Being able to bathe your dog is an essential part of dog grooming, but unfortunately, there will be many dog owners reading this whose first thoughts will be “If Only”. The frustration which is evident in that thought comes from the fact that, unlike many dogs, some dogs hate the thought of getting into a bath.
This fear can be borne out of so many possible experiences and occurrences in the dog’s past that to try and pick them apart would take forever. Instead of going over what has caused a dog to not like baths, it will be more useful to identify ways in which the situation can be reversed.
No matter what a dog does or how it behaves, much of what they do comes from conditioning. In other words, if something happens which is pleasurable for a dog, it will want it to happen again, with an example being giving its owner a paw and getting a treat in return. Conversely, if they have had a bad experience, such as being bitten by a large dog when younger, then than can mean it being fearful anytime it sees a large dog, no matter how friendly that dog is.
These behaviour principles in dogs should give us hope because it means that whatever negative behaviour they display, it can be reversed with positive reinforcement. However, it may require patience and a lot of understanding. Some dogs might change immediately, others may take time, but if you follow the advice that follows, bath time should hopefully become a stress-free event for both you and your dog.
Start Them Young
Apologies to anyone with a dog who is older because this might seem irrelevant. However, for those with puppies and young dogs, now is the time to get them loving baths and everything that happens when you are bathing or showering them. Getting used to water is the first task so look out for rain and take them for a walk. Also, let them explore the bathroom make lifting them into the bath seem like a game with lots of praise and treats too.
Is Your Behaviour Part Of The Problem?
You might be thinking “Hold on, it’s my dog’s behaviour I want to change, not mine”. True, but ask yourself when you try to bathe your dog, do you become nervous, impatient, frustrated, angry or a combination of all four? If so, it might be the case that your dog is simply mirroring this as the vibe you give them often influences how they feel and how they behave. If any of this rings true then take a deep breath and relax before your next attempt at bath time for your dog.
Identify The Trigger
Each dog will have a point where it realises bath time is about to happen and start its unwanted behaviours. You want to establish what the initial trigger is for them to react. Will they go into the bathroom or stop at the door. Will they get in the bath, but freak out when the water starts. Once you know the trigger, you can work on teaching your dog it is nothing to fear from that single trigger rather than trying to fix the entire bath time routine.
Turn Bath Time Into Playtime
All dogs love to play, and this can be used when trying to teach a dog to cooperate at bath time. It will also need planning on your part, and possibly cooperation from others in your household. The trick is to not have the dog think that it is bath time but instead playtime. Whatever games you play with them or toys they are having fun with, move them towards and into the bathroom and ultimately into the bath.