Oh, What a Difference a Doggie Bath Can Make

Gallagher was so dirty, matted and miserable that he had to lose most of his fur during grooming. The cute, sweet boy did get to keep a bit of flair on his ears and tail. Wahl

If you've ever walked into an animal shelter or looked at rescue photos online, it's sometimes hard to find the real dog underneath a mop of messy fur. Stray or abandoned pets rarely look their best when they're trying to find new homes.

That's why many shelters have volunteers who bathe and groom new arrivals, knowing that even a simple makeover can help animals get adopted.

Dexter before and after photo
Dexter was found living on the streets and was a mess of matted dreadlocks so long he could barely see. He sat patiently as burrs, foxtails and even pieces of plastic were cut from his coat. Wahl

As part of its Dirty Dogs campaign, Wahl and GreaterGood.org donate funds and grooming supplies to rescues and shelters in an effort to transform more than 20,000 dogs each year to boost their chances of finding a family.

“Millions of dogs enter shelters every year, and the unfortunate reality is that less than half are getting the grooming they so desperately need,” said Steven Yde, division vice president for Wahl. “These deserving animals are being perceived as ‘damaged goods’ just because of their appearance. It’s our hope these makeover images and stories will inspire people to either adopt a dog in need, or reach out to local shelters to see how they can help.”

Griffin before and after
Severe matting was causing nerve damage in Griffin's back legs and irritating his sensitive eyes. Free from all that fur, Griffin was able to walk and play like a normal pup. Wahl

Since 2012, donations of Wahl’s pet shampoo have helped rescues and shelters around the United States transform more than 130,000 dogs to get them ready for adoption. You can check out hundreds of these makeovers on the Dirty Dogs Before & After Photo Gallery, read their stories and search for available dogs in your area.

To raise awareness of the importance of these makeovers, 10 of the most dramatic makeovers are part of the eighth annual Dirty Dogs Contest, and you can vote for your favorite through Aug. 19. The shelters and rescues affiliated with the top three winners will receive monetary grants: First place gets $5,000, second place earns $2,000 and third place receives $1,000.

Berkeley before and after
Berkeley was living a neglected life and was never allowed inside. Once rescued, he was freed from nearly five pounds of muddy fur that was so matted a fishing lure was found tangled in it. Wahl

"A first impression at the shelter is incredibly important for adoptions. Dirty, unkempt dogs will often get overlooked by potential adopters. The goal of the Dirty Dogs Before & After Gallery is to inspire people to volunteer their time grooming and bathing animals at their local shelter, or to donate much needed money and supplies," explains Noah Horton, director of marketing and development at GreaterGood.org. "It's amazing the impact grooming can have on a dog's appearance, health and overall quality of life. And for a shelter dog, it can mean the difference between sitting in the shelter and finding a forever home."

Gaston before and after
Neglected for years when he was used for breeding, Gaston was unrecognizable as a dog. After hours of grooming, his transformation was incredible as a gorgeous poodle. Wahl