How to Bathe a Dog That Hates Water

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Grooming your dog is not an easy task, especially if your pup absolutely hates water.

The first question you must ask yourself is why your dog hates water in the first place. Is it the temperature? The sensation? Or, have they just never been properly introduced to it?

Of course, there are also certain dog breeds that are more inclined to hate water than others.

No matter the reason, there are a few ways you can make the experience much less stressful – for both you and your furry friend.

In this post, we’ll show you how to bathe a dog in a way that’s gentle, efficient, and (most importantly) won’t leave either of you feeling frazzled.

How to Give a Dog a Bath Without Water?

It’s not practical, nor advisable, to wash your dog very frequently.

The truth is, some dogs are naturally smellier than others. Spraying your pup with pet perfume only masks the odor, and it certainly doesn’t take care of the bacteria that causes the bad smell.

If you’re looking for the best alternative to bathing a dog, try a dry shampoo for pets. This is a gentle solution that doesn’t require rinsing, and you can take it with you wherever you go to make sure your good boy always smells good.

Keep in mind that you’ll have to massage it into your dog’s fur in order for it to be effective, but it’s obviously less work compared to washing your dog.

Here’s How to Bathe a Dog That Hates Water

1. Start When Your Dog Is Young

It’s far easier to build good habits than to break bad ones, so start exposing your dog to water when he’s young. Begin with small steps to avoid overwhelming your dog, after all, you want him to enjoy the process and not the other way around.

2. Wash Your Dog in A Tub

Avoid washing your dog on the ground. It will be a lot easier to control an anxious pup inside a closed tub. Also, a nice warm bath is much more comforting than a stream of water coming out of a hose.

Tubs are also preferable to dog pools, which don’t really work as effectively in this case.

3. Get a Dog Bath Tub

This is worthwhile even if you have a bathtub at home, but especially if not, a dog bath is one of the easiest ways to bathe a dog.

The reason is that dog baths are more accessible and faster to use, which can lower stress levels and make the shower more relaxing.

Look for a bath designed for small and medium-sized dogs, which tend to be more water-shy than their bigger counterparts. Also, make sure there’s drain tubing included, so you can get rid of the wastewater easily.

Ideally, the bath should come with four sturdy legs, which keep the unit in place even if your dog moves a lot or clings to one side/corner. The legs should also have the ability to elevate to protect you from back pain.

4. Introduce Your Dog to the Tub

Before bathing your dog, you want him to feel comfortable in an empty bathtub.

Start by leading your dog to the bathroom using his favorite treats. Let him sniff around the tub, and then finally, help him get inside step by step. Your dog might be curious or afraid at first. Either way, let him get used to the new situation.

Keep these sessions under 5 minutes though to ensure your dog is progressing rather than digressing.

5. Make the Tub a Fun Place

Start by giving your dog his food in the same place you’ll bathe him. That way, you’ll associate bath time with an enjoyable activity, like eating.

You can also give your dog more treats once he’s calmly sitting inside the bathtub to increase the positive association between treats and bath time.

6. Always Be Prepared

Gather everything you need so it’s easily within reach.

This includes your dog’s shampoo and conditioner (don’t use your own), as well as one drying towel on the walls of the tub so that your dog won’t slip on the way out. Additionally, grab a second drying towel to cover your wet dog once you’re finished washing him.

You should also have some treats around in case you decide to reward your dog’s good behavior.

7. Start a Bathing Routine

Dogs are creatures of habit. That’s why having a bathing routine drastically reduces their stress level simply by removing the element of surprise.

Make a habit of brushing your dog before bathtime to remove any loose hair, open mats, and/or tangles.

8. Establish a Shower Cue

Repeat the word ‘bath’ while brushing your dog’s hair or feeding him in the bathing area. By associating a certain word with his bath, your dog won’t be caught off guard.

9. Add Water Slowly

You should fill the tub with no more than a few inches of lukewarm water. As you might expect, a full bathtub can worsen your dog’s adverse reaction to water. Also, don’t forget to turn the water off, as this can raise his stress levels, too.

10. Reduce Any Stressors

Bathtubs are slippery, and that makes dogs nervous since they can’t stand up straight. It’s also harder to hold them in one place.

You can ease your dog’s fear by getting a rubber, non-slip bathtub mat, and placing it at the bottom of the tub. This little item will help improve your dog’s balance, which will decrease his bathtub anxiety.

Additionally, a multi-function dog shower head makes it easy to wash your anxious dog at home. It should have a gentle spray, so your dog will hardly mind it, and you must be able to control the water pressure and spray setting.

This product normally attaches to your standard showerhead, however, make sure the hose is long enough so that you have enough reach. Some wands even come with a suction cup hook to hang them.

11. Make Bath Time Fun

Following on the previous tip, chew toys are perfect for reducing anxiety in dogs, so if your pup is into toys, throw a few of them in the water.

You can also use treats again. The combination of toys and food might help your dog relax and enjoy his baths.

12. Tire out Your Dog

A tired dog is a calmer dog, so take your pup for a long walk or a run before you decide to wash him.

It doesn’t really matter how you choose to tire out your dog, as long as he returns home feeling hot and exhausted. Be sure that he’s relieved himself as well, so he won’t have the energy to resist you during baths or do his business inside your tub.

13. Allow Your Dog to Relax

If nothing seems to work, you can always turn to natural calming remedies. Luckily, there are many products that can reduce your dog’s anxiety without making him sluggish.

Good calming treats should contain Melatonin or L-Theanine, a relaxing and non-drowsy amino acid, along with ingredients such as organic ginger, passionflower, hemp, thiamine, and/or chamomile for relieving your dog’s stress and hyperactivity.

14. Don’t Rush It

Bathing your dog can take a while, especially if he fights you during the process. Schedule a bath for your pup only when you have ample free time so you can focus on doing things right and with patience.

This can mean starting off simply by letting your dog get used to the sound of water or getting just his feet wet, and gradually moving on from there.

Trust me, I get it! My dog hates water too. However, the more I bathe him, the easier it gets.

In time, your pup should get used to having a bath as well, and hopefully, he will feel more comfortable around water.

To tell the truth, some dogs will never get used to the idea. However, with these tips, they’ll at least be less frightened.

About the author

Li-ran Bukovza

Li-ran believes that our dogs can teach us more than we could ever teach them. He's fascinated by the dog-human bond and loves researching and writing about new pet trends. With the help of Richie (his trusty Maltese sidekick), he hopes to help as many people as possible understand the beautiful, complex world of canine companionship.