You Can Drag a Dog to Water—Then, Good Luck . . . the Doggie Bath Ritual Goes Bad

Dogs love the dirt. They’re drawn to it like kids to mud puddles. If parents and caregivers didn’t say, “No!” both kids and dogs would happily romp through mud, creek, puddle, nettles, burrs, weeds and—at least in the canine world—take the occasional roll in unmentionables. Not to mention chance encounters with skunks. All of which makes the doggie bath ritual a necessity for most canine caregivers. Sadly, it is also an ordeal of epic proportions for many. Watch the hilarious video “Dogs don’t want to bathe” to see just how many creative, wacky and simply panicky ways dogs find to escape the horror of the bathtub (video below).

You can drag a dog to water… but then what? Although we laugh at the antics of reluctant dogs in this video, the job of bathing a canine is stressful.
You can drag a dog to water… but then what? Although we laugh at the antics of reluctant dogs in this video, the job of bathing a canine is stressful.

“Let me show you a problem,” begins the video host. “Come with me.” The camera follows him to a bathroom. He smiles. “One bath,” he says, then moves into the next room where his dog looks up at him nervously. “One dog.” The music starts up and we’re treated to some hilarious dog bathing video. If this reminds you of your own canine adventures, here are some tips for bathing your reluctant pooch. And don’t forget to set up your own home video surveillance cameras, or even a portable camera on a tripod, to capture the fun.  

Not so Fun for Fido

Although video of canine bathing adventures is often hilarious for humans, it’s important to remember that baths are often traumatic for dogs. Purina’s dog experts have this to say: “Baths can be a stressful and even quite frightening experience. As in any scary situation, be aware that your dog may try and bite. If your dog has any history of biting when afraid, discuss with your vet methods to minimize the stress of the experience and protect yourself, perhaps using a muzzle.”[1] Dogs who are simply fearful, and not aggressive “should be reassured and praised throughout the bath,” the article continues. They recommend food treats. Purina also suggested the outdoor bath, since dogs feel less intimidated in an open space. Their other tips included: use two people for the first bath, one to reassure, one to bathe; introduce bath times slowly, and make it a game the first few times.

Oh no you don't. Many dogs have a fear of the dog bath. We try to explain why.
Oh no you don’t. Many dogs have a fear of the dog bath. We try to explain why.

 

Why are Dogs Afraid of Water?

In the wild, canines are introduced to rain at an early age. Domesticated dogs are often sheltered during rain—owners rush to get their pooches inside during the rain—and are, as a result, not introduced to the pleasant experience of water early enough. “Not many dog owners dedicate much time in making rain and the sensation of getting wet something fun and enjoyable,” states the author of How to Bathe a Big Dog Afraid of Water. “While some puppy owners may give the puppy a bath, often they overwhelm the puppy without paying attention to subtle signs of discomfort. Because puppies during the socialization period tend to store good experiences but also the bad ones, should the puppy have an unpleasant experience with rain or water, it may have quite an effect on the puppy’s future feelings about water.” [2] The author goes on to recommend going slow. “Go too fast and you set yourself up for failure . . . The secret is not to overwhelm your dog.”

Adorable pooch begins his dog paddle long before he hits the water. Is he trying to escape, or ready to swim?
Adorable pooch begins his dog paddle long before he hits the water. Is he trying to escape, or ready to swim?

 

Best Tips for the Reluctant Pooch

Expert Drew Taylor has some excellent, concise tips for helping avoid trauma to your dog:

  1. Offer a pet treat to get started. You want your canine to associate the bath with a positive experience.
  2. Coax him to the water, don’t just plunk him in.
  3. Turn off the faucet before bringing in your pet. The sound of running water can sound ominous to a dog’s sensitive ears.
  4. Line the tub with something non-slip. Often what scares the dog is the slippery footing in a bathtub.
  5. Brush your dog prior to bathing.
  6. Get everything ready first. It’s important to make the bath short and pleasant to reinforce the positive experience. Assemble your cloths, shampoos and towels first.
  7. Praise your pet constantly and soothingly. [3]

The speciality website A World of Petcare also recommends wetting your dog with lukewarm water, starting on the back. Wet the head last. [4]

Advice from Dog Caregivers

We pulled together some of the best dog caregiver tips:

  • “Hire a dog groomer.”
  • “Take it slow. Don’t scare your dog. Use treats and rewards to lure him, then praise him with each positive step.”
  • “Give him a big lump of peanut butter. While he’s distracted licking it off the roof of his mouth, bathe him.
  • “Keep talking and reassuring. Use positive reinforcement, but stay in control. Keep a hand on his back to prevent him from shaking and to reassure him.”
  • “Tire him out with a long walk. Use rewards and treats. Never punish.”[5]

NOTES [1] Purina: “Bath Time for Dogs” [2] “How to Bathe a Big Dog Afraid of Water” [3] “How to Bathe a Scared Dog” [4] A World of Petcare: “A stress-free guide to giving your dog a bath” [5] Straight Dope forum: “How do you give a bath to a big reluctant dog.”

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