Why Do Dogs Hate Baths? (With Solutions!)

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September 19, 2022 / Dog Grooming / By: Melanie Evans

A brown labrador getting shampooed in a bath

TikTok is full of funny dog bath videos, amusing clips of pups trying to escape bath time. It's not so funny when it's your pup trying to avoid their bath though: in fact, it can be downright frustrating to say the least.

But why do dogs hate baths? And what can you do to make getting your pup clean a more enjoyable, or at least successful, experience for you both?

These bath time issues, and more, are what we are going to take a closer look at here.

Do Dogs Even Need Baths?

Small black puppy getting a bath

I’m going to have a bath & look beautiful. 

If bath time for your pup is something of a nightmare, the idea of skipping them altogether is very tempting, so you might be asking yourself if your dog really needs a bath anyway, and if they do, how often they need one.

The good news is that it may not be as often as you think.

The frequency with which you should bathe your dog is determined by a number of different criteria, including their age and general health, their breed, the length and thickness of their coat, and degree of activity, as well as the location of these activities.

Dogs who spend the majority of their time outside tumbling and rolling around in stuff they shouldn't will require more frequent bathing than those who spend a greater amount of their time on the couch.

Short haired dogs will need less frequent bathing than long haired ones. And dogs with skin conditions may need to stick to vet prescribed bathing schedules to avoid harming their already sensitive skin.

In general, you can probably use your nose. If your dog smells more than usual - all dogs have that 'doggy smell' - they should probably be corralled into the bath. And, if you really don't know how often to bathe your dog, ask their vet for advice.

Why Do Some Dogs Hate Baths?

While not all dogs hate baths, it's the rare pup who's actually keen on the idea. And most dogs do indeed typically actively try to avoid them, and there could be all kinds of reasons why.

Here's a look at some of the most common:

1. The Noise

Often, it's a sensory issue that bothers dogs at bath time. If, for example, you make use of a noisy showerhead, that noise, so close to their ears, will scare lots of pups, especially as most don't like strange, loud noises in general, and having one so close can be especially disconcerting.

2. Scary Slips

Slippery tub floors can be a problem too. Your pup may feel very unsteady, and that's also scary. And then there are outdoor baths. Hosing down your dog in the yard might seem very convenient -less mess, it's easier to keep them under control as they can be tethered - but for a dog even on a warm day those blasts of cold water can feel awful, especially if the pressure is high, as you may inadvertently be causing actual physical pain.

3. Temperature Issues

Most dogs are pretty temperature sensitive, and most hate to be cold. If a bath takes too long and the water temperature is not just right, your poor pup may be shivering long before it's over, and you may be too busy trying to get through the ordeal to notice!

4. Scent Issues

A dog's sense of smell is far better than ours - about 40 times better in fact - and so if you are using a dog shampoo with a pungent smell, even if it does not smell too bad to you, that may be turning your pup off the idea of bath time too.

Speaking of shampoo, are you making use of a tear free shampoo? If you aren't soap getting in his eyes is just as painful for your pup as it is for you, and just one experience that results in pain can be enough to put a pup off baths for a long time!

Overcoming Sensory Issues When Bathing Your Dog

Use a Non Slip Mat

Gorilla Grip Patented Shower and Bathtub...

Most humans, afraid of slipping in the shower, make use of a non-slip bath mat to ensure that they don't. But then they take it out when it comes time to bathe their dog. Stop doing that, or, if you don't want your fancier bath mat ruined by dog claws, invest in an inexpensive bath mat just for them. Helping your dog feel more secure - and not like they are going to slip and fall at any second - may go a long way towards helping make bath time easier for you both.

Make Bath time Quieter

Rinseroo: Slip-on Dog Wash Hose...

If the noise seems to be an issue for your pup, try to keep it to a minimum. Making use of a dog sprayer that can be attached to the bath faucet will decrease the noise - and uncomfortable pressure on their skin - that your standard shower might be inducing.

Ambient sound might help too. Try adding some calming sounds to the bathroom to see if that helps calm your pup. If you can add an AI assistant like Amazon's Echo or Google Home to your bathroom that's ideal, as both offer a number of (free) apps that play calming sounds (and you may find you enjoy them too) Or, as long as you keep it away from the water, the chances are your cellphone can do the same.

