How to Bathe a Dog Who Hates Water

How to Bathe a Dog Who Hates Water

Have you ever found yourself running after your dog only to try to wrestle them into the bathtub?

If so, you aren’t alone.

Not all dogs love baths; well, most dogs don’t like baths, but some dogs hate baths.

Both Calvin & Ginger used to be in the bath-hating club, but I am very thankful they are no longer members.  

Calvin detests water.

He even avoids puddles when we are out walking and hates going out when it’s raining.

Ginger used to be afraid of the water regardless of if it was a lake, ocean, or the equally scary bathtub.  

Over time I was able to change Ginger’s association towards the water so that she was no longer afraid.

And Calvin, we just figured out ways to make bathtime a bit less detestable, enough so that he doesn’t keep trying to escape the tub.

Why Does Your Dog Hate Baths?

Dog’s feelings towards water come in a variety of forms and levels.

How to bathe a dog that hates baths water get into bathtub clean without water

“Did you say the word ‘bath’?”

Some dogs are like Calvin and don’t love water. They aren’t afraid of it, but it’s just not their thing.

Other dogs, like Ginger, are fearful of water.

Their fear can manifest in several different forms, from shaking in the corner to aggression[1].

So, for the first step on how to get your water-hating dog smelling better, we first need to figure out why your dog doesn’t love baths.

Now, you’re wondering how to figure that out. “My dog doesn’t talk,” you say.

And likely they don’t, but dogs do attempt to communicate with us.

We need to be patient enough to decipher what they are saying. It’s all about reading their body language.Why do dogs hate baths afraid of water scared of tub shower

The reason it is essential to know why your dog is reacting the way they do towards bath time will aid in deciding this solution would fit best.

For example, sometimes it’s as simple as adjusting the bathwater temperature, providing a non-slip mat so they feel more secure in the tub, or sometimes it’s all about making a bathtub all about the treats.

Short-Term Fixes

There are some great easy non-water oriented ways to get your dog smelling better.

It will not replace a full-on bath, but until you can safely get your dog into the tub, these solutions will work well.

Unless, of course, your dog encountered a skunk or rolled in dead fish or something.

I have not had to experience either of those things, but my dogs, especially Calvin, love to roll in deer droppings and dead animals.

Why do dogs roll in stink skunk how to make dog smell nice without bath

“Oh, boy! I just found something really stinky!”

Yep, dogs can be so gross!

Before using any of the products below, I suggest thoroughly brushing out your dog to help remove loose dead hair, dirt, and debris.

If your dog will allow it, lightly spray the brush with water to help decrease static, which can cause tangles.

Don’t forget to wash other sources of odor, too! Smelly dog collars, toys, and dog beds can keep your pup stinky.

And if their bed hasn’t been washed, well, your dog will get stinky again in no time!

Product Recommendations

Wahl Pet Friendly Waterless No-Rinse ShampooWahl waterless no rinse shampoo for easy dog bathing

Not only does this shampoo smell fresh and amazing, but it also does a great job cleaning your dog’s coat.

Wahl Waterless No-Rinse Shampoo is like a mousse that you gently massage into your dog’s hair.

After you have finished, brush your dog out again, to aid in removing hair and dirt that was loosened up when you applied the shampoo.

If your dog is particularly nervous, try their lavender and chamomile version to help soothe your dog’s nerves.

Pros
  • Easy to use and almost as good as a traditional bath
  • Comes in a variety of scents
Cons
  • Might be too much moisture for dogs opposed to water

Rufus & Coco powder dry shampoo not a spray easy to use messyRufus & Coco Natural Dry Shampoo

This shampoo comes in a powder form and does not require any moisture.

This makes it ideal for dogs who find the mousse or sprays too much to handle.

Rufus & Coco dry shampoo absorbs dirt and oils, plus deodorizes all at the same time.

Pros
  • Penetrates the coat and absorbs dirt and oils efficiently
Cons
  • The powder can be a bit messy

Furbliss Pet Wipesfurbliss hypoallergenic pet wipes for keeping dog smelling nice without bathing

Furbliss pet wipes are great if your dog is opposed to the mousse and you don’t want the mess that can come with powdered shampoos.

Pros
  • Easy no mess solution
Cons
  • Doesn’t clean as thoroughly as shampoos applied directly to the coat

How to Keep Your Dog Calm

If your dog is nervous like Ginger, before bathing your dog, you may consider using something to help soothe their nerves.

However, if your dog is on prescription medications, check with your vet before giving your pup any supplements.

NaturVet Quiet Moments Calming AidNaturVet quiet moments calming aid melatonin before bath

I used NaturVet Quiet Moments Calming Aid chews for years for Sophie before her anxiety required prescription medication.

It is best to give them their chews 1/2 hour before bath time.

If you give these to your dog after they are upset, they don’t work as well.

Pros
  • Easy to administer since they are flavored chews
  • Hypoallergenic
Cons
  • They are not intended for dogs with severe anxiety

Hemp calming chews for dog reduce anxiety stress of bathing in waterBluecare Labs Hemp Calming Chews

If you have a dog that responds well to hemp-based products, Bluecare Hemp calming chews may help dogs with moderate anxiety levels.

Again, give it a 1/2 hour or so before you attempt to bathe your dog.

Pros
  • Contains organic hemp seed oil, hemp protein, chamomile, and passion flower
Cons
  • Not hypoallergenic

Adaptil Calming SprayAdaptil travel pheromone calming spray helps dogs who hate water

Pheromone scent therapy has been around for years and is endorsed by certified veterinarians[2].

