The trick to getting your pup to be a compliant canine and let you wash down his dirty face is simple: treat him like a kid. Follow in the footsteps of the parents who use paper towels or rags to wipe off smears of spaghetti sauce and chocolate from the little cheeks, chins and lips of their children. Because dousing your pup's face with running water is a big no-no.
Show your pup that running water and the bathtub cause fun things to happen. Dogs generally fear either the flowing water or the tub itself. Your pup's fear can stem from a lot of things, from a bad experience to having his initial fear of the bath accidentally positively reinforced. Before you can keep his head somewhat still and bathe his face, you need to counter condition him. The gist is simple: start out slow and reward him for responding positively. Ideas include sitting a few feet away from the bathtub and petting him, leaving the water running slowly so he can check it out on his own accord, and tossing a treat or two near the tub. As he continues to respond positively, ratchet it up a notch by getting closer to the tub or turning the water on to a higher setting.
Coax your pup into the bath and allow him to stand there freely. Unless he poses a danger to himself or you, it's best if you don't leash him and force him to remain in position. If he feels that he can't escape, he may thrash around more.
Check the water. Make sure it's lukewarm, and then wet a washcloth. Gently wipe the cloth on your pup's face, taking care to avoid his eyes and mouth. He might pull away at first, but the little massage action should feel good and he likely won't put up too much of a fuss. If he does throw a fit, try to associate the washcloth with something positive, just as you did with the bath and running water.
Pour a tiny amount of shampoo onto your fingers and do a little rub-a-dub scrub on your pup's face. Do not get any into his eyes or mouth. A dab of shampoo will usually suffice.
Whip out the washcloth again. Rub down your pup's face, rinsing out all the shampoo. You might need to re-wet the cloth a few times so that all the shampoo comes off. Once you're all done, give your pup a treat for putting up with so much torture.
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- Opt for waterless shampoo as an alternative to using water, which you just dab onto your pup's face, rub in and then wipe off.
- Talk to your pup throughout his cleaning. Make him relaxed or at least not so frantic.
- Always take your time so you do not get shampoo in your pup's eyes or mouth. The burning sensation and bad taste can make him hate baths even more in the future.
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