How to Bathe a Dog who Hates Baths

Medium
30 - 45 Minutes
1 Month

Introduction

It’s bath time. Your canine companion is smelling a bit funky, has got into goodness only knows what, or needs to be clipped. But, there is a problem, your dog hates baths! Somehow, he knows what’s coming-- he sees you getting out the dog shampoo and putting the old towels next to the tub, and before you know it, he has hightailed it under the bed, is cowering in a corner, or worse, has turned aggressive and is growling and snapping at you when you try to pick him up or haul him to the bathroom. Once you get your reluctant subject to the tub it's a constant fight to keep him there-- he struggles and tries to jump out. It can be dangerous if your dog slips in the tub or becomes injured in his attempts to escape. 

How do you bathe a dog that hates baths?  With a few adjustments and some time and patience to train your dog and create a more positive association with the bath, you can make bath time more pleasant for your bath-hating pooch.

Dog's Perspective

Why does your dog hate baths?  It might be the sound or feel of the running water, or perhaps he doesn't like the feel of getting water in his ears or eyes. Your dog may have had a bad experience getting soap in his eyes or with water that was too hot, or too cold, or he may just not like the feel of a wet coat; some dogs simply are not water dogs. Also, if your dog had a negative experience with a too-hot blow dryer or clippers subsequent to a bath, he may have learned to associate baths with being burned or injured. 

In order to counteract a negative experience or a dislike of bath sensations, you can take some care and consideration to create positive associations and minimize negative ones.  Also, avoid chasing your dog prior to a bath, as this can seem an awful lot like a fun game to your dog and reinforce the behavior.

The Create Positive Association Method

Effective
0 Votes
Slicker Brush
Shampoo
Comb
Dryer
Towel
Step
1
Reinforce bath area
Feed your dog near the bath and reinforce the bath area with treats. Bring treats into the bath and provide them to your dog next to the bath.
Step
2
Reinforce dry bath
Put your dog in the bath, with no water. Feed or brush your dog, if your dog likes to be brushed, in the tub without water. Gradually add a little bit of water to get him used to water in the tub. Introduce bathing gradually, keep sessions short at first.
Step
3
Exercise first
Walk your dog prior to going in the bath, then bathe, then follow up with play and cuddling to create a positive association with bath time.
Step
4
Play
Bring a toy into the bathtub and play with your dog in the bath with and without water. If possible, have a water-loving dog join your dog in the bath to create a playful and positive model for your dog.
Step
5
Use help
Have an assistant help you while bathing your dog. Have the assistant comfort and provide rewards and affection during the bath time as you work calmly, quickly and efficiently.
Recommend grooming method?

The Minimize Negative Associations Method

Effective
0 Votes
Spray
Slicker Brush
Shampoo
Comb
Dryer
Towel
Step
1
Use restraints
A suction cup on wall with a neck restraint is available commercially, and a non slip mat can make your dog feel more secure and minimize his chance of slipping or escaping and injuring himself.
Step
2
Careful of the face
Use a washcloth on the face, especially eyes and ears. Do not shower the face or dump water over the face. When washing, and rinsing your dog’s body, hold the face up, start at the neck, and work back to avoid getting water in the ears and eyes. Use mild shampoos that don't irritate eyes or skin.
Step
3
Be organized
Be organized and prepared with tools and shampoos, so bath time does not take a long time and your dog does not become frustrated.
Step
4
Avoid unpleasant sensations
If your dog does not like the sound of running water, fill the tub first with the door closed then introduce your dog to the bath with water already in it. Do not use a handheld shower if your dog does not like the sound and feel of it, instead use a washcloth and pitchers of water to wet your dog down.
Step
5
Use alternatives
Minimize the number of baths required: use dry shampoo, use a washcloth between baths, and brush often to remove tangles and debris. Often dogs do not require baths as often if they are kept clean between bathtimes.
Step
6
Don't clip nails at bathtime
Many dogs do not like the feel of having nails clipped, and this may be associated with bath time. Clip your dog's nails another time, not before or after the bath.
Recommend grooming method?

Caution & Considerations

  • Use a muzzle if your dog is aggressive during bath time to prevent injuries.

  • Use appropriate non-slip surfaces and restraints to avoid your dog getting injured if they struggle and try to escape.

  • Make sure water is not too hot, and that post bath drying and clipping is not too hot and does not cause discomfort or burns.

  • Have an assistant available to assist you if your dog is particularly difficult, to prevent injuries.

  • Have patience, be calm, and positive. Do not punish a dog that already hates baths, as this will just make your dog dislike bathtime further.

Conclusion

So your Wheaton doesn't like water, or your Bichon does not like baths! You can change your dog's bath hating behavior with a little bit of preparation and consideration. Figure out what it is your dog hates most about baths, and then work to minimize this. Figure out what your dog likes most, treats, play, walks, etc., and associate this with bathtime. In no time your bath hating dog will learn to... well, maybe not like baths, but at least not hate them as much!

Success Stories and Grooming Questions

Grooming Questions & Answers

Question
Ruby
Miniature Australian Shepherd
2 Years
2 found helpful
Question
2 found helpful
Ruby
Miniature Australian Shepherd
2 Years

My Austrailian Shepherd absolutely hates baths! We typically give her baths in the tub and her cries can be heard from the street outside our apartment. Is there anything that can be done to minimize her hatred or prevent yelps caused by this regular bathing?

Paige Thompson
Dog Groomer
0 Dog owners recommended

Hi Tyler, I'm sorry to hear that Ruby hates bath time. If you're sure there is no underlying health issues causing pain or discomfort while in the bath, you could try adding treats and toys into the mix to make it more enjoyable. Making bath time a game may be the key. Make sure the water temperature is on the cooler side of warm and that you only use a tearless dog shampoo on her head to keep her comfortable. Have fun! Paige

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