Associate Bathing with Good Things
Many dogs find bath time unpleasant and who can blame them? It involves being restrained, soaked with water (which some dogs really dislike), slathered in scented suds and handled in various, sometimes uncomfortable ways. However, you can help your dog learn to tolerate, and maybe even enjoy, bathing.
The secret is to teach your dog that bathing is always followed by things he loves. If your dog learns that bath time reliably leads to wonderful stuff like special treats, brand-new chew toys, the start of a favorite game, a walk in the park or dinnertime, he’ll soon learn to feel much better about it. And if he feels much better about getting a bath, he’ll behave better too, which will make bath time easier for both of you. So whenever you bathe your dog, help him to associate bath time with things he enjoys. Right after putting him into the tub, give him a tasty treat, like a small bite of chicken or cheese. If your dog seems nervous about running water, give him a treat right after turning on the tap. After toweling him off, immediately invite him to play a rousing game of tug or give him a handful of his favorite treats. With repetition, your dog will probably decide that getting a bath is fun, not frightening or stressful.
Take It Slow and Easy
Take time to gradually introduce your dog to bathing. Before giving him a bath, spend a couple of days just taking him into the bathroom, putting him in the tub, giving him a few tasty treats and then taking him out again. Spend a few more days turning on the water or the sprayer before giving your dog his treats but don’t give him an actual bath yet. You’re just getting him used to the sensations and sounds involved in bathing. After two to five days of getting your dog used to the bath-time scenario, you can give him a real bath. Remember to keep delivering treats throughout the process and right after you finish bathing.
It’s also helpful to pay attention to your own voice and body language. In order for your dog to be relaxed and calm during bathing, you’ll need to be relaxed and calm, too. When it’s time for a bath, approach him calmly and speak quietly. Continue to talk to him in a casual voice and praise him throughout the bath. When you apply shampoo and lather up your dog, massage his body as gently as possible, handle his paws carefully and try to avoid causing him physical discomfort.
If you get your puppy used to regular bathing now, bathing him as an adult will be a breeze. Follow the guidelines above with your puppy. The same ideas apply. Try to focus on associating bath time with treats, toys and games, and on slowly and gently introducing your puppy to the sights, sounds and sensations of bathing. Bring some toys into the tub, encourage your puppy to play with the bubbles and make the bath seem like playtime.
It’s also worthwhile to get your puppy accustomed to other kinds of grooming and handling. Take time every day to touch your puppy all over his body. Handle his feet and toes, open his mouth and look at his teeth, examine his ears, brush his fur, carefully trim his nails, lift and handle his tail, and gently restrain him in your arms for a few seconds at a time. Immediately after touching or handling, give your puppy his favorite treat or play with him. Just like with bathing, your goal is to convince your puppy that people restraining and handling him result in good things. If you can build your puppy’s positive feelings about grooming when he’s young, handling and grooming will be much easier for you both throughout his life.
The Post-Bath Party
After you’ve finished bathing your dog, celebrate to make sure your dog thinks that bath time always leads to fun for him. Right after the bath, feed him a few delicious treats and praise him enthusiastically. Then, if he’s interested, you can play one of your dog’s favorite games, such as tug or fetch.
What NOT to Do
· Do not physically punish or yell at your dog if he resists bathing. Doing this will only make him feel worse about the activity, and it will probably worsen his behavior.
· Do not force your dog to submit to bathing if he’s obviously frightened. Contact a professional behavior expert for help instead.