One of the world’s great unsolved mysteries is why most dogs are so anti-bath. There’s a place, deep, DEEP inside their minds, that files away swimming pools, lakes, and oceans as “good,” and warm, sudsy tubs as pure evil.
We will never know why, but it has been so since the beginning of dog-kind. Probably. Luckily, there are ways to short-circuit that negative bath time brain synapse for both you and your pup.
Start off with some encouragement to make the dreaded bath time call a happy occasion, rather than essentially delivering what they see as the ultimate punishment. It’s important that you practice calling your dog to the bathroom (or wherever you give baths) on days you’re not giving them. Call. Dispense delicious treats. Give a lot of love, and repeat.
Ideally, you want your dog to associate baths with good things (like treats and ear scratches!), and there’s nothing like a high value treat—i.e. one that your dog goes completely NUTS for—to get them going. These Lamb Lung Toasters, while not sounding particularly appetizing, are a great option. As are these chicken jerky strips, which are easily rip-able for smaller, longer-lasting pieces.
Once you progress to the all-important bath stage, there’s one important thing you should never be left without, though many people forget.
One of the most frightening things about being in the bath for dogs is not being able to keep their footing on the slick surface. A non-slip mat is a great way to help them feel secure and stable, and to help them focus on all the treats you’re offering throughout the process.
An extra towel laid on the bottom of the tub works just as well, though you’re freed from dealing with a sopping wet pile of fabric as a result.
Now, arguably the worst thing for humans (though probably the most fun for dogs) is losing your grip on a rogue pup and just accepting that all exposed surfaces will be swiftly covered with water and suds. A simple bungee tether fastened to the wall with a powerful suction cup prevents whiplash, and keeps all four paws where they belong. It’s especially useful if you need a hands-free moment.
So you’re dry, you have your (happy) pup in the tub, and you’re ready to wash. It’s a good idea when working with dogs who are not so tolerant of running water to fill the tub ahead of time and use a cup to wet and rinse. The loud noise from the faucet won’t help their anxiety, though a quieter setting on a removable shower head can work just as well.
Make sure their fur is nice and wet with warm—but not hot—water, and reach for your favorite pet shampoo. Please do your dog a favor and never use your own shampoo on them. There is a reason pet-specific shampoo exists, as the pH levels in human products are much too acidic, making dogs’ skin susceptible to bacterial growth and dryness.
If you’ve washed with your shampoo before and were left with an itchy dog afterward, that’s the likely culprit. My ALL TIME FAVORITE shampoo, this coconut-scented dream liquid, is labelled for use by puppies and kittens, which means it’s gentle and hypoallergenic for the youngins and adult pups alike who might have skin issues. Don’t be stingy with the suds and rub it in well (a silicone mitt is awesome for a deep cleanse), and you’ll have a delightfully pleasant-smelling dog with no subsequent itchiness.
Don’t fancy coconut? The Tropiclean line has a whole bunch of options that are equally as lovely.
Rinse all the shampoo away completely; you never want to leave a residue that could potentially be irritating when it dries. A neat tip to keep water out of your dog’s ears during the big rinse is to pop a cotton ball in each ear to absorb any stray spray.
If you’ve ever noticed your dog constantly shaking his head or pawing at his ears after being in water, it’s likely they accidentally got some H20 in there. The ears are a no-zone for water due to possible infection, unless you’re very careful, so a super easy-to-use ear cleaner is a must at bath time.
All you need to do is pour a little into the ear, massage the ear gently with your fingers to distribute the solution, and wipe with a cotton ball or pad. And Viola! Clean, fresh-smelling ears to go with the rest of their sweet-smelling selves.
Once it’s all said and done, you can reach for your stash of “dog towels,” a.k.a. the ones that are no longer in good enough shape for guests to see. Or you can up the ante with a “mop” or super-towel, that works like a sponge on wet pups.
That means less water on you, your walls, and the rest of your house when your dog goes after-bath ballistic.
An unforgettable day in mud puddles at the park, sand on the beach, or lake water after a hike are way too much fun to worry about having a dirty dog afterward, much less a filthy collar. Collars may be worse offenders than your dog in the smell department, but you can save yourself the hassle of cleaning. This bad boy is waterproof and anti-stink, so a dirty dog just means a quick rinse for their most important accessory.
AND you’ll be just as prepared for a quick wipe-down with a handy and absorbent travel towel. It’s got pockets for a secure grip, and easily folds into a carry bag.
In between baths, give a quick spritz of this spray when that lovely last-bath smell starts to wear off, and you’ll forget they even stunk in the first place. It even has sanitizing properties to keep germs at bay (great for paying special attention to paws!). A pack of travel-friendly unscented wipes work miracles as well.
The most important thing to remember about bath time is that it doesn’t have to be a terrifying experience for any dog, and especially not for you. All it takes is a little bit of patience, a lot of treats, and some great products that stand the test of time, stink, and impatient pups.