Many dogs love to swim and play in the water, but sometimes a bath is a “horse of a different color”. Remember, a bath is your idea and because of our goal-oriented human nature, sometimes we approach things like a task to be completed in the most efficient way possible. This tendency is not something that a dog can share or even understand.
Think about life the way a dog sees it. When you go to the lake or park where he can play in the water, you are carefree and relaxed, not hurried. But maybe when you are giving him a bath, you are more hurried and mindful of the potential mess being made. Maybe you are just a little more focused…and your dog can perceive it.
You can fix this (even if you can’t change your ultra-focused lifestyle) with a little extra effort. Here are some tips to make the while experience better.
- Allow plenty of time for a bath when you can be relaxed and more leisurely.
- Turn the bathroom into a great place. For example, if your dog starts to struggle the minute you reach the bathtub, start feeding him in the bath tub so it becomes a place associated with good things.
- Don’t expect to reach the goal of a truly clean dog the first time. If at any point, your dog becomes resistant, you have to backtrack to the last step he was alright with. You grab the towel…treat…you walk him toward the bathroom…treat. Then you approach the tub and he pulls back. STOP. Go back to the hall outside the bathroom and then turn back towards the tub. Before he has the thought to resist, give him a treat and tell him what a great dog he is. Even if you never make it to the tub that day, you have ended on a positive note. You can build up from there with good feelings for you both.
- Never lose patience with him. If you feel frustration building, stop. Go back to the last step when he did what you wanted and repeat that step with a reward. Then quit to try another day.
- Find high value rewards that he only gets when you are expecting a lot from him. They will motivate him more. Things that can be good high value rewards might include tiny slivers of boiled chicken or uncured bacon, crumbled. These are not for use as a significant portion of his diet, only for rewarding in tiny pieces, no bigger than a thumbnail.
Taking baby steps toward the eventual goal of a clean dog may take weeks to achieve, but patient training is an investment in your dog’s happiness…and yours.
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