Have you ever tried to bathe a nervous dog? It’s not easy.
Whether your dog is a worrier in general, or they have specific concerns about water, you’re going to need a good strategy to make the bathing experience a success. In fact, it’s particularly crucial to get the bathing experience right if your dog is already anxious.
While you know you’re never going to let anything bad happen to your pup, this won’t stop your pooch from trembling when you turn on the bathroom tap. Fortunately, we have some tips you can follow to turn your dog from a water worrier into a bathing superstar.
Let’s get started.
First: Understand Your Dog’s Fear
Before we jump into the best approach for bathing a nervous dog, let’s address the initial cause of your dog’s concern. Knowing why your dog is scared of the bath can help you in addressing the problem. For instance, if you know your dog hates being cold, you can ensure the bathroom is warm, and the water you’re using is the right temperature before you start the bath.
Other issues with bathing can be more difficult to deal with. If your pet had a traumatic experience with water in their past, you might need to consider speaking to a pet therapist or behavioural trainer to help your pooch overcome their fears.
In most cases, the key to success with overcoming bathing worries, is replacing negative connotations and fears, with positive experiences.
How to Bathe a Dog with a Fear of Water
Ideally, you should begin bathing your dog every so often when they’re still a puppy. It’s much easier to make the experience feel natural and fun for your dog when they’re still young. Start with a washcloth and a little water, and gradually work up to using things like tubs and showers.
If you’ve adopted your dog and he or she already has a fear of bathing, the following tips will help.
1. Prep for Bath time Properly
First, make sure you prepare for the bath in advance. Having all the right equipment in place will help the bathing experience to go more smoothly, which means less stress for your dog. Plus, being well prepared means, you can get through the bath faster, so there’s less time for your dog to get anxious.
Start by making sure you have the right shampoo and conditioner for your dog – something that feels good on their skin will make the bath into a more positive experience. Next, prep your bath with:
- Warm water: Fill the tub with around two or three inches of warm water – not too hot or cold. You can use this water and a wash cloth to dampen your pup before lifting them into the tub, making the bath a more gradual experience.
- A rubber mat: A non-slip mat on the bottom of the bath or tub will stop your pet from slipping and sliding during bath time. This can help to reduce the risk of falling and minimise the chances of trauma for your dog.
- Dog toys: Dog toys can help to distract your pooch from what’s happening, so they’re less likely to get frightened.
- A spray nozzle attachment: Having a shower head you can use to gently rinse your dog’s fur will make the bathing experience easier. You can also consider using a jug if your pup is afraid of the sound of running water.
- A cosy, fluffy towel: Make sure you have a premium high-performance towel on-hand to help wrap your dog up after the bath.
2. Give your Dog the Ultimate Spa Treatment
Once you’re fully prepared to give your dog their bath, ease them into the experience slowly. Bring them into the bathroom and give them plenty of love and cuddles before you try to get them into the tub. Play with the water and encourage your dog to dip their paws in slowly. You can even use a stepping stool so your dog can get into the water at their own pace.
When your pooch makes it into the tub, don’t rush the bathing process. Take your time to wet all of their fur, talking in a soothing voice as you do. When you begin to apply the shampoo, massage it into your dog’s fur slowly and carefully, giving them plenty of reassurance and positive reinforcement as you do. You might even stop every now and again to give your dog a treat.
Take the bath as slowly as possible, using a towel or flannel to wash your dog’s face carefully, and taking extra precautions to keep water out of his eyes, mouth, and nose. Though it might take a while to get the bath over and done with this way, you’ll be helping your dog to trust you, and recognise that baths aren’t as scary as they seem.
3. Snuggle after Every Bath
Finally, after you’re done with washing your pooch, make sure you rinse all of the shampoo or conditioner out of their fur fully, then help them out of the tub. It’s a good idea to have a towel on the floor to avoid splashing here.
Wrap your dog up in a highly absorbent towel, or use a dog drying bag to wrap your pooch in a feeling of absolute warmth and luxury. As you’re gently patting your dog dry (rather than rubbing vigorously), let them know how well-behaved they’ve been with plenty of pets, affection, and complements.
After the bath, relax and do something fun together on the sofa – like watching a movie, with a few extra treats thrown in for good measure. This will help your dog to settle down after dealing with the stress of bathing. It’s also a great way to help your pup associate baths with positive things – like time spent with their favourite person (you).
With a little practice, and a lot of patience, you’ll find bathing doesn’t have to be as problematic as it seems.