If your dog is afraid of water, bathing him can become quite a problem. You may think when your dog fears water; it’s not a life and death situation for him not to have a bath. But, it is important to get your dog familiar with having the occasional bath for many reasons, including:
- Keeping him clean and healthy
- Stopping your home from smelling of dog
- For medical reasons
- Checking for lumps and bumps
- Removing offensive material from his coat
HOW DO YOU KNOW THAT YOUR DOG FEARS WATER?
- He avoids the bathroom when you’re running a bath.
- Unable to walk near any water such as a pond, lake or even the edge of the ocean.
- Avoids puddles
- Reluctant to go out in the rain
- Shows signs of stress, such as licking his lips, cowering, and pulling away
- Will quickly move away from a lawn sprinkler when out on a walk.
- Often avoids anywhere he may hear running water, even inside the house.
The list is not exhaustive of how a dog who hates water may react when confronted with a watery situation.
WHY DOES YOUR DOG HATE WATER?
If you’re unaware of your dog’s history, getting to know why he fears and has such an aversion to water may be difficult. So, all we can do is presume a few things, such as he may have had a bad experience and that is why he’s afraid of water. He may belong to a breed that is known not like water. I have known dogs from water-loving breeds who baulk at the slight of water. Here is a list of breeds that dislike water. Or it may just be in his DNA, and he fears anything to do with water, with no known cause.
WHAT TO DO IF YOUR DOG IS AFRAID OF WATER?
First, NEVER, EVER force your dog to go anywhere near water if he shows signs of fear. If you do, he’ll never trust you again and will live waiting in fearful anticipation you may repeat the actions. This applies to outdoors on your walk, in your yard or even inside your house. Your dog is stressed and frightened; he, himself may not have a rational reason for hating water, so, you, as his ‘pack leader’ will need to help him overcome his fears. This change will not happen overnight, and your dog may never actually get to like water and having a bath, but he may, in time, if he trusts you, be able to tolerate the procedure.
BATHING SHOULD START WHEN YOUR DOG IS YOUNG
Start bathing your dog or puppy as soon as possible after you get him home. Not only will it get rid of the doggy smell he’ll have brought with him, but you’ll also be able to get him used to bath-time. It’s a lot easier to build good habits than to break bad ones, so it’s good to expose your dog to water when he’s young. Bathing a dog when he’s too young to pick up bad habits will prevent your dog from being afraid of water.
Make sure you stay calm and confident and use only warm water and a flannel. Give him lots of treats and praise, making the whole process into a fun activity.
HOW TO CLEAN YOUR DOG WITHOUT WATER?
At times it isn’t practical, nor is it advisable, to wash your dog too often. Over bathing strips, the dog’s fur of the natural oils, causing his coat to become dry and his skin to flake.
Some dogs such as Pugs and Shar Peis are naturally smellier than others, because of the folds in their skin, and some even smell after a bath.
If your dog is afraid of water, you can dry clean your dog with special dog wipes. They are moist and will clean off a small amount of mud or faeces without bathing. Dry shampoos are worth considering in-between bathing. They are easy to use and soak up the excess oil. When you brush out the shampoo, you’ll also remove the oil, debris and skin flakes from your dog’s coat. You can also get the same effect by using everyday baking soda.
HOW TO PREPARE YOUR WATER HATING DOG FOR A BATH
- Start Slowly: Get him used to enter the bathroom or the place you’ll be bathing him. Say the trigger word ‘bath’ so he can start to associate the word with bathing. Give him treats and just let him sniff around the area. Stay calm, don’t spend too much time on this but do it frequently – treats and praise.
- Get his Confidence: Once you feel your dog’s confidence in the bathing area is growing, you can go to the next stage. Remember there’s no time limit on these stages as each dog learns at a different pace. Turn on the water, and an allow it run for a minute or two, and if you’re planning to use a showerhead turn that on too. Some dogs with sensitive ears and hearing will find the sound of the water frightening. So, start with a gentle dribble and see how your dog reacts, and don’t forget to use the trigger word as you give him his treats.
