Life with dogs / 05

Processed with VSCOcam with lv01 preset

Tip #5: Creating a bath time routine

After a weekend of running in the woods, it’s time for the dogs to have a bath. You might be thinking my dog hates baths. Well…I was right there with you not too long ago. Jack hated baths for a long time. He would run the other direction as soon as he heard the water running. When we got Keeper, I decided to try a different approach to bath time in hopes that she wouldn’t mind them as much as Jack did. I’m happy to report that Keeper and Jack now take baths with ease. While your dog might not come to *love* baths, they can learn to tolerate them better. Whether you have a puppy who is new to baths or an adult dog who has a track record of hiding every time the word “bath” is mentioned, there are a few simple ways to make bath time more enjoyable for your dog (and yourself).

Step 1: Desensitize

The first couple of times you give your dog a bath, there will be a fair amount of desensitizing/getting them used to the norms that come with taking a bath. From the sound of the water, to the water temperature, to them being covered in shampoo – it can be overwhelming for them at first. Easing them into the whole process from the beginning will help them make a positive association with taking a bath. If you have an adult dog who has already decided baths aren’t for them, you will need to really work on this step in order to replace their current negative association with a more positive one.

To start with, try:

Processed with VSCOcam with lv01 preset

Introducing a bath toy

We have 2 toys that sit on the shelf in the bathroom that are designated “bath toys”. A small, rubber chuck-it ball, and a mini frisbee. Both are waterproof. When it’s bath time, I go get these and show the dogs. You’d be surprised by how excited they get to play with toys they only see once or twice a month. I lure them in with these. Not only does it give them something to look forward to every time they take a bath, but it saves me the time of having to chase them down and wrangle them into the tub.

Adjust water temperature

Depending on the amount of fur your dog has, dogs can be more comfortable in the right temperature of water. Border collies like Keeper have long, dense coats, and need to be bathed in luke warm to cool water to avoid overheating. Can you imagine wearing a thick sweater and then hopping into a warm bath? Yeah, no way! Alternatively, dogs with shorter coats like Jack may get cold standing in a tub of water, so adjusting the water to be warmer would be better for them.

Wash face and ears separately

To avoid any traumatic¬†experiences like getting soap in their eyes or water in their ears, make sure to wash their face and ears separate using a wash cloth. Dogs can also get ear infections if water is left in their ears so it’s good to keep them dry anyway.

Processed with VSCOcam with lv01 preset

Step 2: Positively reinforce calm behavior

While you’re lathering up your dog, let them know when they are being a good dog. Positively reinforce calm behavior by telling them something along the lines of “good job buddy”, or “doing great, almost done” in a positive tone. This is a nice way to let your dog know you like it when they are calm and standing still. If they have mastered the command “Stay”, you can use this here.

Step 3: Reward

After their bath, give them a reward. This should be different than the bath toy (shelve those for now in order to keep the allure for next time). We give Jack and Keeper baby carrots since they are their favorites. I do this as soon as I finish drying them off so they associate the end of bath time with the reward of carrots.

Processed with VSCOcam with lv01 preset

Step 4: Repeat

In order for a positive association with bath time to be made, you’ll need to repeat these steps every time you give them a bath. Dogs are less likely to feel stressed if they know the routine.

Processed with VSCOcam with lv01 preset Good luck!

Do you have any tips or tricks you use with your dog that makes taking a bath easier and more enjoyable? I’d love to hear about them.


The shampoo we use
For faster washing

  • Natalie Mastick

    Thanks for the tips, Nic! My boyfriend just got an aussie/border collie mix and we’ve been delaying the inevitable bath mainly out of fear of traumatizing her. Having special bath toys is a great idea!

    • nic

      Aww, yay! Sounds like a great new adventure you guys got there, glad you like the post! Keep me posted!