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What are some bathing tips for dogs that don't like water?

boxer dog unhappy to be taking a bath dislikes water

Is bath time stressful for you and your pet? For dogs that are afraid of water, getting them into the bathtub can be difficult. Getting them to cooperate with the bathing process down right impossible!

Taking some time to prepare your pup well in advance can greatly improve the bathing experience for both of you! Here are a few suggestions from the experts:

Acclimate your dog to the bathing area

Whether you'll be bathing your dog in the bathroom or a utility area, it's important for them to associate good things with the space. This will not only make it easier to get them in the bathroom, but will prevent them from forming a negative association with the room.

dogs about to get a treat in preparation of a bath

Feed them

Encourage your dog to develop a positive association with the space by feeding them regularly in this room.

Give them treats

You can also give your pup treats in the bathroom. This way, when it comes time for a bath, your dog will be thinking about treats!

Let them play

Designating play time in your bathroom will quickly associate your bathroom with fun and games.

Practice bath time with your dog

Bath time can be a bit of a shock for your dog, so before their first bath, take a couple of weeks to gradually ease them into the process and help them understand what you'll be expecting of them.

dry dog in a bathtub getting acclimated

Introduce them to the tub

Your dog is likely going to be very unsure of the bathtub, so gradually introduce them and allow them to check it out. For timid dogs, it may take a few days to get them comfortable with the tub.

Get them in the tub (without water)

Once your dog is comfortable with the bathtub, it's time to teach them that getting in is no big deal. Start with small steps; touching the tub, putting their head in the tub, placing two feet in the tub, and finally all four feet in the tub. Reward each step with a treat to reinforce a positive association and be sure to use cue words you'll be using during the bath like "up", "ok", and "stay".

Pet and brush them in the tub

Your dog is going to be scrubbed and moved around during bath time, so get them ready for this by petting and brushing them in the tub beforehand. This will help prepare them for what they can expect during their bath.

Prepare your dog for bath time

Getting yourself and your dog ready for bath time will make the whole process run smoother.

shopping cart being loaded with dog supplies

Get everything ready

Dog shampoo, brushes, towels, etc. Stocking the bath area now will allow you to get your dog in and out of the tub as quickly as possible. Don't forget to get some snacks ready so that you can reward your dog's good behavior once the bath is over.

Place a rubber mat or towel in the tub

Dogs get very stressed when they don't feel that they have stable footing. In fact, one of the most common reasons that dogs struggle during bath time is because they feel unsteady. Placing a rubber mat or towel in the bottom of the tub will solve this or them.

Help them burn off some energy

Before bath time, play fetch, go for a walk, or play tug of war. Allowing them to burn off some energy beforehand will help with your dog's anxious energy.

Get the water ready

Filling the water too high can frighten your dog, so only fill the tub with 3 or 4 inches of warm water. This will also allow you to avoid running water if this is a trigger for your pup.

Giving your dog a bath

Now that your dog is ready for bath time, the most important thing is to reinforce the positive associations you've been working to build. Here's how:

pitbull getting bathed in the tub

Reward good behavior

When bringing your dog into the bath area, be sure to reward each step of the process. Giving them a treat for coming into the bathroom, getting in the tub, and remaining calm during their bath will reinforce the positive association they have with the bath area.

Take things slowly

Don't rush the process, as it may upset your dog. Use cue words like "up", "ok", and "stay", to encourage them to get into the tub. You may need to help them into the tub, but they should be allowed to do that largely on their own.

Keep water out of their face

Dogs can become fearful of bath time if water gets in their face, particularly their eyes and nose. For washing their face, simply use a damp washcloth instead.

Rinse them with a pitcher, not the faucet

It can be tempting to turn on the faucet, but this can be very traumatic for your pet. Instead, simply use a pitcher and scoop up some water from the tub and pour it down your pet's back. This will greatly alleviate one of the most common triggers for pets during bath time.

Reward them with something special

Does your dog have a particular treat that they are fond of but don't have often? Following bath time is a great time for that special reward.


With these tips, we're sure that you and your pet will have a stress free bath time!