How to Calm your Dog's Fear of Bath Time
By: Tess Marty
Table of Contents:
- How Often Should You Bathe Your Dog?
- Do Breed & Hair Type Play A Role?
- Slow Introduction & Brushing
- Desensitizing to Water (6 Tips)
- Gentle Handling & Calming Techniques
- Benefits of CBD for Bathtime Anxiety
- Choosing the Right Products
- Keeping it Short
How Often Should You Bathe Your Dog?
It is suggested by grooming professionals that on average, dogs and cats should be bathed every four to six weeks with light maintenance in between. This is to prevent bacteria, allergens, and buildup of what is outside on the skin and coat.
According to Linda Easton, President of the International Professional Groomers Association, “the way dog's skin works is about every 30 days they have a whole new layer of cells," Easton says. "So, the old cells slough off. That's what makes dander and things like that. So regular grooming or bathing keeps that dander down."Keeping the dander and bacteria down from the outside environment can be crucial in their long-term health, just like bathing and brushing our teeth are for humans. Some dogs and cats don’t require baths as frequently—use your best judgment based on their activity (and smell!).
Do Breed & Hair Type Play A Role?
Depending on your pet’s coat and breed, there are different protocols for bath time. It is recommended for longer haired breeds to comb their hair out first to prevent tangling and to prevent residue from shampoos.
Size is also a factor in the places you should bathe. For bigger dogs, bathtubs and showers may be optimal, but for smaller pups or cats, a kitchen sink can be better. The less room they have to feel intimidated or fearful of the water will create a calmer experience for you both.
Here is a step-by-step guide to ensure your pets have a happier, healthier relationship with the bath.
1. How to Introduce Your Dog to Bath Time
One thing you shouldn’t do when introducing your dog to the bath is to do it when they need a bath. A way to ensure success in making bath time less stressful is to introduce your dog to the bathroom and tub gradually. Start by bringing your dog into the bathroom without any water or bathing equipment. Give them treats when they go in or near the tub, or being near the tub with the water running. You can even make it a fun game for your dog by using a cue such as “jump in the tub!” and have them go in and out. Try to practice a release word as well to get out of the tub, so that they know they stay in until they’re given the “ok” to get out. Offer treats and praise to create a positive association with the space.
2. Brushing Your Pup Before Bathing
Brushing your dog's coat before bathing helps remove tangles and mats, making the bathing process smoother and less uncomfortable for your pet. Additionally, if your dog has tangles in their fur, it may be harder to get the suds out and take longer to rinse them or leave residue that could make your dog itchy after their bath. It can also serve as a comforting and familiar ritual if your dog likes being brushed. Try not to tug at any mats to reduce overstimulation and anxiety, though.
Introducing Your Dog to Water
Gradually introduce your dog to the water, and use a comfortable temperature. The general rule of thumb is to use lukewarm water. Start by wetting their paws and work your way up their body. Let them take in the feeling and experience before pushing too far. You don’t want to force your dog to bathe when they’re not used to it—it will only create more difficult problems down the line. There are so many different ways to help desensitize your dog to water, so you can find what works best for you and your pet.
Six Tips To Desensitize Your Dog to Water
- Playing fetch near a sprinkler
- Letting them get wet when it rains
- Walking them near or through puddles
- Petting with a warm washcloth
- Going on walks at the beach or lake
- Feeding Calm + Treats while water runs in the bathtub
3. Gentle Handling
Handle your dog gently during the bath, and speak to them soothingly. Use a gentle, pet-friendly shampoo, and avoid getting soap or water in their eyes, ears, or nose. You may consider not washing above the neck the first few times so they don’t get overwhelmed. It is advised to dilute the shampoo for sensitive areas as it can make washing easier and prevent extra suds from getting in your dog’s eyes. When cleaning your dog’s face, you might want to use a warm face cloth instead of directly putting water on them.
There are lots of wipes and leave-in products that can help you clean their face afterwards. Using conditioner will help to improve their skin after shampooing, which can strip their dermis of natural oils needed for healthy skin.
4. Use a Non-Slip Mat
A slippery tub can be a source of anxiety for dogs. Place a non-slip mat like this one inside the tub to provide your pet with better footing. Feeling secure can help reduce stress during bath time, especially when you%u2019re lifting their legs. They will feel supported and confident!
5. Positive Reinforcement
Positive reinforcement plays a crucial role in easing bath time anxiety. Reward your dog with treats and praise before, during, and after the bath. This helps your dog associate the experience with positive feelings. Consider using special treats or toys—like this suction lick mat for the side of the tub—that only come out during bath time to make it even more enticing.
6. Calming Techniques
Incorporate calming techniques into bath time. Consider playing soft music, using calming scents, or using a calming spray designed for pets in or around the tub. Treats and toys are also effective in keeping your dog or cat calm. Rubber ducks can be for fur babies too! These elements can create a serene atmosphere and help your dog relax, and could even help you feel more relaxed while bathing them!
7. Using Happy Hounds for Bath Time Anxiety
For some dogs—even with all these measures in place—bath time anxiety may persist. In such cases, you might consider CBD (cannabidiol) as a potential solution. CBD is a natural compound derived from the hemp plant that has gained popularity for its potential to alleviate anxiety and stress in both humans and pets. Many dog owners have found that Happy Hounds can help calm their dogs during stressful situations, including bath time.
In fact, in a Cornell study, “dogs were given CBD chews prior to a stressful event, and 83% showed a decrease in stress or anxiety-related behaviors.” CBD interacts with the endocannabinoid system in a dog's body, which plays a crucial role in regulating various physiological processes, including stress and anxiety responses. CBD may help by promoting a sense of relaxation and reducing anxiety levels.
8. Keep It Short and Sweet
Keep bath time sessions short, especially if your dog is anxious. Five to ten minutes is generally sufficient for a quick wash. Gradually extend the time if needed as your dog becomes more comfortable. Your first few baths may be water only or not fully clean as much as you’d like, but keeping things short and sweet will help your dog tolerate longer baths.
Choosing the Right CBD for Your Pets
When considering CBD for your dog's bath time anxiety, it's important to choose a high-quality, CBD product specifically formulated for pets. If your dog hates bath time, consider a more direct and potent tincture as opposed to CBD treats. The Calm Drops can be added to peanut butter on a licki mat for both distraction and comfort in the tub. Consult with your veterinarian to determine the appropriate dosage and to ensure that CBD is a safe option for your dog.
The Solution to Bath Anxiety
Bath time doesn't have to be a dreaded event for your dog. With patience, positive reinforcement, and slow desensitizing, you can help your pup view bath time as a more positive and relaxing time. If your dog continues to struggle with anxiety during baths, CBD may be an option to explore. Remember that every dog is unique, and it may take time to find the right combination of techniques and products to help your pet stay calm during bath time.