Can dogs pout? Tales of a traumatic first bath

On Sunday, I decided to attempt Pyrrha’s first bath. Her foster said she hadn’t been bathed at all since coming into the rescue and that fact was starting to become apparent. It was a bright, warm day, and so I decided to set up shop on a small concrete pad in the yard, where I could use the garden hose and hitch her to a fence post with a leash.

Sounds pretty ideal, right? Well. No. Not from Pyrrha’s perspective.

I had an idea that she would hate being bathed, as we’ve learned that she really hates having her paws wiped off after she’s been outside. She also hates being groomed with the undercoat rake (although she is fine with the ZoomGroom). But a bath has to happen sometime. So, I armed myself with bits of hot dog and led her out to the concrete pad, ready to rumble.

Her normal position
Pouting, post-bath.

The second I turned the hose on, PANIC set in. She tried to bolt in every direction, nearly choking herself in the process. She was in such a state that she wouldn’t even accept the hot dogs. I had to put her between my knees and calmly hold her and speak softly while I hosed her down (on the gentlest setting, the setting you use for delicate seedlings). She finally stood still, but she was MISERABLE. When I turned around for a second to pick up the shampoo, she started trying to head-butt her way back through the fence.

It was not fun, for either of us. My legs were shaking from the whole ordeal. Thankfully, however, the bath was over in 10 minutes and I was very grateful I splurged on that chamois doggy towel, which really accelerated the drying process.

For the rest of the afternoon, however, she was pissed. I don’t know if dogs can pout, but I really feel like Pyrrha was pouting. Normally, when I call her, she comes over, wags a bit, kisses me on the nose, etc. The rest of the post-bath Sunday? Nothing. Not even a glance. She’d actually get up and walk away if I tried to pet her. She wouldn’t even accept treats from me. Such a diva! Her feelings were very hurt by this whole traumatic bath ordeal. (And she was also probably angry, because the conditioning shampoo I bought made her smell like a sugar cookie. I apparently didn’t read the label very closely. I kind of don’t blame her; it would be insulting to have to smell like some second-rate confection after you’d just been thoroughly traumatized.)

Mercifully, Pyrrha seems to have a short memory, because she was fine the next day. I think my parents’ arrival helped distract her, and the fact that my father played with her and her new rawhide surely erased all those bad feelings.

So, two questions for you:

  1. Does your dog HATE baths? What do you do to make the whole event less traumatic?
  2. Can dogs pout? What do you think? Do your dogs ever pout?

13 thoughts on “Can dogs pout? Tales of a traumatic first bath

  1. YES. Sadie and Scout both hate to be bathed – Jeff usually has to wrestle them into the tub and go from there. He also usually comes out with multiple battle scars. I’m thankful he is (sometimes) willing to bathe them.

    Sadie definitely pouts. Her little ears go down and she slumps, walking slowly around the house. “Diva” is an apt description. I wonder how well they would get along?

  2. What I have learned from bathing Nikita is to ALWAYS wash her in the bathtub. This area is confined and that is the trick. Secondly, NEVER ever drag them in there either, as they remember. Use treats to coax. Then, either shut the bathroom door or use a baby gate in the doorway to keep them confined to the room. Once in the bathtub, ALWAYS wash their head/face LAST or you will be covered in water from them shaking off the water. I fill the bottom of the bathtub with a little water that I use to scoop up in a cup to pour over her back, get her tail and bottom wet, then I lather in the doggie soap. I use the cup to rinse her too, but now after many baths, she lets me use the shower hose to rinse her as it does not scare her anymore. When taking her out of the tub, I wrap a towel around her body then lift her out (this is not easy because she’s 60+ pounds) because wrapping her in a towel keeps her from shaking. You never want to traumatize a dog when bathing because they will remember it the next time. Bathing outside is not a good option as you saw, because there is no confinement. Be prepared to get wet either way, and get ready to smell like dog shampoo. Nikita loves it after the bath as she runs around the house like a crazy dog shaking all over, it’s cute & funny too! Good luck on the next bath! By the way, don’t wash a German Sheppard every month either, as it strips away the oil they need in their coat.

    Also, for in between cleaning, take an empty spray bottle and fill it with water and 2 tablespoons of white vinegar. Spritz the dogs hair all over then dry with a towel. The vinegar takes the “dog smell” away and it also shines their coat. Just don’t get any of the spray in their face or ears. Once you try this, you will use this all the time!

  3. Pearl hates baths too… luckily she has short hair so we mostly just avoid them and wipe her down instead (which she also hates… but less). I totally think dogs pout, but thankfully with Pearl it doesn’t last long- she gets grumpy for awhile after we put in eardrops, which she needs right now for an ear infection.

