How to Train Your Puppy to Love Bath Time
When you bring home your new puppy, you’ve got plenty on your plate – vet appointments, vaccinations, puppy play dates. We wouldn’t be surprised if the last thing on your mind is introducing them to bath time!
However, perhaps it should be up there on your puppy checklist. What you may not realise is that if you don’t make the effort to desensitise your dog to a wide range of items and situations when they’re little, they can grow up afraid of all sorts of unexpected things. We’ve known our furry friends to freak out at bin bags, umbrellas, Halloween masks… even sunglasses! Bath time is no different.
So whilst it may seem like a lot of unnecessary hassle to acclimatise your pup to contented splashing in the tub, you’ll be thanking yourself later down the line for putting in the extra effort early on.
If you’d rather save yourself the monthly headache of trying to drag your trembling pooch out from under the bed as soon as you turn on the hot tap, then read on for some simple tried-and-tested techniques to make bath time a breeze.
Puppy Bath Time: What Equipment Will You Need?
Before you bravely embark on washing your mucky pup for the first time, it helps to feel calm and in control. And to help with this, it’s best to be prepared with all the equipment you need to hand.
Whilst a puppy and a tub filled with water sounds like a good place to start, we’d seriously suggest a few must-haves for a fuss-free bathing experience:
- Somewhere appropriate to bathe your puppy – a shower, a bathtub, or even a washing-up bowl would all do the trick. However, remember if you have a medium-large sized breed that they won’t be small forever, so it’s probably best to get them accustomed to the bathroom sooner rather than later.
- A non-slip surface – purchase a bath mat if necessary.
- A gentle, pet-friendly shampoo bar – our personal choice would be our Calm & Condition Shampoo, an all-natural and plastic-free conditioning bar which combines the soothing scents of lavender and camomile to keep your pup feeling relaxed.
- Some doggy towels – one for them to stand on for when they inevitably shake themselves off all over the floor, and one to towel-dry their body.
- A brush or comb – to carefully remove any knots or tangles in their fur (as well as any nasty critters that may be hiding in there!).
- A hairdryer (optional) – it’s helpful to get your dog used to a cool hair dryer setting, especially if they have a lot of hair or will be a regular at the groomers.
- PLENTY of their absolute favourite treats – you’ll want to wow your pup with the delights of bath time, so opt for some high-value rewards.
- A lickimat (optional) – you can stick this to the bath and smear peanut butter on it for them to lick to their heart’s content, which frees up your hands to get shampooing.
- Someone to help you – if possible, this is much easier as a two-person job!
10 Top Tips for a Lifetime of Stress-Free Doggy Baths
You’ve got all your essentials to hand – now it’s time for the cleaning to commence! We promise that doggy bath time will be a whole lot easier if you stick to the advice below:
Bath Time Tip #1: Start young
We’ve briefly spoken about the importance of desensitising your dog from a young age – this is important so that they recognise bath time isn’t anything to get anxious about. The mistake that most well-meaning dog owners make is introducing bath time 6 months down the line after a muddy wintery walk. Not the most stress-free situation, I’m sure you’ll agree.
If possible, go out of your way to ensure your pup has experiences in and around water. After all, it’s one thing drinking it, but it’s another thing entirely being submerged in it. It could be as simple as encouraging them to stand in a puddle or on the first couple of steps of an outdoor swimming pool. Where possible, take them to the seaside and have fun playing in the shallow water.
Depending on your puppy’s level of anxiety, be patient and coax them with a soothing voice. And, don’t forget to give them lots of enthusiastic praise (plus tasty treats!) when they bravely set foot in the water.
All of these activities will have a positive effect on your pup when it comes to bath time and positive associations with water.
Bath Time Tip #2: Get comfortable in the bathroom
As a grown adult, it’s safe to say that you’re most likely extremely comfortable in and around baths. At the end of a long week, you may well even look forward to a long, steamy soak with a good book. So it can be hard to put yourself in your pooch’s paws and understand that actually, bathing can be a truly terrifying experience for them.
When training, it’s tempting to expect too much, too quickly. But, as with training any behaviour, it will be most effective if you start small and gradually build up to the desired result, i.e. a relaxed doggy bath.
A good tip is that before you even attempt to get your dog into the bath, just get them comfortable in and around the bathroom. Do some training in the room with easy commands they know, so that they start to feel confident and at ease. You can shape behaviour, too. For example, if they start to interact with or show curiosity around the bath, you reward them with a treat.
In short, be prepared for multiple training sessions in the bathroom before even thinking about turning on a tap. By approaching bath time very slowly, your nervous nellie will come to learn that there’s nothing to be afraid of.
Bath Time Tip #3: Give yourself plenty of time
If you know you only have a quick twenty minutes or that you need to go out shortly, then don’t try and shoehorn your dog’s bath into this time! You’ll want to take things slowly and gently, at your pup’s own pace.
When you’re short on time, it’s easy to get flustered and move too quickly for your stressed-out pooch.
Bath Time Tip #4: Don’t get frazzled
Leading on from the last point, take care to stay calm and relaxed during your dog’s bath. You may not realise it, but pups are incredibly sensitive to your own stress levels and body language, so this could be panicking them even more than the bath itself!
No matter how you’re feeling, try not to lose your temper, chase after your dog, or force them into the bath when they’re resisting you. It may feel like the easiest option when you just want to get this ordeal over and done with, but it’s not teaching your poor pooch anything good about what to expect from bath time, and will only make them dig their heels in harder next time. In other words – you’ll suffer in the long term!