Watch the Water Temperature

You should be as careful about water temperature when bathing your pup as you would be when bathing a toddler. Get the temperature right before you go get your pup so that he's not standing around waiting - or trying to escape - while you do so. Aim for a lukewarm, not hot, bath and never use just cold water, it's too much of an unpleasant shock for almost any pup!

Use an Unscented, Tear Free Dog Shampoo

Maybe you love to emerge from the bath smelling like a flower garden, but your pup is unlikely to. Dogs shouldn't smell like roses or lavender, that's nice for the pet parent perhaps, but not for them. They want to smell like dogs.

Isle of Dogs - Everyday Natural Luxury...

Aside from the fact that strong artificial smells may irritate your pup's sensitive nose for a long time after the bath is over, the fact that bath = terrible smell will stay in their mind and lead them to dislike the bath even more.

Try to stick to an unscented, tear free shampoo when bathing your pup. If they must use a medicated shampoo for a skin condition, ask your vet which brand has the least pungent smell and won't sting your pup's eyes.

Distract Your Dog

As something of a last resort, you could try distracting your pup while he's in the bath with something he really likes. Smearing peanut butter on the side of the bath sounds messy, but if that's a particular favorite of your dog's then it may distract him just enough for you to be able to get the bath over with before he's finished his treat.

Are Baths Stressful For Dogs?

If a dog is afraid of something - and for most dogs, their dislike of baths is out of fear rather than naughtiness - it will cause stress. This is true for a dog who dislikes baths. As no pet parent wants to intentionally hurt their pup either mentally or physically, trying to make bath time as easy as possible - at keeping them to a minimum - is always a good idea.

Dog Bath Alternatives

Brown American water spaniel in a river hunting

Get my good side.

If bath time is truly traumatic for both you and your pup, and you have made some of the changes we suggested, and your pup is still very unhappy with the idea of taking a bath , you may want to consider some dog bath alternatives. Here are some suggestions to get you started:

Dog Wipes

Arm & Hammer for Pets Heavy Duty...

If you just want to keep your dog smelling a bit fresher - but not fragranced, as we discussed earlier, then dog wipes can be helpful. As baking soda is such an excellent odor absorber, it makes sense that some of the best dog wipes you can buy are made by Arm and Hammer, and use baking soda to help neutralize odors. We also like these because they leave behind a light mango smell that does not seem to upset a pup's delicate sense of smell.

Dog Deodorizing Spray

Arm & Hammer for Pets Super Deodorizing...

If odors are bothering you, and you don't want to go through the hassle of a full bath, a dog deodorizing spray may help. Arm & Hammer for Pets Super Deodorizing Spray for Dogs might be worth a try, but spritz lightly, so that the scent does not overwhelm your pup.

Bathing in a Lake

Oddly enough, some dogs who love to swim hate the bath. If you have the chance to let your dog 'bathe himself' in a lake then that is unlikely to do any harm, and may help you avoid a stressful bath time for a little while longer!

Let a Professional Take Over

A dog groomer is not just for puppy haircuts, they can be a welcome resource when your pup is at the point where he really needs a bath - as in he is stinky - but you just can't deal with the stress it puts on you both. This will be an additional expense of course, but the occasional 'doggy spa day' will not only get your pup clean but if he has a nice experience he may then be less afraid of bathing at home.

How To Bathe a Dog Who Hates Bathtime

Many of the suggestions we have made here may help your pup feel better about bath time, and while they may never love the idea, you should be able to get them clean with less of a fight.

One final note. Dogs DO NOT, experts say, need anywhere near as many baths as humans. For a short haired dog who stays relatively clean, once every few months is fine, and it will not harm your pup to go longer than that in most cases.

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Melanie Evans

Melanie Evans is a professional freelance writer based in Scranton, PA, who, enjoys sharing her lifelong knowledge about dogs. When not working, Melanie enjoys playing a wide variety of sports, traveling and hanging out with her energetic boxer dog Bruce.

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