Skip to main content

When can you bathe a puppy? Here’s how and when to introduce them to bath time

Giving your new puppy a scrub? How to start them with baths

Puppies are curious, playful, and, let's face it, messy. While normally a quick paw wipe or a brush will do the trick, what should you do when your little bundle of energy jumps into a mud puddle? When can you bathe a puppy? You may be wondering if your new pup is too delicate and small for a bath.

While we understand your apprehension about using shampoo and other cleaning products on a small guy, we’re here to put your concerns to rest once and for all. So, when is the right time to give your new pet his first bath? We've got the answers — plus a few tips on how to make bath time enjoyable for you and Fido.

Difficulty

Easy

Duration

30 minutes

What You Need

  • Dog brush

  • Dog shampoo

  • Dog wipes

  • Towels

  • Hairdryer

a wet blonde poodle mix puppy stands in the bath tub and looks at the camera
Benjamin Lehman/Pexels

How old is your puppy?

Young puppies can’t regulate their own body temperature the way older dogs 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 with plenty of towels on hand (you're gonna need them). If your puppy is shivering, the water isn’t warm enough. After your dog is clean, wrap them up in a few towels. You can use a hairdryer to dry them off quickly but make sure it's not too hot (some have a cool setting you might use). Start this method at a young age, so they won’t be frightened of — or bark at — hair dryers when they get older.

Funny portrait of a Welsh corgi pembroke dog showering with shampoo
Masarik / Shutterstock

When can you bathe a 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 pooch will typically need a bath around four times a year unless they get especially dirty. If they have a dense, curly coat, they’ll need a bath every two months to prevent 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 put them in the tub around the same time. That way, your dog stays nice and clean, and it helps remove excess fur as they shed.

Water-loving breeds , such as 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.

Puppies play outside in a yard
nancy dressel/Shutterstock

How often should you bathe your dog? More factors to consider

While it's useful to have a general rule, your exact situation could vary. For starters, many young dogs get into things and will be more likely to need that emergency bath (hopefully, they grow out of this in time). Beasties that spend a lot of time outside will definitely fall into this category.

In addition, you should take your pup's activity level into account, potentially upping the number of baths to bimonthly if it seems like your animal really needs it. Lastly, think about comfort — both yours and theirs. Some puppies get itchy skin that might require more frequent washing or specialty shampoo. Plus, you should bathe Fido enough that you don't wind up sneezing from too much fur.

A beagle puppy getting a bath in a blue tub
Easy Morning/Shutterstock

How to bathe your puppy in 9 easy steps

Before you even get started, it’s really helpful if you have an extra pair of hands to keep your puppy still throughout the process. Remember that it's important to teach them to tolerate or even enjoy baths since they'll have to endure a number of them over the course of their lives.

Step 1: Gather your supplies.

You’ll need a shampoo specifically designed for puppies, as their skin and fur have a different pH balance than yours. Using human shampoo on a dog can lead to skin irritation. You’ll also need a comb or brush, a stack of towels, and possibly a hairdryer.

Step 2: Pick the best location.

You can wash puppies and small dogs in your kitchen sink, while you should bathe large dogs in your bathtub or outside.

Step 3: Comb through their coat.

Grab the brush before you bathe them, or else what started off as a small tangle can become impossible to get through.

Step 4: Get the water ready.

Fill the sink or tub with dog-friendly temperature water — it should be around 102 degrees — and place your puppy in the water.

Step 5: Start slowly.

Many pups are afraid of moving water, so you may want to gently pour some over using a cup rather than spraying. 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.)

Step 6: Work the shampoo.

Once your dog is wet, you can add a dollop of shampoo and work it into a lather. 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 7: Give them a rinse.

If they have a thick, dense coat, you may need to repeat the rinsing process several times. A few treats and plenty of praise will go a long way to improving the whole operation.

Step 8: Let them shake off.

Make sure you’re not wearing anything you don’t want to get wet. Then, grab a towel and go to work. The thinner your puppy’s coat, the less time they’ll need to dry. If your pooch seems chilled, try using a hairdryer on the lowest setting to warm them up quickly, and don’t let your puppy outside wet in cold weather.

Step 9: Clean up the mess.

It’s all part of the process, and your puppy won’t help you.

Wet brown and white Shih Tzu puppy sits in a few inches of water for a bath
liilxliil/Pixabay

Can you use baby wipes on dogs?

According to Dr. Brite, using baby wipes on your dogs isn’t recommended, as baby wipes aren’t intended for that purpose. However, in a pinch, they 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 problems.

Giving your puppy a wash is an action-packed experience, but after they get used to bath time, it will be much easier. Make sure your buddy stays nice and warm throughout the process, keep shampoo out of their eyes and ears, and never let your doggo 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.)

If you’d like to learn more about your puppy or need a guide on how long puppies sleep, we’ve got you covered.

Editors' Recommendations

Mary Johnson
Contributor
Mary Johnson is a writer and photographer from New Orleans, Louisiana. Her work has been published in PawTracks and…
How to find the right veterinarian for your pet
Getting your pet the best medical care will improve and prolong their life
Veterinarian examining cat while little boy watches

Taking your dog or cat to the vet might cause you some anxiety, especially if you're doing so for the first time. Trust us, it makes pet ownership so much more enjoyable when you have an animal doctor that both of you like. Choosing the right veterinarian for your beloved companions may not be easy, but it's certainly worth it — you'll have a better time caring for your animals, and they will stick around longer with excellent medical attention. Here's how to choose a vet.
When should I look for a vet?

We hate to add to your checklist, but you probably want to look at vets before you even bring home a dog or cat. It can take time and lots of phone calls to different places before you figure out the right fit — meaning a practice that suits your needs and budget and has availability.

Read more
Why do dogs hump everything? You might be surprised
Here's what's behind this shocking canine behavior
A brown Vizsla dog's portrait in front of a black background

Every dog owner will be embarrassed by their pup at least once or twice, but nothing compares to the shame of catching your dog in the act of humping. Whether they're going to town on another dog, another person, or even nothing at all, it's easy to understand why you'd want to learn more about this behavior. The sooner you know how to respond to this lewd act, the sooner it can stop.
Questions like, "Why do dogs hump?' and "How can I stop my dog from humping?" will one day be nothing more than a memory. This impolite habit can be unlearned -- though often not as quickly as it's learned -- with some time, redirection, and a few well-timed distractions. Keep on reading to learn more about the humping habit and what you can do to prevent it.

Why do dogs hump other dogs?

Read more
Does your dog drink a lot of water? Here’s when you should be concerned
It's usually just the weather, but you should look for signs of dehydration or excess thirst
A pug drinking water from a sink faucet

Ensuring your furry best friend gets plenty of water is one of the most important parts of being a pet parent. But how much water should your dog drink on a daily basis? Veterinarians claim the general rule of thumb is a simple equation: The majority of dogs require around 1/2 to 1 ounce (about 1/8 of a cup) of water per pound of body weight each day. Don't want to reach for your measuring cup? Make sure your pup has round-the-clock access to clean water, and everything should be fine.

That being said, if your dog empties their water bowl several times a day, or you notice their intake has increased drastically, you should probably keep a close eye on things. If your dog drinks a lot of water, you may be wondering, "Why is my dog always thirsty?" We'll share how to monitor your pup's water intake, the most common reasons your dog may be thirsty, and when you should speak with your vet.

Read more