My Jack Russell Terrier Hates Baths! [4 reasons why & 5 helpful bath time tips]

Your Jack Russell Terrier has just run through the mud, and you’ve decided it’s bath time! You get everything ready – the water is warm, and the towels and doggy shampoo are waiting…you look around…but where’s your dog? He’s made himself scarce and is now hiding under the bed.

Your Jack Russell Terrier isn’t the first and won’t be the last dog to dislike bath time! In fact, it is quite common.

The good news is that with a few small adjustments, you can make the bath time experience far more pleasant for both you and your Jack Russell Terrier.

But firstly, let look at why Jack Russell Terriers might need a bath.

Does your Jack Russell Terrier Actually Need Regular Bathing?

Most times the reason for bathing your Jack Russell Terrier is simply to make them easier to live with, especially if they are inside dogs or sleep in your bed. No one wants them tracking mud through the house, nor does anyone enjoy cuddling a stinky dog.

Short coat Jack Russell Terriers with healthy skin really don’t need to take regular baths, unless they get dirty a lot.

Long coat and broken coat Jack Russell Terriers, on the other hand, benefit from regular shampoo and conditioning to help keep their coat from matting and becoming unmanageable.

So then why do dogs hate baths so much?

Why do some Jack Russell Terriers hate baths so much but readily jump into muddy puddles, lakes, and streams at any given opportunity? Why do they like getting covered in mud, but detest getting clean?

Let’s find out…

1. It’s an Unfamiliar Experience

Imagine being picked up and plunged into a tub of water and soaped up with shampoo without any warning. This would be not only confusing but downright scary for your terrier.

If bath time is new for your Jack Russell Terrier or something that doesn’t happen often, they may be freaked out by this unfamiliar experience.

2. Bath Time Feels Stressful

Jack Russell Terriers often take their emotional cues from their owners. If you see bath time as a stressful experience, chances are your terrier will also.

Raising your voice at your Jack Russell Terrier, handling them roughly or hurrying through the bath teaches them that baths are something to be feared. It is best not to bath your terrier when you are frustrated as they will be able to sense this and it may be enough for them dread baths in the future.

3. It’s not just the water – it’s also about the loss of control

Jack Russell Terriers who love to swim can dislike baths as much as terriers who won’t go near the beach.

When a Jack Russell Terrier chooses to go swimming, it’s a fun activity they want to participate in, they are in control, and no one is forcing them.

Being forced to have a bath, where they’re touched and handled in ways they may not like and then having water dumped all over them is a completely different experience. It’s not so much about being wet, it’s the loss of choice and control that can be very upsetting to a Jack Russell Terrier.

4. Previous Bad Experiences

For some Jack Russell Terriers, bath time can provoke feelings of fear or anxiety because it reminds them of a traumatic past experience.

A bad experience like getting scalded by hot water, getting water up the nose, or getting shampoo in the eyes can traumatize your Jack Russell Terrier and teach them to fear baths.

Even the most conscientious owner may not realize that something simple like their terrier slipping and not being able to find their balance in the tub can create panic and leave a lasting negative impression.

So how do you bath a Jack Russell Terrier who hates bath time?

Your approach bath time really depends by your Jack Russell Terrier’s level of fear or anxiety. Some terriers may look a little miserable, while others may be so overcome with fear that the try to escape, pant, growl, or bite.

It is important to make sure bath time is a positive experience and your attitude can greatly influence this. If you are stressed, frustrated, or feeling rushed, your dog will pick up on this, so it is best to wait until you are more relaxed.  

1. Create positive associations

Create positive associations by allowing your Jack Russell Terrier to associate bath time with food. Start with feeding them in the bath time area and then move their bowl into the bathtub, or shower stall. Allow them to freely climb in and out to reinforce their feelings of choice and being in control. Don’t be tempted to bath them straight away, give them time to feel comfortable in this area.

Also give them some toys to play with in the bath time area to further increase these positive associations.

Once your Jack Russell Terrier is comfortable in the bath time area, remove their food but leave the toys. Turn on the water and gauge their reaction. If they appear comfortable, begin wetting their paws and splash a little water on them. Remember to keep things fun and light and make a game out of it.

Slowly work up to wetting them completely and lathering them with shampoo. Continue to watch your Jack Russell Terrier’s behavior and if at any stage they appear agitated, stop, and try again another day.

2. Bath your Jack Russell Terrier indoors

There are a couple of reasons why bathing your Jack Russell Terrier indoors is a good idea. Firstly, the water from your hose is freezing, especially on a cold day, but even in the summertime, it can be too cold for your Jack Russell Terrier. This can make even the most water loving terriers absolutely dread bath time!

Secondly, when bathing your Jack Russell Terrier outdoors, you are more than likely restraining them so they can’t escape. Forcing them to stay put in a frightening situation just compounds the scariness.

Moving bath area indoors (bathtub, shower stall or even a sink) enables you to adjust the water temperature and use the natural contours of the space to encourage your Jack Russell Terrier to stay put without forcing them.

3. Use a nonslip rubber mat on the slippery tub floor

The reason your Jack Russell Terrier hates bath time could be due to feeling unsteady on the slippery, wet shower stall or tub.

This type of sensory experience is not something they encounter in nature, so it can be quite unsettling for them, and it adds to any feelings of not being in control. It’s the same for us, slipping in the shower can not only be painful, but it can also create a heighten sense of anxiety.

The best way to remedy this is to put a mat or even a towel down on the floor of the bathtub to prevent your Jack Russell Terrier from slipping. This will give them a sense of something solid under their feet and build trust in the bathing process.

4. Use gentle, mild-smelling shampoo

Jack Russell Terriers have a sense of smell that is 40 times stronger than ours. As you can imagine this can make strong smelling shampoos quite overwhelming.

Unscented or lightly scented shampoos specifically formulated for dogs are the best ones to choose. Avoid bathing your Jack Russell Terrier using human shampoo or body wash as this strips the natural oils out of their coat.

5. Test the water temperature

Jack Russell Terrier are sensitive to hot and cold, so water temperature is very important. You should always test the temperature by putting your hands under the running water to ensure it is not too hot or cold for your Jack Russell Terrier. The best water temperature for your Jack Russell Terrier’s bath is warm but not scorching.


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