My dog hates baths

It is not uncommon for dogs to be anxious about having a bath, whether that be at home or in a hydrobath away from home. The degree of distress that a bath can cause dogs varies between dogs but regardless, it is our duty, as dog carers, to be concerned about our dog’s feelings and to help them feel comfortable and confident being bathed.

Here are some tips to help your dog feel more comfortable having a bath.

1. Train your dog to feel safe and relaxed in the place they will be bathed

This step is particularly important for dogs that are bathed at the vet, groomer or pet store. Do lots of “happy” visits to the place you will ultimately bath your dog so you dog is comfortable the pet store or groomer. Keep these sessions short (5 – 10 minutes). Your goal is simply for the dog to see, hear and smell the environment. Just walk around or find a seat and let the dog take in the environment.

At home, condition your dog to love being in the place they are bathed. For example, if the dog is bathed in the shower, then every time you walk past the bathroom, scatter some treats in the room or in the shower for the dog to eat. Soon, your dog will be asking you to go into the shower!

2. Train your dog to feel safe and relaxed around bath time “props”

Ensure your dog feels happy or at least neutral around a bucket, sponge, towel, shampoo bottle (open so they can smell it).

While you are watching TV or having a cup of coffee, get the “props” out. Do a treat scatter game around them but don’t lure the dog near them and then put the props away.

3. Train your dog to stand still

Teaching your dog to stand on a mat is an easy way to get them to stand still. Dogs can easily understand that four feet on the mat is desirable.

Additionally, you can put the mat in the shower, tub or the bottom of the hydrobath to transfer the dog’s understanding of “standing still”.

3. Methodically, add props and places

When you dog is comfortable in the bath time place and around the props, then start putting them together ONE element at a time with the stand on the mat behaviour.

When a new element is added to the bath time picture, check your dog’s emotion. Are they still comfortable?

Here are some progressions you could try. Can your dog stand on the mat when:

  • The bucket is next to them.
  • The sponge is next to them.
  • The shampoo bottle is opened.
  • You splash water in a bucket next to them (splash in the bucket NOT on the dog)
  • They are next to the hydrobath with no people or dogs around.
  • They are next to the hydrobath with a few people and quiet dogs around.

4. Redesign bath time

For dogs that are already anxious about bath time, then try and change the picture of bath time for them. Find a new place, change props and find alternatives to the elements of the procedure that worries the dog.

For example:

  • Some dogs don’t like being wet down with the hose, so instead gently pour water over the dog with a small jug out of a bucket of water.
  • If having a hydrobath around other dogs is the element that worries your dog, then find a private groomer or consider bathing the dog at home.
  • If standing in a slippery bath makes your dog anxious, then add a non-slip mat or towel or move their bath onto the grass or concrete where they feel confident with their footing.

These are some tips for making bath time more pleasant for you and your dog. If you would like additional suggestions, please ask your Teamwork Dogs trainer this weekend. They know you and your dog, so they can give you ideas that will suit you both.

Teamwork Dogs offers group classes for puppies, adolescents and adult dogs at Taigum, Caboolture and Redcliffe.

Image by fontana from Pixabay