Dogs can be a lot like children: When it comes to bath time, they’d rather stay dirty. For smaller breeds, bath time can be extra frightening when compared to their larger counterparts. And then, there’s the occasional dog that thrives in any activity involving water. No matter your pet’s size or attitude towards baths, chances are it’s usually an ordeal. But it doesn’t have to be.
There are a few tips that may help you and your furry friend get over any bath time anxiety, and you’ll be happy to learn they are easy to introduce to your pet’s hygiene routine.
How do I give my dog a bath?The most important thing to acknowledge when bathing your dog is how unnatural baths seem to them. If you’re lucky, your dog will simply find it strange and express mild discomfort during the duration of the cleaning session. However, in some cases, pets are known to hate bath time enough to run and hide in unreachable places at even the slightest sound of running water.
Some even become fearful or hard to handle. This is why the most important tip in bathing your pet is to learn and adjust to their comfort level. You need to reassure them, too and allow them to express their nervousness.
Adjust to your dog’s comfort level
Practice speaking to your pet as you wash them, keeping your voice quiet and calm. Utilize common phrases that your dog associates with good behavior, such as “Good boy” or “Good girl”. In most cases, just hearing your reassuring voice will help them relax, which will make your job as dog groomer much easier.
Teach positive association
A long-term tactic is to teach your dog positive association by always giving them a treat, lots of belly rubs, or a nice, long walk after a successful bath. In time, your dog will come to expect these treats and tokens of affection, helping them to associate rewards with grooming.
Bathe smaller breeds in smaller spaces
If you own a smaller breed of dog or a puppy, try bathing them in a sink rather than a bath tub. Bath tubs are huge, vacant spaces that are highly foreign to your pet. Most likely, their experience with this particular part of your household is little to none, which only adds to their mounting anxiety. Bathing them in a space that is more comparable to their size may help them feel more comfortable. In addition to this tip, professional dog groomers recommend placing a non-slip surface on the bottom of a tub or sink while bathing your pet.
Make the experience an enjoyable one
Keep the water at a comfortable temperature
Some of us enjoy our baths and showers hot and steamy. We tend to associate a relaxing cleaning routine with hot water, but for dogs this isn’t the case. Verify the water’s temperature on yourself before immersing a dog in it. Professionals recommend lukewarm water. If your dog begins to shiver or tremble, adjust the temperature to be a little warmer.
Pay attention to eyes and ears
The eyes and ears of a dog are extremely sensitive and so proper care of them is important. You should try your best to avoid exposing these areas to water while washing. Try softly tilting your dog’s head back and covering their ears when rinsing the vet-approved shampoo out of their fur. Don’t use soap near or around the eyes or ears. Your dog’s eyes and ears are best cleaned with a soft, warm wet cloth after their bath is complete.
Air dry vs. blow-dry
Many animals are skittish around anything that exhibits loud noises, such as blow dryers. Your pet is completely fine air-drying in most cases. However, dogs with heavier, thicker, or longer coats may need a little help drying off, especially to avoid them shivering. In the winter, blow drying is recommended more so than in hot or humid weather. Keep the temperature set at low on the blow dryer to avoid discomfort for the skin.
Enlist a friend
Another great and easy way to make bath-time easier for you and more comfortable for your dog is to ask for a helper. Two groomers are better than one. While one person is lathering and rinsing the nervous dog, the other can hold them still and steady. This can even help your dog feel more secure.
Don't overdo the bathing sessions
Baths need only be as frequent as your dog’s dirtiness. Too much washing can be harmful to a dog’s coat and skin, causing dryness, itchiness, and discomfort. In some cases, this can lead to skin infections as dogs tend to bite and lick at any patches of skin that are agitating them. Discuss with your vet the requirements for bathing your breed of dog. Some dogs need a bath only once in a while. Vet-approved dry shampoo and gentle wipes designed for cleaning the fur of dogs are alternatives that work well in the interim between the full bath session.