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How to Bathe a Dog Without Causing Chaos


Dogs hate bath time. Or at least, most of them do. It almost always comes with a struggle to get their four legs into the tub without some sort of wrestling match. The question of how to bathe a dog without causing chaos can feel impossible to answer, but there are a few tips that can make the process more peaceful for everyone involved.

You might think your dog just has an aversion to water, but it could really be that they don’t like the feeling of being out of control. That’s why some dogs who love splashing around in pools or lakes still have the urge to sprint out of bath tubs.

“When dogs choose to go swimming, they are in control of themselves, and no one is handling them. So it’s completely different things — it’s not simply being wet,” Emily Levine, a board-certified veterinary behaviorist, explained to the Dodo. “There’s fun with swimming, versus a bath, where they’re being put in a situation and having water dumped all over them.” 

Levine also noted that their paws can slip around more in tubs, which adds to that anxiety of being out of control. She recommends getting slip mats for your tub (or sink) to help them feel steadier on their feet. You can find plenty of budget-friendly options online, like the Epica Anti-Slip Bath Mat ($12.99, Amazon).

Another great tip from the Dodo: Smear some peanut butter around the tub for your pooch to enjoy while you go about giving them a good scrub. They might not even notice there’s water or shampoo going on at all with such a tasty distraction! And you don’t have to worry about the mess, they’ll happily clean that up for you.

The experts at VetStreet echo adding extra incentives like treats and toys to make bathtub something your dog can learn to look forward to rather than loathe. “I use a snack jar in my bathroom when bathing my pugs, so I can reward calm behavior of all four feet in the tub,” Mikkel Becker, the site’s resident trainer and author of The Ultimate Dog Lover: The Best Experts’ Advice for a Happy, Healthy Dog with Stories and Photos of Incredible Canines ($8.21, Amazon), explains. “I also give them a long-lasting toy or chew after their bath, such as a Greenie ($22.14, Amazon), or a food puzzle that makes the bath more tolerable because they grow to expect a fruitful reward when it’s over.”

Bekker added a few more tips for a soothing bath experience, like making sure the water has warmed up enough. (Just think about the last time you were shocked an unexpectedly cold shower — your pooch feels the same way!) She warns against dousing your dog’s head with water and recommends using a wash cloth instead. “It’s less frightening than running water splashing around over his snout,” she explains. Bekker also suggests investing in a pet sprayer for the rest of their body, like the Wondurdog Wash Kit ($49.99, Amazon).

Here’s hoping these tips help you and your dog have a much more pleasant bath time experience. They might even start thinking of it more as a spa treatment!

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