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How to stop my dog shaking in the bath?

Keri Squibb

Q How much water can a dog shake off in one go?

A Up to 70% in 4 seconds. WOW. It is no wonder you end up soaked if you are stood right next to him/her.

Those of us who have ever had to bath a dog will, I am sure, have experienced that feeling of despair when said dog is absolutely drenched and they go into their pre shake stance. You know the one, the head begins to tilt, then your dog shakes it's head from side to side followed by all the skin on it's body seemingly rolling from one side to the other, all whilst standing in one spot  - usually next to an unlucky human!!!

I have good news for you, there are ways to stop them shaking when you are bathing them. Or at least minimising the damage depending upon how determined your dog is to rid itself of that pesky water.

Dog shaking water off


First let us visit why your dog (or other mammals for that matter) shake. 

A fur coat holds a great deal of water and when next to the skin this makes your dog cold. Drying a wet coat without shaking requires a huge amount of energy and also risks hypothermia in the process. And so they shake. Remove that 70% of water and thereby greatly reduce drying time AND save precious energy.

Have you also noticed that large dogs shake more slowly than smaller dogs? This is all to do with the science. All animals must shake at the same frequency in order to displace water but those with a smaller radius have to shake faster to reach the same frequency or speed. 

We have therefore established that they need to shake, for their own health and wellbeing, but sometimes just delaying it slightly can save your sanity, your clothes and your bathroom floor.

How can I stop my dog shaking?

Most dogs tend to shake when they get water on their heads so when bathing start with the body, wash and rinse that first while leave the head and neck area dry. Then drape a large towel over your dog's body, large enough to sit on them and not fall off before moving on to the head section. This means that if a shake then ensues during the head wash, you are at least minimising the damage.

There is however a useful way to stop your dog shaking if you detect they are just about to go for the fully body roll mid bath. As they prepare to shake just rest your hand on the top of the head or high up on their neck just at the back of the head. Not hard, but firmly enough for them to feel gentle pressure. It is not infallible but 90% of the time it works! They will stop before they get started and you can carry on without looking like a drowned rat.

Sometimes there is just nothing you can do to stop the inevitable. For those moments advance preparation is key. Keep a large towel next to you and be in a position to grab it and hold it up in front of you as a curtain so at least the towel bears the brunt of the shower.

Do you have your own top tips? Please do share them with me. 



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1 comment

  • I don’t try to stop them, I think they enjoy it and (as you’ve said) it’s a natural thing for them to do to help them get rid of water which can make them cold. I’m very much the curtain towel holder – one sign of that head beginning to twitch and I’m there in a flash like I’m measuring curtains for french windows ;)


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