Does your dog strongly dislike the bath? Do they run away from the bathroom? Is a shower always a stressful experience? If so, you’re certainly not alone. Even a dog who loves swimming, or playing with the hose, may struggle around the thought of a bath or rinse. It may be hard to imagine that you could turn it around and start viewing a bath as a time for bonding instead, but it is possible! The key is to have a strategy for the change.
Whether you’re faced with the “I don’t even know what you just rolled around in but it’s gross” bath, the post-beach/pool bath, or just even a regular ole’ bath, bathing your dog at home is something all dog families will likely experience.
That’s great if your dog doesn’t mind the bath. But if they’re not fans, then that’s a different story.
One of the most common cries for help we get in our community is how to bathe a dog who hates baths. While it’s not easy at first, it’s possible with a few helpful tips and tricks.
In this blog, we will share five ways to help make bath time a little easier for dogs who hate it!
Why Do Dogs Hate Baths in the First Place?
Very quickly before we talk about overcoming the hatred of baths, it's important to discuss why some dogs hate baths.
While we can't know the exact reason for every dog, the fear of water/baths typically falls into a couple of "main" categories.
Dogs who are new to baths, or who aren't bathed as often, may simply be freaked out by the unfamiliar experience of being plunged into a tub of water and soaped up with shampoo. This, in turn, can create negative associations that make them fearful of future baths.
Improper introduction to water initially
Unfortunately, many pup parents move too quickly when it comes to baths. They miss signs of stress from their dog and proceed with baths just thinking their dog will "get used to it". This is often the main reason dogs end up hating baths.
An unpleasant experience with a bath/water
For some dogs, they may have been scalded by bath water, gotten a lot of water in their ears, or any other type of unpleasant experience. Dogs make quick associations, and a poor experience can affect them for a long time to come.
Some dogs just never seem to really like baths, no matter what. That's more of a rarity than the other categories, but it does exist. Additionally, some breeds just enjoy baths/water more than others and that can certainly play a role for your puppy!
So, How Often Should You Wash Your Dog?
The frequency of dog baths varies depending on breed and coat type. For most dogs, though, one to two baths per month is typically sufficient. Dogs with longer coats tend to need baths and maintenance more often, and most require trips to professional groomers for a proper dog bath regularly.
Dogs with skin conditions may also need more frequent baths in order to avoid itchiness and irritation. Some dogs, such as those with lots of wrinkles, also need extra baths to avoid any skin problems between those nooks and crannies.
Of course, that “once per month” rule can go completely out the window if your dog loves to roll around in mud, dirt, and debris and is looking and smelling especially dirty. You may also want to give your pup an extra bath if he has recently been exposed to pests, such as fleas and ticks. Pet owners typically know when their dog needs a bath.
Now that we've covered why some dogs really dislike baths, and how often you should bathe your dog, let's talk about how to make it less stressful!
Here's a Snapshot of 5 Tips Pet Parents Can Use for Bathing a Dog that Hates Baths or is Anxious.
Ensure the water temperature is ideal
Add traction to any slippery surfaces
Don't overstimulate your dog
Use a desensitization strategy
Give them something else to focus on (this is the secret weapon)
Now we can dive into each tip in more depth below!
How To Get Your Dog to Like Baths
1. Use the “Goldilocks Theory” for Getting the Right Water Temperature
Not too hot and not too cold!
Have you yourself ever plunged into ice cold water? Yeah, it’s not fun. It’s also not fun for your dog either. Super cold bath water can shock them and make them want to escape the discomfort.
That doesn’t mean your dog will enjoy really hot water either. You may like your showers bordering on blistering, but your dog will also find that uncomfortable and shocking. It can even be dangerous, depending on the temperature.
The moral of the story: lukewarm is your best bet for a calm bath that your dog will enjoy.
Be sure to check the temperature frequently to make sure any running water hasn’t turned too extreme of a temperature.
