Some dogs love water, and then some dread bath time. For the latter, this is a very uncomfortable experience making them jump out of bathtub covered in shampoo or shaking like a leaf. And that can present a problem to maintain proper hygiene of your dog, as well as be very stressful to them.
Not so long ago, vets recommended bathing your dog once a month. However, now, veterinary dermatologists say that it’s okay to give them baths once a week with appropriate shampoo and other products. Of course, this all depends on your pet’s skin just like with humans. Dry skin will become even drier which can cause irritations and dander, while oily one will benefit from the frequent washing.
However, getting your dog used to baths is sometimes a challenging task since even the smallest mishap can turn into fear. But with some patience and thoughtfulness, you can create a positive environment that will make your dog comfortable and fan of bathing. So here are 7 ways to give your dog a perfect bath experience and change their attitude towards it completely.
Prepare everything in advance
Since walking away during bath for something you need is a perfect opportunity for your dog to jump out of the bath, you need to prepare everything in advance. It will also help you stay by your dog’s side at all times and not leave them alone in that stressful moment. So, prepare everything in advance so it’s within a hand’s reach and you won’t have to live your pooch alone even for a minute.
The easiest way to do this is by making a list and, if possible, keeping those things in one place. Include a grooming brush that will help you to spread the shampoo and remove loose hair. If your dog is scared of a showerhead, use a small cup to pour water over them. This is especially comfortable for smaller breeds and puppies since spray from the showerhead can be a bit aggressive to them.
Use a washcloth for a dog’s face and a mat so they don’t slip while in the bath. A big absorbent towel is perfect to dry them off and keep a smaller one handy if they splash you with water. Always use appropriate dog products like shampoo and conditioners which are hypoallergenic and paraben-free. And of course, don’t forget the treats.
Bribe your dog
Bribing a dog is the most effective way to teach them something and provide encouragement. This means that you should have their favorite treats by your side at all times even during bath time. Give them a treat every time they passed a certain bath milestone, like pouring water over them, shampooing and rinsing.
Try using the treats to teach them commands directly connected to the bath time. For example, throw treats in the bathtub and give them praise when they jump in to get them. Repeat this action a few times so they would associate a positive experience with the tub. You can also spread peanut butter inside the tub which will keep them preoccupied and not eager to escape.
Calm their fears
Bath can be especially stressful for dogs who have a negative experience with it or those who never had one. Forcing them to take a bath will only lead to more problems and resistance so you need to calm them down. Start building your dog’s positive association with water by taking them to walks during rainy days and playing in sprinklers. If there is a beach nearby, use it to play fetch so they would get a little bit wet in waves.
Place them in the empty tub and give them treats so they would feel comfortable. Once they got used to being in the tub, use a wet washcloth for bathing and talk to them all the time. Avoid getting water in their eyes and ears since that is something they don’t like. Use a hypoallergenic shampoo to avoid irritations and remain calm so they don’t sense any tension from you.
Think of support
There are ways to provide additional support to your dog during baths even if you have everything else prepared. One of them is music which has proven quite beneficial in other stressful situations like separation. Play the music while the water is running and cuddle with them so your dog will associate these as positive emotions.
On the other hand, you can always invite their buddy who loves taking baths to provide support. Your dog will observe the other one’s delight to have a bath and see it as more of playtime and not a threat. Usually, bathing two dogs at the same time is problematic, but in this case, it’s very beneficial and will help your dog get over their fears.
Make sure they’re comfortable
It’s important to pay attention to some details that can gravely affect how your dog perceives the bath time. One of them is the issue with slipping in the tub so you have to give your dog a better footing. Bath mats available at stores like Mat Shop are a great solution especially if you have a porcelain tub. Dog’s paws are especially sensitive to them even though this type of tubs is slippery even for humans.
Another important issue is the water temperature. Dog’s skin is sensitive and, if not careful, you can unintentionally turn a bath into a very uncomfortable experience for them. It would be ideal for the water to be lukewarm, but that depends on the dog. If you notice them shivering during baths that means the water is too cold. If they pant, then the water is too hot. Pay attention to these signs and immediately correct the water temperature to make your pooch more comfortable.
Do it right
There are instructions on how to give your dog a bath that may help you both in the process. Start bathing by filling the tub with warm water to your knee-length. Gently lift your dog and put them in the water all the while talking to them in a calming voice.
Allow them to get used to water by spraying it gently on their back which will also help you adjust the temperature, if necessary. Never spray the water directly in their face and ears, but rather wipe them with a washcloth. Leave the inner ear alone since water can lead to infections and discomfort.
Start the bath by washing the head first, then work your way down to the neck, chest and the rest of your dog’s body. During this time, don’t stop talking encouragements to your dog like “Good boy!” and “Well done!” as well as giving them treats. Rinse their body gently from the head down while using your hands to shield their eyes from the soap. Finally, dry them with a towel as best as you can since after the bath your dog will proceed to run and roll around the house.
Bathe them outside
If you live in a house and the weather conditions allow it, outside may be an ideal spot to give your dog a bath. A hose is perfect for this, just make sure that the water temperature is right as well as the pressure. If you use high pressure, that may be hurtful for the dog and they will immediately see the bath as a negative experience.
Bathing outside requires that your dog is tethered to a tree or any other structure. This is important so they don’t wander off before the bath is over or run away before it. Follow the instructions for dog bathing in the tub, like talking to them and giving them treats to make them comfortable. Afterwards, make sure they don’t end up rolling in the dirt before they are completely dry or you will have to do it all over again.
In the end
One of the key elements to give your dog a perfect bath experience is patience. They will need time to get used to water and the whole washing process, so be calm and supportive. And in time, you will have them willingly jumping in the tub – excited to have a bath and spend time with their favorite human.
Emma Williams @EmmaWilliams204 is an Australian writer with a master‘s degree in business administration, who has a passion for anything lifestyle and design related. She spends most of her time redecorating and participating in house projects. As a great nature lover, her biggest pleasure is spending time in a small cottage by the river.