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4 great ways to make bath time less stressful for your dog

As relaxing and refreshing as a bath might seem to you, your fur baby may not feel the same way. Whether it’s their first bath or the hundredth time they run from the sound of the bathtub faucet, helping your dog stay calm during bath time can be tricky, to say the least. Luckily, there are a few ways to work through and outsmart any of your furry friend’s worries, and we’ve got the secrets right here.

Savvy pet parents have figured out plenty of tried-and-true methods for keeping bath time low-key, so you’re bound to find something no matter what makes your dog’s tail wag. From distractions like toys and treats to relaxing environmental changes, you’ve got plenty of options to try out. Just don’t be surprised if you get a little wet in the process.

Take bath time outside

One unexpected solution to a fear of bathtubs is to take the tub out of the equation altogether. Many pet parents, particularly of larger dogs, may even find it easier to bathe their furry friends with a hose and doggie kiddie pool in the yard. Just remember to double-check the water pressure and temperature before diving right in — in fact, this makes a better warm-weather activity, especially if your dog loves running through the sprinklers.

You can tether them to a nearby structure or hold the leash yourself, but allow them some space to move around and be comfortable. The idea of going outside is to help your dog feel less cornered and confined, after all. Plus, the soothing sights and sounds of nature can be calming (or distracting) for just about anyone.

a small blonde wet dog stands in a bathtub with their owner petting them
benjamin lehman/Unsplash

Distract your pup with toys or treats

Who says distractions are always a bad thing? You can make bath time immensely more fun for your pooch by bringing along a few of their favorite items, whether it be a handful of treats to munch on or a toy to cuddle and play with. If your dog likes to be distracted by play, it’s even more essential that you invest in a nonslip bath mat to keep everyone safe and happy.

One recent invention has helped countless pets (and their people!) stay cool and collected during bath time: a suction cup lick mat. Simply smear peanut butter on the center, stick the cup to your bathtub’s wall, and let your dog enjoy while you’re scrubbing away.

Reduce loud noises during bath time

For many dogs, the loud noises and overstimulation that come with faucets and hair dryers are what make bath time so stressful. This is also why many dogs are more relaxed when bathing at home instead of around the sights and sounds of a busy grooming office.

It will help to prepare the bath and all your towels, shampoos, and other tools before you bring your pup into the room. Your dog might be tipped off by the sound of the bath from another room, but you can always let the water sit for a while before coaxing your pup in with positive reinforcement and a few treats.

Air-drying your dog might be necessary or at least helpful for pups who don’t like loud sounds. It takes a bit longer, but it’s worth it if it makes bath time easier in the long run. Just grab an extra towel or two!

a wet brown dog stands in a bathtub and has suds rubbed over them by their owner

Take baby steps toward the tub

No matter why your dog is nervous around the tub, it will comfort them to take baby steps instead of being forced to jump in (not literally, of course). Some dog owners don’t want to take the time to acclimate their pup to the bathroom environment, but doing this will help reinforce their feeling of safety.

Try getting your dog used to the tub without water in it before you attempt a bath. If you need to toss in a treat to tempt them to step in, go for it! Just don’t forget to praise and reward them when they do. As they begin to associate the bathtub with these positive memories and yummy treats, they won’t be nearly as nervous to follow you in for a wash next time around.

Whatever your dog’s past may be, or whatever the reason they’re stressed around the bath, you can help them make more positive associations. After some TLC and a little time, washing your pup will be a breeze. They’ll look like a whole new dog, and you won’t be soaked in soapy water! Well, not completely, anyway. Shake happens!

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Gabrielle LaFrank
Gabrielle LaFrank has written for sites such as Psych2Go, Elite Daily, and, currently, PawTracks. When she's not writing, you…
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