Love it or hate it, dogs get dirty. Some dogs have coats that are meant to be easier to manage when they encounter wet or dirty conditions. My Tollers can be filthy after a hike, but give them an hour to dry off and the dirt easily brushes out (this is not necessarily the case once a dog has been spayed or neutered as the coat changes.) They might get 2 baths a year as it's just not necessary to bath them more often. Regular grooming is enough.
This is not true of all breeds. There are plenty of dogs who will require regular bathing to keep them from being dusty and dirty. For these dogs especially, they need to be acclimated to the bath so that they are comfortable with the process. Ideally, you would start with them as baby puppies, but any dog can learn to be comfortable in the tub, even if they've had a previous negative association. Here are some tips to help your dog!
Set Up for Safety and Security
This will be accomplished with a non-slip rubber mat that will adhere securely to the tub. A good rubber mat will prevent your dog from slipping around. Not being able to get traction can be very unnerving to most dogs.
An Introduction is a Must
Don't just throw your dog into the tub when it's time for a bath. Make a point of introducing the tub a few days or weeks prior. Take a few of their meals through the week and let them eat it in the tub (this is a bonus if you have a messy eater!) Eating a few meals in a dry tub will help create a positive association with the environment.
Again, don't just throw your dog in and start bathing them. After you've let your dog spend some time in a dry tub, start to add some water. Initially, the noise will be enough for some dogs. If they are comfortable, start to lightly wet the dog. It's always a good idea to have high value treats when introducing new things. Take it slowly and let the dog dictate their progress.
Make it a Happy Place
Even if they're getting you wet - don't let the smile leave your face. Some dogs can be incredibly sensitive, so be sure you don't get flustered. Remain calm and happy so that the dog will get good vibes and associate the tub with pleasant things.
Use the Right Stuff
Human shampoo is too acidic for dogs and could damage their skin and coat, especially if used frequently. Be sure you get a shampoo specifically formulated for dogs so that it does good things for your dogs coat!
Check the Water Temperature Frequently
Especially during rinsing, be sure to let the water run over the inside of your wrist periodically, similar to how you would test a warmed baby bottle. If the water is too cold or too hot, it will be uncomfortable for the dog and they will start to dislike the bath. This is especially true of double coated breeds who are used to always having a layer of protection against their skin. When a sporting dog goes swimming, the inner coat seals tightly to keep water off of the skin and the outer coat actually repels the water. Because of this, they won't be used to the feeling of wet against their skin. Take your time and check the water temperature frequently.
Try Peanut Butter!
This is a great trick that will help you get your dog washed. Smear some peanut butter on the wall and while your dog is busy licking it off, you can get them washed and rinsed.
When you get to their heads, use extra caution. They won't like shampoo in their ears, eyes, nose or mouth. Again, take your time and be careful no suds end up in areas that will sting or be hard to rinse.
With a bit of extra time devoted to baths, your dog will love them!
As always, Happy Training!
Hi! I'm Shannon and I joined the McCann team in 1999 while training Quincey, my wonderful and spirited Rottweiler, to have good listening skills. I'm the Director of Online Training and Content for McCann Professional Dog Trainers and I enjoy writing about dogs and dog training for the McCann blog. I currently share my life with 2 Tollers (Reggie & Ned) and I love helping people develop the best possible relationship with their 4-legged family members.