Wash away the worries and make bath time more fun!
–by Nitya Ramachandran
Bathing your dog will keep him smelling fresh while also keeping a host of skin problems at bay. Understanding your dog’s anxiety triggers can help you take proactive measures to eliminate stress from the routine.
Here are a few tricks to make bath time less stressful for your furry friend.
Start early to hit the jackpot
A stress-free bath time isn’t going to happen overnight. Teach your pet behaviours that will make bathing a joyous experience for him. Introduce your pet to water by taking him to a small lake or bringing home a kiddie pool that can accommodate him. Allow him to take his own time getting acquainted with water. Do not rush the process.
Once he learns that water isn’t something to be scared of, teach him to jump into a bathtub and stay there. Give him plenty of treats to positively reinforce acceptable behaviour. Gradually teach him to stand still in the tub while the water is running.
Bath tub=Treat tub
Your pet likely views the bathtub as a scary and restrictive area where he gets all wet. You want to change that perception into a positive one. Offer treats to him when he is in the bathtub. It will make him love that space more.
Familiarity is the key
Try and use the same tub for your pet. The more familiar the bath settings are, the more comfortable he will feel.
Offer praises aplenty
Make bath time an interactive experience. Talk to your pet throughout the process in a gentle voice. He might not be able to make sense of what you say, but the tone of your voice will soothe him and convey the message that bath time is no big deal. Even when your pet isn’t cooperating, you must make an effort to sound happy. An angry tone of voice will make him hate bath time. Encouraging phrases like ‘Well done!’ and ‘Good boy’ will work wonders.
Spread the process to spread happiness
Your pet does not need to be subjected to a torturous marathon grooming session involving scrubbing, trimming, clipping, and snipping at a time. If he despises the grooming process, you can spread it out over a few days. For instance, bathe your pet on one day, clip his nails on another, etc. It will help him relax.
The power of schedule
Choose a day when you have ample time on your hands to prepare your pet for bath time and give him plenty of attention.
Pre-bath exercise session
If you want your pet to cooperate with you and not act too fidgety during bath time, take him for a brisk walk or a run beforehand. It will provide an outlet for excessive energy within him and ensure that he stays mellow and calm.
Do not restrain
Attempting to restrain your pet in the bathtub can cause him to panic. Instead of getting mad at your pet, try to put yourself in his shoes to understand him better. If you were in an unfamiliar place that slowly started filling up with water – you’d try to escape too!
Check water temperature
If the water is hot for you, it is too hot for your pet as well. Think of your pet’s tolerance to temperature as being closer to that of an infant than a human. Always use lukewarm water to bathe your pet.
Keep bath supplies close by
Arrange bath supplies beforehand and keep them at an easily reachable place beside you. If you get up during the bath to get something, your pet might try to follow you, creating a watery mess in the bathroom.
Don’t be in a rush
Your pet thinks of bathing as an invasive process as it is, and you trying to get the process done quickly will stress him out further. Try to proceed at a comfortable pace, as this will help him overcome the fear of bathing.
Dog buddy trick
Try bringing in a dog buddy who loves water as moral support for your anxiety-ridden pet. The furry friend’s calm presence will teach your pet a thing or two about staying calm during a bath. You could also take the help of another human to hold your pet, soothe him and treat him while you clean him.
Bath time is the new spa time
Make bath time a more relaxed and spa-like experience so that your pet looks forward to. Use the gentle motion of your fingers to massage shampoo into the coat. You could also use rubber gloves with massage nubs on them.
Reduce the noise and shock factor
Your pet’s bath-related anxiety could be because of the loud noise of a running tap, the constant spray of a showerhead, or the sudden big splash of water from a cup or bucket. Refrain from opening the showerhead in full force, and keep your movements gentle while pouring water so that he does not get scared. If the sound of running water bothers your pet, fill the bathtub with lukewarm water beforehand.
Ensure firm footing
The slippery, watery surface of the bathtub can make your pet feel unsteady and elevate his stress levels. Place a non-slippery mat or towel on the bottom of the tub to give him adequate traction.
A little extra care for their eyes and ears
Water and soap suds getting into your pet’s eyes or ears can cause irritation. Tuck your pet’s ears into a shower cap while bathing him and cover his eyes with the same while rinsing his face.
Head with caution
Your pet will hate the sensation of a wet, soapy head. Avoid spraying or pouring water on his face or over his head. Use a damp washcloth to wipe his face instead.
Post bath playtime
Sandwiching bath time between two bonding activities helps create a positive association with bath time. In addition to taking your pet out for a long walk before bathing him, spend time playing with your dog after drying him.