Bathing dogs is a messy chore. It can also be frustrating if you have to wrestle with your big dog through the process. It’s not nearly as easy to control a water-anxious big dog as it is a little dog. While some dogs may never become water babies, there are ways to make the process less painful for both of you. Here are 9 tips to make bathtime easier on both you and your dog:
1. Be prepared. Get the towels, shampoo, etc. in the bathing area before you bring your dog in. That way, you're not struggling to keep your dog in the tub while you're scrambling for supplies. Plus, having towels within easy reach means if you act quick, you can towel them off before they shake water onto everything.
2. Brush first. For dogs with long hair, this will reduce the chance of matting. Mats from baths are almost impossible to get out, and any attempt will be painful for your big dog. Brushing also removes loose hair before it has a chance to clog your drain.
3. Use a tub. A dog washing tub gives you a smaller space to control and keeps you from chasing your dog around the yard with a hose. With a bathroom bathtub, be aware that if you don’t have those non-slip grips in the tub, it can make your dog’s footing unsure. Be gentle so they don’t slip or get a non-slip mat.
4. Get a hose attachment. Hose attachments like this pet washer are incredibly handy for bathing big dogs. It can cut rinse time in half because of the steady flow of water and the gentle water pressure. It’s also much easier than using something to take each scoop of water from the faucet to the dog. Much easier on your back. It allows you to add shampoo to the handle so you can switch between rinsing and shampooing with the click of a button. Easier than holding your dog in place while reaching for the shampoo.
5. Make it comfortable. Check the temperature – just like Goldilock’s porridge, it shouldn’t be too cold or too hot. Consider your dog’s preference – does he like to sunbathe? Roll around in snow? Take cues from your big dog’s behavior for how warm or cool it should be to cause the least amount of fussing.
6. Don’t be afraid to get wet. Your dog may feel more comfortable if you get in the tub with them (if there’s room, of course). It makes the tub a space that’s not so scary if it’s someplace you’re willing to go, too.
7. Use commands to your advantage. If your dog knows basic commands, this is a great time to use them. Climb into the tub, call your dog to get them in with you, tell him to sit and stay, then get to work. It also signals some level of normalcy – anytime you act different, your dog takes it as a cue that something is wrong. Talk and command just like you would in any other situation.
8. Wash the body first, head last. For a lot of dogs, getting their face wet is the least pleasant part of the whole bath ordeal. So leave it for last. Lather and rinse the body, then go for the face. Use a gentler stream of water on the face and take care to avoid getting water in your big dog’s ears.
And perhaps the most important…
9. Go heavy on the treats and praise. It works. Give your big dog treats and praise at every step: getting into the tub, getting rinsed, while you wait the 5 minutes between lathering and rinsing… Make it as rewarding a process as possible. Eventually, your dog will look forward to baths, if only for the treats.
Bathing dogs doesn’t have to be painful for you or your big dog. These are the strategies I’ve used to train Nala, now she loves taking baths. If you follow these tips to make your dog comfortable and make it beneficial for him (seriously, the bribery works) then it’ll be a lot less of a struggle for you.
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