Things you’ll need:
High value treats your dog loves
- A non-slip mat suitable for your bath or shower
- Dog specific shampoo
- A licki mat that can hang on or stick to the wall (the Lickimat Splash version is just for this) or a suitable spot on the shower or bath wall that something sticky they enjoy like any of these spreads
Teach your dog to love baths before you HAVE to wash them!
We all know dogs; they love stinky and disgusting things and if they can roll in it – even better! Be sure to start training your dog to be okay with water, the bathroom, and washing before it's necessary to wash them when they get into something dirty. If they have never been exposed to it before this happens, it can be a very scary experience for them that they won’t want to participate in again anytime soon. Do yourself and your pup a favour by doing a little training now!
Teach your dog that the bathroom and the area (shower or bath) they get washed in, is a great place!
Start by letting them explore in there. Pick up anything you don’t want them to have access to and give them something like a food toy they can play with so that the good associations with the area start early. Once they are comfortable in there, teach them to jump or step into the washing area by themselves if possible, with encouragement and rewards from you every step of the way. By being able to get themselves in and out without you having to pick them up gives them confidence and autonomy. We can accidentally overwhelm our dogs by picking them up and putting them in the middle of an area or situation they aren’t comfortable with. For smaller dogs, a step or ramp could be helpful if you are using a bath. If you must pick up your dog, ensure they are comfortable being picked up/helped up in other areas of their life – and be aware that some dogs never get used to being picked up.
Ensure you have a non-slip surface for your dog to stand/sit on in the washing area
This is an absolute essential item. If you have non-slip matte tiles, these are okay for your dog to stand on, however, if you have any type of smooth surface in the washing area please make an effort to give them a non-slip surface. A common, cheap, and easy to get surface is a rubber mat with suction cups on the bottom to ensure it doesn’t move around once it gets wet. These are found at most hardware stores!
If your dog feels like they are going to slip, it will make them feel very worried and unsafe which can lead to them fearing being washed. Even if you don’t use a non-slip mat and you are fine, please remember our dog’s paws are very different to our feet!
Licki mats – your best friend!!!
Have something like a licki mat that you can hang on or stick to the shower/bath wall, and smear something SUPER DUPER tasty on it. If you don’t have a licki mat or can’t find it, simply smearing something sticky like peanut butter on the shower or bath wall will do in a pinch! You can simply wash it off later. Licki mats have the added benefit of being able to be frozen, so will last longer if you are doing a full body wash.
Why use one?
First, it pairs washing with something our dog enjoys eating which can help them make good associations with bath time. Second, it keeps our dog still and in one place while we get on with the washing! You can’t, and shouldn’t, hold a slippery and soapy dog in one place!
Adding the water
Once your dog is happily interacting with the space, we can slowly begin to introduce water. Start by turning the tap on a low volume, directing it away from the dog. Ensure the water is a comfortable temperature – lukewarm is perfect. Please do not wash your dog in cold water! Allow the water to fill one end of the space, so that your dog can choose to interact with it. When they do, reward them well with your high value treats that you have on hand. Make sure they are totally happy immersing their paws in a very shallow pool of water before you move onto the next step.
Gradually increase the amount of water and the intensity of the flow of water. Slowly move up their legs and onto their body. This may take at least a few sessions to achieve. Slow and steady wins the race!
Why do I need a dog specific shampoo?
Human shampoos are not made for dogs and can lead to an increase in itchiness, dry skin, and dandruff. We recommend the dog range from Ethique. Their ingredients are simple, soothing and smell amazing – you can even get a conditioner if you want your pup’s fur feeling extra silky! They come in bar form so you aren’t accidentally wasting a whole lot of liquid soap, and they come in a cardboard box – no plastic! Far better for the environment!
Don’t forget the drying!
Remember, drying your pup is part of the process they will need to be comfortable with! It can be a very strange and over stimulating experience for some dogs. As with the water, start slow and go gently at your pup's pace. Most dogs are not keen on being “ruffed up” with a towel. Use gentle motions in the direction of your dog’s natural coat direction.
If you would like your pup to get used to being blow dried, this will be another step entirely. Approach it exactly the same way you did as adding the water, slowly and step by step. If you are using a human hair dryer only ever use it on the coolest setting – the higher settings are far too hot for our pups and may hurt them. Remember that we are directing at it straight at their skin. If you are interested there are dog specific dryers you can buy.
Remember: If at any point your dog shows discomfort or stress with washing, go back a few steps and make sure they are comfortable before proceeding. A few 5 minute sessions are far better than a massive training session all at once.