DOG WELLNESS: HOW TO BATHE A DOG (AND HAVE SOME FUN!)

Pawsh-magazine-how-to-bath-a-dog-7 Several years ago I worked as a bather at a very busy dog grooming salon. I spent my days literally covered in fur, bubbles, slobbery wet kisses and – let’s be honest – a few scratches along the way. In my experience, most dogs didn’t love the prospect of a warm bath. Many would tolerate it, but most would do their best to resist.

However, with a little bit of time and a lot of practice on my own sweet pup, Rory, I have come up with a few simple tips and tricks to help any dog learn to love bathtime. Pawsh-Magazine-how-to-bath-a-dog Regular bathing for dogs is important to keep their coats and skin clean and healthy, plus as an added bonus, it helps them smell nice. Here are a six secret tips to make bathtime a fun time!

1.  HAVE THE RIGHT SUPPLIES ON HAND
Imagine if you were at the hairdresser’s and your stylist kept running out of the room to grab the right pair of scissors or the right kind of gel. You would probably be a little peeved, yes? The same is true for dogs.

Make sure you have all of your necessary shampoos, towels, brushes and supplies set up by the tub or washing area so that you don’t get frazzled trying to manage a soggy dog while looking for what you need. Plus, being prepared in this manner will ultimately mean the bathtime will be short and sweet, which most pups will appreciate.

2. BATHE WITH CALM WATER
Sound strange? Let me explain. I personally don’t run a bath with Rory around. Why? Because a dog’s hearing is exceptional and being in a tub with a loud, pressurized facet blaring would be alarming for any dog. (Did you know most dogs hate the rain because it is noisy for their hearing?)

Instead run a bath without your pup present. Test the water to make sure it’s just the right temperature and once everything is ready then bring your pup in. Introducing your dog to a still, calm pool of water will be far less stressful.

Once your pup is in the tub, avoid using a handheld showerhead to wet and rinse them (unless they are indifferent to that). I use a large, empty yogurt container as a bucket to wet Rory down and rinse her off. I find scooping water up and over her to be a more calming action than blasting her with a nozzle. The dog is thereby calmer too.

(NOTE: For rinsing, fill a mop bucket of fresh water so that you aren’t trying to rinse your dog off with soapy/dirty water.)
Pawsh-Magazine-how-to-bath-a-dog-43. GET YOUR DOG USED TO WATER
Most dogs detest the water element of a bath, so take some time to teach them what a fun wet thing water can be! Fill a tub with a little bit of water, enough so that it reaches halfway up their legs and encourage them to get into the water on their own. Treats can be used to entice the first plunge.

When your dog gets into the tub, let them hop back out again on their own time — slowly so they don’t hurt themselves. This is important so that they don’t feel trapped in an overwhelming environment. Be sure to use lots of praise when they get in and out of the tub so that they know you are proud of them and that the tub is a happy place to be.

I find playing a gentle ‘splash’ game helps to engage dogs with water. Simply pat at the water’s surface or drop a toy that sinks into the tub and encourage your dog to also splash around. Just be sure to keep this game steady and calm. You don’t want a hyper dog in the tub, as they can slip and get injured. (Even better, use a non-slip bathmat in the tub for added safety).

If you tend to bath your dog outside with a hose, spend some time playing with the water nozzle and your pup. Play ‘chase the water line’ in the grass and spray other people as well as the dogs. Believe it or not, this will help a dog feel safe with the hose and associate it with positive, happy energy.

Repeat ‘water time’ as frequently as you can for 10 minute intervals to teach your pup that time in the tub is simply extra play time. Score!
Pawsh-Magazine-how-to-bath-a-dog-64. HAVE SPECIAL ‘BATHTIME ONLY’ TOYS
Remember when you were little and your parents had to bribe you into agreeing to bathtime with a special rubber ducky or toy boat? Well, this same trick can work for dogs too. I recommend having two designated bathtime dog toys — one that sinks and one that floats. Make sure that your dog only gets these toys when they are in the tub, ideally only when they get into the tub on their own.

Toys are a great distraction while you’re lathering up the shampoo and rinsing the suds away. With your dog’s mind fixated on nosing around their floaty toy, they will be less likely to acknowledge the actual soaping up process. (This is the bathtime dog toy I use). Allow them to play with the toy for an hour after bathtime so that the toy is a reward for good bathtime behaviour. Then put it away ready for the next mucky occasion.
Pawsh-magazine-how-to-bath-a-dog-1a5. TALK IN A SOOTHING, HAPPY VOICE
While Fido wriggling all over the place during his bath may be enough of a nuisance to make you want to scream, keep your voice light, happy and soothing. As with any situation, the more stressed out you become, the more stressed out your pupster will be.

Use the same vocal cues you use when playing a game with your dog; you’re happy, energetic, yet firm when the play gets a little too rough. Your dog will know how to respond to this sort of verbal direction, rather than getting scared or upset by yelling.

(CONFESSION: Singing to your dog can help keep them calm too. My song of choice is “Rub-a-dub, get the bugs out!” or “Rub-a-dub-dub, there’s a pup in the tub!”)

6. KEEP DRY AND CARRY ON
Contrary to popular belief, bathtime is not over when the last little paw comes out of the water. When you towel dry your dog, remember to maintain the fun game-like mentality. Most dogs get what is known as the ‘heebie-jeebies’ after a bath and will tear around the house in a super hyper manner (here is Rory doing just that after her bath this weekend).

Embrace this happy mood with your dog and settle in for a game of light rough-house with the towel. This may seem like peculiar advice, but by making the drying part of a bath into a game every time your pup comes out of the tub, they will remember the routine and look forward to the chance to go ‘crazy’ after being washed. This also reinforces the bath as a bonding ritual between dog and human.Pawsh-Magazine-how-to-bath-a-dog-2As any seasoned dog parent knows, canine kiddies thrive on routine. They do best when they know what to expect. So no matter what your dog’s bathtime looks like, whether its in the family bathtub, the laundry room tub or with the backyard hose, make it a ritual with these tips.

And above all keep it fun so that your dog looks forward to the treats, the toys, the afterbath antics and the extra time with you!

{Huge thanks to my incredible friend and talented artist Tonya Pet Photography for photographing this special “Pet Wellness” column. And thanks to Ziggy the dog model!}

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3 comments

  1. Gr8CanineDogs says:

    This is really good information. Ignorance is not bliss so this article is a great reminder and teacher to us all. Some dog owners may experience difficulties, yet others will have not issues at all. Routine is the key to success with dogs and children.

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