If a dog already has a high level of anxiety or fear, pet owners can attempt to modify their dog’s behavior using desensitization and counterconditioning, Levine notes. This can be a slow process that involves showing your dog that baths are not as scary as he thinks, while also building positive associations with the experience.
“For instance, if we have a dog who is shaking or panting while they’re in the tub, we’ll say ‘No baths for a while,’ and just slowly let them learn that getting near the tub is safe and it’s positive,” Levine says.
If your dog is motivated by food, save his favorite snack and use it to make a trail leading up to the bathtub. This can help your pup learn to approach the tub on his own — and, eventually, get in on his own too.
“Giving animals choice is huge, and when we’re doing desensitization and counterconditioning, we have to go at their pace, not our pace,” Levine notes. “They get in on their own, it’s their choice, and then, if they’re scared of the water, don’t turn the water on — maybe have a bucket and start with a light sponge, give treats and get out.”
Getting a little playful during bathtime can also help ease feelings of anxiety. Playing games, such as having your pup jump in and out of the tub or chasing his favorite squeaky toy, can add a little fun to the big event and help everyone relax.