Tips for bath anxiety

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sourced from: https://www.reddit.com/r/Dogtraining/comments/j0tg9k/tips_for_bath_anxiety/

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Hoping to get some tips from people who were able to get their anxious dogs comfortable with baths. I've had my dog since he was a year old and he's now just over 2, so had him a little longer than a year. Adopted him from people who were rehoming him because they'd gotten him as a puppy and their other dog had never gotten used to the idea of having another dog around. Lab/border collie mix as far as I know, about 70 lbs. He is mostly a really good, sweet dog. Friendly with people, good at the dog park, does well with commands and recall.

He definitely does have an anxious side, though. When I took him to the vet the first time, he was so anxious and fearful that he had to be completely sedated for them to get anything done. I'd not heard from the previous owners that this was a problem and it was a surprise to me. What I've found since then is that, in general, he really hates being messed with in any way. He doesn't like when I wipe his paws, though I've been able to slowly get him better at that by offering treats every time, and he's improved. He sometimes tries to bite the towel that I use to wipe them, though it doesn't seem aggressive and it seems more like he's trying to play tug-of-war with it (that's his favorite). He doesn't even like when I put his flea/tick medication on him and gets very anxious.

When it comes to an actual bath, it has been very difficult for me to get it done successfully. I used to live in a house with a yard and a deck so it was easier–I gave him peanut butter to lick and he was mostly pretty distracted til I had to rinse him off, at which point he got really scared. I just let him run around the yard to dry so I didn't have to mess with him again. A few months ago, though, I moved to an apartment so I now have no other option than to bathe him inside when he needs it. I've been successful once before now in just doing it slowly, but he still clearly didn't like it and was nervous enough that he didn't want to eat any of the treats I brought in with me. Today I tried, and he was not having it. I tried to do it gently, but quickly stopped when he got so scared he snapped. I certainly don't want to make him even more scared of it and I'm afraid that's what happened today.

Just hoping to hear if anyone has been successful with a dog like this. Because when he's relaxed, he has no problem with me touching him, messing with his paws, etc. But he can definitely sense that the scenario is different with a bath or with the vet. I'm hoping in the future to hire a professional trainer/behavior expert, but right now I'm going through chemo for lymphoma and with COVID I can't have any strangers in the house at all due to infection risk. So I want to know if there is anything I can do in the meantime to help with the situation, and maybe even to help with his situational anxiety in general. Thank you in advance!

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