To be honest, bathing is not high on a dog’s list of priorities; they would rather be rolling in something disgusting, playing in a muddy puddle, or digging a deep hole in the garden – preferably on a wet day!
They like being dirty, and they rather like their pungent smell even though it makes you gag.
But even your dog will admit bathing has its advantages
Most dogs don’t want to have a bath, but they do feel better afterward as:
- It is warm and relaxing
- The massage is good
- They get lots of attention
- It soothes their skin
- Bathing gets rid of their knots
- Gets rid of their loose hair
- And they get tasty rewards for doing it
Most dogs accept bathing as one of those things their human insists they do, and most dogs – if they could talk – would admit that they do feel better afterward. The excited bout of zoomies after a bath and towel dry proves it.
They Dislike the Process, Not the Bathing Itself
It is not so much that your dog dislikes having a bath, but it is often the PROCESS of having a bath that they shy away from.
The trick is to set up the bathing area to make the process fun!
To make it a fun process for your dog:
- Put non-slip mats down on the bathroom floor and in the tub.
- Fill the bathtub with warm water that is not too deep.
- Choose a gentle, lightly perfumed shampoo and soap.
- Add a few toys to the bath.
- Add your dog gently, don’t just drop them in.
- Allow them to get their balance before you start washing them.
- Talk to them and play games as you clean.
- Use a soft bristle brush (not hard), and be gentle with it.
- Keep soap away from their eyes.
- Don’t pour water in their ears.
- Use a portable shower attachment – it’s easier to wash the suds away.
- Have some music playing.
- Keep the bathtime short to begin with – let them learn to love it.
- Use a big fluffy towel to dry them.
- And – this is very important – give them a super-duper treat!!
The trick is to make bathing your dog a fun activity. If you can do everything in your power to make bath time enjoyable, your dog will love having a bath and will feel great after a bath.
Your Dog Will Feel Better After Bathing.
The best place to bathe your dog is either in a bath or the shower, as you have hot and cold water at hand.
And although your dog may not be over the moon when they realize its bath time, they will enjoy the pampering and that ‘clean’ feeling afterward.
Getting rid of the ingrained dirt, working those knots in their fur out, and generally enjoying a good massage really can make a dog feel like a million dollars!
Make bathing fun so that as they get used to the ritual. A good start is to ensure that where you bathe them has a good rubber non-slip mat to prevent them from sliding around the bathtub. This can be unsettling for a dog.
Get a rubber mat with suction pads underneath to put on the floor of the shower, bath, or basin. It will give your dog the stability to stand steady while you are washing them. This is important for your dog and will give them confidence.
Bathing your dog is also a good time for bonding. Treat them gently.
Remember when you use the scrubbing brush that you are cleaning your dog, not scrubbing your kitchen floor. Dogs have tender skin, and rough treatment will put them off having a bath.
This applies to making sure you don’t get soap in their eyes. You don’t like it, so why would you expect them to?
Slipping around, stinging soaps, and rough treatment are not the way to your dog’s heart. If you want hassle-free dog bathing, be gentle, and they will be happy to come back for more next time.
Dogs Like More It if They Are Pampered
Dogs do love being pampered, and they love having all your attention. It makes them feel good.
Once the washing part is over, let the water out of the bath and wrap your dog in a big fluffy towel.
The worst is over for your dog, they can relax now.
But first, what about that treat you promised them? Although it is technically bribing them to take a bath, it is worth it. They will remember the reward and won’t be so reluctant to submit to the bathing process again.
Hot air from a human blow dryer can be too hot for them, so either let them air dry in a sunny spot or use a blow dryer designed for dogs. They have lower temperatures and won’t burn them.
Brush your dog as they dry to remove all those itchy loose hairs that have come out during bath time.
After the bath is also a good time to gently dry inside their ears and around their eyes with a soft cloth, taking note of the condition of both. Give them the once-over check to ensure they don’t have any strange lumps, cuts, or parasites clinging to their fur.
By now they will be ready to play. Your dog may burst into zoomie mode, and race around and around the house like a lunatic. That is normal, it is just joy after all the attention and the freedom to move around again.
A Dog Can Have a Specific Bathing Related Fear
Some dogs are scared of being bathed, and that’s ok. You just need to use a different approach. Often it is a perceived fear of something different that they shy away from. They love the feeling once it is over, responding with energetic games of tug of war or hide the treat games.
But fear is to be respected. And there are many reasons that your dog can’t explain that they may be reluctant to have a bath.
The reasons they may be scared could be;
- They may have had a bad experience before.
- If you are stressed, they will get upset too.
- The noise of the running water and soapy smells of the bath are scary.
- The tiled floor is slippery to walk on – they may feel insecure.
- The water is too deep for them.
- The water is too hot/cold – neither is fun.
- You are holding them too firmly as the water rises.
- You may be a bit rough washing them.
- They may feel constrained when you hold them.
- They may be a timid dog who takes time to adjust to new things.
If your dog is a new pet, keep the bath short and sweet. Allow them time to become more confident in their new home before bathing them if you can.
Mats are my secret weapon when it comes to bathing my dog. It allows them to keep their footing which is important to a pooch.
Holding your dog too firmly (as in pushing them downwards) can scare your dog, especially if they are small.
They can become fearful of the water going over their head and not being able to breathe. Let some water out to reassure them that they won’t drown.
Be calm, don’t use force or try to push them under the water. Keep the water level low, and use a portable spray head so you can gently spray the soap off and keep it away from their eyes.
Dogs do feel better after a bath. All the attention, the treats, that clean feeling, and no tangles … it makes it worth having a bath.
But they aren’t so keen on the PROCESS of having a bath
From your dog’s point of view, it can be scary what with all that water and the unfamiliar bath surface that is slippery causing them to lose their footing – it can make it a nightmare.
Then add in their normally patient human growling at them, and suddenly the bathing practice becomes a bit of a chore.
But if you keep your cool and make the experience a positive occasion, your dog will come to love their bath
If you can change the process to a fun routine, then you are onto a winning streak.
Once you make bathing a normal, happy routine, full of fun with a few treats and cuddles, then the only problem you will have is getting them to get out of the bath at the end!!
Beware of overdoing the bathing of your dog though, as too much can strip the natural oils from their skin, causing irritating skin problems and making their coat prone to matting.
Once or twice a month for the average dog who does not get into too much of a mess is fine. The dog who excels getting dirty and smelly, well, you will need to do it more often unless they live outside!
Writer: Jean Brewer