9 Ways to Help Your Dog Enjoy Bath Time

Bath time is often a necessary evil for both you and your dog. Many dogs are afraid of bath time, either because they’ve had traumatizing experiences before or because they are scared of water coming out of the ceiling or wall. If your dog absolutely hates bath time, here are nine things that you can do to make it better — from showering them in treats for senior dogs to washing them outside:


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Put down a non-slip mat.

Tubs and showers are incredibly slippery, which can be very distressing for your dog and even cause an injury. If you don’t already have one, put down a non-slip mat that is sturdy enough to withstand your dog’s nails. Giving your dog something grippy to stand on will help them stay calm and make it easier to corral them while you’re lathering up their coat.

Fill the tub up ahead of time.

Many dogs are confused and even traumatized by the water rushing into the tub. Thus, we recommend filling up the tub before you bring your dog into the bathroom if you bathe them inside. You can shut the door and even play some music or white noise to mute the sound of the water flowing. Make sure to test the temperature before getting your dog wet. Water that is too hot or too cold will make your dog even more distressed and potentially hurt them as well.

Get in the tub with them.

Having close contact with your dog can help keep them calm during the bathing process, so put on some clothes that you don’t mind getting wet and get in the tub with them. If your dog is too big for both of you to fit in the tub, then grab a foam knee pad and kneel on the bathroom floor right next to them. Use gentle touches to remind them of your presence as you bathe them.


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Choose the right shampoo.

Fragranced shampoos may smell awesome to us, but they can be very irritating to dog’s noses and coats. Choose a gentle, dog-specific shampoo for the best experience. Start lathering them from the neck down and be careful not to get shampoo or water into their ears, which can lead to ear infections. Wash their face last and be careful not to get shampoo in their eyes. You may need to use a damp washcloth for this. Rinse their coat until there is no shampoo remaining. If they have a very thick coat, you might need to rinse them two or even three times to get it all out, so keep at it until the water runs clear.

Consider a handheld shower head.

Many dogs get really freaked out at the idea of water falling from the sky indoors. If possible, switch your fixed shower head to a handheld one that will allow you to direct the spray more precisely. As an added bonus, the handheld shower head makes it easier and faster to rinse out your dog’s coat, making the bathing process less painful for you both. Make sure that the shower head is on the gentlest setting available. Some of the stronger settings deliver a painful blast of water, especially at close range, that may shock your dog.

Treat them all the time.

Puppy chews and praise are essential for making sure that your dog has a good time in the bath. Don’t hesitate to lavish the praise on them and feed them throughout the bathing process. Some owners even like to smear a little bit of peanut butter around the edges of the tub so that the dog can focus on licking it up instead of fussing about the bath. This will increase the clean-up time, but a lot of dog owners find the trade-off worth it. When you’re done, you can also give them a longer-lasting treat such as antlers for dogs as a reward for surviving the bath.


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Try bathing them outside.

If your dog is a big fan of the hose or the kiddie pool, you can try bathing them outside during the warmer months. Always check the water temperature before bathing them since the water can be either really cold or really hot depending on the ambient temperature. You also need some way to secure your dog, such as a fence or a leash, to prevent them from bolting once the water starts flowing. Depending on what kind of shampoo you use, you might also have to find a way to dispose of the water instead of dumping it on the ground.

Recruit a helper.

It can be helpful to have another person assist you in bathing the dog, especially if your dog is on the bigger side. For instance, one person can give the dog praise and lavish treats on them while the other lathers and rinses. The second person can also be on standby with a towel to immediately dry the dog off as soon as the bath is done.

Be patient.

If your dog hates baths, they aren’t suddenly going to come around after one time. Be patient with them and with yourself, and accept that it might take many baths to get them to the point where they don’t cower in fear. Bathing dogs too often can dry out their skin and lead to problems, so we don’t recommend bathing them a lot as a form of exposure therapy unless they are genuinely rolling in mud or poop all the time. Just bathe them when they need to be bathed and focus on making it a positive experience.

Got more tips for helping your dog to enjoy bath time? Share them in the comments below to let us know your secret strategies for getting your dog to love baths!