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Is Bathing Your Dog Hurting You? 4 Things Can Prevent Back Pain and Injury When Washing Your Pup

Splish splash, don't hurt your back.


Humans and dogs have a lot of things in common. A love of baths, however, isn’t one of them. Many dogs dread bath time — whining, thrashing, and attempting escape as soon as they hear the tub’s water turn on — and kneeling on a tiled bathroom floor while leaning over said tub to both calm and clean them can cause severe back pain. Fortunately, there’s a better way to do it. Here are tips for avoiding back pain while bathing your dog.

How can I make my dog calm down for baths?

It’s common for dogs to be stressed in the bath. Even water-loving pups can feel confused and anxious in a tight space with loud, running water and pungent soap. Helping your dog calm down will mean more fun for Fido and less chance of pain and injury (from your dog’s stressful splashing and thrashing) for you. To keep your dog calm during a bath, Chewy recommends

  • Spreading xylitol-free peanut butter on the shower wall for your dog to lick as a distraction.
  • Exercising your dog before the bath to tire him or her out.
  • Finding the right temperature for your dog’s bathwater (your dog’s heat tolerance is close to that of a baby’s, so warm water is better than hot).
  • Feeding your dog in the empty bathtub regularly to create positive associations with the space.

How To Keep Pain at Bay During Doggy Bath Time

No matter how calm your dog is during her bath, the task is fraught with pain potential — including back injuries from lifting heavy dogs and hunching over a tub for a long time, according to Fulk Chiropractic. See what you can do to get your pup clean without getting hurt below. 

Create space. 

Trying to bathe your dog without knocking over the towel rack or bumping into the laundry hamper is a recipe for disaster and potential back pain. To avoid these problems, recommends creating free space for yourself and your dog to move around comfortably. A surefire way to ensure more space is to wash your dog outside or in a closed garage; if you opt for the outdoors, make sure you’re not in an area that will turn muddy. 

Make time for puppy-spa mise en place.

Have you ever run a bath for your dog, wrestled to get her in the water, then realized you forgot to gather the supplies you actually need for the bath? Erratically reaching for slippery shampoo bottles and inconveniently-placed washrags can cause extra stress, potential injury, and opportunities for Fluffy to escape the tub. Pet blog Tail Wag Wisdom says to make sure everything you’ll need — including towels, shampoo, and any cups or shower sprayers for rinsing — is within reach ahead of time. 

Be aware of your posture.

Whether you’re hunched over your dog in a tub, at a sink, or in the backyard, all that leaning can cause pain. Maintaining proper posture can help keep that pain at bay. When lifting your dog, keep your back straight and bend at the knees; from here, squat with a straight back to lower your pup into the tub, says Fulk Chiropractic. Additionally, instead of leaning over your dog, sit on the floor by the tub (or on the ground if outside), keeping your dog close to you. warns against quick turns and sudden movements, since these can cause slips and twists. Instead, keep your feet, hips, and shoulders facing the same direction, and move your whole body at the same time when you need to turn. If you’re washing a small dog in a sink, brace your legs against the cabinets, recommends Tail Wag Wisdom. By doing this, you’re reducing back strain from standing for a long time. 

Do regular cleanings between baths. 

To avoid bath time back injury, simply give your dog fewer baths. We’re not suggesting you let your dog get filthy, of course; if Spot rolled in something stinky at the dog park, she’ll need the full spa treatment. But when it comes to the regular cleansing of everyday grime, Hill’s says your dog only needs a bath once every few months (over-bathing can dry out their skin anyway). Keep in mind that your dog’s needs may vary depending on breed, lifestyle, coat type, and health conditions. In between baths, keep Fido fresh with a clean washcloth wipe-down — or if you really want to make him smell good, try the vet-created dog wipes and cologne from DOG by Dr Lisa

Is your dog looking dingy? Hopefully these tips can make the bathing process as pain-free as possible. 

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