How to help your dog love bath time

How to help your dog love bath time

So, you’ve got your dog sitting, staying and rolling on command. Their puppy park etiquette is excellent and their off-leash behaviour is a dream. So, why is bath time still a disaster?! If the thought of trying to give your dog a bath makes you both want to run and hide under the bed, never fear. Lots of dogs are naturally scared of baths, but with a few handy tips, you can turn the whole ordeal into a fun time for you and your pup.

Are dogs scared of bathing or something else?

Whilst many parts of your home may be the perfect nook for your pup, chances are, the place you’re trying to give them a bath in was not designed with them in mind. Look around your bathing environment for things other than the bath that might be scaring your pup. The younger you start familiarising them with the space, the better. If you can, try to get them comfortable with their bath time surroundings as a puppy, starting with short bursts and very low pressure scenarios, so they get used to the area without any associated stress. We do advise against bathing within the first week of adoption though, as it can be fear–provoking when the two of you are still bonding.

The slippery slidey surfaces of a wet bath may be a major reason your pupper is freaking out, and we don’t blame them! Try putting down a rubber mat so your pup can stand securely and feel safe. Loud noises also often translate to danger for a dog, so reduce scary sounds of loud running water from the tap or showerhead, and use pre-filled buckets to rinse off instead. If you’re washing your pup off outside, remember that tap water can be shockingly cold. Try bringing buckets of warm water from taps inside instead. Extreme hot water can scald and make your dog uncomfortable as well, so remember to keep water lukewarm to avoid any nasty surprises for your pooch.

Still no luck with bathing your dog?

For an especially reluctant dog, you can try easing your way into bath time:

  • Create positive associations with the bath by giving them food or toys just for spending time in the dry bath. Build up this association before trying to actually give them a bath or introducing water.
    Pro tip: Smear a bit of Lyka on the side of the bathtub to get them in and exploring!

  • Once they’re comfortable being in the bath, wet one paw a little bit and see how they react, slowly easing into getting more and more of their body wet. Take your time with this process and keep it relaxed and low pressure.

  • Try quickly turning taps on and off to get them used to the sounds of running water, rewarding them all the time with treats.

  • If your pup doesn’t respond well to getting their paws wet, try slowly introducing a wet sponge or loofah; let them smell it, rub it gently on their body, and then smell it again, stopping whenever they show signs of discomfort. You can even start this with a dry sponge and slowly introduce water for a nice, slow transition.

Dog in the bath

Reinforcement is key with all of these bath time behaviours, so give lots of treats, toys and cuddles (if your dog is comfortable being touched) to let them know they are safe, and to create a positive association with the bath and running water. Remember to be patient, and approach bath time knowing it may be a very slow process. Our furry friends can sense our stress levels, and can be resistant to situations that we feel tense in, so don’t push through if you’re starting to resent the process. Going slow will mean a greater chance of success in the long run, so go at a pace that feels comfortable for both you and your pupper!

If you consistently aren’t making any progress, or feel that your dog is becoming visibly stressed and anxious, chat to a vet or behaviourist about what other steps you can take.

Bathing your dog isn’t everything

Your dog still needs other grooming outside of bathing, including brushing their fur and teeth to ensure they’re as healthy as can be. For more handy tips, check out our guides to grooming and taking care of your dog’s teeth.

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