Life Skills Unlocked

Life Skills Unlocked: Dog Washing


I am dogsitting Lia at the moment, and she’s taken a particular shine to the rug beneath my dining table. This is fine (she is a spoiled baby of a black labrador), but she had a distinct doggy odour going on and I started to worry that it would permeate the rug forever, so I decided I had to bathe her.

Let me explain quickly about Lia; Lia is my family’s dog. She just turned eleven years old, and she has in the past had two separate surgeries on her legs, first for ripping ligaments in her back leg and then for a torn tendon that fell down around her front ankle like a knee-high sock that had slipped. She’s understandably sensitive about her legs and the possibility of hurting them again. At the same time, she is no stranger to bathtime given her unfortunate propensity for rolling on dead things and swimming in the sea.

She’s a little wary of getting in and out of the tub because she has a real and comprehensible fear of slipping or getting one of her legs stuck at an awkward angle. It can take her a minute to build up the courage to get into the tub, even with the McGyver-ed steps I make for her out of giant suitcases and old towels. This time was worse than usual, so I’ve created a tutorial to guide anyone else who might have an traumatophobic dog.


Step One: Assemble the supplies.


  • Gather a large jug, dog shampoo, brush, treats (for bribing) and towels and line them up in the bathroom.
  • Try not to alert suspicion.
  • If you do alert suspicion, try to ignore the wary side-eye your dog is throwing you from the safety of her bed.


Step Two: Obtain Dog.


  • Ask dog to come to the bathroom.
  • When she pretends to be asleep, go to her bed and try to peel her from it.
  • Try to ignore the fact that she is clinging determinedly to her manky bed.
  • Realise the manky bed cannot be washed.
  • Wonder if it is worth buying a new bed altogether.
  • Engage in a one-sided wrestling match with dog while she pretends not to have even noticed you there.
  • Finally manage to herd her into the bathroom.


Step Three: Settle In.


  • This step is important because if your dog is anything like mine, this is going to be A Task. Show her the bath and the convoluted step system you have set up in order for her to get in without needing to jump.
  • Ignore her look of concern that says she doesn’t trust your mediocre construction skills at all and has severe doubts about this shoddy plan. Explain that you have experience in construction (from playing with Lego as a child) and ask her to get that look of skepticism off her face.
  • Engage in a stand off during which she refuses to get into the bathtub, and you refuse to let her leave the bathroom (this step can take anything from five to twenty minutes).


Step Four: Get Dog Into Tub


  • Slowly coax your dog onto the first step with treats. Show her the step on the other side, and encourage her to get into the bathtub.
  • Once she has her front paws inside the tub and her back legs outside the tub, she may decide that this as far as her courage will take her. At this point she will lock every muscle in her body and stand stock-still, toes gripping the steps in quiet desperation as she looks to the sky with the unmistakeable plea of “Why, God?”
  • Consider giving yourself a hernia by attempting to lift her into the tub.
  • Try it and realise you can’t even lift one of her paws, let alone her whole body.
  • After half an hour has passed, begin to wonder if your dog will simply have to live here in this bathroom – half in and half out of the tub – for the rest of her natural life.
  • Sigh with relief when your dog decides to continue the adventure just as you were giving up hope and starting to think about the logistics of renovating a bathroom around the frozen form of a black labrador.


Step Five: Wash Dog


  • Make sure the water is lukewarm and slather your dog in shampoo. Rub it in with plenty of water to get the suds through her coat.
  • Tell your dog that she is a good girl and that her bravery knows no bounds as proven by her heroic odyssey into the tub.
  • Once she is sudsy and smells more like tea tree oil than dog, rinse thoroughly either with the shower head or with a large jug. Make sure to squeeze the suds out of her tail, her ears and her feet.


Step Six: Get Dog Out Of Tub


  • Let all the water drain from the tub before placing an old towel in the bathtub and wiping the bottom of it until it is bone dry.
  • Place treats on the far side of the bathroom as an incentive, and ask your dog to kindly get out of the tub before you fall into a coma of inertia. Ignore the look on her face that says she feels BETRAYED that after all your talk of her bravery, you are asking her to prove it a second time.
  • Stand there like a gom for about ten minutes before the lure of both treats and the very idea of being out of the tub proves too much to resist and your dog rockets out with a burst of energy probably born from pure adrenaline.


Step Seven: That’s A Wrap!


  • Catch your wet furry missile of a dog, wrap in a large old towel and laugh at how much she resembles Mother Teresa.
  • Rub her until she is no longer leaving water trails wherever she goes. This may require more than one old towel.
  • Follow her to her bed and dry her using the lowest setting of your hairdryer while she falls into a deep and immediate slumber.
  • Wonder how many years that entire process just knocked off your life. Decide you may need a nap yourself, but then remember you have a large amount of hair to pull out of the bathroom drain so go do that instead.

So there you have it, the seven steps to a clean dog!

Now just try to keep her from rolling on anything dead and decomposing so you don’t have to go through that ordeal again anytime soon.

Bonus Mother Teresa picture


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