If you find yourself getting frazzled, then it might be worth stopping and trying again later when everyone is feeling calmer. Bath time should only ever be accompanied by soothing and gentle words of encouragement from you, as well as lots of praise.
Bath Time Tip #5: Put down a bath mat
When you stood on an ice rink in skates for the first time, what was your first thought?
Well, if you’re anything like most people, it probably felt quite disconcerting and like you wanted to grab hold of the sides for safety!
This wobbly sensation in your legs probably isn’t too dissimilar to what your dog feels when they try to stand on a slippery bath surface for the first time. Sometimes, it can be enough to put them off bath time altogether.
The best thing you can do to give them a more stable experience is to put down a bath mat. This will give their paws some grip and help them to feel more secure in the tub.
Bath Time Tip #6: Run the bath first
Another scary sensation for your nervous pup may be the loud sound of the shower head or tap being turned on in an echoey bathroom. You can desensitise them to this by turning the tap on and off – quickly at first, then increasing the length of time that it’s on for – whilst rewarding them liberally with treats.
You may even decide that it will be easier to run the bath first, then use a cup or small tub to pour water over their back. A handheld showerhead could also work if introduced slowly and carefully. Whatever you do though, be careful of getting water on their head or in their eyes – they won’t thank you for that!
Bath Time Tip #7: Check the water temperature
If you’ve ever had to endure a cold shower, then you’ll know that it’s not an experience you’d rush to repeat again in a hurry. Same goes for your furry friend! Plus, puppies struggle to regulate their body temperature so can easily become chilled.
When bathing your puppy it’s best to go neither too hot, nor too cold. Use warm water to bathe them in – it shouldn’t scald your hand but should feel pleasant to touch. When introduced properly, you should find that puppies enjoy the sensation of warm water against their fur and skin.
Bath Time Tip #8: Distract with treats
What is the best way to train any behaviour? Ply your worrisome pup with high-value treats, of course! This will give them more positive than negative associations with bath time.
You could even reserve one of their favourite kinds of treats especially for bathing Our favourite trick is to smear peanut butter on the side of the bath for your pooch to lick away at whilst you clean. This means that you’re hands-free whilst your dog is distracted.
If you don’t fancy smearing peanut butter on the side of your bath, then consider investing in a lickimat which you can easily stick onto the side of your bath and then peel off when done.
Alternatively, have another person with you so that they can provide a steady supply of tasty treats whilst you do the hard work.
Bath Time Tip #9: Use a gentle shampoo
As territorial animals, most dogs like their own scent. In fact, you’ve probably already realised – the smellier, the better! If your disgusting pup can’t get enough of rolling in fox poop, then… we sympathise! But whilst you may suffer with that over-powering doggy smell, your pooch just can’t get enough of it.
Dogs have incredibly sensitive noses, and they may not enjoy the smells from strong-fragranced products that are stuffed full of chemicals. Plus, they’ll be rolling in whatever they can find to mask the scent. It therefore helps to use a gentle, mind-smelling shampoo. Try our Be:Loved range for a zero-plastic option that will keep your pooch feeling fresher for longer. An added bonus is that a solid bar is more concentrated than a liquid product so will also last a lot longer. Win-win!
Bath Time Tip #10: Make it fun
Our final tip is to make your pup’s bathtime a memorable experience for all the right reasons. Give them a lovely massage when you’re lathering up their fur, speak to them soothingly, and perhaps even introduce some bath-time-specific toys. A nice squeaky rubber duck should do the trick!
Once you’ve dried them off with a towel, let them have some zoomies around the house (why do dogs always get zoomies after bath time, anyway?!). And don’t forget to finish off the experience with a whole lot of fuss, praise, and treats.
Bath Time Can Be a Relaxing & Enjoyable Experience For Both You & Your Pup!
Here at Be:Loved, we believe that luxury pet care means proper pampering, from palm to paw. With all-natural and nourishing products, your pup deserves the best! This means that bath time should be a relaxing, enjoyable, and bonding experience between pet parents and precious pooches alike.
We hope that these tips get you off on the right footing when it comes to puppy bath times, and many years of happy splish-sploshing to come! For plant-based pet wellness, don’t forget to check out our range of lovely and eco-friendly shampoos.
Puppy Bathing FAQ’s
When should you give your puppy their first bath?
You should wait to bathe your pup until they are at least 8 weeks old. This is because young puppies struggle to regulate their body temperature and can easily get too cold. A bath probably won’t be strictly necessary until they’re a bit older, but nevertheless, it’s a good idea to desensitise them to the experience fairly early on.
How often should you bathe a puppy?
It may be tempting to bathe your dog often, but this can strip your pup’s skin and fur of their natural oils, so it’s best to only do so on a ‘need-to’ basis. Once a month is usually a good rule of thumb, but as long as you’re using a gentle shampoo and rinsing thoroughly, it’s largely down to personal preference. You’ll likely find that the winter months require more frequent baths due to muddy paws, so be aware that bathing frequency may also vary naturally with the seasons.
Can you use a hairdryer to help dry your puppy?
You can use a hairdryer on a low setting that isn’t too hot. However, bear in mind that your pup may be scared of this noisy contraption at first, so you’ll want to first slowly desensitise them to it before using it directly on them. If your pup has a lot of hair or is a long-haired breed, then getting them used to the hairdryer can get them prepared for home pamper sessions, as well as time spent at the groomers.
How do I use a solid pet shampoo bar?
Just like you should a regular shampoo! Wet your pooch’s coat with warm water, then rub the shampoo bar into their fur to work up a nice lather. Rinse thoroughly to get rid of any dirt and grime. Result? A fabulously clean and fluffy pup!