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Annie has always been miserable when she gets bathed, and I always feel guilty. She stands there sadly, looking like a drowned rat and says 'Are you crazy? No, I don't want cheese!" She doesn't jump out only because I trained her since puppyhood that the only way out of a tub (or off a grooming table) is to be picked up. She had started to balk if I looked like I might even be thinking of a bath, and Annie never balks from me. Her first bath with me was her first day home, because she puked in the car so I probably didn't handle it as well as I could have.

The last couple weeks I have been working on desensitization. My goal is to get her at least happy and relaxed enough to eat treats in the tub, maybe even have her tail up.

I think the next step is water and not sure how to add it.

I first worked on her letting me bring her into the bathroom without protest/balking. If I was having a bath, or going to the bathroom and I noticed her, she came, got left to lie by the sink and got ignored. I started out leaving treats on the floor while I had a bath which she ignored. Wouldn't even take cheese from my hand. When she stopped protesting going into the bathroom, I started lifting her into the tub with a dry towel in the bottom. First time, I rubbed her up a bunch and eventually convinced her to eat cottage cheese from my hand, though not the container. Next time i asked her for sit/down /stand ,etc, and she ate cheese and beef treats rather readily. Last two times, I didn't use a towel, just bare tub and we did sit/down/shake practice. Today she barely tensed when I picked her up for the tub. I think we need another session or two - then I add water. ( I am rushing this a bit as she needs a bath!)

But how? She is now ok ish with lake water, but that's too cold now. Maybe a slightly wet tub? Maybe turn on the tap with the drain open and feed her? Maybe a centimeter of warm water in the bottom when she gets in? Really not sure how to do this so she is ok with it and I am not rushing it. I know if you break the steps up small enough, desensitization is way easier and faster, just not sure how to make the next step suitably tiny.

Any ideas?
 

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I have mixed feeling about that. I’ve never had a dog like bathing (I’ve had many, many dogs) so the way I see it, best to get it done as soon as possible and get to the fun part ! My dogs enjoy the towel drying, running around and rubbing themselves on a towel after the bath. They feel clean and happy. But like the bath ? Nah, just hurry up, mom ! :)
 

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Hmmm... Would you have the water running while you give the bath? Maybe you could allow her to stand outside while it runs, then put her in after there are a couple of centimeters of water in there? I've found that having the tub wet makes it very slick for dogs, so I don't know if just having it wet would go well, since she'd likely slide.
 

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I have mixed feeling about that. I’ve never had a dog like bathing (I’ve had many, many dogs) so the way I see it, best to get it done as soon as possible and get to the fun part ! My dogs enjoy the towel drying, running around and rubbing themselves on a towel after the bath. They feel clean and happy. But like the bath ? Nah, just hurry up, mom ! :)
Agree on the never having a dog who liked them but then again.... I have also never had a dog who likes (or at least tolerates) nail clipping and grooming before. She actually lay down and sprawled on her side last time I did her feet!!! Good desensitization had made her happy enough with those things I am hoping it will make her more tolerant about the bath. I am ok with her just being mostly indifferent and rather relaxed about it like she is for grooming. Part of my reason for doing this is she was becoming more reluctant to be caught for a bath and lifting a 55 lb dog into a tub is hard enough as it is without adding a struggle.

Hmmm... Would you have the water running while you give the bath? Maybe you could allow her to stand outside while it runs, then put her in after there are a couple of centimeters of water in there? I've found that having the tub wet makes it very slick for dogs, so I don't know if just having it wet would go well, since she'd likely slide.

Floofy - good point about the slick tub! Maybe I will cross that idea off the list, sliding won't make her any happier. I usually do baths by putting 5 cm or so of warm water in the bottom to soak her feet clean, pick her up and put her in, scoop water from the tub with a container onto her back to wet her down, rub her with soap, then use the handheld shower to rinse her clean as I drain the tub.
 

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It sounds like you're probably on the right track for the bath route. I imagine there's a desensitizing to the sound of water in the tub depending on Annie's spooky sound tollerance.

I go a shower route, but mentally I try to think of it as an interactive petting and bonding session where I squat to her level, baby talk her, boop her nose, forehead kisses, etc all while trying to soap, rinse, condition, and rinse. By the end of applying the conditioner I get eye contact that I interpret as "are we done yet?". I guess my $0.02 is that by maybe trying to make the process a more loving and bonding experience for you, then you will feel less guilty about the experience.
 

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Haha yeah. I usually try and make it fun, have since she was a puppy. "Scrub a dub dub, puppy in a tub" in a singing voice, lots of rubbing/petting, etc. But she has hated it more and more.

Annie is most emphatically NOT a water dog, which is a huge disappointment to me (the only one, really) as I love the water and expected a poodle to love going to the lake and swimming and boating with me.. Getting her willing to go knee deep and play a bit in water, and teaching her to swim has been a 1.5 year process.
 

