Today Amy shares tips for successfully giving your dog a bath. Help them see it as a positive experience. Here's how.Support the show
Give That Dog A Bath
Hello and welcome to the Puppy Training Podcast! Thank you for listening today. We are talking about how to bathe your puppy on today’s episode. I want to share with you a few tips and tricks we use regularly to help make this event more enjoyable for both you and your dog.
But first, a little update on Baxter and where we are at in training. Baxter is our 11 month old Australian Labradoodle. He turns one on Monday! That is wild - time is flying by. Lately we have been working hard on doorbell manners and he is showing great improvement on jumping a top his Blue9 Klimb platform when he hears someone at the door.
We are also working on allowing him more access to our home when we are not in the same room or away from home. Right now we are up to an hour where he can be trusted to handle himself in our home, unsupervised. We will continue to stretch that time and if we run into a set back, we’ll back it up a bit, work a little more on it at less time, then push forward again. I remember when we first brought him home and he loved shoes, plants, toys, anything my kids would leave out, and now he’s maturing. We have worked on leave it using higher value items to him and spent time in various rooms with these distractions in them in a structured way such that it has become habit to leave these things alone. We train, play games and he entertains himself with appropriate toys and chews in our home to the point we are starting to open up more space to him - even unattended at times.
This is a work in progress, but I thought it would be helpful to some of you to have a timeline to work with.
I’m telling you crate and pen time are worth it in the beginning! Set your puppy up for success by limiting their access as often as needed - this turns into more freedom later! Baxter is 11 months and doing well with this - 11 months - not weeks - months - almost one year - pay attention to that because too often we feel like our young puppy should be able to not chew furniture, eat shoes, or chomp on novel objects they find. They are a puppy and everything is tempting - so set them up for success and include management as part of your training. This takes time and practice. It is a process and I promise you can get there.
Okay, that took a little longer than a thought - maybe we need a podcast just on that topic haha! For today’s tip let’s talk bath time.
It is inevitable your dog will need a bath - how can we make this a more enjoyable experience for all involved?
First, keep it positive. Start by introducing your puppy to the bathroom. Have fun there! Play with them there. Practice running in and out of the room. Try not to make it about bath time only. If the only time your dog goes in the bathroom is when the water turns on and a bath is going to happen, you may notice your dog starts to avoid that area of your home. Change this by including walking into your bathroom as part of normal everyday life - it does NOT always equal a bath.
Next, help your dog like the bath or shower area. A simple trick is to smear a bit of cream cheese of all natural peanut butter on the wall of your tub, let your puppy lick it off, then go about the rest of your day. After doing this several times a week you’ll notice your puppy running into the bathroom to check out the tub! You may also use a licki mat with frozen beef broth or baby food suction cupped to the wall of the tub or shower.
Notice we started our puppy’s positive association with the tub minus the water. Start with the location first, then progress to adding water. Make sure when you start to add water it is luke warm, not too cold but not too hot. They have sensitive skin so error on the side of warm rather than hot. I keep the drain open so they aren’t standing in water and the dirt can drain away. A removable shower head works well and makes this task a whole lot easier. When bathtime is over, start their favorite game and make bath time part of the pattern of play time.
Next you want to keep this session short. Make sure you have all supplies needed nearby and ready to go. You’ll want a towel, washcloth, shampoo, conditioner, leash, and prepped licki mat prepared BEFORE you bring your dog into the bathroom. For supplies we like to use, check out our Puppy Products tab at the top of our site. Start by getting them excited about the licki mat then turn on the water and wash the body first. Avoid their head area until the end and a washcloth works great for that area to help keep water out of their ears and eyes. Be sure to rinse them well.
When you are done, towel dry as much as possible. This is a great time to add some positive interaction with your puppy. Many LOVE to have you gently rub their faces with the towel, give a good back scratch or belly rub as you towel them off so find out what your dog enjoys and give them a puppy massage as you dry them off. Once I’m done, I lay a towel out on the bathroom floor for them to roll around on or give them more puppy massage using a second towel, if the first one is too wet. Don’t rush past this time as it is a great opportunity to bond.
As for drying them, I highly recommend a dog specific dryer. The temperature stays low and the forced air does a quick job of drying the dog off. These can be a little loud for some dogs - if you notice your dog struggles with the noise, you can desensitize them to it beforehand by turning it on in another room while you play your puppy’s favorite game with them. You can also use a head wrap, like the Happy Hoodie (this is found on Amazon) to cover your puppy’s ears and muffle the noise level. It helps to have someone holding a licki mat or feeding your dog food rewards intermittently throughout the process.
Once your dog is dry, thoroughly brush and comb their coat. I like to use a 10” metal comb to make sure they are mat free all the way down to their skin.
A few last tips - you can start preparing your puppy for bathtime now by teaching them a chin rest. This is a start/stop button that gives our dog a voice in what happens to them. Check out our grooming lesson in the Intermediate section of The Online Puppy School for more information on this.
Also, practice body handling daily with your dog. Do NOT be annoying to your dog when you do this. Pay attention to what they like and don’t like. Use food rewards or a favorite chew to help them like grooming time. Pull out the brush, then pull out the chew. The brush will start to predict the chew and they will get excited when the brush comes out.
Be patient. This takes time. I find if anything - when training new dog - slow down. Don’t be in a rush to get something done that you force an issue. Here’s an example - I really want Baxter to play frisbee. George and Boots - both service dogs we’ve trained - loved frisbee and I found it very enjoyable to spend time with them that way.
Well, the first few months home, Baxter showed zero interest in the game of frisbee. Instead of forcing the issue and stressing over it, I simply explored other options to see what he did enjoy. He loved chasing after a bumper - not a ball, or a frisbee - but a bumper. I noticed every time I threw the frisbee he struggled to pick it up and that frustration likely led to his disinterest in it. Well, fast forward a few months, the other day I decided to try again. I tossed the frisbee and off he went after it! Yay! When he got to the fallen frisbee, he easily scooped it up and ran back to me. I know Baxter loves a game of tug - so when he came back to me, instead of taking it from him, we engaged in a bit of tug then I walked away. Guess what? A few seconds later he was bumping me in my leg with the frisbee telling me he wanted to play again. I should note we have been working on him bumping my leg with a toy to signal he wants to play with me. Now we have a great way to communicate with each other about play.
Moral of the story is listen to your dog. Help them feel comfortable in taking a bath. Do the prep work to set them up for success and be patient. Try the things we discussed today to make it a pleasant experience for your dog. You can do this.