How to Bathe a Dog That Hates Water

Hard
10 - 20 Minutes
1 Month

Introduction

Patsy is a poodle cross that hates the water. She will not go swimming with the family at the lake or on camping trips, and when bath time rolls around she makes herself scarce,  hiding under the bed and requiring her owners to drag her out and carry her to the bath. Her owners are surprised, since poodles are water dogs and Patsy should be naturally inclined to like water. What gives?  

A talk with Patsy’s previous owners reveals that when she was younger, Patsy had a skin condition that was aggravated by water. This may be the root cause of Patsy's water aversion. However, simply understanding why Patsy does not like water still doesn't help her owners at bath time to get her past her aversion. She still needs to get clean. There are several steps that Patsy's owners can take to bathe their water-hating dog with less stress and a few alternatives that may be useful as well.  

Dog's Perspective

Why do some dogs hate water?  It may be that the sound of rushing water from a shower or drain is frightening, or the feeling of having water dumped over them is uncomfortable. Your dog may have had a negative experience with water before, either from being immersed in water and being unable to swim. Many people mistakenly assume all dogs can swim and will toss their dog in deep water, expecting them to naturally swim, resulting in a near drowning. Your dog may have had water or soap get in his eyes, ears, nose or mouth previously, resulting in an unpleasant experience. Some dogs get itchy skin from being wet, especially if skin conditions or allergies are present. Sometimes long-haired dogs have a weighed down sensation when saturated and heavy wet hair pulls at their skin, which is uncomfortable. Or, your dog may have experienced water that was too hot or cold in previous bathing experiences. 

Any of these situations resulting in pain or discomfort to your dog from water could result in a dislike of water and being wet. Taking steps to mitigate repeating these situations and reassuring your dog that water will not cause him discomfort in the future will be key to getting your water hating dog to cooperate during bathing time.

The Mitigate Water Method

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Shampoo
Dryer
Towel
Step
1
Prepare
Exercise your dog first with a long run or play so that he is not full of energy, which can contribute to nervous behavior or a struggle. Put cotton balls in his ears to avoid getting water in the ear canals, which is unpleasant. If your dog is apt to bite you may want to consider using a muzzle. Get your dog used to wearing the muzzle so that he does not just associate its use with bath time.
Step
2
Expose to sound of water
Let your dog sit outside the bath while the water runs and provide praise and treats to create a positive association with the sound of running water for future baths.
Step
3
Distract
Put your dog in the tub and run water while providing your dog a chew toy to distract him. Reward him for tolerating running water. Practice this often until your dog is comfortable with the running water. Make sure water temperature is not too hot or cold. You can then begin to introduce running water into future bath times.
Step
4
Minimize water
Avoid using running water if your dog does not like the sound and feel. Instead, fill the bathtub a few inches and place your dog in it. Use a face cloth to gently wet down your dog, shampoo and rinse with a wet cloth or by scooping water with your hands or a small container.
Step
5
Dry well
Dry your dog well so that he does not remain damp, which can be uncomfortable. Dry with towel and blow dry on low setting until his coat is dry.
Recommend grooming method?

The Alternatives Method

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Slicker Brush
Pin Brush
Step
1
Brush
Brush your dog regularly so that he does not have excess hair and dirt that will make bathing take longer and be required more frequently. Regular brushing also helps to avoid mats and tangles forming during bathing.
Step
2
Dry shampoo
Use a dry shampoo as an alternative to bathing.
Step
3
Use pet wipes
Use commercially available pet wipes to clean your dog as an alternative to bathing.
Step
4
Spot clean with cloth
Wet a face cloth and use a gentle shampoo to spot clean your dog, wipe shampoo residue away with a wet face cloth.
Step
5
Spot clean with coconut oil
Use coconut oil on sticky or soiled spots. Apply coconut oil, let sit for 5 to 20 minutes, then wipe off. Work out soiled or sticky areas with your fingers. You can use rubber gloves for particularly obnoxious messes like feces or vomit.
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Caution & Considerations

  • Don't rush or force a dog that hates water in the bath, as this will only add to their aversion.  Instead work slowly, firmly and patiently.
  • If your dog is apt to bite or struggle, take precautions such as using an assistant, restraints, a bath mat, or a muzzle as necessary, to prevent injury to you and your dog.
  • Be sure your dog is not suffering from any health or skin conditions that could be contributing to his aversion to water. For example, yeast infections or allergies are aggravated by moisture.
  • Dry your dog thoroughly to prevent uncomfortable damp fur that may contribute to yeast infections or allergies.
  • Make sure water temperature is appropriate and not too hot or cold.
  • Protect your dog's ears and eyes during bathing. Ears can have cotton balls placed just inside to prevent water from getting in the ear canal.  Use a facecloth around eyes so water does not get in eyes.

Conclusion

Your water-hating dog may be a challenge to bathe, but with some considerations and by taking it slow you can get his cooperation. Work slowly with a dog that hates water, to show him that the water will not hurt him. Make sure to avoid getting water on his face, use warm, not hot or cold water, and get your dog gradually used to the sights and sounds of running water. Treats and chew toys can be great tools to create a positive association with bathing. Dry your dog well so he does not remain damp or use alternative cleaning methods like dry shampoos or spot cleaning to avoid excessive use of water when possible. While your dog may never learn to love water, he can at least learn to accept it as a temporary inconvenience for getting clean.

Success Stories and Grooming Questions

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