How to Wash a Large Dog that Hates Water

Hard
30 - 60 Minutes
3 Months

Introduction

Giving Digger regular baths is a very important part of his overall health care. There is far more to giving him a bath than just washing out the dirt. You also wash out dead hair, dead skin, burrs, bugs, parasites, and more from his coat. Unbathed skin can become itchy due to rashes and in time can lead to infected areas of skin that must be treated by a vet. But what do you do when Digger absolutely hates the water? You need to make sure you have two things before you get started. The first is plenty of patience. The second is a plan of action! 

Dog's Perspective

Many dogs are afraid of the water, so Digger's behavior is nothing unusual, but it will make giving him a bath challenging. On top of this, he really doesn't care if he ever gets a bath. In his mind, the simple bathing he does with his tongue should be all he ever needs. Unfortunately, he needs more than this to keep his skin and coat clean and healthy.

The Bathroom Method

Effective
0 Votes
Shampoo
Towel
Step
1
Come on in
Every time you go into the bathroom, invite Digger to come in with you. Each time he comes in with you or follows you in, give him a tasty treat to encourage him to enjoy going into the bathroom.
Step
2
No water
While Digger is in the bathroom, be sure to keep him away from any source of water. If you take baths, invite him to come into the room while you are soaking, but avoid inviting him in while you are taking a shower as you may splash him.
Step
3
Ease in the water
Take your time getting Digger used to the water. One easy way to do so is to wet one of those shower puffs and then hold it out for Digger to smell. Just use water at this time, no shampoo. Rub the puff over his body once and let him smell it again. As long as he isn't fussing, try again and again, letting him sniff the puff each time. If he does fuss, try again tomorrow. It might take a few weeks for Digger to accept the wet puff being rubbed on his skin.
Step
4
Use a bucket
Since Digger hates water, (yes, he probably still does) use a bucket of warm water rather than a detachable shower head. Use a cup or large ladle to slowly wet him down. Then, add the shampoo to your hands and rub them together. Rub the shampoo into his coat, thoroughly using your fingers to gently massage the shampoo down to skin level. Use a cup or ladle to rinse Digger until all traces of the shampoo have been removed.
Step
5
Face time
Use a washcloth to wash his face and head. Keep repeating this until Digger finally stops fussing when bath time comes around. You will have to be extremely patient, as fear can be hard to counter condition.
Recommend grooming method?

The Dry Run First Method

Effective
0 Votes
Shampoo
Towel
Step
1
Start with a dry tub
If you plan to bathe Digger in the tub, then place him in a dry tub and leave the water turned off. Be slow and patient during this process and don't rush to turning on any water as this can have the opposite effect.
Step
2
Prep the tub for water
Place a rubber mat in the tub and let Digger try it out dry for a few days. Allow him to spend short amounts of time in the tub every day without any pressure. Feel free to offer treats or toys to make the process easier.
Step
3
Brush in the tub
Grab a helper and a tasty stuffed treat bone. Have the helper clip Digger on his leash and hold him in the tub while you feed him his treat. Start gently brushing him while he is working on his treat.
Step
4
Repetition reduces stress
Repeat this in short sessions until Digger no longer fusses at the idea of being in the tub. This process may take some weeks in order for him to get used to being in the tub.
Step
5
Introduce water to the mix
Time to introduce water to the mix. Using a large cup of warm water, pour the water on one of Digger's paws. Do not cover the rest of his body, as you'll be moving too quickly for him to process. One paw will be a good starting point.
Step
6
Work your way up
Keep repeating the above process, gradually adding more time and pouring larger amounts of water on him until he will stand and let you soak him down and give him a bath. Do not expect him to be okay with this all at once. Take smaller steps and go back to where he was last successful if he struggles.
Recommend grooming method?

Caution & Considerations

  • Never let the water get any hotter than you would use if you were bathing a baby. Hot water can burn Digger's skin and result in injury. 
  • Take your time. If you push too hard, it will only make things worse. If Digger is not quite ready for a certain step of the process, you will need to take some time to focus on what he is ready for instead. 
  • Never use any products like shampoos, soaps, conditioners, or detanglers intended for human use. They contain ingredients that can be harmful to dogs and may make the bathing process even more frightening for Digger. 
  • Use cotton balls to plug his ears and keep water out but be cautious about sticking them too far, as they can get lodged into the ears. 
  • Do not get shampoo in his eyes, ears, nostrils, or mouth. This can cause irritation that can be difficult to soothe later on. 
  • Be sure to use a helper until Digger gets used to being bathed and no longer fusses. Ensure that your helper is prepared to handle Digger's fear and won't be tempted to rush the process. 

Conclusion

The basics of bathing a dog like Digger are the same as any other dog. The big difference is that you need to work on getting him to the point where he no longer hates water before it becomes easier to give him a bath. Take your time, work at Digger's pace, and it won't be long before he learns to relax and enjoy bath time. 

Success Stories and Grooming Questions

Book me a walkiee?
Pweeeze!
Sketch of smiling australian shepherd