How to get your dog to love bath time

By Juliana Weiss-Roessler

If your dog hates bath time, it’s likely you do, too. It may be hard to imagine that you could turn it around and start viewing a bath as a time for bonding instead, but it is possible! The key is to have a strategy for the change.

Here are some tips for developing your dog’s love for bath time.

Take a nice long walk first
Many dogs naturally enjoy a dip in the water when they’re feeling hot and exhausted after exercise, so use those natural instincts to your advantage. Also, your dog will have less pent-up energy to fight the process.

Don’t rush
It’s hard to stay balanced and live in the moment if you have a limited amount of time to get the bath done. Find a time when you can relax and focus on your dog.

Bring a positive attitude
If you’ve experienced resistance from your dog at bath time again and again, your body language and energy likely communicate to your dog what an ordeal this is going to be before she even knows what you’re going to do together! You may be surprised to find how much of a difference it can make to approach the bath with calm, assertive energy.

Make it fun
It can be hard to feel optimistic about the bath if you don’t see a possibility of anything changing. One way to change both of your attitudes is to think about bath time as playtime. This can be particularly effective for dogs who really enjoy toys. Bring them into the tub to start associating it with time to spend playing together.

Enlist canine assistance
The best teacher is often another dog. If your dog is properly socialized, taking a bath with another dog who is having a great time can help your dog learn how to relax and enjoy the experience. Make sure the dogs meet in advance of the bath, so you can ensure they get along.

Make the water comfortable
What seems like a great temperature to you might not be what your dog prefers. Very warm water can actually be a shock to your dog, so keep it lukewarm to ensure that temperature isn’t part of the problem.

Begin young
Some pet parents make the mistake of assuming that their puppy is adjusting well to bath time when he just stands there rigidly (or worse, shaking in fear) during the process. But if your puppy doesn’t seem relaxed, then you may have problems down the road. Help your puppy learn to enjoy the process. Make sure to let your puppy explore the bathtub when it’s dry and therefore less intimidating.

Bring food into the tub
Another way to help your dog make more positive associations with the tub (or other bathing area) is to start feeding him there. You may find that your dog is resistant or nervous at first, but over time, he’ll likely relax and enjoy his meal.

Start small
Let your dog get comfortable with the sound of running water. Then add a little water to the tub. Get just his feet wet, then his legs. Keep going from there. Make the process gradual, allowing your dog to get used to each step, instead of trying to rush the process by dumping a bucket of water on him or spraying him down. It’s okay if you don’t complete the bath that first time. The goal is just to get your dog comfortable.

Does your dog act up during bath time? Tell us all about it in the comments.

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