Try this trainer’s top tip to reduce your dog’s bath time stress

Senior woman giving her dog a bath
(Image credit: Getty Images)

If you have a dog that hates having a bath, you may find trying to get them clean more than a little challenging. While some of our canine companions love tub time, others find the whole experience really stressful — which is where learning how to give a dog a bath in a way that works for them can be really helpful. 

Although selecting the best dog shampoo is certainly important, there's a lot more to a successful bath session than simply getting your dog's coat clean. You also want to make sure that they feel comfortable and that the overall bathing experience is as calm and relaxing as possible. 

Thankfully, expert trainer Julianna DeWillems has a great tip for reducing tub time stress based on her own experience with her bath-phobic Chihuahua, Lola. You can watch her walk you through things in the Instagram video below or keep reading for a summary of what she has to say. 

"Baths can be really stressful, but there are ways to reduce some of that stress," explains DeWillems. "We use predictability as much as we can during baths. We find that when we have to reduce choice, predictability of what’s going to happen and when can really help."

In the video, DeWillems can be seen giving her a dog a bath after she rolled in poop. Because the bath was unavoidable, she didn't present Lola with a choice as to whether or not she could go in the tub. 

"I didn't try to coax her to me, use a treat to lure her over, or call her with one of her known cues because doing that and then snatching her up to put her in the bath tub would have been a great way break her trust."

Instead, DeWillems gently picked up Lola, gave her a treat, and carried her to the sink. 

"It's important that we don't give our dogs the illusion of choice if it's not a situation where we can honor when they say no. Yes we aim to give our dogs as much choice as possible, but if them saying no isn’t an option, pretending like they have choice and then taking that away can be really stressful and scary," she explains.

Instead, DeWillems advocates for moving them quickly and gently to where you need them and ensure you follow up with plenty of tasty dog treats. "This reduces how much, if any, is withdrawn from our trust account." 

Building a deep, rich reinforcement history with your dog means you're constantly depositing into your trust account. When you need to make a withdraw, it won't have as big of an impact on your relationship as you've built a solid foundation. 

And while DeWillems is seen using a sink to bathe Lola, the tips she shares in her video will work equally well in a regular bath tub if you have a large breed dog.

As always, we recommend reaching out to a professional trainer if you need support with this, or any other aspect, of your dog's care. 

Can you use human shampoo on a dog? Check out our vet's advice for everything you need to know about bathing your pup safely. 

Kathryn Williams
Freelance writer

Kathryn is a freelance writer who has been a member of the PetsRadar family since it launched in 2020. Highly experienced in her field, she's driven by a desire to provide pet parents with accurate, timely, and informative content that enables them to provide their fur friends with everything they need to thrive. Kathryn works closely with vets and trainers to ensure all articles offer the most up-to-date information across a range of pet-related fields, from insights into health and behavior issues to tips on products and training. When she’s not busy crafting the perfect sentence for her features, buying guides and news pieces, she can be found hanging out with her family (which includes one super sassy cat), drinking copious amounts of Jasmine tea and reading all the books.