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Ask AKC: Better Bath Time

American Kennel Club, Inc. (c) 2011

Dear Lisa: I have a 1-year-old Norwegian Elkhound who hates getting a bath. It is a struggle and we don't bathe him as often as I would like. When it's bath time, he runs. If I try to lead him into the bathtub with his leash, he freaks out. Once he is wrangled into the tub, he puts his toenails out like a cat and it's just torture. I tried a kid's wading pool outside and that was a disaster. I got the bath, not the dog. Anything you might have, please help! I want a clean dog, not a "stinky pete." --Smelly Elkie Belly
I know all about Elkhounds! But like most dogs, a bath is not their favorite activity. It sounds like you have already established enough of a routine for him to know when it's bath time. You are going to have to un-establish your behavior when it comes time for baths so he doesn't get a "cue" from you that it's pending.

Try putting the leash on him and just walk him around the house, not near the bathroom. If all goes well, give him a treat, reward and release him. Get him used to having the leash not be associated with the tub.

Next, using just his collar, lead him into the bathroom and close the door. Sit on the floor and play with the pup and then get up and leave. Don't make a big deal out of it. Do this for a few weeks. Then one day just pick him up and put him in the tub. Make sure you place a rubber mat on the bottom so he won't scramble when he pops those nails out. Also, keeping them trimmed short will help.

Once in the tub, hold him there for a few seconds. If you notice he relaxes, such as letting out a big sigh, then praise, give a treat and take him out. After a few good sessions, try turning on the water, but don't get him wet. Eventually, you should be able to convince him that bathing isn't the big deal he thinks it is, especially if he thinks he'll be getting lots of treats along the way for good behavior.

 

If you have a question, send it to Lisa at AskLisa@AKC.org and she may select it for a future column. Due to the high volume of questions she cannot offer individual responses.