Bath Alternatives for Fearful Dogs

fearful dogs Jul 11, 2022
dog in bath

Does your pup hate baths? If so, you're not alone. Bathing a dog involves a lot of invasive handling, plus water, both of which many dogs find unpleasant. In this week's video I talked about some bath alternatives that might be worth trying with your sensitive dog. 


Do You Have To Bathe Your Dog? 

Unless your dog needs medicated baths, there might be no health benefit to bathing your dog.  If your dog doesn't absolutely have to be bathed, I recommend taking the time to train them to be comfortable with water and with being scrubbed. If you force your dog into the tub, you're probably signing yourself (and your dog) up for years of unpleasantness surrounding your dog's bath time. So avoid rushing this process if you can.


Alternatives to Full Baths

There are a number of products on the market that are advertised as bath alternatives.  In this week's video I share our experience with a few of these, as well as our own "homemade" bath alternatives.

  • Dry Shampoo: There are several "dry shampoos" for dogs available. The one I tried with my dogs is a foam. You pump the foam into your hands, then rub it into your dog's fur. Here's what I liked and didn't like:
    • Pros: On the plus side, the dry shampoo option doesn't require any water, and if your dog is comfortable being petted over most of their body, you won't need to do much if any extra training before using it. And it did make my dog Jasper smell better. 
    • Cons: The dry shampoo seems most useful as a deodorizer. I'm not sure it actually leaves the dog any cleaner. It is heavily perfumed, and covered up my dogs' natural odor, which could be seen as a positive or a negative depending on how you feel about the shampoo's scent. It also left my dogs' fur a little bit stiff, although that went away with brushing.
  • Bath Mitts: I also tried out some dog bath mitts. These are disposable fabric pockets that contain a no-rinse shampoo. You put your hands in them, get them wet, and then rub them over your dog. 
    • Pros: The training to get my dogs comfortable with the sight and feel of the mitts was minimal. The mitts hold a good amount of water, and I was able to remove some dirt with them.  And, you don't have to rinse the soap out of your dog's fur afterward. The mitts I tried were unscented, which I liked.
    • Cons: You do have to use water with the bath mitts, which is a deal breaker for some dogs. And they're really only single use. After one use, the soap in the mitts had been depleted. I also couldn't easily get through my long-haired dog's fur with them to wash his skin.
  • Damp Cloth: I use dampened clothes or towels frequently to "spot clean" our dogs. You can add soap to your cloth, or just add water. 
    • Pros: This is a cheap option, as you don't have to buy a special dog bathing product. You can use clothes of varying sizes and abrasiveness, depending on your cleaning needs. 
    • Cons: You do have to use water when cleaning your dog with a cloth. And if you use regular soap, you'll need to rinse that out somehow. It's likely you'll need to do some training to get your dog comfortable with being scrubbed down with a cloth. 
  • "Self Rinse": I've been working with all three of my dogs on getting them to get into a tub or pool of water on their own, and move around or change position to rinse off different parts of their bodies.  We have a small tub that I use outdoors to wash mud off of their paws, and a kiddie pool that is large enough for them to lie down in. 
    • Pros: This is a hands-off cleaning method. The dog gets into the water themselves, and their movement in the water does the cleaning for you. So if you have a dog who doesn't like being touched, this could be a good option.
    • Cons: This involves more interaction with water than do the other methods mentioned above. So it might be the toughest to train, if your dog hates water. In general this approach also is likely to require the most training effort of the bath alternatives discussed. And, since you aren't doing any scrubbing, the "self rinse" method might not be sufficient for stuck-on dirt. 


If you try any of these bath alternatives, we'd love to hear from you! Shoot us a message or email ([email protected]) and tell us what worked, and what didn't. 




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