Help - my puppy hates bathtime!
(Q) My puppy doesn’t liked being bathed. She’s only three months old and we’ve bathed her twice. She howls and desperately tries to scramble out of the bath. It takes two people to hold her down. She also hates being brushed. Is there anything we can do to get her used to bathing and grooming? Your Dog reader, Cornwall.
(A) Grooming expert Diana North says: Perhaps you’re expecting a little too much from your puppy — it must be very frightening to be placed in a slippery bath and have water poured over you. Grooming your dog is about confidence and respect: confidence in your handling techniques, and respect for your dog. These first experiences can set a pattern for the future, which can become difficult to correct.
Start your grooming once your puppy has settled into the household. Gently brush her with a soft brush and only for a few minutes at a time. With one hand on her for contact, show her the brush, let her sniff and investigate it, but once you’ve started your grooming do not let her bite or snap at the brush. Bad habits can start at this point if your puppy is allowed to bite at the brush, thinking it’s yet another toy to play with. Do not be afraid to say a firm ‘No’. She needs to know what’s acceptable.
Once she is used to the action of being brushed, introduce a brush and comb that suits her type of coat and commence with more detailed grooming. As her confidence in you grows, start a more in-depth grooming session by placing her on a firm non-slip surface — you need to ensure that she can’t fall or jump down, so place a slip lead on her and secure this. It may be useful to have someone holding the lead for you to begin with. Gradually build the length of time you spend working on her coat. Many dogs resist having the legs and feet brushed, so get her used to these areas being handled by going over the legs and feet with just your hands before introducing the brush and comb.
When bathtime arrives, once again confidence and security is important. If your puppy is only small, consider using a large container, perhaps a baby bath or large hand wash basin. If you have a larger breed, then it will have to be the bath, so you’ll need to put a non-slip mat in the base. Secure your dog with a slip lead — this could be attached to a tap or held by a second person.
Rather than start with the shower, use a jug to pour the warm water over the coat and start away from the face. Shampoo the coat, and ensure you rinse out all the shampoo. The face can be washed with shampoo on a facecloth until you’ve built her confidence in the process. When you progress to using the shower hose for the bathing, ensure you don’t get shampoo in the eyes; if you do, rinse clear with water and run your thumb across the eye to remove the excess water.
Another area to take care with is the ears. To stop water entering the ear canal, place your thumb across the opening, or if you have a breed with dropped ears you can hold the ear leather across the ear to close off the opening.
One other little tip: dogs love to shake when the coat is wet. If this happens, place your flat hand on your dog’s back mid-shake and apply gentle pressure until she stops, and continue each time she shakes.