To bathe or not to bathe a dog is a question which often dogs the owners. If you ask me without any prejudice my answer will be ‘have you seen a dam giving bath to her pup?’ But it does not solve your problem, because as a part of the family a dog has access to almost all the areas of the house. Many of the owners make him share their bed even. Sharing sofas and chairs is common. My grand uncle’s Alsatian Rana used to tease me by occupying my favorite chair in the house. Sofas in grand uncle’s house were always matted with a layer of dog’s hair. The scenario is more or less the same in all the houses where dogs are a family member.
Thus it becomes imperative that a dog, like other family members is kept absolutely clean and groomed. As far as dogs are concerned, instinctively they too like cleanliness. Only difference is that their way of grooming and maintaining cleanliness is different than ours. From the very beginning the dam goes on licking the pup. She licks him clean as soon as he is born. Thereafter she cleans him regularly throughout the day. This ritual is continued till the pups are with her. Till the puppies are weaned the dam licks them to assist them in defecating as well. She even licks and eats the entire poop to ensure no bacteria grow in the whelping area/lair.
Grooming or bathing a dog is often a problem with owners. Reason is simple. They are not able to make it a pleasant experience for the dog. Once I met a family who had a large bully kind of dog. He used to be bathed everyday, tied to a stout pole in the middle of their lawn. Three men were deployed to bathe the dog one armed with a stick to hit the dog in case he did not co-operate. It was a big torture for the poor dog. Naturally such a dog can not be cured easily unless sent to a professional trainer, neither such owners can be taught to make the experience a fun for the dog.
Licking your dog clean is impossible. But using the age old trick of making brushing and bathing a pleasant experience does work. One has to start it from the day one-that is from the day the pup reaches your home. Just lift the pup gently, holding him close to your body place him on a table already covered with a tablecloth. Let the pup stand on his four feet. Initially gently caress his body over its length from head to tail. Thereafter using a long handle brush for short hair breed and a brush without handle for long hair breed, brush the pup in the direction of growth of hair.
Do it gently. On day one just give two or three brush strokes and reward him with a tidbit placed on your palm. Lift the pup after he has finished eating and talking sweetly place him back on the ground. Next day repeat the procedure at the same time, just increase the number of brush strokes.
In two-three days the pup will start accepting the brush willingly in the hope of the reward. You can now start brushing in the opposite direction as well. Keep rewarding at the end of the session and while placing him back on the ground do reward him with sweet words as well.
Daily brushing invigorates the skin, enhances blood circulation and above all gives you an opportunity to inspect his skin minutely for external parasites, boils etc if any.
Whether to bathe or not to bathe is the next issue. If you ask my personal opinion my answer is ‘not necessary’. Dogs do not have sweat glands on their body, and as such they do not have a body odor and they do not require a daily bath like us. Still there are occasions when a bath becomes necessary and also there are owners who insist that their dog should share their beds and furniture, naturally a frequent bath becomes essential.
Some dogs enjoy baths and some don’t. With slight ingenuity you can make it a pleasant experience for your dog. All you need is a tub or basin which can comfortably accommodate your dog. It is better if it has a hook to anchor the leash. Even a trained dog should not be bathed without leash, as a wet dog if he decides to run wild your clothes and bed etc can become a mess in seconds. It is always better to spread a towel/bath mat at the base of the tub, so that the dog does not slip. Like us they too are scared of skidding or slipping. And if the pup is scared then he won’t enjoy the bath. While training a dog nothing but patience pays. Therefore to be on the safe side on day one just place the dog on the mat in the tub, leash him to the hook on the tub, caress him for few minutes, talk to him soothingly and take him out and reward him lavishly for being a good boy. After one or two repeats in coming days place him on the mat and wet his feet and hind portion. Scrub it, drain out water, lift the dog and place him on a dry mat. Thereafter dry him well with a towel. As usual reward him after the procedure for the day is over.
You can decide a command for the whole thing and each day start rinsing more parts of his body, except his head and ears. Once he accepts the procedure you can start soaping and shampooing the rinsed parts. Drying a dog thoroughly is more important than bathing.
You can also use a hair dryer to facilitate your job. But as usual for each procedure you have to condition the dog to accept it willingly. The whine of the dryer is too much for some dogs. Therefore it is best to take help of some other family member to switch on the hair dryer in the next room, as the dog is being dried in the bathroom. Gradually bring the dryer closer to him. Please do not it continuously and do not make sudden movements to alarm him. The moment he accepts the blow of hot air on his body reward him well.
Now the last phase of bath remains. If you go through the drill slowly and systematically, rinsing his head will become easy for you. Plug his ears with cotton wool as water in the ears can be very inconvenient for the dog. Also avoid a direct blast of water on his nostrils and ears. As usual dry him after removing all the traces of soap/shampoo.
As I said dogs do not require a daily or for that matter frequent baths. Depending upon the climate and other conditions the owners should be able to decide when to bathe the dog. Daily grooming is a must and if your dog goes on walks regularly then rinsing and drying their paws on return is not a bad idea.
Once the dog realizes that a grooming session or a bath is rewarding and great fun, he looks forward for them. He may even bring his brush or towel and place it at your feet, asking you to give him a bath.
Since dog becomes a part of the family his training too is divided in to separate chapters. One part of the training includes his daily routine like grooming, medication etc and the other part includes serious lessons like coming when called, sitting on command etc. I will deal with all aspects of training gradually.