2 min read • By Leena Chitnis, Founder, Timberdog®
While many dogs love jumping into lakes and puddles, it's not uncommon for them to hate bath time. The loud roar of the water, the enclosure of the tub, and being held in place while being soaped up are just some of the things that many dogs find unpleasant, unnatural, or fearful. My dog Kashi was one of those scaredy pups, but now doesn't mind bath time at all.
When she was a puppy, I employed a few tricks to help her make a positive connection to baths. These were a bit painstaking, but ultimately worth it in the end.
1) Before she even went in the tub, I worked on pairing the sound of the rushing water with positive reinforcement. I did this by giving her a high-value treat - a piece of stinky cheese - right when I turned on the water. I did this several times until she was used to the sound. (I often pair loud noises - fireworks, pots and pans banging, smoke alarm, etc. - with a savory treat.)
2) Next, donning a bathing suit, I would climb into the tub while it was filling with warm water, holding several pieces of cheese in my hand. She eventually climbed into the tub after me, but instead of going into the water, she would find shelter on the island that was my lap. Here, she would nervously eat some of the cheese while looking around. I would sit there with her in my lap, until the water filled up around us, gently stroking her fur all the while. This got her used to being in a tub filled with warm water -- something you will definitely need at some point to drown fleas or ticks.
3) The third act involved pushing her gently off of my lap and setting her down in a couple inches of water, while allowing her to lick some peanut butter off the tub wall.
4) The final stage involved me slowly getting out of the tub while she was licking the peanut butter. At first, this made her nervous and she'd stop licking. She would look at me wide-eyed and I would have to gently hold her back from climbing onto me or scrambling out of the tub. Once she was calm, I reintroduced the peanut butter (and some more cheese) as a reward, and turned the water back on.
Now, finally, I was able to give her a good sudsing. An old plastic cup from the kitchen came in handy to rinse her off.
Today, I don't have to use any of these tricks; she gets into the tub on her own when I tell her to, and is very tolerant and patient as I scrub her down and rinse her off. Reinforcement at this stage involves giving her a little cheer (she loves when I clap my hands together and exclaim what a good girl she is), as well as a dental treat after her bath.
While she doesn't love baths, she willfully tolerates them because she knows that there will be a delicious treat afterwards, and playtime involving post-bath zoomies!
Photography by: Nishizuka
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