How to Best Give Your Dog a Bath

Take the stress out of doggy bathtime with these tips.

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA
4-minute read
Episode #90

Do you shudder at the thought of bathing your dog? Does your Zippy run and hide when you break out the special ratty towel and dog shampoo? Let’s lose the unnecessary trauma. This week, how to get your dog clean without sending your whole household into therapy.

How Best to Give Your Dog a Bath

Winter is the perfect time to start changing Dogalini’s mind about baths, or to set her up to like them in the first place. With any luck at all, several months will go by without the need for an actual bath--meanwhile, here’s your chance to make the bathtub into a very special place. If your dog is totally phobic about the tub already, you may need in-person help with this. Otherwise, the following casual approach should do the trick.;

How to Convince Your Dog the Bathtub Is a Great Place

Every day, stash a delicious treat or your dog’s favorite toy in the tub and let her find it. (You might have to clue her in a few times, till she gets the idea of looking there herself.)  Turn jumping in and out of the tub into a game--have Dogalini watch you toss a treat into the tub, then let her go in after it. While she’s there, give her another treat, then encourage her to get out of the tub and do it again. Do five or six reps a couple of times a week. You’ll know you’re on the right track when Dogalini lingers in the tub instead of getting out right away.

The slippery tub bottom will spoil the fun for a lot of dogs. Leave a rubber mat in place so your dog always has secure footing as he hops in and out. A nonskid absorbent mat on the bathroom floor is a good idea too.

Teach Your Dog to Get In and Out Voluntarily

If the tub is too high for your dog to jump in and out of, invest in a set of well-constructed nonskid steps and teach Zippy to use them. You know it’s safe to pick Zippy up and put him in the tub, but the loss of control has high odds of scaring him. It’s almost always a better bet to teach your dog to volunteer the behavior you want rather than physically manipulate him.


About the Author

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA

Jolanta holds professional certifications in both training and behavior counseling and belongs to the Association of Professional Dog Trainers and the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. She also volunteered with Pet Help Partners, a program of the Humane Society of the United States that works to prevent pet relinquishment. Her approach is generally behaviorist (Pavlovian, Skinnerian and post-Skinnerian learning theory) with a big helping of ethology (animal behavior as observed in non-experimental settings).