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How To Give A Rescue Dog A Bath: Setting Yourself Up For Success

For dogs that have never had a bath before or maybe didn’t have a good bathing experience prior, bath time might be a stressor.

Your new foster pup or newly adopted dog smells awful and you need to give him or her a bath stat! For dogs that have never had a bath before or maybe didn’t have a good bathing experience prior, bath time might be a stressor. Given that they are already under some stress from their environmental change, (even happy and excited – there’s still associated stress with changing up their environment and their people), you want to start this experience off as right as you can to make it positive for your new dog!

I pulled this adorable little pit bull mix from Charlotte Mecklenburg Animal Care and Control and as much as I really wanted to let her get settled in for a few days before tossing her in the tub, she smelled something fierce and that just wasn’t a good option for all of the close-quarter cuddling she kept wanting me to engage in with her.

So to make bath time more enjoyable for her given that i had no idea if she’d ever even had a bath before, I tool it slow and had a few tools to help me try and make it a pleasant experience for her.

Preparation is key. If the dog you are bathing gets nervous or tries to jump out while you are in the middle of bathing, the last thing you want to do is be fumbling for positive reinforcers or supplies. Here’s my list of what to have ready with a few extra items you might want to consider:

  1. Gentle shampoo. It’s generally best to start with something without perfumes or dyes so as not to agitate the skin or irritate the eyes. You can grab a bottle of the Burt’s Bees Oatmeal Shampoo I used on Amazon here: https://amzn.to/3buFJMR
  2. Towel and Washcloth – this seems obvious but how many times have you jumped in the shower and forgot to make sure you had a clean towel waiting on the rack? If it’s a big dog, grab a couple as the paws can soak up a lot form them standing in the tub. The washcloth is for their face – I prefer baby washcloths to carefully clean around their eyes and nose.
  3. Shower attachment or cup. If you have a hand-held shower attachment, pull it down prior to turning it on. If you don’t, you can order something like the Aquapaw that I use in the video that attaches to your shower head. The Aquapaw is more quiet than a typical shower head and the water comes out in a slow controlled manner that is less likely to startle your dog. You can grab the Aquapaw I use to wash my dogs here: https://amzn.to/2SAdJ1O
  4. Positive reinforcement – bath time should be a good time for your new dog! We give kids toys to play with because the toys make it fun. Have a kong like I do in the video with some (xylitol free) peanut butter for your pup to lick while getting a soapy massage, or, you can get a slow treater that attaches to the wall that they can lick while you are bathing them. Here’s a great example of a slow treater for the bath: https://amzn.to/2OL7JSU

Don’t go overboard with the first bath. What I mean by this is you want to keep it short and sweet to just get the majority of the dirt and smell off. Keeping it short and positive will make bath time more likely to be enjoyable for your new pup the next time you go to bathe him or her.

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