Calming music for his anxiety. Bath towels and scrubs. Your dog sitting properly beside you on the bathroom.
These three elements paint the picture of a dog who’s about to be given a bath by a caring dog owner. Seems like a pretty picture, right?
But once you open your faucet and your dog hears the sound of water coming out from it, all hell will break loose. It’s bath time and he’s afraid of it!
The question is, can you do anything? Well, of course, you can!
Dogs can fear bath time. It might even be the #1 item on their most dreaded experiences!
In this post, let’s go over the subject.
Why do dogs hate bath time?
It’s in your dog’s wiring. The Bichon Frise, Poodle, German Shepherd, and all dog breeds say NO to bath time.
Even if he usually jumps for joy when you take him out for a normal swimming session, he’s still the same animal that freaks out when it’s bath time.
He may enjoy swimming. So it’s not about the water.
And fortunately, veterinary behaviorists can explain why. You see, dogs hate bath time not because they’re afraid of water. But it’s because they fear the idea of losing control.
As opposed to swimming, you’re putting him in a “forced” situation when you give him a bath. During a swim, he’s the one in control. He’s the one cleaning himself, tinkering with water, submerging himself… and so on.
But during a typical bath time, that same control is nowhere to be found. He’s not the one in control. It’s you who’s cleaning him, tinkering with water, submerging him… and so on.
Basically, it’s you who’s in charge. And your dog feels as if he’s trapped.
How often should you bathe your dog?
Sadly, many people still cling to that old wives’ tale that says you should only bathe your dog once per month. According to that story, bathing your dog more than once every month will only irritate your dog’s skin. It’s either that, or it will only cause his skin to go dry.
To be fair, there is a bit of truth to that. But that was before, centuries ago, when special dog soaps and moisturizing products for pets were still unheard of.
Now, times are different. And now, it’s okay to give your dog a bath every week. In fact, if your dog gets out a lot, you are encouraged to bathe him at least once a week.
Here is a compilation of funny videos of dogs that are about to take a bath:
What should you use to bathe your dog?
Take out all the best grooming tools if you want. But what you need, at this point, are the bathing essentials.
And a good old-fashioned bathing kit includes the following:
- Dog soap. Turn to all-natural soaps like this one from Paw Soaps!
- Dog shampoo. Nature’s Miracle Odor Control makes a good choice.
- Drying towel. Any piece of cloth seems fine. But if possible, a microfiber towel is best.
6 tips on how to make your dog love bath time
Your job is to make him feel safe. Let him know that he’s not under attack.
Forcing dogs to take a bath is commonly the approach of beginner dog owners. And it’s also one of the most common mistakes of going about this.
You see, using force is never an answer to a dog who doesn’t want to take a bath. It could result to problems such as submissive urination.
Even if it seems like it’s getting you somewhere, it’s actually a counterproductive approach when looking at the problem from a long-term perspective. With this, you’re taking the easy way out instead of addressing the problem.
Sure, if you force him to take a bath one time, you will bathe him that one time. But during the next time, he’ll still be afraid.
So because taking a bath isn’t part of your dog’s favorite things to do, it’s up to you to change his mind. And you can!
What can you do? The simple answer is to lessen the stress in his environment. And to elaborate on this point, here are some tips:
- Make him feel comfortable. Remember that bath time is an incredibly stressful situation for your dog. Don’t bring in more stressful elements like loud music and unfamiliar people.
- Brush his coat for about 5 minutes. Do it on the same spot where you’re about to bathe him. Using a dog brush will make him feel and understand that he is there to be cleaned.
He is panicking, though he may not look like it.
- Protect his ears. A cotton ball in each ear will do the trick. If water gets inside his ears, these sense organs can get inflamed and could cause a foul smell. That, or it could cause him to panic even more.
- Pour water from front to back. Before you apply any product, it’s best to get his entire body all wet first. Make sure you wet his armpits, legs, paws, and undersides, too!
- Avoid applying soap (or any product) onto his head. The reason? It could harm his eyes. Use water instead.
- Rinse thoroughly. Once you’re done cleaning him with soap, make sure to rinse him thoroughly. It’s extremely important not to leave out any products to prevent skin irritation.
Bath time is usually terrifying for dogs. It belongs in a list of their most dreaded experiences.
But have you noticed that not every dog hates bath time? So you should find a way to play a big part here.
You can help condition your dog to see matters differently. After all, dogs are intelligent animals.
If you teach them to behave in a better manner when bath time comes, you just gave them an incomparable gift: the gift of self-care!
Jen Jones is a professional dog trainer and behavior specialist with more than 25 years of experience. As the founder of ‘Your Dog Advisor’ and the ‘Canine Connection’ rehabilitation center, she applies a holistic, empathetic approach, aiming to address root causes rather than merely treating symptoms.
Well known for her intuitive and compassionate approach, Jen adopts scientifically-proven, reward-based methods, encouraging positive reinforcement over punishment. Jen specializes in obedience training, behavior modification, and puppy socialization. Her innovative methods, particularly in addressing anxiety and aggression issues, have been widely recognized. Jen has worked with many of the world’s leading dog behaviorists and in her free time volunteers with local animal shelters and rescue groups.