2. Add Traction For Any Slippery Surfaces
One of the reasons your dog hates the bath is that the tub is slippery. Most dogs would agree. Even for humans it can be dangerous. If a dog’s paws are slipping and sliding, they will feel like they don’t have any control over their body. It will scare them and they’ll try to escape to find firmer ground, which could cause injury.
A non-slip silicone mat on the bottom of your tub/shower/sink will give your dog a comfortable surface to stand on without slipping. Plus it will help catch any hair that sheds from your dog during bath time, making cleanup easier for you!
Try: THE SHEDDER SHAMPOO by PRIDE+GROOM which is formulated to moisturize and nourish both the coat and the skin beneath, releasing excess hair and debris from the coat in the bath.
3. Do Not Overstimulate Fido
There’s already a lot of action going on in the bathroom or tub area during a bath and adding more stimulation will likely stress your dog out to the point where they will hate the bath. Some things that can overstimulate your dog and cause anxiety include:
The sound of running water. Turn off the tap or shower when your dog is in the tub.
Strongly scented shampoo. Most shampoos have artificial scents like cotton candy or flowers. Opt for a gentle, mild-smelling shampoo, like PRIDE+GROOM which is naturally scented with essential oils -- and remember to never use human shampoo on your dog!
The feeling of water. Instead of pouring a lot of water directly on your dog, rub them with a wet washcloth or towel. Eventually, move up to a pet shower sprayer attachment so you can have a gentle water flow. You can also put on a bathing suit and get in the tub with them to make your dog comfortable.
4. Try a Desensitization Strategy
Pet owners can use rewards to help teach your dog that the bath isn’t something to be afraid of or to hate. The bathroom or bathtub shouldn't be a scary place. This type of desensitization and counterconditioning can be done in the following stages:
Bring your pup into the bathroom or near wherever their bath or shower will be. Reward them with a treat for approaching calmly.
Place your dog in a dry tub and reward them.
Run the water for a few seconds with your dog in the tub and reward them. Warm water is best.
Get your dogs paws wet and reward them with a tasty treat.
You can use this method to build up to full baths and get your dog clean. It may take persistence and many training sessions, but it’s an effective way to build long-lasting favorable behavior and create a positive association. But be sure to read their body language and have a positive attitude during this intro and bathing process.
This type of positive reinforcement training works best with high-value training treats.
5. Give Your Dog Something Engaging To Focus On (aka The “Secret Weapon)
There’s always a good old-fashioned distraction if all else fails. Giving your dog something engaging and enjoyable in the bathroom, tub or bathing area to take their mind off the bath is a great way to ease their anxiety. It also keeps them still which means you can get the bath over with more quickly.
One of our favorite tools for this is a lick mat. It reduces stress, keeps your dog busy, engages the brain, and can be a delicious way for your dog to get through bath time.
Simply smear a little peanut butter, yogurt, pumpkin, or other soft food with your dog’s favorite fruit or treats as toppings and let them lick away while you give them a bath. Try one with a suction on the back that will stick to the tiles on the tub.
Pro Tip: put the lick mat in the freezer for a few minutes before giving it to your dog to make the toppings last even longer. It should help ease their fear and provide a tasty, long lasting special treat.
When you do actually give your dog a bath, it's a good idea to try to get the most out of it! Using a dog shampoo is VERY important, but not all dog shampoos are created equally. Many only focus on the smell. You need a shampoo that does more. And that's where PRIDE+GROOM’s all natural, coat specific formulas come in. Our shampoos:
Soothe itchy skin
Add shine and luster
Are easily dispensable with only one hand
Improve your pup's coat and follicles
Have only the finest ingredients, safe for all dogs
We hope that these tips can help your dog enjoy their bathtime -- or at least hate it less! Any improvement is an improvement!
Remember, if at any point during bathtime your dog seems to be in extreme distress, stop what you’re doing. That’s your dog’s way of telling you something’s not right! Try it again at a different time, or consult your veterinarian to make sure an injury or skin issue isn’t causing discomfort during bathtime.
To learn more about our coat specific, all natural dog shampoos, check out our entire line here: