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Dogs that hate bathtime

Each and every dog will have a different level of anxiety when it comes to being bathed, ranging from mild anxiety, right through to full blown panic.
For pups, it is very important to make the first experience of having a bath a really good one, so following the tips on how to change the dogs perception, will help you to have a dog that tolerates, if not enjoys bath time. 

It never ceases to amaze me how a dog, that loves jumping in the pool, running in and out of a dam, or even a puddle on the ground, will change into a shivering, cowering, squirming mess, at the first sign you're going to bath him – why?
There are multiple reasons why this may have occurred, and you will gain a new understanding as to why this is a scary event for so many dogs, and here are a few ideas as to underlying reasons.
Loss of control – being forced into a situation it does not want. Think about this aspect – when a dog runs in and out of puddles, the sea or any other type of water, it is normally having a good time and doing something really enjoyable and of its own choice.
We then take the dog, perhaps by picking it up, or dragging it into the bathroom – place it in water that may be cold, or too hot.
We then tend to put water all over its body, even it’s face and perhaps get soap in its eyes.
On top of that, we get the dog out, rub it all over with a towel (often onto a slippery bathroom floor) and very often use a hair dryer to get it dry while brushing it. Now just imagine that this is the first experience your dog has of being bathed, can you see how many components go into this which are unsettling to the dog and could result in bathing being a hated experience, even if it was only one of these components that caused the fear?
The next time we go to bath the dog, it may associate the bathroom and our procedure in getting ready for the bath, and run away, or put on full anchors and have to be dragged, or forcibly taken there, and the resistance to bathing is just reinforced and becomes a scary memory and something to be avoided.
  • Loss of balance, slipping and perhaps even falling.  If bathing your dog in a bath or shower, the surface is slippy and wet, and the dog will feel totally insure, and unable to keep his balance – this will be a scary feeling to the dog. The dog may try to escape, resulting in it falling and even hurting itself. At the same time, its owner is doing all they can to keep the dog in the water, and a struggle ensues – not a feeling of confidence one would imagine and very likely to leave a traumatic memory and association!  
  • Your dog may be one of those that dislikes being handled or picked up. There could already be a memory that unpleasant things happen when it is picked up, such as going to the vet for a procedure. It may be that you restrain him when taking off a tick or checking for them if you have been out in the veld for a walk.  
  •  It could even be that your dog was (or even is) picked up incorrectly and hurt, or heavens forbid, perhaps dropped by accident at some time. The memory of this would impact on being picked up to be put in the bath or basin. ​
  • If your dog is already a slightly nervy dog that dislikes new experiences, then imagine how an experience like this is going to impact on him!

PictureAquapaw Slow Treater from Mcmac
Ok, so how do we change the current behaviour?
In addition to some basic things you can do lower down that will help your dog to overcome its fear, we have to look at which of the elements we described in why dogs hate baths and relate these to your own dog.  Even if your dog gets a bit smelly, do go the extra mile and deal with all the different elements to help your dog change its perception of bathing before trying to bath it again. Remember, that each and every time a dog is exposed to a fearful situation, the dogs fearful reaction will be re-enforced – it may take a bit of time, but more than worth the effort.
First Steps
  • If your dog is scared or nervous of being picked up, then your first step is to overcome this fear. There are multiple You Tube videos you can look at to help you with this, and the most important thing is to go very slowly and don’t go further than what your dog can cope with. This may mean that you spend a few days just lifting your dogs feet off the ground, while offering praise and treats, but going slower, normally means that the end result will be quicker to achieve!
  • Grooming – as this is part of what happens both before and after a bath, get your dog used to being groomed and enjoying it. As above, there are You Tube videos to help you with this and what's important, is to use different equipment, such as a brush that will not tangle initially, so that your dogs gets used to this new, pleasant experience. Additionally, your dogs reaction to the existing equipment, may well be a negative one, so changing the equipment will help. Remember to pair with lots of praise and treats.
  • Place a non-slip mat inside the bath and on the floor outside the bath
  • If you normally bath your dog outside, consider doing it inside in the bathroom. 
  • Ensure that the water is luke warm - our hands are used to hot water, a dogs body is not!
  • Use a mild scented shampoo, or a shampoo with no scent. We need to bear in mind that a dogs' sense of smell is over 40 times stronger than ours and what may smell nice to us, could be totally overbearing to the dog, especially if it's a brand that contains insect repellant. 
  • Many dogs do not like the noise the shower nozzle makes, rather try bathing in the bath, and prepare 2 buckets of warm water to be in the bath as well. Using a smaller container, slowly pour the warm water over the dog - use one bucket for wetting, and the 2nd for rinsing.
  • When you are shampooing, totally avoid the head area - this can be wiped over later with a facecloth. 
  • If your dog loves a good scratch, after you put on the shampoo and lather it, spend a few minutes rubbing and scratching it all over the body - dogs love this on average. 


