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Bathing Your Dog Who Hates Baths: 5 Tips for Stress-Free Dog Bathing | Pupford

September 28th, 2023

Filed under Lifestyle + Stories

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As a dog parent, there are going to be times when you have to bathe your dog at home -- whether they like it or not... or even hate it.

Whether you’re faced with the “I don’t even know what you just rolled around in but it’s gross” bath, the post-beach/pool bath, or just even a regular ole’ bath, bathing your dog at home is something all dog families will likely experience.

That’s great if your dog doesn’t mind the bath. But if they’re not a fan, then that’s a different story.

One of the most common cries for help we get in our community is how to bathe a dog who hates baths. While it’s not easy at first, it’s possible with a few helpful tips and tricks.

Here are five ways to help make bathtime a little easier for dogs who hate it!

Related Reading: How to Keep a Dog Smelling Clean Between Baths


pug dog hating the bath | Pupford

Very quickly before we talk about overcoming the hatred of baths, it's important to discuss why some dogs hate baths.

While we can't know the exact reason for every dog, the fear of water/baths typically falls into a couple of "main" categories.

  1. Improper introduction to water initially – Unfortunately, many pup parents move too quickly when it comes to baths. They miss signs of stress from their dog and proceed with baths just thinking their dog will "get used to it". This is often the main reason dogs end up hating baths.
  2. An unpleasant experience with a bath/water – For some dogs, they may have been scalded by bath water, gotten a lot of water in their ears, or any other type of unpleasant experience. Dogs make quick associations, and a poor experience can affect them for a long time to come.
  3. Slightly unknown – Some dogs just never seem to really like baths, no matter what. That's more of a rarity than category 1 or 2, but it does exist. Additionally, some breeds just enjoy baths/water more than others and that can certainly play a role for your puppy!

Now that we've covered why some dogs really dislike baths, let's talk about how to make it less stressful!


Here's a snapshot of 5 tips for bathing a dog that hates baths. 👇

  1. Ensure water temperature is ideal
  2. Add traction to slippery surfaces
  3. Don't overstimulate your dog
  4. Use a desensitization strategy
  5. Give them something else to focus on (this is the secret weapon)

Alright, now let's dive into each tip below!

Related Reading: Dry Shampoo for Dogs Guide


Not too hot and not too cold!

Ever plunged into ice cold water? Yeah, not fun. It’s not fun for your dog either. Super cold bath water can shock them and make them want to escape the discomfort.

That doesn’t mean your dog will enjoy really hot water either. You may like your showers bordering on blistering, but your dog will also find that uncomfortable and shocking. It can even be dangerous, depending on the temperature.

Lukewarm is your best bet for a calm bath.

Be sure to check the temperature frequently to make sure any running water hasn’t turned too extreme of a temperature.


dog in the bathtub for bath time | Pupford

One of the reasons your dog may hate the bath is that the tub is slippery. If their paws are slipping and sliding, your dog will feel like they don’t have any control over their body. It will scare them and they’ll try to escape to find firmer ground.

A non-slip silicone mat on the bottom of your tub/shower/sink will give your dog a comfortable surface to stand on without slipping. Plus it will help catch any hair that sheds from your dog during bath time, making cleanup easier for you!


There’s already a lot going on during a bath; adding more stimulation will likely stress your dog out to the point where they hate the bath. Some things that can overstimulate your dog and cause anxiety include:

  • The sound of running water. Turn off the tap or shower when your dog is in the tub.
  • Strongly scented shampoo. Opt for a gentle, mild-smelling shampoo -- remember to never use human shampoo on your dog!
  • The feeling of water. Instead of pouring a lot of water directly on your dog, rub them with a wet washcloth or towel. Eventually, move up to a pet shower sprayer attachment so you can have a gentle water flow.


girl bathing her small dog at home | Pupford

You can use rewards to help teach your dog that the bath isn’t something to be afraid of or to hate. This type of desensitization and counterconditioning can be done in the following stages:

  1. Bring your dog into the bathroom or near wherever their bath will be. Reward them for approaching calmly.
  2. Place your dog in a dry tub and reward them.
  3. Run the water for a few seconds with your dog in the tub and reward them.

You can use this method to build up to full baths. It may take persistence and many training sessions, but it’s an effective way to build long-lasting favorable behavior.

This type of positive reinforcement training works best with high-value training treats.

Watch this video for additional tips to get your dog more comfortable with the bath!


There’s always a good old-fashioned distraction. Giving your dog something engaging and enjoyable to take their mind off the bath is a great way to ease anxiety. It also keeps them still which means you can get the bath over with more quickly.

One of our favorite tools for this is the lick mat. It reduces stress, keeps your dog busy, engages the brain, and can be a delicious way for your dog to get through bath time.

a lick mat can be used to help dogs who are scared or anxious of bath time | Pupford

Simply smear a little peanut butter, yogurt, or pumpkin with your dog’s favorite fruit or treats as toppings and let them lick away while you give them a bath. This simple trick helped change my pup Scout from tolerating baths to actually looking forward to baths (seriously)! Get yourself a Pure Focus Lick Mat (with a suction cup for bath use) here!

Pro tip: put the lick mat in the freezer for a few minutes before giving it to your dog to make the toppings last even longer.

For more information about lick mats, benefits, and recipe ideas, take a look at our Lick Mat Guide.

We hope that these tips can help your dog enjoy their bathtime -- or at least hate it less!

Remember, if at any point during bathtime your dog seems to be in extreme distress, stop what you’re doing. That’s your dog’s way of telling you something’s not right! Try it again at a different time, or consult your veterinarian to make sure an injury or skin issue isn’t causing discomfort during bathtime.


We know that bathtime isn't always the most joyous of occasions. Here's a recap of 5 tips to make bath time a bit easier!

  1. Ensure water temperature is ideal
  2. Add traction to slippery surfaces
  3. Don't overstimulate your dog
  4. Use a desensitization strategy
  5. Give them something else to focus on (this is the secret weapon)

So when you do give your dog a bath, it's a good idea to try to get the most out of it! Using a dog shampoo is VERY important, but not all dog shampoos are created equally. Many only focus on the smell. You need a shampoo that does more. And that's where Pupford's Sudsy Shampoo Bar comes in...

  • Soothes itchy skin
  • Kills bacteria
  • Helps heal sores
  • Helps repel bugs and pests
  • Decreases shedding
  • Bar makes it easy to get hard-to-reach places
  • Improves your pup's coat

And for more tips on bathing, as well as grooming and hygiene, check out our At Home Grooming Course. In this course, we will walk you through exactly how you can keep your pup's hair, nails, and teeth maintained from your own home! And while you're at it, check out Dry Shampoo for Dogs, for those days where you really can't find the time or energy to bathe your dog.

What else have you done to help your pup enjoy bathtime more? Tell us in the comments!


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