- Reassure: When he starts to ignore the sound of the running water, it’s time to get him used to the tub. Put a non-slip mat at the bottom of the tub and gently lift your dog and place him gently on the non-slip mat. You may feel his body start to stiffen with anxiety. Keep talking to him, praising, and reassuring him and adding a few tasty treats. If he’ll accept his favourite toy give him that to distract him. Gently brush his coat and repeat the trigger word ‘bath’. Once he is standing still and accepting his surroundings, lift him out of the tub. Please continue with the praise and treat routine as you towel his dry body to get him familiar with the drying process. Once you release your dog, he’ll probably charge around the house with utter relief.
- Bath-time: Now, the day of his bath has arrived, you’re feeling confident he’s passed the test up to this moment with flying colours. But also, be aware, he could very well change his mind and resist having a bath. In this situation, stay calm. You may need to start back at stage one. Start by just sitting in the bathing area with him, talking and reassuring him.
- Tire your dog: One preparation for a bath-time schedule is to make sure you tier your dog as will help him stay calmer. So, make sure you take your dog or puppy for a nice long walk. Play fetch or anything else you know he’ll enjoy. It doesn’t really matter how you choose to tire your dog, so long as he returns feeling hot and tired, so he won’t have the energy to resist you bathing him. And his fear of water won’t be the only thing on his mind.
- Preparation: Please make sure you’ve everything you need and within easy reach before his bath. This includes dog shampoo and conditioner (never use human shampoo), as well as one drying towel on the walls of the tub so that your dog won’t slip as you get him out. Also have a floor towel and a second drying towel to cover your wet dog before he shakes all over you, and don’t forget the treats.
- First bath: Fill the bath with just a few inches of warm water, as you might expect, a full bathtub will increase a dog’s adverse reaction to water. Fill a few jugs of warm water to rinse him off instead of the showerhead. It will be best not using the shower for his first bath unless you have the gentler shower head you can buy especially for cats and dogs. Do all this before you get your dog into the bathing area. Don’t let him hear the running water just yet, so remember to turn it off before he gets anywhere near the bath, to avoid stressing him.
- Bath-time routine: As you may have already discovered, dogs are creatures of habit. So, a bath-time routine will help to drastically reduce your pet’s stress levels just by reducing the element of surprise. When your dog is afraid of water, you’ll need to act normally with him. Make it a habit of brushing your dog before a scheduled bath time. Continue to repeat the trigger word of ‘bath’ to give him some indication of what’s going to happen.
- Chew toys: If your dog loves playing with toys, you may find chew toys are perfect for reducing his bath-time anxiety. So, chuck a few of his favourite toys into the water. You’ll still be able to use some tasty treats. A combination of toys and food will often prove a comforter to an anxious dog.
- Distraction: Once you have everything ready for your dogs’ bath, you can now stand him in the tub with the few inches of warm water. If your dog fears water and is showing signs of stress, just wet his legs a little and wipe his face with a moist flannel. When your dog is afraid of water, try distracting him with toys or treats. If he manages to relax, you can continue with the shampoo and a good rinse with jugs of warm water. But, make sure every bit of shampoo is removed.
- Praise and treats: If your dog starts to panic, let the water out of the tub. Never raise your voice or show your disappointment. Keep calm and gently stroke his coat with a moist flannel until all the water has drained away. Lift him out and proceed to dry him and talking to him as if he’s just had a full bath. Give him praise for being brave and a treat or two. You may need to follow this reduced bath-time procedure numerous times. At least until his fear of water subsides and you can start to bathe him properly.
- Maintenance: Depending on your dog’s breed and skin needs, you may only need to bathe your dog once every 4-8 weeks. But it’s still advisable to continue with his bath-time training, especially the more nervous dog. You’ll need to continue with the positive bath time routine to maintain any progress that has been made. You may occasionally need to practice getting your anxious dog’s feet wet. Practice towel-drying your already-dry dog and treat and praise him each time he stands still. Over time, you’ll need to do this fewer and fewer times as your dog gets used to bath-time.
WHY BATH-TIME IS IMPORTANT
Bathing your dog is not just to keep your home clean and your dog smelling great. Bath time is a great time to check your dog for injuries. It will help with your dog’s shedding. And it’s a good time to practice other grooming tasks, such as trimming his nails and cleaning his ears. Maintaining a grooming schedule is one way to keep your dog healthy.
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SHOPPING ITEMS TO HELP WITH YOUR DOG BATHING