Pet Keen is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you. Learn more.

How To Give a Dog a Bath That Hates Baths (7 Simple Steps)

French Bulldog Bath

Vet approved

Dr. Paola Cuevas Photo

Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Paola Cuevas

Veterinarian, MVZ

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

Learn more »

Some dogs seem to love baths and being around water, whereas other dogs may act afraid and cower underneath your furniture when they suspect that it is bath time.

Sometimes dogs naturally have a fear of being bathed, especially if they have had a negative experience being bathed in the past. The key to successfully getting an anxious dog less fearful of being bathed is to ensure that it is done peacefully and that your dog is kept as stress-free as possible.

divider-dog paw

Why Do Some Dogs Hate Baths?

Even dogs that love water and going to the beach and getting wet may have a fear of being bathed. This mostly seems to be due to the control dogs have over choosing to get wet from pools or the ocean in comparison to being forced into getting bathed. This can make them hate baths and become fearful because they would much prefer to willingly get wet than to have water dumped onto them.

Your dog may also associate bath time with a negative situation, whether they are afraid of the loud noises the water system makes when the bath is being run or if they have had a previous bad experience perhaps at a grooming parlor where they felt uncomfortable in an unfamiliar environment when they were being bathed.

Here are some common reasons your dog may hate being bathed:
  • Negative association due to previous bathing experiences
  • Feeling unbalanced standing in a slippery tub of water
  • They do not like getting wet
  • The smell of the shampoo is too strong for them
  • The water temperature was too cold or hot
  • Your dog feels as if bathing is a punishment
dog owner giving pet pitbull a bath
Image Credit: Vershinin89, Shutterstock

Step-By-Step Guide To Bathing Dogs Who Do Not Like Bathing

Trying to bathe a dog that hates being bathed can be difficult, which is why we have provided you with some helpful tips to make bath time a slightly more pleasant experience for your canine friend.

1. Bathe Your Dog Indoors

If you have a bathtub to bathe your dog in, then it might be a better idea than using the hose on them in a tub outdoors. The water from the hose also cannot be controlled so it might be too cold for some dogs to enjoy. There is also the problem that the pressure from the hose may scare your dog. A large bathtub filled with water already before you place your dog inside can make it an easier experience for them and stop them from trying to run around the garden and get even dirtier than before!

2. Test The Water Temperature

Dogs can be sensitive to the temperature of the water and finding the right balance in temperature is important. A bath with a mildly warm temperature is usually tolerated by most dogs over a bath that is too hot and could burn their skin. A cold bath can also feel uncomfortable and leave your dog shivering. You can use the elbow method to test the temperature of the water by placing your elbow in the water and feeling if it is mildly warm.

maltipoo dog taking a shower
Image Credit: Bokehboo Studios, Shutterstock

3. Add Padding To The Tub’s Floor

Some dogs have trouble getting a grip on the slippery bottom of a bathtub, and there is also the concern that their nails may leave scratch marks on your bathtub. You can purchase ‘non-slip’ mats that can be stuck to the bottom of the bath. A slippery feeling can be unpleasant to a dog who is already feeling anxious about getting a bath, so making sure that they always feel secure is important.

4. Avoid Using a Showerhead, Hose, Or Faucet

The pressure and loud noise from the hose or bathtub faucet turning on can scare many dogs, especially if they are in the tub while it is being filled up. Your dog may also not like the feeling of being underneath strong water pressure because it could make them feel frightened.

Instead, you can use a jug with water from a bucket that has been prefilled to rinse any shampoo and conditioner residue from your dog. Avoid pouring the jug from a distance and keep it away from their eyes, nose, and ears.

a large dog in a bath
Image Credit: oritslam, Pixabay

5. Divert Your Dogs Attention

Bath time can be made more enjoyable for your dog if you give them something else to focus on while they are being lathered with soaps and rinsed. A trick some dog owners like to use is to cover a dry part of the tub with a thin layer of peanut butter (which must be xylitol free) so that the dog can lick up the peanut butter while they are being bathed. Try to keep your dog as calm as possible when they are being bathed and use gentle words of encouragement so that your familiar voice can perhaps help them feel calmer.

6. Use Lightly Scented Shampoos

In some cases, your dog may not like bathing because strong-smelling shampoos and conditioners take away their natural odor. Dogs have sensitive noses so any fragrances left on their body after they are bathed may cause them some confusion and irritate their noses. You get a variety of different dog shampoos and conditioners but choosing one that is unscented or contains no artificial fragrances may be a better option for your dog.

poodle dog bathing
Image Credit: David Herraez Calzada, Shutterstock

7. Reward Your Dog

You can use this method before and after bathing your dog to help associate bathing with something positive. Try giving your dog their favorite edible treat inmediatly after they get in the bath, and then give them another treat once they have been bathed and dried. This can potentially help your dog feel more excited because they feel as if they are being rewarded after being bathed.

A great dry shampoo will make keeping your pet clean and happy a breeze. We love Hepper's Cucumber & Aloe Dry Shampoo because it will freshen up your pet's skin and coat while reducing irritation. This no-rinse, pH-balanced formula is easy to use and has a soothing cucumber and aloe scent.

hepper dry shampoo

At Pet Keen, we've admired Hepper for many years, and decided to take a controlling ownership interest so that we could benefit from the outstanding designs of this cool company!


Final Thoughts

Although it can be difficult at first to get a dog that does not enjoy being bathed to finally feel comfortable and less anxious when being bathed, it is possible if you take the right steps to make sure that they are comfortable, in a stress-free environment, and are rewarded before and after being bathed so that they can start to associate bathing with something positive and less of something that they should be afraid of.

See Also:

Featured Image Credit: Margarita Mindebaeva, Shutterstock

Our vets

Want to talk to a vet online?

Whether you have concerns about your dog, cat, or other pet, trained vets have the answers!

Our vets