How to Bathe Your Newly Adopted Dog

One tip: you can use a no-tears baby shampoo

So you've just adopted a new pup, but what happens when your pet gets dirty?

There are easy steps you can take to keep the new member of your family nice and clean.

Location, Location, Location
First thing you are going to decide is where to bathe your dog. Sue Hansen, director of Abandoned Pet Rescue, a no-kill animal shelter in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, recommends bathing your canine outside.

Some rescue dogs may have experienced abuse and may be afraid of the bath. "They might get upset if it’s a small room or feel that they were trapped. If they’re on a patio or a backyard it won’t make them feel like they are being pushed into a corner," Hansen said.

Most city-dwellers will not have the luxury of bathing pets outside; Dr. Ann Hohenhaus of the Animal Medical Center in New York City recommends a raised bath tub because "who wants to kill their back," but a regular human bath tub will work as well. 

No tubs? No worries. Many of Hohenhaus' clients take their dogs into the shower and "you’re not the only one who has done that although you might not admit that publicly."

Before bathing your dog, gather everything you need: towels, comb, shampoo, conditioner, blow-dryer and cotton balls.

If you have a canine with long hair, comb out the tangles before the bath, Hohenhaus said. Matted hair holds moisture against your pet's skin and that can cause skin irritation.

When it comes to shampoo and conditioner, use any dog-specific shampoo or a no-tears baby shampoo, according to Hohenhaus. 

Hansen recommends an oatmeal-based product or something that won't dry the animal's coat. Skin problems are the most common maladies for shelter animals, Hansen said, and can prompt people to get rid of a pet. "They don’t know how to take care of it and sometimes they don’t get positive response to the products they’re using to fix the skin problem," she said.

The Wash
Start with the dog's neck and work your way down the body. For the face, use a damp washcloth with a small amount of shampoo, a lot less than you would use on the body, and wipe the dog's face clean.

It is very important to make sure you rinse the shampoo out completely. Leaving soap on your dog can leave the skin dry and irritated, and in some cases cause a skin infection, according to Hohenhaus.

Make sure to get all the areas that get stinky, including the ears. Dogs can have all sorts of ear infections and some can be very smelly, Hansen said. There are a variety of over-the-counter ear solutions for dogs. Hansen recommends dipping a cotton ball in the solution and wiping your canine's ears clean.

Do not hose your dog's ears out, Hansen said. Stores offer drying solutions for dogs' ears or you can use apple cider vinegar.

The Aftermath
Now it is a good time to clip your dog's nails because the water will have softened them, making them easier to clip. 

Use towels to absorb access water from your dog. It is OK to leave them to air dry but if you don't want a wet couch or bed you can blow-dry the dog's coat. Dogs may not recognize if you are burning their scalp, Hohenhaus said, so it's always better to use the hair dryer on a low setting.

How Often Should You Wash Your Dog?
Some veterinarians recommend bathing your dog twice a month, but it can depend on how dirty or smelly your dog gets after playtime.

Both Hansen and Hohenhaus recommend bathing dogs while they are young. It will make everyone's lives easier if your dog is not afraid of bath time.

Make sure to create a welcoming environment for your new pet by giving it plenty of treats as a positive reinforcement.  

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