Dog Talk: Tips for a happy bath time for your furries

Have everything ready before you begin bathing your pooch. Photo:

It's a funny thing but most dogs will think nothing of rolling in a muddy puddle – but pick up a bottle of shampoo and it's likely you won't see your pet for dust.

Although we can't know for certain why dogs avoid baths, speculation focuses on the shampoo being the culprit. Dogs have a great sense of smell, and the soap is likely overpowering and unnatural-smelling.

Also, rolling in puddles and jumping in the sea is voluntary and usually social. It's very different from being plonked in a tub or trapped in a shower stall. Your dog may not relish the lack of control.

If someone in the past has been bad-tempered about bathing, or has smacked the dog, those memories will come back too.

To further complicate matters, bathing isn't a one-size-fits-all experience. Here, three dog lovers share their experiences.

Washing strays

Eugene Lee from Petaling Jaya, Selangor, can't keep pets in his condo, but he's been volunteering at PAWS Selangor since 2014.

"Dogs tend not to like being bathed," he observes. "We have one dog who is so good because he just stands there as we wash him. He's called Ara as he's named after the kampung where we found him.

"But the rest don't like it. The wriggling can be tough as they want to get away. If they're scared, they may try to bite.

"My advice is to play with them, walk them, and get to know them first. When you do wash them, be reassuring and behave calmly. It's the rinsing they hate, so be sure to sayang them. They need to know they're not in danger.

"Dogs do love the massage that goes with the soaping up, so make that a feature. Also, they love the drying off. I let them play with the towel after, as a treat."

Curly coats and sand

Ocha, Puer, TehC, Cider and Kopi love the beach but as Schauzers have tight curly top coats and a fine undercoat as well, it can be a chore.

The Schnauzers - named Ocha, Puer, TehC, Cider and Kopi - love the beach. Keeping the dogs clean can be a chore, though, as they have sensitive skin.— Wong Puei EeThe Schnauzers - named Ocha, Puer, TehC, Cider and Kopi - love the beach. Keeping the dogs clean can be a chore, though, as they have sensitive skin.— Wong Puei Ee

"Normally, I shower them once a week," Wong Puei Ee, artisanal dog food chef at Sit&Stay, Kuala Lumpur says,"But they have sensitive skin so I need to be careful with shampoo. I avoid all seriously scented soaps.

"They don't really like it, especially the showerhead, so I put water and shampoo in the tub. I rub them all over and then I rinse them with the shower head and towel them dry.

"Baths are a chore for them, so you need to reward them. Soft talk and lots of praise helps.

"The most challenging bath times for us is when we go to the beach. They love to chase the waves and get wet, and afterwards they play in the sand. They dig right in, burying themselves. But as the sand is abrasive, you have to watch their skin.

"I prep by trimming their coats short before we go. Then, on our break, I let them play until they're tired. Afterwards, we dry off in the sun, let them shake off the sand, and we end with a quick rinse. We avoid shampoo, as we're in and out all day."

Age and fleas

Just like people, dogs become frailer as they age. So what works for pups and healthy young dogs, needs adjusting as the furries approach old age.

"When they were pups, Boss and Hugo were washed with their mum and dad, all four Pugs in a tub," says Don Chow, IT engineer, of Subang Jaya, Selangor. "They liked the cool water and, like small kids, they'd paddle and play."

But now the pugs are almost 14 years old, things are a bit different.

"Boss is deaf and going blind, and Hugo is losing his sight too, so they're more careful.

"They play in the garden every day, so we wipe them with a damp towel for a quick clean. However, they need a weekly bath. We use shampoo and they run around in the sun after.

"The biggest issue is during tick and flea season. As they're older, they’re sensitive to the medicated liquid we've always used. I worry about tablets, in case they cause tummy upsets, so we're juggling various meds and shampoos.

"It can be a challenge to get it right. We're OK at the moment, but that's what I worry about."

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How to make tub time fun

Want to wash your pet without fuss? Here are some handy tips:

Prep. Get everything in place so you don't need to stop in the middle. Towels, soap, rinsing gear, whatever you think is needed should all be at hand. Also, change into clothes you don't mind getting wet.

No audience. Your pet may be nervous, so having onlookers will add to the tension. Ban kids, adults and others. The fewer people around, the better.

Plan the bath. Know what you're going to do and how. Usually people fill a tub with water that is chest high, soap from the tummy up to the back, and from the rump to the neck. Tails and the back of the head are done last. Soaping can be taken as petting and can be relaxed but rinsing is better done swiftly. If you aren't sure, watch videos of people bathing their pets.

Leave out tricky bits. If you're not sure of your bathing skills, it's OK to not wash the face or deal with a difficult tail. Go for good enough rather than perfect.

Sayang your pet. Calm, comfortable and loving is the way to go. Praise your pet for being pawsome, let them play with the towel and offer a treat after as well. Dogs are like toddlers; gentle is the way to go. Don't treat it as power play. It's a bath and your pet will be anxious.

Avoid smelly and harsh products. Your pet's nose is a million times better than yours, so go for unscented products. If you see a skin reaction, give it away (to your nearest shelter) and buy another product. Also remember that products for humans may be toxic to pets, so don't be tempted to use products not formulated for dogs unless you've cleared it with your vet.

Good luck and happy tub time!

Adopt Me

Photo: Celine Chum/PAWSPhoto: Celine Chum/PAWS

Bailey is six months old, female, vaccinated and spayed. This little pup is manja, sweet and confident. She's an ideal pet for a single person, couple or family. Interested adopters, please contact Paws Selangor, Pilmoor Estate, Subang Airport Road, 47200 Subang, Selangor (phone: 03-7846 1087) and ask for Bailey, Tag: P124.

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Dog Talk , Ellen Whyte , dog behaviour , bath time


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