Bath Time Can Also Be Puppy Training Time


Puppy being given a bath

When a puppy joins your family, life has a way of turning into a lot of fun and a lot of dedicated work. Most people say that they never knew they could love something so much… it’s those puppy eyes. They will melt your heart every time. The stronger the connection, the easier a time you will have with training. Every moment is a training opportunity for a puppy. Bath time can also be puppy training time.

How Often Should I Give My Dog a Bath?

We get this question a lot. Honestly, there is no one right answer. Bathing a puppy depends on a lot of things.

  • Is your dog a ‘ruff’ and tumble outside, playing in the dirt kind of dog?
  • Is your dog a double coat breed?
  • Is your dog a hairless breed?

So many questions! But your answer helps identify the correct answer for your specific dog. If your dog likes to get dirty outside, then you’ll want to wash him/her post playtime. If your dog has a double coat, less frequent washing will suffice. However, surprisingly, hairless dogs tend to require more cleaning.

How About My Puppy?

For a puppy, you have two goals. The first being to create a tolerance for bathing. This requires more frequent washing. And, the second goal is to get your puppy clean - which may require less washing. So, we like the weekly approach where you place your puppy into the tub and depending upon cleanliness you give your puppy a rinse or a full bath. This will help acclimate your puppy to bath time.

But, Did You Know Bath Time Can Also Be Puppy Training Time?

Yes, it can! It’s a good idea to brush and comb your puppy before bathing. This will decrease tangles. This pre-bathing ritual can be turned into training time. Also, when you are bathing your dog, teaching him/her to accept being in the water, treats will come in handy and help get your puppy to pay attention in this new, wet, environment.

Below are some of the training ideas we recommend for when you bath your puppy:

  • Paw Shake - when you are grooming your puppy before bathing, practice the paw shake trick. There are two methods that we like to incorporate during bath time.
    • Hold Out: Lift your hand in front of your puppy and wait until your puppy lifts his or her paw to play with your hand. When your puppy touches your outstretched hand, say “shake” and give praise and treats.
    • Tap: Gently tap your puppy’s dewclaw to trigger a natural lifting of the paw response. As soon as your puppy lifts his or her paw, take it in your hand and say “shake” and give praise and treats.

  • Sit - Fill the tub to your puppy’s ankles with warm water. Now, gently place your puppy in the tub. Your puppy will explore, and walk around a bit - this is normal. Once your puppy is done circling, s/he will look at you. This is where you show your puppy a treat, then close your hand around the treat. Following the sit training we provided earlier, have your puppy sit in the water. Once s/he sits, open your hand and give the treat and praise. Getting your dog used to sitting in bath water will be a plus once fully grown. 

  • Stand Up - Teaching your puppy to stand up in the tub is one of the most helpful things you can teach him or her. Now, depending upon the size of your puppy you may need to start this training in the sink. But the goal is to have your puppy stand up and place his/her paws on the side of the tub/sink. This will allow you to wash the precious ‘puppy tummy!’ Just like the sit training above, you use the same closed hand with a treat approach - keeping it just out of reach hovering above the edge of the tub/sink. This will make your puppy come up on to his/her back paws and naturally lean on the side of the tub/sink in an effort to get the treat. When your puppy hits the mark, say “stand up” and give your puppy treats and praise.
  • Shake - This one isn’t really training in the traditional sense. But, boy… Will it come in handy. Dogs have a propensity to shake when they get wet. So, what you want to do is get them to associate the word “shake” when they do this very natural, instinctive act. Get your puppy trained to bath shake and you’ll save yourself a lot of wet clothes. What you want to do when your puppy shakes water of him/herself is to say the word “shake” and quickly close the shower/tub curtain or sliding door. Give your puppy a treat and praise when you open the curtain/sliding door back up. With continual practice, you will be able to get your puppy to shake on command. This will allow you to keep dry, and once your dog gets full grown you’ll be so glad you taught him/her the ‘shake in the tub’ trick.

There you have it! There are several different things you can teach your puppy in the tub. When you make bath time puppy training time, the only thing you need is an imagination. And treats. You’ll definitely need treats. And maybe even a little rubber ducky or two. Puppy’s love to chase squeaky little toys around in the tub!


Rebecca Sanchez

Rebecca Sanchez lives in Seattle with her husband and three dogs and is a published author, and nationally recognized leader in the pet industry. Known as The Pet Lifestyle Guru™ Rebecca firmly believes “we need animals as much as they need us!” Rebecca specializes in researching and writing about holistic dog health and nutrition, and develops DIY recipes designed to enhance a pup's well-being.


Leave a comment