  4. Elli used to hate even getting into the tub until I made it a game. Sometimes we go into the bathroom just to get in and then be released out. Then she gets her cuz ball. Since getting into the bathtub doesn’t predict a bath anymore, she’s fine. πŸ™‚

    Then I classically conditioned the water running = jerky. And we’re onto the stage of classically conditioning the water on her = jerky. She actually defaults into targeting the shower hose sometimes. So funny. πŸ™‚

    Her favorite part is definitely getting out though. Hands down.

    You’ve got a sensitive girl, too! Elli holds grudges. For months sometimes. I accidentally stepped on her toe yesterday and she ran down the stairs and wouldn’t come back up until I was 20 feet away. Sigh. Advice: take anything new very, very slow. LAT and Targeting are great for conquering fears, yes, even for bathing. πŸ™‚

  5. Ximena has some great advice. Definitely make bath time a fun, light-hearted game and don’t push too far, too quickly. Shiva had a fear of water when we first adopted her. She would cower in fear if we even tried to pour water from a bottle into her bowl. Any sign of water going anywhere near any part of her body put her into panic mode. It took some time and patience but she now will even drink directly from water being poured from a bottle.

    Baths are still tough and she’ll still bolt if she gets the chance, but we work on shaping exercises to get her to jump into the tub on her own. If she jumps out again, we just wait for her to jump back in and give her a reward when she does.

    It’s kind of cute that she was pouting! I think – and this is just my opinion – dogs have more of an associative memory so right after the bath she could still have been associating you with those negative feelings. However, once you started doing other, happier things, she probably forgot about the bad and remembered all the good that you represent. Just my theory anyway! πŸ˜›

  6. We have two dogs, and we give them a bath about once a year – in the summer when it’s hot, with soap and gentle hosing. They hate it too. They always smell really good, they seem to keep naturally clean, and when they’re out in the rain I give them towel-offs, which I consider to be like a bath. If one of them rolls in a dead animal or something, then I do give her a bath!

  7. She’ll forgive you, Abby. Both of mine hate baths, especially Ivy, who doesn’t even like to swim. Why Revel hates the bath but adores swimming is beyond me. The process improved a little, however, when I started filling the tub and then turning off the water before I even tried to get them into the tub. I think the noise of the rushing water encouraged panic and rebellion, and a nice quiet body of water is more what we were looking for. . .you’ll find the right way a bath or two down the road.

  8. Dixie doesn’t exactly HATE baths but she dislikes them VERY much. I have to drag her to the bathroom, because she won’t even follow a trail or lure of hotdogs. She does fine once I have her in the tub though. What Dixie’s problem is, she doesn’t like to get her paws wet. When the I start hosing down her legs, she lifts them up and tries to keep them dry; which can cause complications in such tight wuarters. She’s slipped once but thank goodness didn’t hurt herself. Now she’s gotten into the habit of sitting soooo…it isn’t too bad except when I need to wash her tail.

    Oh BOY, does she pout! But I pick up her ball and say “Let’s go outside!” and she perks up. πŸ™‚

  9. I don’t bath my dog (I did a couple of times as a pup just so that if I have to do it again it won’t be mega alien). He is a long haired chi and we live in the UK, most days he gets wet and muddy, I towel dry, then brush him when he’s completely dry. If he rolls in something icky I spot clean.

    I don’t think baths are good for their skin, a good brush is much better. He’s raw fed and despite no baths he smells lovely πŸ™‚

  10. Dogs definitely share the feelings. Beside her behavior you can look at her face and know she’s pissed. My first thought was that the water must have been cold. That doesn’t instill a calming effect. I would jump around too if someone sprayed me with cold water.

    BJ is not thrilled when I bathe him. He loves freeze dried liver treats. So the only time he gets one is when he gets a bath. At first I gave him a treat when he was in the bathroom. He got treats during his bath. Eventually he connected those treats with a bath. Now when he sees me taking the container with the liver treats out of the cabinet, he runs into the bathroom and jumps in the tub.

    And yes. he tries to jump out as soon as he gets the treat.

    Bj pouts and gets pissed. The last time I had him stay at his dog walkers for one night, she brought him home, he came up to say hello, and then ignored me all day. He was not happy and let me know it.

    Hope you fare better the next time you give Pyrrah a bath.

  11. This too may pass. I remember when we first found Buster – he wanted to be petted, but would panic when I reached anywhere behind his shoulders. He definitely didn’t want me touching his hind legs or paws! It took a while for him to figure out the he could trust me. I was just having a giggle the other day when he back up to me for a fanny scratch and I reminded him of the times when he’d sooner have died than let me touch his back!

  12. I’ve recently posted on my blog about bath-time with our Maltese Chicki. She turns so many things into games: I’m not sure that she thoroughly detests the procedure, but she does look like a poor little mite in the photo! P.S. She is bathed in water of 38 degrees Celsius , and never on a cold day. πŸ™‚ In any case, she has a very forgiving nature. πŸ™‚

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