Small dog ready to take a bathBath time with your puppy can be very stressful. It can be stressful for you, but it can be especially nerve wracking for your dog. There are several reasons for this:

  • Some dogs don’t like getting wet.
  • Some dogs won’t get in the tub.
  • Some dogs had a bad experience with the tub previously.  
  • Some dogs want to jump in the tub, AND bring you in with them.
  • And, some just avoid it at all costs (kind of like most cats you know!)

Thankfully, there are some things that you can do to make bath time a little less stressful for your puppy. These steps apply to new puppies, old dogs, or dogs that simply aren’t super fond of baths. If you, or someone you know has had a frustrating time giving your dog a bath recently this list is for you.

10 Steps For Bathing Your Dog

1. Desensitize your dog to the tub area.

Making sure your dog feels safe near the tub before their bath, is just as important as how they feel during bath time. Before the dog is ever placed in the tub for the first time, let them into the bathroom a few times while the water is running. This allows your dog to get used to being in the bathroom in general. It also allows them to acclimate to the sound of running water, so your puppy is not scared by the noise. You don’t want the sound of running water in your tub to be foreign or new to your dog at all.

2. Try feeding your dog in the bathroom a few times.

This is a further effort to get your dog to recognize the bathroom and bathtub area as a safe space. You can feed them in the bathroom, or even inside the bathtub. Obviously, do this WITHOUT putting any water in the tub. By doing this, you are making your  bathtub and bathroom a kind of happy place for your dog. So they will view it as a place where good things happen.

3. Be sure the water is just above lukewarm.

Just like Goldilocks, some dogs like it just right. If it’s too hot or too cold, they’ll really think twice before they hop in the tub next time. You don’t want your dog to associate bathtime with discomfort. So, when bathing them make sure you are paying extra special attention to the temperature. You don’t want to give them a bad experience. If you have in the past, just try easing them back into the practice and be extra careful that you follow these guidelines.

4. Leash your dog to the tub

If at all possible, make sure to leash your dog while their in the tub. This will ensure you have two hands for bathing. If your dog is leashed, it will also make hopping out of the tub that much more difficult. That can help you focus on giving them a pleasant bathing experience.

5. Use dog treats to your advantage

While you’re bathing the dog, you can try putting some peanut butter on the side of the tub. This is an excellent way to preoccupy and comfort the dog while they’re getting a bath.

6. Use a hand held sprayer

if at all possible, utilize a hand held sprayer. You should place the sprayer directly on the dog’s coat, don’t spray them from a distance. When you physically touch their coat with the sprayer, it takes all of the pressure off and makes it almost like a massage. And, they really REALLY like that.

7. Spray them down from the back to the front. NOT the reverse.

Spot in the bathWashing your dogs shoulders and head should never be first, because that stimulates their shake response. You want to get them wet with your hand held sprayer in this order:

  • Start with the tail and their back end.
  • Go to the hind legs.
  • Start with the outside of the hind legs, then move to the inside of the hind legs.
  • Move to the stomach.
  • Then their chest.
  • Move to the front legs. Outside first, then inside.
  • Then shoulders and neck.
  • Last should be their face, but check #10 on our list before doing that.

8. Use a quality shampoo.

DO NOT USE people shampoo. You should use something that you can buy in a pet store. Many times there are very good smelling, gentle shampoos that have tea tree oil or peppermint in them. Things like that are fresh smelling, but also gentle on their skin.

9. Apply Shampoo from the back to the front too

You want to apply shampoo on your dog in the same order as getting your dog wet. Start with the back end, and work your way forward. Follow the same guidelines as above.

A quick splash of water can help build up a nice lather, too. With shampooing, you want to gently run your hand back and forth like you would on your own head. Make sure you lather from the top of the dog, along their back, and then down to the feet. Just remember back to front and top to bottom.

10. PROTECT their eyes, ears, nose, and other sensitive areas while bathing

Always gently cup your hand over their eyes before wetting or rinsing your dog’s face. This will protect them from getting soap or water in their eyes. You also want to take extra care not to get water in their ears or nose. That will automatically initiate their shake response.

You need to be very careful not to get soap in their eyes, ears, or nose as well. Additionally, you should rinse their shampoo off in the same order as wetting them and applying shampoo. Remember back to front, and top to bottom.

While you are rinsing them off, you should pay extra attention to armpits and the bottoms of their feet. Those are places where soap can build up, and cause very serious and painful irritation.

Further Information for you and your dog

Border Collie in the bath tubWe hope these steps help if you have had some issues with your dog’s bath time, or you just have a new puppy. Remember, it always helps to have a partner to complete these tasks with you.

Additionally, if you are doing a nail trim at the same time as bathing, a partner is even more necessary. If you have a couple people, one person can give your dog treats and the other can do their nails. However, there is also a whole separate step list for correctly performing a nail trimming on your dog. We will be posting a separate article on steps to perform a good nail trim in the near future, so look out for that! Until then, we hope you have a happy and safe bath time with your puppy.

And, as always, if you have more questions you should contact us. You can speak to one of our trainers, or you can ask to speak to any one of our kennel staff when you come for dog boarding or doggy daycare. We are always more than happy to give you plenty of helpful tips to keep you and your dogs happy.


Image Permissions:

Pitiful by latteda

Border collie in bath by Nick Cowie

Dog in bath by Johnny Jet