Adventures in Dog Bathing

The great escape
By Karen B. London PhD, February 2015

The moment I looked out my window and saw the dog running down the street, I had a pretty good idea what had happened. He was dripping wet, which narrowed down the possibilities considerably, as it is too cold for standing water, but the suds all over him were the real give away. This was a dog who had escaped mid-bath and was running all over the neighborhood.

I understand that many dogs don’t like baths, and I’m sympathetic to a point. I really feel for them, and I certainly urge people to be gentle and kind as they bathe their dogs. I also recommend that a dog be bathed no more often than necessary. For many dogs that is almost never or just a few times a year, while for dogs with high grooming needs it may be every 4-6 weeks. Still, it’s my personal view that into each life, some rain must fall. Sometimes a dog needs to be cleaned up, whether it’s for routine hygiene or because he rolled in something foul, and that’s just the way it is

Rather than his psychological state, my more immediate concern about this dog was that temperatures would be dropping near zero overnight, and it’s not safe for a soaked dog to be roaming outside in such conditions. I rushed to get treats, a towel and a leash in the hopes that I could lure the dog to me, bring him inside to warm up and find out who was missing one half-clean dog.

By the time I made it outside, the dog was out of sight. I walked half a block hoping to catch sight of him again, and I saw that a neighbor was holding the dog. I rushed over to lend my leash and towel to the cause. After feeling relief for the dog, I looked at the man with concern. The man was wet and a little sudsy, his pants and shirt were torn, and his knees plus one elbow were badly scraped. He had made a diving grab at the dog, which was successful, but not smooth. I was impressed. Having spent a year working as a dog groomer, I know how hard it is to hold onto a wet soapy dog, and I’ve never had to “make a tackle in the open field” as they say in football.

Neither of us knew who the dog’s guardian was, but as we were heading to my house to warm the dog up, a very damp, slightly soapy and tearful woman came running around the corner, screamed “Shadow!” took the dog in her arms, and hugged him so hard I thought for sure he would have preferred the bath to the embrace. She told us that Shadow had jumped out of the sink right as her kids were coming home, and he had bolted through the open door. Luckily, it had only take her about 10 minutes to find him.

Few guardians’ lives have been free of adventures in dog bathing, though it’s rare for a dog to flee to the great outdoors. It’s typical to have dogs jump out of the tub, shake all over the living room, and rub their bodies along every bed and couch in the house, though some dogs simply try to hide.

Has your dog ever escaped during a bath?

Karen B. London, PhD, is a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist and Certified Professional Dog Trainer who specializes in working with dogs with serious behavioral problems, including aggression. She is the author of five books on canine training and behavior.