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Blog of the Week: Bath Time

Bath Time

Summer is here. That means our dog will be getting dirty while they have fun in the sun. At the training center we encounter all types of dogs; from dogs who love getting a bath, to dogs who have a true aversion to water, we work with them all. Here’s a few tips on how to properly bathe your pup so that they can quickly go back to having their fun.

Let’s get all our equipment together. We’ll need a simple brush, a good quality shampoo, towels, and/or a blow dryer (some treats handy would also be a good idea). We will also need a sturdy leash and collar. I prefer to bathe my dogs in the bathtub because I like being able to control the temperature of the water (lukewarm is best). Here’s where having a telescopic hand held shower head can come in handy, as it will drastically make the rinsing easier.

The particular emotion associated with and the literal approach to bath time is very important. Avoid building up anticipation or dread by omitting any obvious clues, like always going to the same cabinet just before bath time, or saying, “do you want a bath?” Rather start with putting on the leash or picking up the leash, coupled with a calming pet or stroke of the fur. Lead your pup toward the bath area; if at anytime they put the breaks on, use the leash, in a slow tug and release fashion, all the while continuing to move toward the bath area. Praise your dog at the first sign of them walking with you under their own power, remember a few well placed, “good boys/girls,” is extremely important, but you must not incessantly repeat the praise, as it looses value and meaning if used too much.

Once in the bathroom, it’s a good idea to close the door before you proceed. Pet your dog, then go about arranging your equipment (all necessary equipment should have been placed in the bathroom prior to the training exercise beginning) so that everything is close to hand. Take two or three towels and place them near the tub next to the shampoo and brush. If you have a long coated dog, brush them before and after the bath (I recommend reading Ten Natural Steps To Training The Family Dog, specifically the chapter on grooming control) this will help keep any loose hairs in the tub to a minimal. Don’t forget to praise your dog for a job well done. Now let’s move on to getting them into the tub.

Pick up the leash, it should remain attached to your dog throughout this process. Politely but with determination, lead your dog up to the tub, softly give your pup the command “jump in,” then slowly apply consistent leash and collar pressure toward the bathtub. Then using your free hand or a helper’s, place your hand on the dog’s rump, use this hand to apply pressure or lift up into the tub. At this time your dog should be in the tub. Calmly praise or treat your dog at this time. Slowly and gradually turn on the water while still holding onto the leash (for skittish dogs, really take your time while doing this). Use your leash and collar corrections when needed but remember to keep the leash loose otherwise. If you use some sort of hose or telescopic shower head then turn it on gradually, or fill up the bathtub up to your dog’s knees and use a large plastic cup to scoop up water.

Start wetting your dog’s fur down with water, paying particular attention to easily soiled areas, avoid spraying the face and ears. Take a moistened washcloth (I usually put a dab of no tears children’s shampoo on the washcloth) and clean the head and face of your dog. Take a generous amount of shampoo and thoroughly massage it into your dog’s fur, keeping away from your dog’s ears and face. Use the brush to distribute the shampoo evenly throughout the fur. Use clean water to completely remove the shampoo residue from your dog. Now here is where I brush my dog again, to make sure there are no tangles or remaining shampoo. It’s crucial to not allow your dog to jump out of the tub successfully, at any part of this, until you are finished and have given them permission to do so.

I will start drying in the tub using a towel once the water has drained away. Afterwards, I will praise my dog and then give them permission to exit the tub. Have them stand on a towel laid out to catch any water droplets, then take a new towel and dry your dog more thoroughly. If you’re using a blow dryer, (which I recommend for longer coated dogs) then start on the lowest setting, slowly increase the intensity to decrease the drying time, avoid excessive heat though. For more skittish long haired dogs, it maybe prudent to introduce the blow dryer over the course of a week.

If your dog has that wet dog smell, then you’ll need to dry them more thoroughly, try getting closer to the skin with a blow dryer. Let’s give our dog one last brushing to remove any loose hairs. We want our dog to smell clean and dry before we call it finished. Now we are done, tell your dog “all done,” releasing them from any general command like the “Stand” command that we were using. Exit the bathing area and enjoy your newly cleaned pup. Hopefully you’ve enjoyed this article and find it helpful. It’s a great feeling to help families learn how to bathe their dog easier.

– Josh Decker, Dog Trainer

Article written by Josh Decker

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Matthew Duffy is well known for his renowned dog training services, books and DVDs, and online video training sessions through memberships. Matthew uses "genuine control without the rigidity of formal commands." Bring on the dogs!