How to Bathe a Puppy

Your puppy, like a newborn baby – needs special care and attention.

And don’t even try using the same techniques or skills you acquired for taking care of your baby on your puppy. It’s flattering – but forget it. 

If you own a dog or two, you owe them food, shelter and…clothing? (Well, you can skip the last one). In place of clothing though, you have to take good care of their natural, one-and-only ‘cloth’ for life!

It’s much like when you have to wear a uniform to school or work. You don’t have that many substitutes, and so you have to carefully clean and cater to the one or two that you have right? Exactly.

No matter how much you try, puppies will eventually get dirty as they explore their newly-found environment. But unlike a baby that you can bathe for like twice a day or more if you like, your puppy is a lot more fragile, meaning you can’t just bathe them on a whim.

So, what age should a puppy be before you bathe them?

No matter how grimy they appear or how eager you are to bath them, you must wait for the appropriate time to bathe your puppy.

Typically, you should only bathe puppies that are older than 3 months (12 weeks). In the meantime, until they are of age, you can clean your puppy with a sponge bath.

The thing is, for your less-than-12-weeks-old puppy, the less contact they have with water – the better. Spot-clean your fragile puppy with a damp cloth every once in a while, and they should be fine.

You should use a mild dog shampoo for their sensitive hair and skin and make sure to dry off your puppy, ASAP.

How often to bathe a puppy?

Even when it’s okay to bathe a puppy, you shouldn’t take that as a license to soak them as soon as you spot dirt. As a general rule of thumb, your puppy should do just fine with a bath, once a month.

As they grow older, you could bathe once a week for those with oily skin. Even then, use a soap-free or moisturizing shampoo, so the skin doesn’t become dry. Whatever you decide – do not bathe your puppy/dog more than once a week – except the directive comes from your vet.    

How do you bathe your puppy?

If you have bathed your pup before, (and everything went well), you wouldn’t be here, right? Yep. So it’s probably cool to talk about how to bathe your puppy for the first time:

Step 1: Make a good first impression

The whole idea of bathing at this point will be strange to your pup, and so you should get it right the first few times (in fact, every time). You must prepare ahead to make the experience safe, reassuring and enjoyable – if you want your pup’s corporation the next time.

To get them used to the bathing environment, play with them in the bath or sink a couple of times without water.

Step 2:  Introduce water playfully

When you do add water into the mix, make it look like play. When they respond positively, give them treats and some praise. You can start by letting the water run when they’re not yet in the bath, so your pup gets used to the sound.

Then splash some water on them playfully till they get used to you doing that. Next, put a little water into the bath and play with your pup in it.

Step 3: Get a shampoo made for dogs

Don’t use human shampoo for your puppy. It could dry out their skin and expose them to viruses, bacteria, and parasites. Instead, go for a mild shampoo made for dogs.

Step 4: Get the bathing area ready

You don’t want your pup to slip off the first time they have their bathe (or anytime at all). If they do, they’ll grow fearful and resistant. Surely you don’t want that!

So, put a clean, damp washcloth or non-skid mat at the base of the bath, so they have a good grip when you fill the tub with soapy water.  

Step 5: Dress the part

No one is asking you to dress like a vet or an astronaut here. Just wear cloth you’re comfortable with and expect that it’ll get messed up with water, dog hair, and shampoo.

Step 6: Avoid distractions

While bathing your puppy, avoid anything that’ll require your attention away from the bathing process. Make sure kids, and other pets are well attended to; you’re not cooking anything, and you aren’t expecting a call or visitor soon.

Step 7: Ensure everything you need is in one place

You don’t want a situation where you’re looking for something in the middle of the bath. So make sure everything is within easy reach – Dog shampoo, cup/bowl for rinsing, towels, and hairdryer (among other things) must be in your checklist and easily accessible.

Step 8: Brush out your puppy’s coat

Before water gets in the way, brush out mats and tangles. With a dog comb, gently take out mats and tangles – careful not to tug on your pup’s fur, which can be quite painful.

Go easy and don’t forget to give lots of praise as you progress. Remember that grooming needs a lot of getting used to especially by puppies.

Step 9: Make your puppy as comfortable as possible

Ensure they have recently gone to the bathroom to avoid bladder or bowel pressure. As well, keep the house temperature warm, so they don’t get too cold after their bathe.

Of course, the bath water should be lukewarm. For best results, test the water temperature using your wrist or elbow. Here’s the thing – if it’s warm enough for your bath, then it’s too hot for your puppy.

Also, make sure the water level is kept at half your pup’s height to strike off any remote possibilities of drowning. With your puppy – you can’t be too careful!

Step 10: Finally, relax

Bathing an excitable, anxious (perhaps fearful) puppy could take its toll on you. The process of preparation and bathing your pup can easily stress you out.

You need to relax immediately after a ‘pup-bathe’ so your puppy doesn’t pick out your emotion and think, “She’s stressed out, this bathe-business can’t be good for both of us!” 

In other words, you need to appear calm so your pup can follow suit and relax after going through some unfamiliar exercise.

Make sure you or anyone else doesn’t tease them while they’re bathing, or after. Because – once they see bathing as something to be feared – you’d have a hard time convincing them to go through the process, next time.