When you should start bathing your new puppy

Is there anything a puppy loves more than jumping into a mud puddle? With the exception of food, probably not. Puppies love to play, and playtime often leads to bath time. But when should you start bathing a new puppy? Let’s find out.

How old is your puppy?

White and gray puppy playing with a ball.
Irene Lasus/Pexels

Young puppies can’t regulate their own body temperature the way older puppies can, so the American Kennel Club recommends that you wait until they’re at least 8 weeks old before you give them their first bath.

Make sure you bathe them in a nice, warm room, and if your puppy is shivering, the water isn’t warm enough. After your puppy is clean, wrap them up in a warm towel. You can use a hair dryer to dry them off quickly, and if you start doing it at a young age, they won’t be frightened of — or bark at — hair dryers when they get older.

How often should I bathe my puppy?

Bathing your puppy too frequently can strip their coat of essential oils and potentially lead to dry, irritated skin. Depending on the breed, your puppy will typically need a bath around four times a year unless they get especially dirty. If your puppy has a dense, curly coat, they’ll need a bath every two months to prevent dirt and debris from becoming trapped in their fur.

Some breeds have double-coats consisting of a long outer coat and a softer undercoat. Akitas, huskies, Alaskan malamutes, and German shepherds shed twice a year, during spring and fall, so it’s recommended you bathe them around the same time. That way, your dog stays nice and clean, and it helps remove excess fur as they shed.

Water-loving breeds like Labrador retrievers have unique, water-repellent coats that keep their undercoats dry while they swim. Unless your Lab is particularly dirty, you should only bathe them once every four months, as soapy water can penetrate your dog’s undercoat and trap moisture there.

For dogs with short, smooth coats, you may only need to wipe them down with a washcloth to keep them clean. Pet wipes are also a great option for dogs with this coat type.

How to bathe your puppy in a few easy steps

Step one: You’ll need to gather your supplies near your location of choice. You can wash puppies and small dogs in your kitchen sink, while you should bathe large dogs in your bathtub or outside.
You’ll need a shampoo specifically designed for puppies, as their skin and fur has a different pH balance than yours. Using human shampoo on a dog can lead to dry, irritated skin. You’ll also need a comb or brush, a stack of towels, and possibly a hair dryer.

Step two: Comb through your puppy’s coat before you bathe them, or else what started off as a small tangle can become impossible to comb through. Fill the sink or tub with dog-friendly temperature water — it should be around 102 degrees — and place your puppy in the water.

Step three: It’s really helpful if you have an extra pair of hands to keep your puppy still, but you can hold them by the scruff of the neck to make things easier. Just make sure you clasp them gently and never pull too hard.

Step four: Many pups are afraid of moving water, so you may want to gently pour water over your puppy using a cup rather than spraying them. Be sure to keep water out of your puppy’s ears and eyes. (Placing cotton balls in their ears and cupping a hand over their eyes is a good way to do this.)
Once your puppy is wet, you can add a dollop of shampoo and work it into a lather.

Step five: Make sure to give your puppy’s coat a thorough rinse. If they have a thick, dense coat, you may want to repeat the rinsing process several times. Give your puppy a few treats and plenty of praise to let them know cooperating during bath time means they’ll be rewarded.

Step six: Now comes your puppy’s favorite part. When it’s time to dry off, puppies will vigorously shake themselves, so make sure you’re not wearing anything you don’t mind getting wet. Then, grab a towel and get to work. The thinner your puppy’s coat, the less time they’ll need to dry. If your pooch seems chilled, try using a hair dryer on the lowest setting to warm them up quickly, and don’t let your puppy outside wet in cold weather.

Step seven: Clean up the mess. It’s all part of the process, and your puppy won’t help you.

Can you use baby wipes on dogs?

According to Banfield, using baby wipes on your dogs should be fine as long as you don’t get any of the liquid from the wipes in your dog’s ears or eyes. But it’s not a good idea to use baby wipes exclusively. They won’t penetrate caked-on mud and dirt, and continued use can lead to skin irritation.

Wet toy poodle in a bathtub.
Benjamin Lehman/Pexels

Giving your puppy a bath is an action-packed experience, but if you get your puppy used to bath time at a young age, it will be much easier when they’re an adult. Make sure your puppy stays nice and warm throughout the bathing process, keep shampoo out of their eyes and ears, and never let your puppy go outside with wet fur if it’s cold out. Keeping your puppy’s coat clean and free of tangles means you’ll have a happy puppy and a clean home.

(And no one will judge you if you enjoy playing tug-of-war with a towel as much as your puppy does.)

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