Do you know how to train your dog to love taking a bath? Done right, bath time can be easy and fun for both you and your dog!
Oh…the dreaded bath. But what choice do you have? Once your dog rolls in something stinky it’s bath or bust at your house. Too bad your bathing beauty isn’t up for a dip in the tub. Get ready to get soaked. The Woof Reporters wondered, “how can we make doggie bath time less of a nightmare for everyone involved?” Woof Report’s expert trainer, Mike Wombacher, came to our rescue! If your dog runs for the door when you run the bath, this tip’s for you. Whether you’re the washer or just prepping your pooch for the groomer, read on for Mike’s training tips to break the bath time blues and keep your dog calm and clean.
Woof Report’s expert trainer, Mike Wombacher, came to our rescue! If your dog runs for the door when you run the bath, this tip’s for you. Whether you’re the washer or just prepping your pooch for the groomer, read on for Mike’s training tips to break the bath time blues and keep your dog calm and clean.
A Clean Routine From Bath to Blow-Dry
If you want to teach your dog to be tolerant of bathing, introduce it early, gently and in small increments. Have your pup play games around the tub and make the tub (or sink for small dogs) a fun place to be. (Note: This will likely ensure that you have a fuzzy face waiting for you, toy in hand whenever you exit the shower).
To get started, place your dog in the tub with no water in it, roll his favorite toy around in there and if available, bring the entire family in to shower him with attention and treats. Do this a number of times, slowly increasing the time he has to stay in the tub until he’s become used to this and anticipates a good time. Pretty soon he’ll look forward to tub time.
Slow Introduction to Water
Next, fill the tub with half an inch of warm water so he gets his feet wet when he gets in and repeat the procedure – again rewarding him again with treats, praise, and petting. After some initial hesitation, your dog should frolic in the puddle you’ve made for him. As he continues to get used to this, add a little more water each time. Take a small unbreakable cup, dip it in the water and pour it over him to condition him to the sensation of water flowing over him and of being wet. During all of this, be sure to handle and massage him a lot as you’ll eventually do when you shampoo him and provide lots of treats and affection throughout.
(A tip from a Woof Report reader: add a scoop of peanut butter to the bathtub water spout to keep your dog distracted and change the way she feels about bathtime!)
Be sure to take your time with all of this and move forward only in small increments which your pup is able to handle without any upset. If you see that you’ve moved ahead too fast, backtrack to the last level which with he was comfortable and work more slowly. The more you do this, the faster your dog will become accustomed to it and the younger and smaller he is the easier he’ll be for you to handle.
Drying Your Pooch
After the bath, some dogs are fine with some towel drying and should easily accept this and actually like the sensation. You can blow-dry your dog if you like, but don’t use a hot setting as it will dry out his skin and coat and could even burn his skin. Since most dogs find the sound of a hairdryer at least mildly annoying, it’s usually necessary to introduce this in increments as well.
You should work on bathing and drying exercises simultaneously so that your pup is used to the whole routine whether it’s done by you or a groomer. Eventually, you can simply phase out treats and reward him at the end of the bath with a fun play session.
Thank you to Mike Wombacher from the Bay Area’s Dog Gone Good Training for the tip from his book, There’s a Puppy in the House.
Thank you to Harrison Frazier and Buggy for the photo.
Originally published May 2009; reviewed and revised March 2017.