You don't want to be running all over looking for shampoo, towels etc while working with your dog. Make a list of what you need, and keep these in a basket that can be easily picked up and put in the bathroom beforehand. Many dogs do better with a spray nozzle like the Aquapaw bathing tool, where a strap fits over your hand, and the water comes out gently and slowly, or else the standard baths flexable spray will work. Keep this in your basket and also the Aquapaw Slow Treater as in picture above.  If you are going to use this as mentioned below - don't forget the peanut butter either!

Note:- If your dog dislikes a bath, never call him to go for one - you will totally mess up your recall. Rather get everything prepared before the bath, with your dog in another area of the home so it can't see what you are doing. When all is ready, put on their collar and lead and lead your dog to the bathroom. 
Pre-bathing training

  • If at all possible, change the item you are using for bathing as there is a negative connection already with this. If you have a 2nd bathroom in your home, then use this, or perhaps consider using a tub or even a shower.  We give you some tips lower down on introducing the new location where the dog will be bathed.
  • Once you have chosen this new location, take your dog out for a walk, which will result in the dog being more relaxed, and when you come home, have a big handful of treats available. Lead your dog towards the new location, praising and treating the whole time – even toss treats onto the floor in front of you. If the dog is hesitant to go the full way into the bathroom, don’t worry, just go as far as the dog can cope with and turn back. Do this several times a day, and even for a few days in a row. What is important, is that the treats stop when you stop the exercise – this will help the dog to associate the new routine as being a rewarding one, and your dog will be happy to go into the bathroom. 
  • Once the dog is totally comfortable with this, aim at getting the dog in and out of the bathroom and as close to the shower/ bath as possible. Keep up the treating and praising and it is at this stage that we suggest you bring in a new cue to indicate what is going to happen. Don't use any words, such as 'bath' that has already been associated with bathing in the past, rather choose a brand new word, that will only have positive associations. 
  • Now put a non-slip mat inside the bath and also one on the floor. At the same time you can either put a nice large dollop of peanut butter on the side of the bath, or use one of the Trick Licks such as the Aquapaw Slow Treater as shown in the picture above. 
  • If you find your dog is still very nervous, just go back to where it was comfortable and consider bringing in something to lower the stress levels. You should always talk to your vet about these and what to use. Our favourite options are the FOTD Dog Behaviour Spray General Anxiety, Rescue Remedy, Calm-eeze or similar. 
  • Either lure your dog to jump into the bath, or gently pick him up and place him in the bath. This must be done quietly and gently, and you may even find that you have to break this down further, by way of just bending down with the dog a bit, or luring a bigger dog to put his front paws on the bath. Whatever method you use, it is critical that this is a pleasant experience for the dog, and never go further until the dog is no longer showing any fear or resistance at each stage. At this stage there is no water, you are just getting the dog used to going into the actual bath. 
  • Once the dog is in the bath or shower, praise and treat and allow it to lick the peanut butter until it is finished. Just remember to try and use the organic brand as too much peanut butter can cause problems, plus never use a product that contains xylitol or any artificial sugar - these are lethal to dogs. You will do this over and over until there is no resistance from the dog. 
  • Once the dog is happily going into the bath, we start the actual washing. You will now have your basket with you with everything already at hand. Firstly, let the water run very slowly from the hand held shower attachment and ensure that it is warm - not cold and not hot. Lure or place your dog in the bath, shower as practiced above, and then while the dog is licking its peanut butter, and praising all the time, gently start to wet the feet and slowly work all the way up the body. You may have to do a few sessions of this, before you do a full bath. 
  • Make sure you have the non slip on the floor and some towels and lure, or pick your dog up. Praise and treat and gently rub with a towel only at this stage. Now take your dog out the bathroom and have a really good game of ball, or whatever your dog loves outside - once again we are bringing in a really positive association.

The Washing Procedure

You have everything at hand, and you want to be as efficient as possible, but still calm, so know the procedure you are going to follow. 

We suggest putting the water all over their body, but totally avoiding the head. Then put shampoo on the dirtiest areas, such as feet, tummy, private parts. If you find that your dog loves it when you are rubbing the shampoo into the coat on the back or the tummy, then spend a little time massaging these areas as we mentioned above. This will just make the whole procedure more enjoyable for the dog. 

Now gently using the spray, or the bucket of warm water with a smaller container to pour it from -  wash the shampoo off the body. When your dog is all clean, take your facecloth, dampen it, and wipe the face area. If necessary, put a little bit of shampoo on the facecloth to rub around the mouth area if it's very dirty. Then rinse the facecloth and wipe the shampoo off. Do avoid putting the spray over the dogs head if possible. 

Now just do your drying procedure which you have already ensured your dog can cope with, remembering to praise, offer treats and make the whole process fun. 

What is also a good idea, is to try one of the dry doggy shampoos so that you can extend the period between baths. This is a great alternative to freshen your dogs coat and eliminate odour.  All you do is massage it in, and hey presto - a much cleaner dog!
We can assist with our your need. Have a look at our Grooming bundle kit!