Know Your Pooch
My dog hates a bath
I have been writing about so many behavioral problems of dogs and their solutions. Thanks to Tree Take some readers have started to approach me with specific issues. One reader who belongs to Lucknow and is posted in Ahmedabad, says that her dog shuns baths and if one tries to catch him he bites. He bites me too when I visit home during holidays.
The reader has combined two different issues in one. However, I will explain the reasons and solutions for them separately. In one of my earlier articles, I have already said that since dogs do not have sweat glands under their skin, they do not need regular baths. However, even for occasional baths or sponge baths or brushing, one has to touch the dog. Unless you and your dog are conditioned for that bathing or grooming will always remain an issue.
When a family acquires/adopts a puppy for the first time, often people touch him gingerly. The pup, though too young, makes out that you are not very confident of what you are doing. He keeps this somewhere in his RAM. On the other hand if you touch the dog with firm fingers, stroke his forehead and under the chin, if need be stroke his tummy he understands that you are the Master. This is because before reaching your home he was with his littermates and dam. She used to lick him, turn him over and lick his belly too. That is how they groom their puppies-they don’t bathe them. But unfortunately, when a puppy reaches your home, the first thing you are worried about is how am I going to bathe him? Suppose he bites me? Oh, those terrible anti-rabies shots, I loathe them. Trust me nothing of that sort is going to happen, if you know certain basic things.
Among dogs touch is very significant. All dams lick their puppies to clean them. Littermates too lick and play bite often. Body contact gives them a confidence of being in a pack. When he reaches your home, if you stroke him and pat him and talk to him in soft tones, he will respond by wagging his tail and even may lick your hand. Somehow I personally don’t like a dog licking my cheek. Some people may disagree, but I said ‘personally.’
Now let us go back to the issue of bathing a dog, whether a puppy or a full grown, untrained dog. You should never start bathing your dog all of a sudden. First train him a bit. Not a very difficult thing to make him stand on all the four legs and give a command, ‘Bojo, Stand, Stay. Just count up to five and feed him a tidbit straight from your hand, all the time praising him with the choicest praises laced with all the honey in your voice.
Next time count up to six and go on increasing the number of counts (seconds) with each repetition. I prefer to make my dog stand at the spot where I want to give him a bath. It can be in a large wash basin with a small, flexible pipe attached on the tap. Or may be a large table on which an old towel or a large foot mat is spread, so that he doesn’t slip. The table should be waterproof, with a tap and pipe handy. If the dog is too large, you can place him on the floor. In either case a tap, flexible pipe and some arrangement to hook a short leash on a wall. Put a strong collar around his neck, during these stand, stay sessions. Each time after the session is over, don’t forget to reward him with a tidbit and take off the collar.
Once you find that the dog stands comfortably for 15-20 mins, it is time to start bathing him. Keep some large towels, a brush and any talcum powder handy. Make the dog stand-stay. Attach the chain to his collar. As long as he stays he won’t even feel the chain, but if he changes his mind, he will not be able to take off. Your both hands will be free. Initially wet his hind portion only. Use your hands to ensure that his skin gets wet. Use a dog shampoo or a dog soap to bathe that part first. Keep talking to him, praising him in like before.
If you feel that the dog is getting restive, you may dry him well, keep praising and then at the end a moment before you take off the leash, reward him. But after that put on a normal leash on him, so that he doesn’t go and rub his body on the grass or anywhere else. Next time repeat the same feat, but now bathe him up to his shoulders. Avoid wetting his neck and face. Rest of the procedure remains the same, but please don’t forget to reward the dog with tidbit and praise.
Finally wet his neck too. After all soap has been removed from his neck and remaining body, wet his scalp. Better use ear plugs to prevent water entering the ears. Dog’s eyes, like ours burn a lot if soap enters. Thus be careful. At the end, first dry his face, then the rest of the body.
Now at the end, you have to start brushing the dog first from tail towards the head. Then sprinkle talcum powder all over and brush from head to tail. Mind you if your dog is a long haired one, then there are all the chances that there will be mats in the hair. While untangling them, be careful not to hurt him. After untangling each mat, I prefer to reward my dog, this ensures his cooperation. However, while this exercise is on, be prepared for a shower, because he will try to shake off all the water. You can correct him by using a different tone to say ‘Bojo, stay.’ If he corrects himself, please do reward him.
A well-groomed dog not only looks nice but he too feels the comfort. He doesn’t need a regular bath. But this exercise of making him stand and brushing him daily keeps his skin well-aerated and gives him relief from itching etc.
The next issue was that of dog trying to bite the owners. A normal, even tempered dog never does that. But any dog that has been rudely handled, shouted upon and thrashed for all his mistakes and never praised for his good deeds, gets confused. He is not sure of your intentions. Hence applies the dictum offence is the best defence. I have seen often owners treating their pet like their own child. Give him ice creams and chocolates etc. And on the other hand thrash him if he commits a slight mistake.
Some breeds like Lhasa apso, Lhasa Terrier, Chihuahua, Miniature Pincher etc. are often temperamental. Their small size makes them develop that kind of trait. The best way is to teach such dogs to Stay from the very beginning. While the pup is having his food, it is good to push the food with your fingers towards the middle of the bowl. Soon he realizes that these fingers are meant to feed him!
Such dogs need lots of patience. For example, when you enter the house, dog comes to you, barking happily. But as you extend your hand to hold him, he runs away. And in case you succeed, he turns back and bites your hand. It is better not to react when he comes to you barking and rushing. Just keep some tidbit handy. Use a sweet tone offer him a small piece on your palm. If you are jittery about that let him sniff your fist and you walk towards the spot where his bowl is placed. Drop the tidbit in the bowl and praise him as he gulps it. He may look for more, but just ignore him after that and walk away. Next time repeat the same procedure, but point your finger towards the bowl. Let him walk ahead of you or whatever. Gradually wean him to obey your commands of stay and let him understand the difference between a ‘good boy’ and a ‘bad boy.’ Both of these are used with different tones. While good boy has all the sugar in it, bad boy is said in a gruff, growling tone. But no shouting please. His hearing power is approximately 80 times more than you, whispers are enough.
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