Wouldn’t it be awesome if all the dog commercials we see resembled real life all the time? Oh, what we would give to see our fur babies consistently well-behaved and obedient. And although our dogs are literal angels on earth, there are still quite a few things we wished they’d cooperate with—one of which is taking a bath.
If your dog isn’t a fan of baths, know that you’re not the only fur parent dealing with that concern. To many dogs, bath time can mean running around and a lot of treat-giving to get them to cooperate. From dragging them to the tub to making sure they feel safe with water, it can be all too stressful when they intentionally exhibit discomfort in bathing.
Establish a cue.
All that said, dogs usually find it more stressful when you surprise them with a bath. As a result, studies suggest that you allow them to get used to a cue, informing them in advance that they’re about to get washed. For example, when you articulate the word “bath” to them, you’re taking away any hint of surprise that a shower is within their immediate horizon. By simply getting rid of the fear factor, you allow them to relax and anticipate what’s to come. To make them even more comfortable, use treats as a way to coax them.
It’s all about the treats.
Furthermore, avoid chasing your dog right before bathing them. This may send them the wrong signal, and have them think that what you’re after is playtime. The last thing you’d want when you’re about to wash them is having them run away from you.
That being the case, make sure that bathing is associated with something your dog enjoys. For example, many dog owners prepare a small treat buffet in between their bath. To reward them with calm behavior, feed them treats from a snack jar they know is found only in the bathroom. That way, they associate their bathing space with good food and being fed. You can also reward them with a chew toy you give them after every bath. This makes them understand that certain rewards can only be given after they’re clean and dry.
Warm water, please!
Warm water is less likely to make a dog anxious, so avoid chilly baths. Before putting them in a tub, assuming that this is how you bathe them, make sure a towel or an anti-skid mat is in place, too. Their ability to comfortably rest their paws while in water helps put them at ease. When they’re not comfortable and their feet keep slipping, you can bet that bathing will only stress them even more. If they’re still trying to get hold of the whole bath situation and they’re still very much jittery, a nylon collar or a groom tether should be able to help you, just make sure you’re not choking them.
Don’t stress my snout.
When washing your dog’s face, avoid directly pointing a hose at them. Running water aimed at their face can be overwhelming and easily incites fear. Use a washcloth instead. Detachable shower heads are often the best tools to use when cleaning their fur, but a small dipper should be fine in its absence. Gently massage and soap their fur, and avoid aggressive scratches. Also, remember that keeping water away from their eyes and nose helps them remain calm.
In all of this, keep talking to your dog and avoid staying silent. By continually praising them and telling them they’re doing a good job, you reinforce this behavior and you win their trust. Dogs are smart creatures and can easily notice when you’re stressed yourself.