When it comes to baths, there are forces at work more evil than you can possibly imagine, at least as far as your dog is concerned. Getting him to enjoy splashing in water and being massaged with shampoo is all about treats and praise. Toys help a little too.
Designate one location as your pup's bath area. It might be your bathtub, in the case of a small dog, or a separate dog bath that accommodates a larger dog. By only bathing your little guy in one place, you can focus on reducing his fears to that area specifically.
Play near the bath area. Throw his favorite ball near the bathtub, but not into it, or play a short game of tug while sitting near the edge of the bath. These types of activities tell your dog that the bath isn't a big, nasty monster that's going to hurt him if he gets near it.
Hold a treat inside your hand and stand by the bath. Lower your hand onto or near the edge of the bathtub. It's best if you can place the treat on the edge, but little dogs may not be able to reach. Once your pup nears the bath, give him the treat and praise him for getting so close.
Coax your pup inside. This is a big step and a step that's sometimes hard to persuade your dog to take. If you have a small dog, you may need to pick him up and place him in the bath. Standing dog baths may have steps or a ramp that your dog can take up to the top. Treats are vital for coaxing your dog inside. Don't ever force your dog in the bath. Even if you have to pick your dog up to set him in the bath, release him immediately after he's inside. If you keep him there against his will, he's going to think something bad just has to happen, and that one bad experience can make him hesitant of the bath in the future.
Hand your dog a treat and give him praise after he seems calm inside the bath. If he's checking out the area or sniffing around, that's a great sign, but don't mistake his curiosity for happiness. If you turn on the water, he might freak out, and you'll be hard pressed to get him back inside on his own accord. Coax him in the bath about three times a day for three days, feeding him treats and giving him praise each time.
Turn on the water after the third day. This is the second big step. As soon as the water starts running, give him a treat, then slowly let him feel the water. The moment he feels the water against his coat, he might tense up. Be ready with a treat and a bunch of petting as long as he doesn't react negatively and try to bolt out. If he does try to run, turn off the water and let him go. As long as you didn't keep him there against his will, he'll probably forgive you and give it another go the next day. Most dogs won't try to run if they made it this far. Repeat this process a day or two before giving him an actual bath.
Give your dog something that will make him excited or happy when his bath is over. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals suggests a new toy or treats he doesn't normally get. If your dog loves car rides, take him on a ride. Anything that tells him bath time means fun time will make baths more enjoyable for your pup.
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- Always talk to your dog throughout the bath to help keep him calm and happy.
- Towel-drying your dog is a better idea than blow drying, because he's less likely to be afraid of a towel than something that makes a lot of noise.
- Some dog baths include a metal clip that attaches to your dog's collar and holds him in place. Using it isn't a good idea unless you simply cannot get your dog to accept baths. The clip forces your dog to remain inside the bath against his will.
- Standing dog baths often have ramps. Make sure you direct your pup up and down the ramp so he doesn't try to enter or exit from the side.
- Yelling at your dog for being afraid of the bath will make him hate baths even more.
- dog having bath image by Dario Principe from Fotolia.com