If the thought of giving your dog a bath fills you with more dread than repeating seventh grade wearing nothing more than orthodontic headgear (and your dog freaks out even more), we're here to help. One bad experience—accidental scalding hot water, suds in the eyes, or a groomer belting out early Bieber hits the entire time—can give both dog and parent the jitters. We polled fellow pet parents whose dogs all-caps LOVE bathtime to steal their smart, surprisingly simple tricks:
1. Take a looong walk first. Not only will you tire out your dog, but the water will be refreshing on his coat. A nice warm day is also more comfortable when he's air-drying post-bath.
2. Go jump in a lake. (No, really.) If you've made a habit of steering your dog clear of puddles, ponds, lakes and lawn sprinklers, it's time to loosen the leash. Bathtime splashes will seem exciting, not threatening, when they're used to playing in the water.
3. Consider rub-a-dubbing in the sink. The vast expanse of the bathtub is unsettling to some small dogs. Avoid giving your tiny dog a massive existential crisis by using a sink instead. He'll feel more contained and secure, and you'll be physically closer to him the entire time.
4. Cue the pre-bath playlist. Play and cuddle with your dog as the water fills nearby. This allows him to get used to the sound of rushing water while associating it with positive emotions. (Singing TLC's "Waterfalls" is entirely up to you.)
5. Invite a buddy. It's totally counterintuitive, but bathing two dogs together is often easier than one - as long as the other pup likes to bathe. An apprehensive dog will take cues from a calm counterpart and view the experience more as playtime and less as nuclear threat.
6. Lukewarm is the new steamy. Your dog likely doesn't share your preference for a piping hot bath. Start with lukewarm water and only slowly increase the temperature if the dog is clearly cold or shivering.
7. Don't forget the treats. Every unpleasant task—for humans and dogs—is made better with treats. So reward his good behavior after every lather, rinse, and repeat. Pro tip: Wear a kitchen apron with pockets to store the treats (and protect your clothes).
8. Slow and steady wins the bath. If you tend to rush through the task with Olympic-level speed and focus, it could be working against you. Your dog knows you well enough to know you rush when you are anxious. Slow down, breathe deeply, and give your pup a sudsy massage while you get him wiwee wiwee cwean and shiny!
9. Ears equal tears. Do your best to keep soap and water from getting into your dog's ears. They clean themselves naturally and any excess soap and water is not only uncomfortable and distressing, but can sometimes lead to irritation or infection.
10. Keep the suds out of his face. You know how you hate getting soap in your eyes? Yeah, so does your dog. Wash him with shampoo from neck to tail, before giving him a thorough rinse. Then use a damp washcloth to gently wipe his head, face, and chin. Cup his chin in one hand while you wipe with the other to help him feel secure.
And finally, don't be too fussy with trying to towel or blow dry. That instinctual wet dog total body shake is thought to be something he really enjoys. Let him have that; he's earned it. The nearby furniture will dry.