Some dogs love the water whether it’s jumping after a stick into the lake on a hot day, jumping in the waves at the beach, or leaping into the pool to swim with the family. Other dogs are not so thrilled at the idea of getting soaking wet, feeling the pressure and hearing the noise of rushing water, or fearing that they’re trapped inside a big tub with no escape. Our dog Jem is one of those dogs that absolutely freaks out at the sign of water, so bath time has always been a chore to say the least.
If your dog is one of those that absolutely hates bath time, fights and scratches to avoid it, and thrashes water all over the house in protest, don’t worry – there’s hope! Every dog wants to hear those two magic words: “good dog!” They love to be obedient, feel comfortable, and make their parents proud. It just takes a little bit of training on our end to get them to that point.
Luckily there are tried and true methods for training your dog to love bath time and feel comfortable. It only takes a few 3-5 minute training sessions!
Step 1: Practice Being In The Tub
For some dogs, the act of standing in the tub is intimidating enough, nevermind having the water rushing out of the faucet and getting soaking wet.. The slippery texture and surrounding walls are unfamiliar and scary for some. If you practice having your dog just hang out in the tub to start with, this will give her a chance to get used to the environment.
Putting down an inexpensive bath mat can make all of the difference in the world for your dog. This will make it so the tub isn’t slippery and gives your pup a stable place to stand. Sometimes the slipperiness is one of the most intimidating parts of bath time and can be resolved easily with this simple trick.
I bought a bath mat for $5.00 that didn’t have too much texture. I didn’t want any of the “massaging” ones that would feel weird on her sensitive paws.
Step 2: Associate The Tub With A Tasty Treat
The fastest way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. The same is true for your dog! If your dog associates being in the bath tub with having his favorite treat, then he is sure to look forward to bath time! It’s best to choose a treat that will last awhile and require your dog to do some work.
A bone or peanut butter-stuffed Kong works great! I let Jem sniff her Kong before introducing her to the bath time to catch her attention. I placed the Kong in the tub, and she practically jumped in by herself to get to it. I placed her in t he tub, and once Jem got busy working on her Kong her anxiety about being in the tub slipped away within a few minutes. While your dog relaxes and works on the treat, gently and calmly brush her so she associates getting cleaned/groomed as a positive experience.
Repeat this process until she becomes calm, relaxed, and comfortable with the experience of being in the bath tub. Her anxiety will subside as long as you take things slow and practice this process on several separate occasions until she shows signs that she is comfortable.
Jem became comfortable being in the tub and wanted to stay in during this part of the training until her Kong was out of peanut butter, and then she was on to the next adventure! She jumped out of the tub which I was happy about. If I can get her used to jumping in and out by herself, then she can feel like she’s more in control and relaxed. She did so great after only her first session! I was thrilled that such a simple trick made all of the difference in the world for her. And on our first try!
Step 3: Gradually Introduce Water
Rather than turning the faucet on and drenching your pup from the get-go, which can be intimidating, have a container of warm water ready to gently and slowly pour onto the floor of the tub. And before you have your dog get in the tub, wet the bottom of the tub so she can get used to the floor being wet and a little more slick.
Introducing the water slowly will make your dog feel like she is still in control of her emotions without shocking her with too much too fast. I poured a little bit of water next to Jem slowly and pulled back when she showed signs of fear. When she looked like she wanted to jump out of the tub, I would pause and let her step back into the comfort zone of chewing her Kong. She slowly felt comfortable with me pouring more and more water close to her. She even let me pour it on her foot and the Kong!
A running faucet can bother some dogs because the sound affects their ears. Repeat this process of introducing water and increase the length of time spent in the tub until your pup feels comfortable having the water poured onto her side, back, or feet. You can gradually introduce more water until you’ve moved on to having a full bath from start to finish.
I was honestly surprised at how well these training techniques worked with Jem. She’s by far our most skittish, nervous, and fearful dog when it comes to water. The trick was to take the training slowly and trust her to show me how quickly she wanted to progress through the training steps. It required me to be patient and confident that she would learn to love bath time at her own pace. I remained calm and positive while giving her positive reinforcement and words of encouragement every step of the way. If Jem the “scaredy-cat” can learn to love bath time, I believe any dog can!
Does your dog love or hate bath time? And do you know any tricks to make the process more enjoyable for both pups and pup-parents?
These training techniques were adapted from PetFinder.com