Today’s question comes from Not A Bully reader, Billi, who asks:
My boxer hates baths, showers, anything that gets him wet. He just turned 1 and his Dad is European meaning he is bigger than normal. 3 months ago he weighed 66 pounds, he is for sure much bigger. Meaning this 65 yr old female can’t move this heavy boxer into shower or tub. I have even left shower door open but no way will he. He is very fit and strong but so sweet, what should I do about bathing him? Dry shampoo?
Hi Billi, I’m sorry your pup doesn’t want to get in the tub! I think I have some ideas that may help!
The first thing we need to figure out is what specifically he’s afraid of. Sometimes it may seem like the issue is the water, but it’s actually the tub and the shower that scares him. The slippery, cold surface can make it hard for your big boxer to keep their footing and so they avoid it altogether.
We’re going to try to tackle both the avoidance (using positive reinforcement) and the problem of a slippery tub.
Start by using his favorite treats to lure him into the bathroom and then slowly work up towards getting in the shower or tub. The goal here is to make slow, positive associations to what scares him.
Let him set the pace!
If he’ll happily take the treats, but just when he’s in the bathroom and then stops when you’re near the shower, that’s great! Stop there and try again tomorrow. Keep working towards the shower until he willingly follows you into it. Do this until he excitedly walks into the shower on his own, waiting for his treat!
Then you can start the same process of association with the water. This is called counter-conditioning and gradual desensitization. It’s the approach we use to change the fear response any dog is having. No matter what he might be nervous or scared of, patience and a lot of treats can help you both overcome it!
While you’re waiting for him to get comfy with the bathroom and the shower, you can use a dry shampoo to keep him clean.
However, if it’s an option for you, I’d suggest trying an outdoor bath even if it’s just with a bucket of warm water and doggy shampoo. That can be a great way to start getting him comfortable with the feel of water on his fur. Remember to give him lots of love and treats while you’re wiping him down! It also might be easier to do this outside and completely remove the negative associations he has with the bathtub altogether.
Some other tricks that may help as you progress:
- Use a Slip-Resistant Mat: If the slippery surface of the tub is a concern, placing a non-slip mat in the tub can help your pup feel more secure. In a pinch, a sturdy towel can help but if your boxer doesn’t feel like he can stand without slipping, he’ll keep avoiding the tub.
- Start with Shallow Water: Begin by using a small amount of water in the tub so your dog can gradually get used to the sensation. Use a cup to pour water gently over their body.
- Bring in Favorite Toys: Allow your dog to bring their favorite toys into the bathroom. This can help create positive associations with the space.
- Play Relaxing Music: Sometimes, playing calming music or using white noise in the background can help create a more relaxed atmosphere during bath time.
- Be Calm and Reassuring: Dogs often pick up on their owner’s energy. If you’re calm and reassuring, it can help your dog feel more at ease.
- Consider Treat-Dispensing Toys: Using treat-dispensing toys in the bath can make the experience more enjoyable for your dog. They may be focused on getting treats rather than being anxious about the water.
Remember that every dog is different, and what works for one may not work for another. It’s essential to be patient, go at your dog’s pace, and celebrate small victories. If the fear persists, we’d be happy to set up a call with one of our trainers.