Do you have a dog that is usually calm and loveable but who turns into an absolute terror the moment he hears the rumble of the tub and comes to the horrible realization that it’s time for a scrub? If so, you probably dread bath time as much as your dog. Now, it may seem hard to imagine that your dog’s behavior could change, that baths could become a bonding experience that you both look forward to, however, with some practice, some patience, and a whole lot of love, your puppy bath time dreams can come true. Read on to discover some helpful tips. 

How to Make Your Dog Love Bath Time

  • Set Time Aside – If you are rushed and stressed during bath time, your dog will react accordingly; when you’re on edge, so is he. Your attitude and demeanor can have a massive impact on your pup. Therefore, you need to relax and enjoy the process as well. Be sure to give yourself an hour or two to prevent a need to hurry.

Even if you’ve had trouble in the past during bath time, you can break the cycle by remaining calm, encouraging, and assertive. Sometimes, a shift in how you speak and react is all that’s required.

  • Words and Actions of Affirmation – If you have a puppy or dog that doesn’t like to be handled, you need to get them used to your touch and wrangling over time. Help your pooch relax by patting and stroking him all over his: 
    • Head
    • Neck
    • Chest
    • Shoulders
    • Back
    • Side
    • Legs

Give him words of love and dog treats when he’s responsive and calm. Over time, you can begin gently lifting his paws, one at a time, to get him used to being held and manipulated. Keep praising and rewarding him for good behavior. Soon, he will trust you completely and be like putty in your hands. 

  • Warm Him Up – Dogs are more open to a dip in the pool or bath if they’re already hot and panting from some good exercise. Get his heart pumping by taking him on a run, hike, or long walk to ensure that he’s more receptive to cool down in the tub, especially if he has a fear of water. Also, a long bit of exercise will help him to release pent up energy. This should make him more relaxed and receptive when bath time comes.
  • Give a Thorough Brushing – Brushing is an integral part of the bathing process; you’ll be brushing and combing your dog before, during, and after the bath. A pre-pet shampoo brush helps get your pup in the mindset of staying still while he’s being handled and pampered. It’ll also make your life much easier by removing excess hair, dirt, dander, and debris before he ever sets a paw in the tub.  
  • Go Slowly – If you’re introducing your dog to bath time, begin slowly. Be sure to check the water so that it’s not too hot or too cold. Go about the process methodically:
    • Let him get used to the sound of the running water.
    • Soak just his feet to begin.
    • From there, move to his legs, and on up. 
    • Even if you don’t have success the first time around, just getting him comfortable in the bath could be considered a success. 

If you have a removable showerhead attachment, you can hold that close to his head and begin stroking and soaking his head. Shower him with praises and soft words. Maybe even give him a treat for remaining calm. Once he has relaxed into the rinse, you can start the brushing and shampoo phase of the bath. 

  • Bring Some Friends – You can make bath time more fun by bringing some of your dog’s favorite toys. If he has waterproof toys or chewables, bring them in the bath. This can help create positive associations with the activity. A rubber ducky could be a great new gift that only comes out during bath time.  
  • Call in Reinforcements – If you have an older dog who enjoys, or at least begrudgingly accepts bath time, they can help set the example and socialize your puppy. When a novice dog sees a more experienced dog enjoying a task or activity, they’re far more likely to want to emulate their elder.  

Bonding with Your Dog

With a measured approach, bath times can become an incredibly intimate and enjoyable experience. Slowly over time, as your dog learns to trust you, it’ll become easier and easier. One day, you might realize, much to your surprise, that you’re actually looking forward to your next chance to wash your dog.


Kam, K. WebMD. Pet Care: Why Grooming is Important.

McCarthy, C. PetMD. Splish Splash: How to Give Your Dog a Bath.

Fanslau, J. PetMD. 7 Common Bath-Time Mistakes Pet Owners Make.


Dr. Melinda J. Mayfield-Davis, DVM, WCHP-AH, brings over 20 years of experience in veterinary medicine.  She is the Technical Services Veterinarian with Innovacyn, Inc., parent company of Vetericyn Animal Wellness. She received her DVM from Oklahoma State University and now resides in Southeast Kansas with her husband, two children, four dogs, and six horses. Prior to working with Innovacyn, Dr. Mayfield owned and operated the Animal Care Center in Columbus, KS.

Previous post How to Bathe a Dog That’s Scared of Water
Next post How to Groom Long-Haired Dogs