How to Avoid a Ruff Bath Time for Your New Rescue

“Baths suck.”

— My dog.

I’ll never forget the day I met my rescue dog, Lex. As he jumped out of the car, I instantly noticed his floppy ears, excited little scamper, and, of course…his wretched smell. I remember not knowing what to do with this dog and his smelly coat that was now my responsibility. I had never bathed a dog before, let alone one that nervously skids across the floor at the sound of the faucet turning on. We’re now about 72 baths into our relationship and he still looks at me like I’m a monster when I gather his pup-friendly shampoo and signature ratty towel. But I think we’ve solidified a bath time routine that makes the experience a little easier, one that ensures he gets in and out as quickly as possible with minimal stress (for both of us).

Unfortunately for all of owners, dogs don’t hop in the tub and bathe themselves. And dealing with bath time anxiety may be difficult and confusing, especially for new rescue dog owners. So, to make it a little easier, here are 6 quick tips that will help you make sure your pup is stress-free during bath time:


Rewards are the easiest way to reduce your dog’s bathtime stress. Rescue dogs, in particular, may need a little incentive to encourage and maintain good behavior. However, if you do give them any treats, make sure you provide them time to eat as rushing them or continuing to bathe them while they are munching could cause further nervousness and vomiting.


Opt for a warm water temperature. When starting the bath, don’t turn the faucet on entirely as the sudden rushing of water may scare your pup. Instead, try turning it on halfway, using a cup to continuously pour water onto them. You may close the door of the room you’re in to trap heat if your pup gets cold.

Don’t Leave Them Alone

Leaving your dog unattended in the bathtub or sink will induce anxiety. Be prepared for your pup’s bath by collecting all necessary items beforehand such as shampoo and conditioner, towels, brushes, etc. and holding them nearby.

Emotional Support

It’s easy to get aggravated when your pup wiggles around or attempts to escape. Instead, be patient, a few pets on the head will ease their nervousness and encourage good behavior. Make it even more entertaining with selected dog friendly playlists. “Who’s a good boy?” can get old after a while.


Focus on slow motions when rubbing in and rinsing out the shampoo. Take your time.  Think of it as a relaxing massage. When rinsing, try not to get water in their eyes; this may irritate them and provoke anxiety. However, do make sure you rinse your pup thoroughly because residue from shampoo can lead to irritated and dry skin.


After carefully removing your pup from the tub, set them down on a bath mat or towel to avoid slipping. Now that they’re on the ground, they may try to make a run for it. However, no matter the battle, it is essential to remain patient and dry thoroughly. Leaving any fur wet may cause hot spots on the coat.

Of all tips, it is most important to pay attention to your dog’s behavior.  Every dog is different. And for our just rescued pups, undergoing that initial transition into your home is stressful enough, therefore tailoring your bath time routine to fit their needs will make a big difference for them.