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.

The Slow and Steady Method

Effective
0 Votes
Shampoo
Dryer
Towel
Step
1
Set up
Prepare the bath area; have everything organized, shampoo, conditioner, wash cloth, towels, all in easy reach. Put a non-slip bath mat down.
Step
2
Introduce to bathwater
Fill the tub with a few inches of warm water. Carefully lift the dog into the tub, supporting him around his chest and abdomen. Watch to see how he reacts.
Step
3
Wet down gently
Carefully start using a cup or container to scoop water over the dog. If he is calm and does not mind water you can try switching to a hand held shower, if available, to wet him down. See how he reacts to the noise. Use the cup to wet him down if the dog seems nervous. Use a washcloth to wet the dog's face. Talk steadily and in a casual, friendly manner to the dog to reassure him.
Step
4
Carefully shampoo and conditon
Shampoo with a non-irritating shampoo like an oatmeal shampoo solution from the neck back. Use a washcloth to apply soap to the face, stay away from eyes and mouth. Again move slowly watch for signs of stress. Rinse thoroughly and apply conditioner in the same way. Rinse again.
Step
5
Dry gently
Remove the dog from the tub and pat dry with a towel. You can leave to air dry, or you may try a blow dryer on a low setting. Aim at the dog's feet first to see how your dog reacts to the blow dryer. If the dog is frightened of the blow dryer, allow to air dry instead.
Recommend grooming method?

The Special Bathing Tips Method

Effective
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Slicker Brush
Shampoo
Pin Brush
Dryer
Towel
Step
1
Exercise first
Walk or play with the rescue dog first to wear him out so he is less likely to get excited or nervous during bathing and to establish a positive bond.
Step
2
Groom and examine
Brush and comb the dog prior to bathing. Remove all tangles and knots. Trim out if necessary. Knots will be harder to remove after a bath. Check for hot spots under mats, a neglected dog may have sores where there are knots. Also check for parasites like ear mites, fleas, lice and ticks. Treat accordingly.
Step
3
Get help
Use an assistant to help you handle the rescue dog in the bath. The assistant can distract the dog while bathing, provide affection and treats, and help restrain the dog if necessary. Also, a second set of eyes will pick up if the dog is becoming stressed or upset during the bathing process.
Step
4
Protect dog
Put cotton balls in your dog’s ears if the dog will allow it, to keep water from going in ear canals, which is an unpleasant sensation for any dog.
Step
5
Address eyes and ears
A rescue dog’s ears and eyes may need special attention. If tear stains are present, wipe with colloidal silver solution to remove them. Ears in rescue dogs often have wax build up or fungal issues. Put ear cleaner on a piece of gauze or a cotton ball and wrap around your finger to wipe out under ear flaps, the entrance to ear canal and into the outer part of the ear canal. You may need to flush ears with ear cleaner as well.
Recommend grooming method?

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

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