I know it seems absurd that a Labrador Retriever—bred to swim with that otter tail and water-repelling coat—may enjoy the water immensely, yet when its bath time, puts on the brakes as you walk them to the bathtub or hose.
When I realized my Lab despised bath time, I began to implement some things that turned bath time into ‘spa time’ in my Lab’s eyes, and totally revolutionized this experience she once dreaded.
Now, I have one Lab that stands outside the shower, nose pressed against the door, dying to join me. And sometimes I give in and open the door and giggle as I watch him stand in the corner, eyes closed, reveling in the morning ‘spritz.’ Not only that, but as soon as I turn on my blow dryer, he comes running—from wherever he is in the house—and begs for me to run it over his coat. I can’t help but oblige him since I’m such a sucker when it comes to my Labby loves.
But my other Lab hates water with a passion. She grew up right about the time we moved to our present home where we didn’t have a pond yet, nor a body of water anywhere close to us where she could grow up swimming. She is the reason I began the following bath ritual.
First of all, I put a leash on her and gently encourage her toward the shower with treats in hand. She gets treats all along the way, and again before I urge her into the actual shower area. Then, before entering the shower, I put a cotton ball inside each ear to prevent water from getting in the ear canal –which is not only irritating but can cause yeast issues. Once she is in, I drop the leash, and shower myself as she stands watching. Then I grab our organic dog shampoo and begin to massage it from head to tail. I spend a lot of time using my fingertips to work the shampoo into that typical Labrador double coat. I take about 5 minutes and watch closely for her eyes to close which signals that she is really enjoying the doggy massage.
Then, while rinsing, I use water that is not too cold and not too hot (I recommend the same when you begin with a quick rinse) As I rinse her head—another area you want to be careful of so soap does not get in her eyes— by tilting the head backwards so that the water runs towards her tail. Then, complete rinsing the entire body.
When finished, have towels pre-prepared outside of the shower so you can cover your Lab before they do their ‘shaky thing!’ Then proceed to rub your Lab dry in the same type of massaging motion. It usually takes me about 3 towels to get most of the water out of the coat. Then, let your ‘bathing beauty’ do the inevitable shake. Administer another treat at this time. Remove the cotton balls from the ears and gently dab the inside of the ear with a clean wash cloth or paper towel. Do not go deep into the ear canal unless your Lab has consistent ear issues. If this is the case, then apply a therapeutic ear cleaner, clean the inside of your dog’s ears, and apply a therapeutic oil blend. See instructions on ear cleaning here.
If your Lab is afraid of the blow-dryer, just let them drip-dry. If not, you can use it on low or high. Brush as you dry to remove any hair that has been loosened during the bath. After they’re dry, do another good brushing since the warm water tends to bring out a lot of dead coat.