It's a strange conundrum: Why do dogs love water but hate baths? This is especially confusing since there are some breeds bred to work in the water, helping out hunters and as part of search and rescue teams. However, when you come at your pooch with the shampoo, sponge, kiddie pool, and hose, he might very well try to slink away. Try not to take it personally — your dog isn't plotting to thwart your cleaning efforts. Instead, prep your bathing area for maximum success and then use a few smart techniques to make the bathing process enjoyable and even fun for your pet.
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Bathing vs. swimming
For dogs who are used to the water and have a long history of loving to swim, getting wet is no problem. Retrieving fowl that's been shot from the sky or simply bringing back that old tennis ball are part and parcel of a water dog's very DNA. However, being tethered and scrubbed in the bath is a different experience entirely. For animals, bath time isn't about play since it generally means you're holding your pup down or securing her with a leash.
Why don't dogs like baths?
Some pets are nervous around water, or they might be fearful because of the tone of your voice, particularly if your dog needs a bath because he rolled in mud. In both cases, speaking calmly to your animal is a good way to make the bath experience more relaxing. You don't want to scold your dog in a loud way as you're trying to coax him into the bathtub. It's also a good idea to consider your dog's history if he's a rescue or adoptee. If your pet experienced trauma around water before he became yours, he might try to run away at the prospect of a bath.
Best bathing tips for dogs
- Practice near the loo: Most dogs don't visit the bathroom regularly, so this space may feel foreign to your pet. Allow her some time to hang out there by walking her inside on the leash.
- Play by the tub: Enter the room and then just sit down and play. Getting used to the tub and even getting in it without water can ease a dog's bath anxiety.
- Add toys and a mat: A fun new squeaker may distract her, and a rubber mat can allow her to grip the slippery porcelain better with her paws and claws.
- Offer treats — and then water: If your pet sits in the tub without squirming, a tasty reward is in order. Next, gently turn on the water and let her get used to the sound and feel.
- Protect eyes and ears: As you suds up, you might place cotton balls in your dog's ears to block water. To protect her eyes, smear a bit of petroleum jelly around the eye area.
- Pour water: Use a measuring cup to slowly pour water as you wet and rinse her rather than using the scary hard spray from a hose or shower nozzle.
- Towel dry: Most dogs love the moment when they're dried off. Give yours a nice rub and scrub with a fluffy towel and offer another treat for a job well done.