How to Prevent and Fix Your Dogs Fear of Bathing

You know as a dog owner that things will eventually get messy. Whether it is a roll in the mud during a walk, a romp through the rain, or a tangle with a skunk, eventually you will need to give your dog a bath. Many dogs think that water is the best place in the world; other dogs are absolutely terrified of water.

If you want to prevent your dog from becoming afraid of bathing, there are some simple ways that you can prepare your dog from developing that fear.

The most important thing to remember is that if you don’t force the dog into a situation that scares them, they are less apt to become afraid of things. Helping them to learn about new things in a safe and easy manner will provide them with trust, which will make other new things easier to adapt to.

If your dog is already terrified of the bath, you can use similar steps to try to repair that fear and set up a positive situation for your dog. Either way, it is important to help your dog feel secure around bathing since there will be a time when your dog will need to get cleaned up.

How to Fix Your Dogs Fear of Bathing

Although not predictable, some dogs are born with a fear of water, while others love it. Some breedsDog getting washed outside really love water and getting them to take a bath is like an invitation to play.

These dogs will readily jump into a tub full of bubbles and play forever. The only problem you may have with these dogs is trying to get them out of the tub.

Other dogs, whether it is from a general level of fear or from a bad experience, have an intense fear and dislike of water and baths. Whether it was a near-drowning incident or something else, some dogs are just terrified of water.

In the end, it really does not matter why your dog is afraid of water, the trick is to now find a way to redirect that fear and train your dog to understand that bath time does not need to be scary.

Although you may not be able to make your dog love a bath, you may at least be able to reduce or eliminate the fear of the process.


Training a dog to become comfortable with a bath is no different than training a dog for anything else. You break down the bath into smaller steps and work through them all until they can be combined into a simple process. Each step will be desensitized into a step so that there is no worry when moving to the next one.


To start the bathing process, decide where you will be giving your dog the bath. It doesn’t matter if you are doing a bath outside, inside, or in a pool, just make it consistent.

The process works the best if it is the same each and every time. This example will use a bathroom, but you can use the same techniques wherever you decide to do the bath setup.

The first part of the process is to reduce the stress response for the space the bath will be done. That may mean that if you are using a bathroom, call the dog in and just sit on the floor. Bring a treat and allow them to sniff around.

Do not drag them or force them into the room. It may take a few times to practice this process, but showing your dog that there is nothing to be afraid of by being in the room with the tub should eventually reduce the initial stress.

Once your dog is willing to enter the bathroom without fear, turn on a faucet. Do not change anything else, just let the water run. Allowing some of the noises that will occur during the bath to occur in a non-stress way will help the acclimation.

Progressing to getting in the tub also takes some time, but getting them in with no water, then a small amount of water without water running, then a little bit of running water, step by step will increase their confidence.

uncomfortable dog getting washedSome dogs really hate being wet, so starting with a wet washcloth, gently rubbing and petting them with it will help to get them used to the feeling of wet fur.

Think of each step as part of the process that they must learn – getting wet, hearing the noises, smelling the soap, and drying with towels. If your dog learns that each step is harmless, they will eventually learn that the whole process is safe.

Move through each step slowly and with patience – being in the bathroom, running water, smelling soap, getting in the tub, being wet, etc.

Allowing the dog to get used to the bathing process before you actually need to give them a bath will allow them to get more comfortable with the process.

Be aware that this process could take some time. It really is important to not rush things – rushing into things can set back the process that you have made.

Feel free to use treats or other fun things to make your dog feel comfortable with each step forward.

Bottom Line

If you feel ready, make the first true bath experience one of fun. It does not need to be exciting, just a smooth, simple bath. If any part of things seems to cause the dog distress, pause, and see if they calm down.

Be patient and understand that learning to enjoy something that caused them to fear in the past is going to take time.

The goal is to get a clean dog, not to put them in a terrifying situation. If your dog becomes really scared, make it okay to stop or slow down the process.

Dog groomers and your local vet may also have some great tips to share with you about how to remove the distress around bath time. Hopefully, as you and your dog spend more time together working on the bath time routine, it will become easier, and maybe even fun!

Lisabeth has been a content blog writer for almost 10 years. She had fostered many dogs in that time, including 11 Golden Retrievers. She recently adopted an Australian Shepard named Shadow.

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