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How to Give a Dog a Bath That Hates Baths in 8 Easy Steps

Chelsie Fraser

By Chelsie Fraser

dog bath outdoor

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Dr. Lorna Whittemore

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When your dog hates having a bath, it can make bath time more stressful than it needs to be. Your dog isn’t alone in their animosity; there are plenty of dogs that hate baths. You’re also not alone in your efforts to make bath time easier for your pet. With a few simple adjustments to your bath routine, you can make the experience more pleasant for both you and your dog.

Here are eight steps that you can take to bathe your dog that hates baths.

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How to Bathe a Dog That Hates Baths

There isn’t one single way to make your dog’s bath experience more pleasant. Dogs are individuals that have different reasons for hating baths. Some hate the water, some are scared of the bathtub, and others simply don’t like to get cold.

The eight steps outlined here address the most common reasons that dogs hate baths. Your dog may never truly enjoy bath time, but making it more comfortable can make the experience tolerable for both of you.

a welsh corgi pembroke dog taking a bath with shampoo
Image Credit: Masarik, Shutterstock

1. Bath your dog indoors

If you’ve been bathing your dog outside, this could be the reason that they want to avoid the process. Water from the garden hose can be freezing cold. Even on a hot day, it can be uncomfortable for your dog.

You’ve also likely been using a leash to restrain your dog outside, which means they have no means of escape from an uncomfortable situation. Unfortunately, forcing your dog to endure a bath when they are scared makes the problem worse.

Try moving bath time indoors into the bathtub or a shower stall. You can even use the kitchen sink if you have a small dog. Run warm water, and use the natural surroundings to keep your dog still.

2. Cushion the tub floor

If you’re using the bathtub to bathe your dog, they may be overwhelmed by the sensory experience. For most dogs, the bathtub is slippery. The inability to stabilize themselves on the floor of the tub makes them feel anxious.

Try putting a towel or bath mat down on the tub floor to prevent your dog from slipping and sliding around. The towel will get wet, but it’s a small sacrifice if it makes your dog feel safe.

dog bathing
Image Credit: oritslama, Pixabay

3. Provide a distraction

Providing a distraction can give your pup something to look forward to at bath time and make them think that getting clean isn’t so bad. You can put a little bit of peanut butter on the faucet or use a lick mat if that doesn’t appeal to you.

If you have a food-motivated dog, you may be able to distract them with a reward at the end of their bath. Letting your dog have a toy in the bath can also keep them preoccupied enough to forget about what you’re doing.

4. Avoid the faucet

Sometimes, dogs aren’t afraid of the bath itself, but rather all the strange noises that are made while one is running. Faucets and showerheads are noisy for dogs with sensitive hearing.

Instead of rounding up your dog for a bath and filling the tub with them in it, try running the bath ahead of time when your dog’s not in the room.

Dog taking a bubble bath in grooming salon
Image Credit: Masarik, Shutterstock

5. Use unscented or mild-scented shampoo

Dog noses can detect scents that human noses can’t because their sense of smell is 40 times more powerful than ours. Strong-scented shampoos can be offensive to them or irritating to their nose.

Make sure you’re using a dog shampoo that’s unscented or mildly scented. It just might be that your dog doesn’t like the smells associated with the bath.

Bathing your pet can be challenging, but the right shampoo will make it a lot easier! We have two favorite shampoos for the job, both are safe, all-natural shampoos designed with your pets in mind. Our soothing shampoos are pH balanced, made in the USA, and free of glutens, dyes, sulfates, and phthalates. Here’s a quick guide to help you choose the right option for your pet’s next bath!

Hepper Oatmeal pet shampoo
Hepper Colloidal Oatmeal Pet Shampoo

Hepper Waterless No Rinse Pet Shampoo
Natural cucumber & aloe scent
Natural cucumber & aloe scent:
Natural cucumber & aloe scent:
Safe for cats & dogs
Safe for cats & dogs:
Safe for cats & dogs:
Rinsing required
Rinsing required:
Rinsing required:
Free of harsh chemicals & nasty ingredients
Free of harsh chemicals & nasty ingredients:
Free of harsh chemicals & nasty ingredients:
Lathers easily
Lathers easily:
Lathers easily:


6. Check the water temperature

Water that is too cold or too hot will make your dog uncomfortable. For a successful bathing experience, the water should be lukewarm and comfortable for your dog.

German shepherd dog takes a bath
Image Credit: Korneeva Kristina, Shutterstock

7. Desensitize and counter-condition anxious dogs

If you have tried these tips and your dog is still anxious about getting in the bath, it may be time to do a bit of training. Over time, desensitizing your dog can change their response from fear to tolerance.

Here’s how you start:

  • Break the process down into smaller steps and work your way through them over time.
  • Heavily reward your dog for approaching, getting in, or even getting near the bathtub.
  • Once they can co-exist with or stand in the tub calmly, move on to the next step and reward them for doing it.
  • Take each step of the bath one at a time, from entering the tub and getting wet to applying shampoo, scrubbing, and rinsing. Reward accordingly, and don’t move on to the next step until your dog is totally comfortable with the previous one.
Happy dog in a towel sitting at the groomer table after bath
Image Credit: Kasefoto, Shutterstock

Enlist professional help

If bathing your dog is a struggle for both of you; you may want to try hiring a dog groomer to do it for you. Finding one to come to your house to work directly with your dog is best, but it’s perfectly acceptable to take your dog to a facility too.

Your dog will come out fresh and clean, and you won’t have to go through an anxiety-inducing bath experience.

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If your dog hates baths, it can be difficult to keep them clean. These tips should help most dogs feel better about bath time. Sometimes, a few simple changes can make all the difference. But many dogs are averse to bathing, and it’s important to know that your dog may never love it. What is important is creating a positive experience that teaches your dog that there’s nothing to fear. If all else fails, there is no shame in recruiting professional help.

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Featured Image Credit: Neal Bryant, Shutterstock

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