How to Bathe a Nervous Dog

Medium
20 - 40 Minutes
1 Month

Introduction

Luna, a German Shepherd, who until recently lived outside on a farm, has been given to a suburban family, as her original family moved out of the country. Luna’s new family wants to bathe her and introduce her to the house. Luna is a pretty confident dog by nature--she doesn't have an anxious temperament, but because she has never been bathed, is not used to water, has not been in such a small enclosed area, and is not used to being in the house, she is nervous about the bathing process. 

Fortunately, Luna's new family are sensitive to her needs and pick up on her trepidation. They make accommodations to mitigate Luna’s nervousness about bathing! Unlike an anxious dog that has developed a fear of being bathed, or just generally experiences a heightened anxious or fearful state, nervousness is a natural and normal reaction to an unknown, unfamiliar and possibly frightening situation. A dog that is nervous about having a bath may not be afraid of baths, but just not sure what to expect. This makes a nervous dog easier to bathe then an anxious one, you just need to give your nervous dog some comfort and direction so that she is comfortable with the situation.

Dog's Perspective

Dogs, like most animals, can react with caution to new or strange situations until they are confident that they do not present a danger. This is a normal and natural reaction that animals have developed to keep themselves safe from possible harm. If a dog is not sure what to expect in an unfamiliar situation, they may become nervous and extra vigilant as a way to be ready to fight or fly if danger presents itself. 

Bathing a dog can present several unfamiliar sights, sounds and sensations that your dog may be nervous about because he is unsure what is expected of him or if they will hurt him. A nervous dog is not necessarily a dog that is fearful by nature. Working with your dog to slowly introduce him to the new situation at his own pace will help alleviate much of his nervousness and, as long as you are patient and gentle and instill confidence in your dog that he can trust you, future baths should elicit less and less nervousness as he learns what to expect.

The Make It Fun Method

Effective
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Slicker Brush
Shampoo
Pin Brush
Dryer
Towel
Step
1
Use a toy
Place a favorite toy or chew toy in a dry bathtub. Pick up your dog and place him gently in the tub. Make sure there is good footing with a rubber mat in the tub so your dog does not slip. Play with his toy or let him chew on his chew toy in the tub to get him used to the enclosed area.
Step
2
Join your dog
Get into the dry tub with your dog, to help him see it is a safe place and that you'll be with him through this new experience. Spend some time playing, grooming, or petting in order to build a positive association with the tub.
Step
3
Introduce water
Remove your dog from the tub and run some water into it. Gently place your nervous dog in the bath. Provide him treats and praise while he is in the tub, Do not act nervous or hesitant yourself, be calm and confident.
Step
4
Provide company
If you have access to another dog that likes to take baths and that is well socialized with your dog, bathe the dogs together. Let the bath-loving dog exhibit comfortable behavior in the bath. You can also have a assistant provide praise and affection and play during bath time while you are bathing your dog, to distract him and make bathing fun.
Step
5
Go slow
When bathing, rinsing, and drying your nervous dog, be sure to introduce new sensations slowly, keep soap and water out of your dog's eyes and ears, and make sure water or dryers are not too hot or cold to avoid unpleasant sensations that will contribute to nervousness.
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The Take It Slow Method

Effective
0 Votes
Shampoo
Dryer
Towel
Step
1
Introduce the bath area
Feed your dog next to the bathtub. Give him praise and affection in the bathroom area.
Step
2
Introduce the sight and sound of water
Fill the tub, with your dog standing outside the tub, on several occasions to get him used to the sound of running water. Let your dog investigate water in the tub if he can look over the edge on his own, but don't put him into the water yet.
Step
3
Introduce to tub
Place your dog in the bathtub while it is dry and provide treats, grooming, praise and affection.
Step
4
Introduce water
Slowly introduce warm water into the tub. Use a cloth to wet down your dog and get him used to being wet. If your dog is comfortable with this you can introduced pouring water over him with a container or a handheld shower.
Step
5
Be gentle and confident
Make sure to keep soap and water out of your dog's eyes and ears. Use a cloth on the face while bathing, make sure water and dryers are the right temperature and not uncomfortable for your dog. Do not pay excessive attention to nervous behavior, instead reassure your nervous dog and proceed with the bath confidentially. Your nervous dog will follow your lead. Be prepared before the bath with tools and products so you are not rushed or stressed during bathing and can easily reach what you need.
Recommend grooming method?

Caution & Considerations

  • If using another dog during bath time to reassure your nervous dog, make sure the dogs are familiar and comfortable with each other prior to bath time. A strange dog, no matter how sociable, will not make a nervous dog less nervous.
  • Make sure that water temperature is comfortable, and that your dog doesn't get water or soap in eyes or ears that will create a negative experience or cause pain that will justify nervous behavior.
  • Do not react to nervousness by becoming agitated yourself. ¬†Be comfortable and gentle but firm to alleviate your dog's nervousness.
  • Be sure to use rubber mats to provide traction to your dog so he does not slip or hurt himself while being bathed.

Conclusion

A nervous dog may have good reason for being nervous in a strange situation he is not used to, like a bath. Be calm, prepared and confident to guide your dog so that he doesn't pick up fear or unease from you. Make bathing fun with treats and toys or a friend. Introduce sensations like the sounds of running water, an enclosed space, and the sensation of being wet slowly so as not to startle your nervous dog. Soon your ‚ÄúNervous Nellie‚ÄĚ of a dog will realize there is nothing to be concerned about, bathing is great, and nervousness during bathing will be a thing of the past.

Success Stories and Grooming Questions

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