The Showcase Magazine - Articles

Oh no……. It’s bath time!

By Mary Lou Hanlon

If your backyard is anything like mine, the excessive rain that has graced our area has made your once lush lawn a muddy mess. A few games of frisbee and before you know it your fun-loving canine has mud everywhere! Perhaps it was not a sporting event that made your dog dirty. Many distinguished canines adore rolling themselves in the many prevalent piles of deer poop that are ever so prevalent this time of year. Fido can’t seem to understand why you don’t appreciate his new fragrance “Eau de poop”! Instead you haul his fury butt into the tub before your whole house looks and smells like he does.

If you haven’t done your homework to teach your dog to embrace bath time, you might now have a sparkly clean dog, but your bathroom is a mess! Water, suds and dirt are everywhere and you are soaked!

I am here to tell you that bath time can be a process that both you and the dog can not only enjoy but can be done in a calm way with significantly less mess then many people experience.

As with all training, building positive reinforcement for small incremental steps of the actual behavior is the key to success. Following this step-by-step guide will have your dog loving bath time and your home getting far less messy.

The training necessary to have a calm well-behaved dog in the tub starts off months before your dog needs a bath. The first step is to have your dog play “get the cookie” in the empty bath tub. Make sure your bath tub has a good non-slip mat in it, so Fido doesn’t slip and scare himself or worse, gets hurt. Make this a fun game. If your dog is big enough to get in the tub itself, then start with a hungry dog, bring him to the dry tub, toss cookies in and have him jump in the tub to get them. Once in allow him to eat all the cookies and then toss in some more. Repeat this process a few times over several days. If your dog is too small to jump in, gently place him in the tub and play “get the cookie” as stated above.

After a few sessions your dog will happily go into the tub. At this point you can add a bit of water to the tub, about a quarter inch would be great to start with. Now, instead of tossing the food in the water just feed Fido out of your hand once he is fully in the tub. Do this for a couple of sessions over a few days. If, and ONLY if, Fido is acting calm and quiet you can start to raise the water level a bit. If at any point in this process Fido starts to bark or act anxious stop feeding. We only want to reward the dog for being calm and quiet. Pretty soon your dog will realize that there is nothing to be afraid of and if it stays calm it will get yummy cookies.

The next step is to get the dog used to water being sprayed on it. If you have a spray attachment for the water, turn it on its lowest setting and let it drip on your dogs back all while giving your dog cookies. If you don’t have a spray attachment you can accomplish the same by gently pouring a bit of water on your dogs back while feeding it.

Over several training sessions slowly increase the water level and start to use a bit of doggie shampoo all while giving your dog yummy cookies. In a brief period of time your canine will be looking forward to bath time and it will become a pleasurable bonding experience for the two of you!

Have fun with your animals. They are counting on you to provide them with a safe, loving and nurturing environment.

Mary Lou Hanlon is a longtime resident of Warren and is the owner of PetMinders, Inc, The Kennel Alternative. PetMinders has been providing professional pet sitting and dog training lessons in the privacy of clients homes for over 18 years. Mary Lou is one of the nation's top agility competitors. She has competed both nationally and internationally and has received numerous awards in both dog obedience and agility. She can be reached at 908-755-PETS (7387), via email at or visit the website