I had to give my dog a bath yesterday. Service dog puppy-raiser etiquette specifies that the dog should be bathed at least once a month, more if they go swimming in the ocean or roll in something that smells bad. This is always referred to as bathing the dog instead of washing it. When you tell someone that you can’t come to a group project meeting because you have to wash your dog, you start to get weird looks.
Each of my four service dog puppies has had a different reaction to getting a bath. Only one of these reactions has been unambiguously positive. The bath-loving dog was Wilder, who hated swimming but loved being loaded into a bathtub and sprayed with a hose so much. As soon as he realized we were headed to the dog-washing venue, he would start leaping around like a springbok that had ingested jet fuel.
On a good bath day, he would wag his tail incessantly, spraying soapy, dog-smelling water all over me. On a bad day, he would repeatedly attempt to climb out of the tub and greet other dogs being bathed while I tried desperately to restrain him. In spite of his apparent joy at the whole situation, Wilder was terrified of the blow-dryer and the only way to calm him was to wedge him into what the head groomer at the self-service dog wash called a “Thunder Hat”.
That’s him in the cover photo, looking pathetic as can be.
In general, bathing your dog should only be undertaken on a day when you’re full of optimism and patience.
Your dog may do any or all of the following things: bark, whine, shake, growl, attempt to attack and/or flee from the blow-dryer, try to climb out of the tub to greet other dogs, try to climb out of the tub in order to escape, howl incessantly or stare at you with the most mournful pair of puppy eyes ever seen on the planet.
This may happen regardless of whether or not your dog is the sort of dog people refer to as a ‘water’ dog. All of my dogs have been water dogs, but only one was able to swim, and that was only under duress. It should be assumed that your dog does not like baths until proven otherwise.
My current puppy tends to keep her reaction subtle. She stands still in the bathtub like a prisoner awaiting execution, occasionally trying to drink from the spray. Every so often she locks eyes with someone else in the room and stares piteously, letting loose whines every so often to let us know how unacceptable she finds the situation to be. Sometimes she’ll try to wedge her entire soaking-wet body into my armpit to escape the situation. All of this would be more endearing if it didn’t involve a wet dog.
As labor-intensive and stressful as the process of washing your dog is, it’s worth it for the few days in which your dog has silky soft fur. Unfortunately, those days never last long enough.