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Help! My Dog Hates Baths! Here’s How To Make It More Enjoyable.

Have a dog that runs and hides when you go into your bathroom, just “in case” you are thinking about giving her a bath? Does your pup scream as if you are murdering him the whole time, or fights so much you end up wetter than he does?

You are not alone. Many dogs do not like bath-time. However, there are some things you can do to help him enjoy it more and keep you drier (well, maybe).

Why Does My Dog Hate A Bath?

It’s funny, a lot of dogs hate a bath but love to go play in water. My youngest sheltie used to scream in the bath, but then would go out and play in the hose water and the kiddie pool. Most of us just get frustrated and do not stop to think about why out dog acts that way. Clearly, it’s not the water. I mean, they drink water, they will walk through a puddle, go in a pool, or whatever. So, that means it’s something related to the actual bathing that bothers them.

These are personal theories, mind you, but from my own observations these are a few reasons some dogs don’t like a bath:

Handling. If your dog is super sensitive about being touched, a bath is the worst thing ever. You are not only touching him everywhere, but most of us are pretty rough – massaging the shampoo in, manipulating the body around to reach certain areas, lifting their paws and tail, etc.

Solution: desensitize your dog to touch outside of the bath using counter-conditioning. Start by putting your hand near your dog, then give them a treat for not showing any signs of stress. Build up to being able to touch and then massage them. This will take time.

Temperature. Some dogs are super sensitive to heat, and that includes water and blow dryer. My little guys hates the sun and heat, so a warm bath and dryer at torture to him.

Solution: Merlin gets a cold bath and then a cold fan blowing on him to dry. He is much happier.

Stability. Tubs and sinks are slick. Some dogs have trouble standing in them, and that causes stress.

Solution: Easy fix! Buy a tub mat. Petsmart has a nice padded one that comes in a sink size and a tub size.

If your dog is scared of the dry, skip it all together and gently pat dry them. Photo: @Tony via Flickr
If your dog is scared of the dry, skip it all together and gently pat dry them. Photo: @Tony via Flickr

Dryer. As mention above, a lot of dogs do not like the dryer. Warm or cold. Some do not like the sound. They have to get used to something blowing on them. Or skip all together and gently pat them dry with the towel.

Solution: desensitize them in the same way you described above for handling. Start with the dryer on low, far away, not pointed directly on them.

Water Pressure. Along with handling sensitivity, some dogs are sensitive to the hard spray of the shower head. Little dogs especially, might feel like they are being pummeled. Also be sure to not spray them in the face, most dog’s do not like that either.

Solution: use a pitcher to pour water over your dog instead of using the shower head. If you are worried about getting all the soap out, put the shower head on just a soft spray and watch your dog for signs of stress

Most likely, your dog doesn’t like the bath for a combination of these reasons. For my dog it was the temperature, dryer, and handling. Once I realized it, and worked on him, he now stands quietly for his bath. Does he love it? No. But he is also not screaming, clawing at me to get out, and running from the dryer.

Quick Tips

  1. Stop calling your dog to you when you want to give him a bath. It will ruin your come. Just go get him.
  2. Start doing other things in the bathing area that your dog likes: playing, eating, training, attention, etc. So that space does not immediately make your dog stressed out.
  3. Gave everything ready and at-hand so you can get the job done quickly
  4. Avoid bathing your dog if he is already stressed from something else (vet visit, thunder, people visiting, etc). It will just get worse.
  5. Have a favorite treat or toy to reward your dog with when they are doing good.

About the Author

Based in Wilsonville, Ore., animal lover Kristina N. Lotz is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer – Knowledge Assessed (CPDT-KA) and works as a full time trainer. She is the founder of, A Fairytail House, a unique all-positive all-sport dog training facility that helps rescue dogs in her area and provides free seminars and training classes for the community. In her spare time, she trains and competes in herding, agility, obedience, rally, and conformation with her Shetland Sheepdogs. She smartly married a Veterinary Technician, who helps keep the fur kids happy and healthy, and provides a quick resource for articles.

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Written by Kristina Lotz
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