How to Bathe a Dog Who is Afraid of Water

If your dog is afraid of water, then bathtime can be a stressful experience for you both! 

By gradually creating a bathtime routine that is a positive experience for your pup, you can teach them that bathtime is nothing to be afraid of.

Teach your dog that a bathroom is a positive place

As with any doggy behavior, you can make use of treats to reinforce what you want to see in the bathroom. 

Begin to create a positive association with the bathroom by keeping a stock of doggy treats in there and rewarding your pup with them when they are well behaved.

Practice getting in and out of the tub without water

Once you’re in the bathroom, practice getting in and out of the tub without putting any water in there. Each time they get in the tub and place all four paws on the bottom, reward them with a treat and praise. 

Likewise, reward them when they get out of the tub calmly and as you would like them to.

Create a routine by brushing them first

It can be tempting not to let dogs know when you’re about to bathe them so as not to spook them. How many times have we seen characters on TV shows spelling out B-A-T-H in front of their dog?

In fact, if you just suddenly spring a bath on your dog, they are much more likely to react badly. A more effective approach is to create a bathtime routine so that they know what’s coming and teach them to associate that routine with the word ‘bath.’ 

A great start to a bathtime routine is to brush your dog. This serves the purpose of telling them it’s nearly bathtime, and it also makes bathing much easier if you don’t have lots of loose fur to contend with! 

While you’re brushing them, use the word bath so that they know what’s coming, and then lead them to the bathroom on their leash, using treats to reward good behavior.

Go for a long walk first

When you’re bathing a dog that hates water, it’s a good idea to take them for a nice long walk first. This will help to expel any pent-up energy, and it will also mean that your dog is tired and therefore doesn’t want to fight you at bathtime.

Use lukewarm water

Water temperature is important; if the water is too cold, then it is likely to shock your dog and add to the fear that they are experiencing; however, if it’s too hot, then this can damage your dog’s skin – particularly if they have sensitive skin.

If your dog has sensitive skin, it’s especially important that you use a pet shampoo rather than human shampoo (although this is important for any dog) as although human shampoo isn’t toxic to dogs, human skin has a different PH level to dogs and using the wrong shampoo can dry it out.

If you’d like to know more about bathing dogs with sensitive skin, you can find all the information you need to know on this dog’s shampoo for sensitive skin article.

Use a non-slip mat

If your dog can’t stand up properly and their feet keep slipping underneath them, this will lead to extra distress at bathtime. Be sure to use a non-stick bath mat so that they feel more secure.

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