The Bathtub Saga

Baxter has learned to tolerate, accept, and be brave towards many things in his new life as a house dog. He flies up and down stairs now, he hops in the car with no question, he doesn’t startle at the loud sound of someone dropping something upstairs. He has not, however, become friends yet with bath time.

For whatever reason (oh, I don’t know – maybe the small space, the loud rushing water, or the slippery floors) Baxter finds fear in the bathroom. He panics and shuts down as soon as the door closes. I could probably pick him up and force him to stay still while I quickly soap him up and rinse him off, but his poor trembling body its efforts to get out of the tub for the entire time just makes it a traumatizing experience for both of us.

So what do I do? Turn to Baxter’s always reliable friend: food.

This feat of luring with food was more difficult with the tub than it’s been with other hurdles. I put Baxter’s whole meal inside the tub so he had to climb in on his own. This is pretty irresistible for a little chubster like Baxter. He initially had some trouble figuring out how to get in the tub, walking back and forth to me in my room many times making his “mama, I can’t get my dinner!” noises [insert serious puppy eyes here]. I’m not sure if that was fear based or just plain dumb-dog syndrome.

After a few meals Baxter is now fine with getting in to the tub on his own to eat his kibble (you can see in the pictures below I had to make him a little step stool out of towels).  He still gets a little nervous when I walk into the bathroom with him, scared that I’ll pull the dreaded spitting snake out of the sky to terrorize him. For now, I just walk in and out calmly while he is eating so he doesn’t associate me with the spitting snake. I have even gotten him to eat his dinner in the tub with the water running softly!

It will still take a long time for him to be okay with me in there with him, not to mention putting water and sudsy stuff all over him. I haven’t been as diligent about desensitizing him as I should be, so I don’t doubt that this situation will be similar to the other obstacles he’s overcome – once he figures it out he’ll be okay with it. Silly Bax just needs a little bit of extra reassurance, and that is what foster homes are for

I’ll try to keep you updated with Baxter’s progress on the bathtub. We will continue to work on it and be patient in hopes that someday in the next few weeks we can produce soapy dog pictures!

For more information on adopting Comeback Kid Baxter, click here or email peacelovefoster@gmail.com.

12 thoughts on “The Bathtub Saga

  1. Janet in Cambridge

    I wish more people would understand and take the time (i.e., be patient) to desensitize their creatures to new activities they may be resistant to. This is so wonderful. It will end up being something he might actually enjoy or, at least, not shut down about. All because you take the time to do it at his pace.

  2. I am really impressed. I usually don’t do any work with the bathtub — I’ve just treated it like it’s inevitable that dogs will hate it but resign themselves. I’m going to work this with the Dude thanks to you — if I can ever get him to accept his crate, that is :)

  3. I had never thought about feeding them in the bathtub. What a great idea! We have general resignation about the bath in our house, no one likes it but everyone enjoys being blow-dried afterwards so they put up with it.

  4. Lynnie

    Jana that was hilarious! I love your descriptions. You really capture the feel of the situation. I read this entry to everyone at work and we were all laughing. I LOVE your blog!!!

  5. I had never thought about putting their whole meal in the tub. I’ve tried the “trail of treats” into the tub method, but never the whole meal. But for Turk and Rufus, it would have to be a pretty darn good meal to get in that tub and face the spitting snake!

    Good idea though – I will definitely give it a shot – maybe with hot dogs and stinky cheese!

  6. I never even thought of using dinner for tub training. We’ve always used cookies and it’s worked pretty well. Our Bella girl still is too scared of the bath. She’s not very food motivated so I don’t think this trick will work on her tough.

  7. We go through the bathtub struggle on a weekly basis with Zoe. She has allergies, and needs a medicated bath once a week. This involves making her sit in the tub covered in shampoo for ten straight minutes. Food used to work, but now she gets too depressed to eat it. I’ve found that massaging her is the only thing that keeps her calm, and then giving her tons of treats after the bath is over! :) Good luck!!! You guys are doing great.

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