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For Gracie, putting a towel on the floor of the tub made a big difference. You could also use a non-slip mat, but I like using what I've already got on-hand. I'd just wring it out after and toss it in the washing machine.

Gracie would shake and shake and shake, just tremble like a little leaf. It was heart-wrenching, so I understand why you want to improve Annie's experience. Even if Annie doesn't tremble, not taking treats is such a sure sign of extreme stress. I'd be wanting to desensitize her, too.

What ultimately worked with Gracie (after about ten years) was employing a second set of hands. I would feed her treats throughout the process, but it never shifted her emotional state. Having my husband feed steadily was a revelation. I armed him with handfuls of treats and he just fed, fed, fed. Didn't even give her time to think. She'd never seen so many treats at once!

Gracie never shook in the bath again.

Kind of crazy in retrospect, that such a simple thing could hit the reset button on a process that had scared her so badly for so long. But I'm sharing this to give you hope. If my fragile little old lady dog could decide baths aren't so bad, Annie can, too! And it can happen instantaneously.

Have you tried hiding a bunch of yummy things for her nose to find? Like peanut butter smears on the walls?

As for adding water, I'd do as you were thinking and add 5 cm or so on top of a non-slip surface. I might even float a few treats in there for her to discover and just do some rubbing of her coat with my wet hands.
 

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Like peanut butter smears on the walls?
I've considered trying something like this lick mat but my boys have learned to suck it up and get wet. Neo sees me readying things and dives under the sofa but cookietreats will bring him out, even tho he knows what's about to happen.

Never thought about this til now but does she like balls, lightweight, floaty ones? Maybe a rubber ducky?

470844
 

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Discussion Starter #9 (Edited)
What other than peanut butter could be used for a licky mat, I wonder? Annie has no interest in peanut butter.

I tried last night the 1 cm of water thing. She was appalled. I gave her little pieces of string cheese. She will usually eat from my hand even if she is too stressed to eat off the ground or a container. No, not interested. I finally opened her mouth a bit, popped one in. She spit it out then paused and seemed to look at me like hey, that was good, but it is in the water and dead now ... She ate 3 more from my hand then I made the mistake of picking up the piece that fell from the water and I guess I made a bit of a splashy noise. No more cheese, don't want. So I gave up, took her out. Not sure if I will try it a different way next time or just work from there.

When I let her out of the bath she did the series of full on dramatic shakes as if I had drenched her instead of just done the bottoms of her feet. Drama queen!!!

I love the idea of balls in the water Rose! She has finally progressed on outside walks from "ball is in the water, is dead, too bad, walking away now" to kinda poking it with her nose, but unwilling to put her chin in to pick it up. A rubber ducky might be great, a handle for her mouth so her chin doesn't need to get wet lol.
 

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On our licky mat we have used all kinds of things canned dog food, cream cheese, the laughing cow cheese that comes in a tubes, squished liverwurst, meat flavored baby food. Blueberry also loves these really gross barkpouches.
 

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Not sure if this has been mentioned but,
Try bathing after vigorous exercise. My spoo’s are much more inclined to relax during bathing if their tired after some off leash exercise. For me at least it makes a big difference.
 

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I'm thinking little surprise bits here and there, to get her nose and brain working. Maybe some cheddar smears? A few dabs of yogurt?

I have to apologize for giggling at your description of Annie's most recent bath experience. She's such a character and it sounds like you guys make such a good team.

How does she like being out in the rain? Will she walk on wet grass?
 

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Annie likes rain, so long as it isn't a torrential downpour. She will usually walk around puddles and isn't a huge fan of sitting or lying on wet grass or grass where there is water at surface. Might be something to work on next time there is a rain storm...

She will eat from my hand in situations where she is too stressed to sniff and find things, though sniffing and finding things is a good step too

This morning I backed off and tried it another way. Annie was back to pulling backwards when I took her into the bathroom today after I assaulted her with water yesterday. So while I had a bath, she lay in the corner.

When she stood up eventually to check on me, I picked up a piece of sandwich meat I had brought with me, offered her some. "Uh, no, scary human in tub! Can't fool me!" She backed away. So I threw some down in front of her, then more pieces as a trail, so she eventually walked over to the tub and looked at me. I then hand fed her some from the tub, and put pieces on the edge of the tub to lick at. She thought that was pretty tasty!

No time in the tub today, no water, just working on her comfort level being around ME in the water. Tomorrow, maybe I won't need the treat trail to get her over there. Maybe the next time I will splash a bit, or pet her with a wet hand.
 

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Since she's such a playful girl, I wonder if dragging yourself out to the dog park in the rain might help desensitize her to the feel of puddles underfoot.

That would definitely earn you Poodle Owner of the Year. ;)
 

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Oh, we were just in the dog park in the rain yesterday. Thank you, I accept the award :D

(I like going in nasty weather - rain, gale force wind, blizzardy snow etc, as there are usually no other dogs)
 
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