Help! My Dog Hates the Bath: A Trainer’s Guide

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It’s bath time for your dog. You’ve got your towels ready for you, the dog shampoo is ready and everything you need is at your fingertips… except your dog hiding under the bed. If your dog hates the bathroom, you are not alone. Your dog isn’t the first and won’t be the last to dislike bathing! But with a few small changes to your bathing routine, you can make the experience even more enjoyable for both of you.

Here’s what to do if your dog hates bathing but still needs a wash.

1. Bring your dog’s bath tub indoors

There are two reasons outdoor toilets can scare your dog. First of all, this hookah? Frozen. This is particularly uncomfortable in cold weather, but your dog can also get too cold in the summer.

Second, unless you have a magical pup that loves bath time or a 90 degree day, you probably keep your dog on a leash so he can’t escape. However, forcing a dog to stay in a fearful situation will only make the fear worse.

Relocating your bathroom to a bathtub, shower stall, or even a sink if you have a small dog allows you to adjust the water temperature as needed while using the natural contours of the space to keep your pet in place.

2. Cushion a slippery bathtub floor

If your dog hates the bathroom, it may be because of the sensory experience. For most dogs, one of the worst things about bathing in a bathtub, shower, or sink is feeling unsafe on the wet, slippery floor. It is the same with humans. If you’ve ever slipped in the shower, you know that slipping can be not only painful but also scary.

Before you start bathing, place a rug or even a towel on the bottom of the tub to prevent your pup from falling. Sure, the towel will get soaked, but your pup will feel a lot safer.

Dog bathing

3. Give your dog something else to focus on

Trick your dog into thinking that bath time isn’t so bad by smearing peanut butter or baby food on the tub or shower door for him to lick off while you’re on your way to work. (If the idea of ​​a peanut butter dip doesn’t appeal to you, get a Lickimat to cover with food.)

If your pup is highly motivated by treats, he may be able to focus on one tasty treat until bath time is over.

4. Forget the shower or the faucet

The sound of water running through the showerhead or faucet can be very loud. For many dogs, loud = scary. In fact, if your dog hates baths, it may not be the water but the sounds of bath time that frightens him.

Rather than turning on the faucet while your pup is in the bathroom, try filling a bucket or two ahead of time and gently pouring the water over your pup as needed.

5. Use a mild shampoo with a mild fragrance

With a nose 40 times stronger than ours, dogs can be overwhelmed by heavily scented soaps. Instead, opt for an unscented or lightly scented version made specifically for dogs. Never bathe your dog with human shampoo or shower gel.

6. Test the water temperature

Just as the water is too cold outside, the temperature of the water inside may be too warm for your dog to be comfortable. For a successful bath, keep the water warm but not hot.

7. Use desensitization and counterconditioning to calm down very anxious beachgoers

If your dog has already made up his mind about the horrors of bath time, you’ll need to bring the big training guns to overcome the problem.

A process of desensitization and counterconditioning over time can change a dog’s emotional response to bathing from a fear response to a tolerance response.

  • Start rewarding your dog with super awesome treats just for approaching the tub.
  • Once he’s happy with that, you can reward him for getting into a drying tub.
  • Later, you can turn the water on and off quickly, or gently pour some water over it, followed by a tasty treat.

If you need help, consult a certified positive reinforcement trainer or veterinary behaviorist. The key to these techniques is to start small and slowly introduce your dog (back) to the bathroom and bathtub. For more information, see the AKC’s assessment of this approach in response to a Norwegian sighthound owner whose dog resisted bathing.

Click here for more tips on grooming your dog at home and improving your pet care routine even further with tips and tricks for dog dental and eye care.

8. Leave it in the hands of professionals

If bathing your dog is causing you both anxiety, you may want to enlist the help of an experienced groomer. Even better, have a groomer come to your home to do a one-on-one job with your potty-hating pup.

Not only will your dog smell fresh, but it will also trim his claws and hair.

Tip: Rover now offers dog grooming services in Seattle, Austin, and Denver. More information can be found on our page here.

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Do you need dog grooming?

Does your dog need a fresh cut? A hairdresser can now come to your home! Rover offers dog grooming services in select markets. More information can be found on our page here.

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