Dog getting a bath

Q. My dog hates taking a bath. How do I make it more enjoyable for us both and not such a struggle?

A. Your dog isn’t alone in despising baths. Bath time often sparks an unwanted game of chase, with the human sprinting and diving after the pooch just to bring him to the tub. Once he’s caught, the chase isn’t over; it’s a constant struggle to prevent the pup from fleeing. Although making bath time one of your dog’s favorite things to do may not be realistic, you can help make baths more tolerable — for you and for him.  

Let your dog know it’s bath time by using a certain cue, such as “bath.” By associating a certain word with his bath, you help take away any surprise that a bath is coming. Simply by alleviating his fear of the unknown, you can help your dog begin to relax. You can also use treats to coax your dog to you when you need to catch him for the bath. Avoid chasing after your dog, though; this game of chase can be fun for your dog and may reinforce the behavior of running away from you.  

Bath time should always be paired with something your dog enjoys. I use a snack jar in my bathroom when bathing my pugs, so I can reward calm behavior of all four feet in the tub. I also give them a long-lasting toy or chew after their bath, such as a Greenie, or a food puzzle that makes the bath more tolerable because they grow to expect a fruitful reward when it’s over.

Use warm water, which is less likely than cold water to make a dog panic. Place an anti-skid mat or a towel on the bottom of your tub. Many dogs struggle in the bath because their feet slip when they can’t gain traction. You can also use a grooming tether or a nylon collar and leash to keep better control of your pet while he’s in the bath — just keep a watchful eye to reduce the rick of choking or other injury. 

Don’t douse your dog with running water; this will make him nervous. Use a washcloth to wash your dog’s face — it’s less frightening than running water splashing over his snout. Hold your dog’s nose and chin up at an angle when running water over his neck and the top of his head; his nose should be the highest point. This prevents the water from running down into his nose or eyes.  

Use a pet shower sprayer attachment to bathe your pooch. This nifty gadget allows you to bring the water to your dog with the long hose and spray attachment; water flow on the sprayers can also be adjusted to the pressure that fits your dog’s comfort level. It’s less terrifying for a dog to have water flowing from a source that can be brought to the direct area where he is already standing in the bath than to be forced into running water under the faucet or the shower sprayer.

With these tips, bath time should be a more relaxed experience for both you and your dog.