How to Bathe a Rescued Dog

Medium
20 - 40 Minutes
1 Month

Introduction

So you just adopted a dog from a rescue shelter and the thing is, well... he smells a bit funky! Often rescue shelters bathe dogs as part of their intake process, as uncared for dogs are often very soiled. However, if your rescue dog has not been bathed yet, or if he was in the shelter for any length of time, smells of his former life and smells of the shelter, where other dogs are living in kennels and cages and doing their business inside, can cling to fur. 

You will want to give your rescue dog a bath. This may go really smoothly--some rescue dogs love the attention and like water--or it might not. There can be some serious challenges when bathing a rescue dog; they may be really dirty, have matted fur, or have parasites. Also, rescue dogs may have previously been abused or never been bathed before, leading them to react in a frightened, aggressive, or excited way. Because you will probably not know your dog's history and experience with bathing, proceeding in a slow, careful manner and using a little trial and error to find out what works best when bathing your rescue dog will be necessary.

Dog's Perspective

A rescue dog has probably been through a lot. At the very least, the dog is experiencing a rehoming situation and a change in his residence, which will be very stressful even for a well-adjusted dog. Other rescue dogs may have experienced abuse and neglect, be suffering from malnutrition, parasites, health problems and even injury. A rescue dog may have limited or no experience with being groomed or bathed. 

It's not uncommon for a stressed or abused dog to react in a frightened or aggressive manner when handled, including receiving a bath. The enclosed area may make the dog nervous, or the sounds and feel of running water can startle him. Work slowly, talk calmly to the dog, and watch the dog for signs the dog is becoming overwhelmed or about to react aggressively. You may want to have an assistant help you handle the dog, reassure him, and watch for signs of trouble. Adjust your bathing as necessary, and try to be organized and keep the bath short so as not to cause undue anxiety in a rescue dog.

Caution & Considerations

  • Look for parasites like fleas, ticks, and mites when bathing as they are common on rescue dogs.
  • Move slowly, gently, and reassure the dog throughout the process.
  • If the dog shows signs of aggression, stop what you're doing and take precautions to not be injured. For example, use a muzzle or use heavy gloves to avoid being bitten.  
  • Make sure you use non-slip mats in the tub to avoid slipping, and restrain the dog with a collar and leash and an assistant if available.
  • Be patient, this dog has probably been through a lot and needs a little understanding.

Conclusion

A bath can be a stressful and new experience for a rescue dog. In addition, the dog may have parasites or health concerns that need addressing. Work slowly, take note of concerns that need attention, and talk to the dog to reassure him. If an assistant is available, have them reassure and treat the dog during the birthing process. Keep baths relatively simple, short and low stress. Use products that will not irritate eyes or skin and rinse well. Use alternative options such as using water gently poured over the dog instead of hand showers or air drying instead of blow drying, if the dog seems nervous, for a less invasive bath experience. As your rescue dog gets used to bathing and builds a relationship with you, bathing should be easier in the future.

Success Stories and Grooming Questions

Grooming Questions & Answers

Question
Basil
Maltipoo
6 Years
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Basil
Maltipoo
6 Years

We just adopted a dog from a foster home, and he was definitely stinky! We were able to bathe him with much difficulty (lots of growling and biting). He seems to trust us now, but will still curl his lip and bite us if we try to wipe his feet with a towel after a walk. He will let us hold his paws normally without a towel. How can we make this cleaning process for both bathing and cleaning his paws easier?

Darlene Stott
Darlene Stott
Dog Trainer and Groomer
0 Dog owners recommended

Congratulations on the adoption of Basil! He may have very sensitive feet. It may be worth your while to wait until you have had him much longer and he is super comfortable before you use the towel. Just to get him into a good comfort zone all of the time. If he is letting you hold his paws without a towel (and it is good to do that, gently touch the paws when you are cuddling to get him used to it), try using pet wipes instead to clean the feet. That way, you feel better that his feet are clean, and he'll be more comfortable without the use of the towel. All the best and enjoy your new dog!

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Question
Ringo
Shih Tzu Schnauzer
3 Years
1 found helpful
Question
1 found helpful
Ringo
Shih Tzu Schnauzer
3 Years

He was abused very badly and I want to give him a good bath, brush his hair and get a trim

Darlene Stott
Darlene Stott
Dog Trainer and Groomer
0 Dog owners recommended

Hello, the first thing I would recommend for little Ringo is to let him get used to you and his new home before trying any major grooming sessions. If he is super docile and feels pretty comfortable already, you can judge whether he may be ready for a bath. You could try using made-for-pet wipes that will gently clean any surface dirt. You can also brush him gently unless he has mats, which may cause pain. Have you taken him to the vet yet? That is an important first step as well, to ensure that he does not have fleas or parasites that you cannot see. If he is uncomfortable in that regard, he may not cooperate in a bathing situation. So, have the vet give him the all clear - and they can probably recommend a shampoo that will be gentle on the skin also. Take his first bath slow, you can start with a little water in the tub and be very careful of the temperature. Test it on your wrist, not your hand. All the best to you and Ringo!

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Question
Ringo
Shih TzuSchnauzer
3 Years
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Ringo
Shih TzuSchnauzer
3 Years

I want to thank the lady that answered my question earlier. Ringo doesn't like a brush. He was abused with a vacuum hose. Will a vet bath him a bath and a hair cut

Darlene Stott
Darlene Stott
Dog Trainer and Groomer
0 Dog owners recommended

You are very welcome! Ringo is lucky to have such a caring person in his life now. Enjoy him!

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