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Bathing Your Dog

Most dogs are quite happy staying smelly and dirty and will often go roll in some more if given the opportunity! But us dog owners have our limit and sometimes a bath is needed. Here are some tips on bathing your dog and how to make it less of a battle.

Make it a Positive Time and Go Slow

Whatever type of dog you have, it is possible to make bath time a positive thing as long as you take it slow and stay calm, and link good things to bathing. It is true that many dogs do not like bathing but who would if it involved being restrained, soaked, covered in a scent you may not like, roughly handled and then soaked again. At the least we can help you get your dog to a place where he tolerates it, and for some it might even be something they like.

The key is to get your dog to associate bath time with something he loves. That after the bath something great will happen – a new toy, play time with you, a favorite treat, a walk. Eventually he will go along with bath time because it is worth it. When you get him to the tub, give him a treat. When he gets in the tub give him a treat. If he does not like the water, after making him wet give him a treat. If you give a treat after each stage it will go a lot easier. After several repetitions of this new bath time he will be less stressed and so will you.


As you move to each stage do so slowly and keep your body and your tone of voice calm and relaxed. Keep praising him when he is doing well and talk to him. When you need to lather the soap do so gently while giving him a massage. Handle his paws with care as dogs tend to not like them being touched. Avoid causing physical discomfort by rushing or being too brisk.

Introducing Baths to Your Puppy

A great way to avoid issues with a larger dog at bath time is to get him used to it as a puppy. Go slowly and use treats along the way. The various sensations and sounds will be new and may cause him worry at first so stay patient. Play with him, talk to him, make it seem like a great time when you two get to play and spend time together.

You can use this is a chance to get him used to other aspects of grooming too like handling his feet to prepare him for nail clipping, opening his mouth to look at his teeth and gums and giving him a check all over. Brush him when he is dry and check for signs of ill health. Reward him after each handling to convince him going through this is worth it.

Before Bathing

Before the actual bath get prepared;

Have a good, mild shampoo (consult with your vet and/or groomer).

Remove particles and tangles from your dog's coat with a brush.

Have a good rubber bath mat in the tub to stop him slipping and sliding.

Make sure all your supplies are ready. Shampoo, conditioner, treats, toys, towels.

Put water in the tub that is lukewarm.

Do not call him to the bath – go get him and bring him.

Lift him in if you can, otherwise use treats to encourage him to get in or train him to jump in on cue.

How to Teach Your Dog to Get in and out of the Tub

There are two cues he needs, 'Get in' and 'Get out'. Have some favorite treats ready and take him to a quiet place in the house but not the bathroom yet. Have something there your dog can hop in and out of easily like a box.

Now show him the treat and say 'Get in' then throw it into the box. When he steps in tell him 'good' and give another treat. Now say 'get out' and clap and move away to encourage him to follow. When he does give praise but he does not need a treat. Getting in to the tub should be more rewarded. Repeat about ten times, take a break and have another session. Do this for two or three days until he has mastered it.

Then give him his cue to get in and wait till he has obeyed before giving the treat this time. You may need to warm up with the first difficulty a couple of times. The you can give the cue and point. Give him a treat or two as soon as he gets in and praise him. Repeat 10 times and take a break and have another session that day. Do this for two or three days.

Now we can move on to the bathroom. Remember to have a rubber mat in the bath and a towel on the floor in front of it. Give the cue and point but this time you want him to get in the tub and get out of it on command. You may need to go back to tossing the treat in the tub a few times just to warm up and remind him. Be sure to praise him when he gets in and reward him. Repeat 10 times and do another session that day. After the second session give him a special treat, toy or play with him so he learns wonderful things happen during tub time. You can then move on to giving the cue for actual bath time.

Washing Your Dog

If your dog will let you, you can try putting large cotton balls in each ear to stop water getting in them. If it upsets them though just skip it and try to avoid getting water in his ears. Wet your dog well using either a sprayer or a cup. If using a sprayer use one specifically designed for dogs. When he is wet put shampoo on from the neck and move down massaging gently. As well as avoiding the ears also avoid the eyes and mouth. In those areas use a damp cloth to wipe them down. When he is shampooed rinse him, this may take some work as most have thick coats. It is important to get the shampoo out otherwise it can cause itching and irritation. If you are going to use conditioner because he has long hair apply this now.

After rinsing either lift your dog out or give the command for him to get out. On a towel dry off your dog. There are towels designed for pets that are more absorbent than human ones. Some dog owners use a hair dryer but you will need to get him used to the feeling and sound before you start using it on him. Also keep it on a low setting so you do not burn him. If you want to avoid your dog rubbing when wet on your furniture keep him confined until he is dry. It is a normal reaction for them to one to rub after a bath. Make sure you give him some favorite treats and play with him for a while to reward him.


Alternatives to a Bath

Try the shower – medium and large sized dogs sometimes prefer this as they can step in and out easily.

If it is warm, use the kid's pool and the hose outside.

Small dogs can go in a sink!

Buy a special tub made for dogs.

Take him to a groomer. Check that your groomer is right for you and your dog by checking for complaints, getting recommendations, is it clean, is it too loud, will they let you stay and watch if you want to, are they welcoming to you and your dog, do they ask for your dogs health records, do they use sedation (good ones should not). Warn a groomer if it is your dog's first time so they can skip some grooming and ease the dog into it.

Some pet care places have do it yourself dog wash stations.

Use a dry shampoo.

If your dog expresses fear or aggression get a professional like a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist to help.

Things to Avoid

Do not yell at your dog

Do not physically punish him

Do not force him if he is genuinely frightened

Do not use human shampoo as it can dry out their skin

Dog Hair Brushing

Bathing Your Dog

Nail Trimming

Ear Cleaning of Dogs

Hair Cuts

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