Bathing an anxious or scared dog – preparation and how to overcome the anxiety.

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Bathing an anxious or scared dog can be like re-enacting a scene from a horror movie. Bathing as we know it is not a natural thing for a dog to do in the wild, so instinctively, it is understandable when they are afraid of having one. Also, bath time shouldn’t be a terrible ordeal every time your fur-child is a bit muddy. let’s look into what causes a dog to be anxious during bath time and how to overcome this.

The process of bathing can cause anxiety in many dogs and this leads to the fear of being bathed. The key here is to try to identify where this anxiety stems from and look at ways to overcome it with your dog.

Dogs are highly sensitive creatures, often more so than we think. An experience of bathwater that may have been too hot or even a hostile environment (angry owner for example) during a previous bath experience would create anxiety in them. 

However, it’s often things far more insignificant to us that could create this anxiety for them. As an example, a bathtub is a slippery surface and many dogs do not like the feeling of being unbalanced. They begin to panic because they know that feeling of not having control is coming. 

So how do we help our dogs overcome this fear, I mean we cannot have them running around dirty all the time, even though they might want to! There are many health reasons why it’s vital to keep your pets clean, but that’s a blog for another day. Before you run and fill the tub, you need to help prepare your doggo. Practise is what will help you obtain the best results here.

how to bath an anxious dog

Make the bathroom seem less scary

  • Make the area where the bath will take a place, a safe and happy environment. This can be done by feeding them their dinner in the bathroom where you would usually bathe them.  
  • Calling them into that room, once they come inside on their own reward them with a treat. Then sit on the floor with them and give them lots of cuddles and scratches. They will soon start to associate the bathroom as a happy place.

Rub a dub dub, now work on getting in the tub

  • If your dog starts to panic as soon as you put them into the tub, then this is for you. Make sure that there is NO water in the tub. Put a rubber mat or even a damp towel down inside the tub to prevent your dog from slipping. Gently pick them up and place them into the empty tub. Once your dog is in the tub, praise and reward them with their favorite treat and a cuddle. Leave it at that, take your doggie out the tub and go do something fun. 
  • When you feel your dog is starting to relax with the idea of being in the tub, before taking them out again, introduce something else they enjoy like a brush. 

Now to add some water

  • Keep a small bucket and sponge on hand for this step. Once your doggie is in the tub and calm, using the wet sponge, start to wipe down your dog’s paws and legs. Just enough that they can feel the water, remember to keep talking to your dog in a calm and soothing voice. Reassure them that they are being not “a good dog” but “the best dog”.  
  • When your dog has relaxed to this idea, run a small amount of water in the tub, just deep enough to reach halfway up your dog’s paw, don’t cover their paws yet. Make sure you run the water slowly so you do not cause your dog to panic. If your dog is calm with the water then continue to use the sponge and wet a bit higher on their legs. 
  • Each time you do this, increase the water level slightly and continue to use a sponge to wet your dog until they are comfortable. 
  • Try to avoid using a shower head extension if you can, the noise and the water pressure can be quite daunting to a timid or anxious dog. If you have to use one, keep the water pressure as low as possible and slowly increase this if needed. 

A few additional tips and tricks

  • Rome wasn’t built in a day, so this will take time and practice to overcome BUT it is something that can be resolved.
  • Remain calm at all times, your dog will pick up on your mood and this can potentially take you a few steps back. 
  • Reward EVERY small achievement. 
  • Always avoid getting water in or near your dog’s eyes.
  • The best time to bathe your dog is after a long walk or run. They will be in a happy, relaxed and slightly tired state of mind which will make them easier to handle overall. 
  • Some dogs have a toy that they treasure and often act as their ‘security blanket’. If this toy is waterproof, introduce it to your bathtime routine, it might help them to relax a bit more. 

Remember if your dog is calm and happy about bath time it becomes a happy experience for them. This also helps their anxiety when they are being professionally groomed as well. 

To book a professional grooming session please contact us. 

bath anxious dog toys

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