I prefer the Adaptil calming spray.

It’s good for dogs who are nervous about car travel, too.

You have to spray it on an object 15 minutes before using it with your dog. Don’t spray it directly onto your puppy!

Pros
  • Natural pheromone proved to aid in relieving anxiety and stress
  • Hypoallergenic
  • Do not have to worry about drug interactions
Cons
  • Needs to be sprayed on a surface close enough to your dog during bathtime that they can reap the benefits (Recommendation: Spray on a towel that can sit near the bathtub)

Prescription Medication

Occasionally dogs will suffer from severe anxiety and may require prescription medication.

Sophie and Ginger are both on anti-anxiety medications, not because of baths, but for other anxiety problems.

At first, I was hesitant to use prescription medicine because I didn’t want a zombie dog, but Trazadone doesn’t knock them out, it just relaxes them.

Pros
  • Can be effective for dogs with extreme anxiety
Cons
  • Requires a prescription

The Do’s and Don’ts of BathtimeHow to help dog enjoy bathing bath time tips tricks suggestions recommendations

I have been asked several times about how to make bathtime less traumatic for all parties involved.

Below are several simple adjustments that promote a more positive bath experience for everyone.

Do

Give lots of yummy treats!

Make bathtime a positive experience. At bathtime in our house, Ginger will now try and get into the bathtub because she knows there will be treats.

Yes, it would be fine if she crawled into the tub on her own if she hadn’t already had her bath.

Don't

The #1 “Don’t” of bathtime is to start it with a frustrating game of chase.

Because first, it’s not a game, and no one is having fun.

Plus, when you are chasing your dog around, you are adding to your level of frustration, and that’s never the right way to start any project.

Also, it is quite likely your dog was already afraid of bathtime and chasing them while projecting frustration has only reinforced their fear.  

No judgment. We’ve all been there!

Do

Calmly call your dog to you, attach a leash, and confidently walk them into the bathroom or wherever the bathing is located.

Keyword: Calmly!

The best thing you can do is keep their energy level low.

Don't

Do not use a garden hose with only cold water.

I don’t know how many times people find it odd their dog doesn’t like baths when they are using freezing cold water.

I know I wouldn’t like it.

Do

Use warm, not hot, water to bathe your dog.

Often that is enough to make bathtime bearable.

Don't

Do not spray your dog in the face or dump water over their head without properly protecting their eyes, nose, and ears.

Again, would you like that?

Do

Gently tilt their head up and cover their eyes and ears then, starting at the crown of their head, slowly pour water over their head.

If your dog is particularly resistant to this, use a washcloth instead. Also, you can use a warm damp washcloth on their face to wipe down around their eyes and muzzle.

Don't

Do not get frustrated with your dog.

They are not resisting you because they want to irritate you. They are uncomfortable with the bath and getting frustrated with them will only add to their discomfort.

Extremely fearful dogs may require desensitization training. If so, seek a certified dog trainer who uses positive reinforcement tactics for help.

Other Tips

Shower

Can you shower with your dog calmy bathe anxious puppy

Photo by aqua.mech (CC BY 2.0)

Try putting them in the shower with you[3].

Sophie has horrible allergies and requires a bath every other week during flareups. 

One day I was running short on time and wondered how she would do in the shower. So, I jumped in the shower with her.

It went by way faster and easier than bathing her.

I think Sophie prefers showers to baths since they are faster. 

Not all dogs will be okay in a shower. Calvin and Ginger prefer the bathtub.

Create a Calm Environment

Try and choose a time that the household is a bit quieter.

Maybe after the kid’s bathtime when everyone is winding down.

Go for a Long Walk

Draining some of your dog’s excess energy will also help decrease bathtime drama.

A tired dog can be more agreeable than one that has been sitting in their crate all day.Non slip bath mat in tub can help dog who hates baths calm down traction

Bathmat

A major game-changer was putting a bathmat into the tub for Calvin; it gave him a sense of security.

Dogs have a hard time not slipping in porcelain bathtubs.    

Do it Yourself Grooming

There are several facilities that you can bring your dog and bathe them at their facility. 

The do-it-yourself grooming places are set up to make bathtime easier for both you and your dog. Sometimes, just having the right tools can make a big difference.

Also, there are usually staff members that are happy to assist you if you need an extra hand.  

Conclusion

Bathtime doesn’t have to be a nightmare for you and your pup.

An important thing to keep in mind is that bathtime for a dog means licking their fur, not jumping into a tub.

Bathing a dog is not a natural action for your dog so that it can be scary and uncomfortable, and even more so if your dog isn’t a fan of water.

Do your best to make bathtime a positive and calm experience.

You will both be happier for it!

References

  1. https://www.wikihow.com/Recognize-Fear-in-Dogs
  2. https://pets.webmd.com/features/pet-pheromone-products-for-behavior-problems
  3. https://www.reddit.com/r/dogs/comments/z1se7/is_it_weird_that_sometimes_my_dog_showers_with_me/
About the author

Jessica Mabie

Jessica and her husband share their lives with four amazing high energy Brittanys and one very awesome cat. You’ll rarely see her without her 4 pack, they go everywhere with her, including most vacations. So, if you see her out and about with her family don’t hesitate to say “Hi!”, (You’ll know it’s her since few are so daring as to have 4 Britts).