuss with your veterinarian using a mild sedation to make your dog easier to handle and reduce biting behavior.
Step
2
Be prepared
Exercise your dog prior to bathing so that excess energy is burned off. This will make your dog less likely to bite. Have supplies handy to keep bath time as short as possible.
Step
3
Use an assistant
Use an assistant to help you handle your dog. Assistants should keep the dog’s face away from where you are working to avoid bites, distract your dog from aggressive behavior, and reward calm complaint behavior. Have your assistant hold the dog with their arm under and around the dog's neck, holding the head pointing over their shoulder away from their face. Using thick waterproof gloves may also be advisable for you and any assistants.
Step
4
Use leash
Use a leash or restraint in the bathtub to help control the dog and their head.
Step
5
Use a muzzle
Consider using a muzzle to protect yourself and other handlers from being bitten. Practice using the muzzle prior to bathing so the dog is used to it and does not just associate the muzzle with bathing.
Recommend grooming method?

The Acclimatize Method

Effective
0 Votes
Shampoo
Towel
Step
1
Introduce area
If you need to bathe a dog that bites, get the dog used to the bath area first by providing exposure and feeding him in the area prior to bathing. Let the dog investigate the area.
Step
2
Get used to water
Run the water with the dog out of the bath. Continue to let the dog get used to sight and sound of water.
Step
3
Carefully put in tub
Slowly put the dog in the tub, being careful when handling and lifting the dog to restrain his head in the crook of your arm with his face pointing away from you. Use a muzzle if necessary or throw treats in the tub if dog will jump into the tub after them.
Step
4
Aim water low
Run the water pointed at the dog's feet before wetting him down until the dog is used to this and does not show signs of aggression. Run a few inches of water in the bath and add a floating toy that he can chew on to distract the dog so he is less apt to chew on you!
Step
5
Work confidently
Slowly wet dog, keeping water out of his face; point water back from neck. To wash the face of a dog that bites, secure his face with a comb in his fur and wipe his face quickly but gently with a facecloth. Shampoo, rinse and dry with caution. Use an assistant to restrain the dog's head away from you, if available. Work gently but confidently, do not show fear or back off from attempts to bite. Instead, use a long handled brush or comb to push the dogs head away from bite attempts.
Recommend grooming method?

Caution & Considerations

  • Use safety equipment such as restraints, or a muzzle if warranted, to handle a dog that bites during bathing.
  • Always check with a dog that suddenly starts biting, when it did not before, that a medical condition is not responsible for a sudden change in behavior.
  • Have an assistant restrain the dog by holding the dog's face away from themselves, and you, in the crook of their arm.
  • Avoid getting water or shampoo in the dog's eyes.
  • Use long-handled implements such as combs and brushes to ward off bite attempts and by hooking a comb in a dog's facial hair--carefully, so it does not become entangled--to direct their face away from you.

Conclusion

A dog that bites when bathing can be a real challenge. If you need to bathe such a dog, taking precautions with equipment, such as a muzzle, and using an assistant can be useful. If you will frequently be bathing the dog, taking the time to acclimatize the dog to the bathing process will be well worth your while so that they are more comfortable with it in the future, and the dog is less likely to bite. Be careful out there!

Success Stories and Grooming Questions

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