How to Bathe a Dog That Bites

20 - 40 Minutes
1 Month


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.

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.


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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