Your dog needs regular baths to remove dirt, dander, loose hair and doggy odor from his coat. But if Fido hates bath time, what should be routine becomes an ordeal. Though your dog might never love his bath, with preparation and patience you can make it easier on both of you.
Wash a bath-phobic dog in the sink or bathtub, not in the backyard with a hose. He's easier to control in the closed quarters of the bathroom, and a warm bath is much more soothing than cold water shooting out of a hose. Before even bringing Fido near the tub, get prepared. Take him out for a brief walk so he can relieve himself. Next, gather up plenty of old towels, a washcloth, several pitchers, your dog's brush, nail clippers, a nonslip bathmat, and dog shampoo. Don't use your own shampoo on Fido, as the stronger formula can dry or irritate his skin. Give your dog a good brushing before the bath to remove loose hair and excess dirt.
Fill all but one of your pitchers with warm water for rinsing, and then fill the tub with a few inches of water. An overly full tub might cause panic in a dog who hates taking baths. Make sure the nonslip bathmat is secure. Turn the water off before bringing Fido into the bathroom, as the roar of running water is very frightening to some dogs. Speak in a firm but soothing voice as you put your dog into the tub. If he's heavy, have someone help you lift him. Use the empty pitcher to pour warm water from the tub over Fido, starting at his tail and working towards his neck. Avoid wetting his face, which will make him shake. You'll wash his face last. Keep a hand on your dog to hold him in place, and praise him enthusiastically.
Shampoo and Rinse
Pour shampoo into your hands, work up lather, and then thoroughly rub the shampoo into Fido's coat. Start on his back, working your way down his sides. Remember to wash his belly, hindquarters, legs and feet. Shampoo his neck and chest, then gently wash his face and head with the washcloth. Be careful to keep shampoo away from his eyes, nose, ears and mouth. When you're ready to rinse, pull the tub's plug to drain the dirty water. Use your pre-filled pitchers to rinse Fido thoroughly. If you need more water, have someone else fill the pitchers in another room, then bring them to you. Start rinsing at his rear and work your way forward, paying attention to his belly and legs. Use the wet washcloth to wipe his head and face. Pouring water over his head is too frightening for a dog that hates the bath.
Once rinsing is complete, stand back and prepare for the doggy shakedown. You can block some of the spray with a towel. Lift Fido out of the tub and stand him on an old towel or bathmat. Rub him vigorously with a towel to remove as much moisture as you can. This might be all you need to dry a dog with short, fine hair. Long-haired or double-coated dogs will require more than one towel to remove excess water. If your dog isn't too frightened, you can use your blow dryer on warm -- not hot -- to finish the job. When Fido is dry, clip his toenails, and then give him a treat for being such a good dog.
Though Fido might never love bath time, he will probably learn to tolerate it if you’re calm and patient. If his fear is extreme, however, or bath time remains a dreaded ordeal, you'll need to take further measures. Most pet stores sell herbal supplements that help reduce dog anxiety. You can give Fido the relaxing treat half an hour before bath time to soothe his nerves. If that isn't enough to calm him, your vet can prescribe a mild dog sedative. If your dog is so frightened you fear he could bite, or he shows signs of aggression, don't risk injury. In such an extreme case, Fido will need to wear a muzzle during his bath or visit a professional groomer experienced in handling difficult dogs.
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