Working Zeke Into the Bathtub

Zeke has always been terrified of bathrooms. I believe it is because 1. he didn’t have much experience being in or near them since he was locked in a kitchen for most of the time of his first few months of life.  & 2. the day his owners gave him up to us, they gave him a bath, possibly his first ever. I can see why that would be traumatic. Large man picks him up, manhandles him into the tub in a strange room, wets him for the first time, and then passes him off to a stranger & he never sees his “home” again. Understandable.

The majority of the time since getting Zeke we have bathed him outside. I quickly learned the hose is terrifying to him so I fill buckets to slowly pour over him which he doesn’t find quite so upsetting. I give him treats and scratches when he does a sit on cue or seems relaxed. He likes the drying off part and we play afterward.

But what to do in winter? Luckily, Zeke is very catlike and is a meticulous cleaner of himself. He licks his paws and cleans his ears, his legs, his entire body until he is white(ish) again. So we only bathe him about 4x a year. Last year I read this blog post and found it inspiring:

Panzer’s bathroom trials by Mymegaedog Panzer seemed to have a very similar problem and I decided to tackle Zeke’s fear as well.

We started a few weeks ago and have done 2 or 3 sessions, each about 3 minutes long, for a total of about 8 sessions.

The first session I had to sit at the top of the stairs in my Mom’s part of the house ( we don’t have a bathtub). He is familiar with her living area but never goes upstairs to the bedroom area, except once when we did have to carry him into the bathtub. (oops) This isn’t an option anymore since he is 72lbs and its a long flight of stairs! In the first session I had him going to the top of the stairs.

2nd session-I had him up the stairs and staying there, taking treats (no bolting back down.)

3 & 4th sessions, I was still sitting on the top step and having him go into the hallway and sitting there.

5th session, I moved to sitting in the hallway & threw a few treats just over the threshold of the bathroom

*side note-Zeke by this time was more comfortable with bathrooms in general and was now coming into our shower area downstairs and looking around.

6 & 7th sessions, I threw treats further and further into the bathroom & had Zeke lying down in the hallway just outside of the bathroom.

Today’s 8th session, I had Zeke sit & stay in the hallway, while I entered the bathroom and sat on the toilet giving him treats. He did well with this so I moved to sit on the edge of the bathtub. This was the big challenge for Zeke! I asked him to target to my outstretched hand. He sat, laid down, barked, backed up, ran inside and bumped his nose…into the air about 2 inches away from my hand and then backed up again. No treat for this. So I used a technique I use with the sea lion show I do at work. I call it the “distract, bridge, & try again quickly” technique. I let Zeke stay where he was, in the doorway. I asked for a sit, he did it, I enthusiastically say GOOD!!! (his bridge) and followed immediately with a TARGET! and bam, he was so caught up in the excitement of knowing his reward was on the way, he stepped in and firmly bumped my hand with his nose! Lots of treats (cheese by the way!) and I gave him the release to go back downstairs.

The next few sessions I will practice the targeting, getting him to sit or lay fully in the bathroom while I get up and walk around, and eventually, VERY eventually, step into the bathtub?

Thank you so much to Panzer and his Mom for reminding me I’m a trainer and can do this! It just takes a little time and consistency.


~ by manicivy on February 7, 2014.

8 Responses to “Working Zeke Into the Bathtub”

  1. Zeke is lucky to have you. You totally know how to tackle his fear. I’m lucky that Kobi loves bath time in the bathtub, but she does hate the hose so I typically use buckets of water or her little pool outside in the summer. She rolls in the snow all winter so she seems to stay pretty clean (and we never have a shortage of snow it seems).

  2. Poor Zeke. I am sure he will be loving the bathtub in no time.

  3. Great work with Zeke! 🙂

    I had a similar problem with Donna, she didn’t like to bathe or being enclosed in the small shower cubicle and did not even want to approach the shower. I started throwing some of her breakfast and dinner kibble into the toilet and slowly progress deeper with each meal until we were able to enter the shower cubicle. I still do the counter conditioning now and then because sometimes she regresses if we don’t keep it up.

    She tolerates it now, still hates bath but hey she gets chicken rather than kibble now and that’s a significant upgrade! 😛 Still can’t get her to like ear drops either 😛

  4. Well done you & Zeke 🙂 I have nominated you for ‘the Liebster Award’, you don’t have to feel obliged, I just took part as it was something a little different 🙂 You can read all about it here:

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