Last Updated on July 18th, 2018
Although you might think your little darling, adorable, newborn puppy could do no wrong, they definitely know how to get a little dirty—and the smell might be beginning to become much, much stronger than that cute puppy dog “baby” smell we all know and love.
So when can you shower a puppy for the first time? We'll tell you in a second.
You might have heard the horror stories—getting shampoo in a fur baby’s eyes, in their ears, the puppy slipping and hurting themselves, actually bathing too much—there are so many things about giving a puppy a shower that new dog dads and moms should know. You want to avoid the mistakes and follow veterinarian approved guidelines.
Whether it’s your first time being a puppy dog parent or you just want to get it right, leaving no room for error, find out everything you need to know about giving your puppy a bath.
When Can You Give a Puppy Their First Shower?
Puppies - and all dogs for that matter - don't need daily showers as humans do. Their coats have natural oils that keep their skin and fur healthy, and you should not wash these oil away unless your puppy is visibly dirty or smells bad.
Most dog shampoos are for dogs over three months, but you can bathe a smaller puppy if you need to. If you're caring for newborn puppies, you can use a washcloth to gently wipe the puppy, however, if the mother dog is present she will usually lick her puppies clean.
Especially if the puppy is still in contact with the mother, you cannot and should not bathe a puppy before weaning. The mother might reject her own puppy if it has already lost its familiar scent. Also, the first two months are a time when you should let the mother and puppies have their peace and quiet in their isolated space.
Veterinarians recommend you should also wait 1-2 weeks after each vaccine to give a bath. Their first bath will put the puppy under a great deal of stress which could lead to a weak immunological response to the vaccinations they receive. Typically, puppies are vaccinated at 6 weeks, 8 weeks, 12 weeks, and 16.
To answer your question: you can bathe a puppy at any age if you need to, but you should avoid it at least until they are weaned from their mother. You can let the mother dog lick the puppy clean or use a moist washcloth to clean the puppy yourself. If your dog gets dirty and you need to give it a bath at a young age, try to avoid heavily scented dog shampoos or any shampoo at all. After eight weeks of age you can bathe your puppy whenever you need to, but keep in mind dogs only need baths when they get dirty or smell bad.
To give you the most general answer—not too often. Dogs are not like human babies, who need to be cleaned quite often. Their coats (dogs—not human babies) have natural oils that keep their fur soft and silky. If you're showering or bathing your dog too much, you can actually make the fur brittle or damaged by disrupting the natural balance. You will be stripping away those natural oils intended to protect.
The ideal frequency is to bath your dog every 20-60 days, although you can keep in mind that some owners don't bathe their dogs at all unless they become dirty for some reason. It isn't a necessary procedure, although most people do think that at some point that musty dog smell must go.
If your puppy just bathed in the mud, however, or had her first beach day, you might notice that she is much smellier or dirtier than normal. This is definitely a good and easy indicator as to when your puppy needs a bath. If you need to, there is no reason why you should avoid a shower and some gentle dog shampoo, but you don't need to make it a daily or weekly habit.
Also, if your dog also has longer hair than other puppies, they might get tangled and matted much easier, which will make for a much smellier dog and necessary bath times.
Of course, it’s always best to ask your puppy’s vet specifically on a number because he or she knows best for the type of dog you have and his or her age.
However, for our suggestion, you should bathe your puppy:
- 0-3 months: not at all or when they get dirty
- 6+ months: once a month
- 1 year+: Two or three times a year or as necessary
Why to bathe your puppy
Besides the obvious, there are some common reasons why you should direct your fur baby to the tub.
First and foremost, it’s important that they get used to being bathed. Introducing your puppy early to the bathing process might give them the best chance of not giving you the hardest time and acting like it’s the doggy-apocalypse every time they need to have a bath.
Your puppy may need prescribed baths from the doctor—not because they are extra smelly but possibly because they have infections, parasites or allergies.
You also may notice that they have nasty, sticky substances on their fur that you need to get out before they create an even bigger problem. This might call for a bath.
You also may notice that they are particularly smelly. Bathing, even doing it regularly (as recommended) can help reduce the odor and keep it to a puppy-in-the-rain smell minimum.
Supplies Needed For Bath Time
What you use at bath time is not only a crucial decision because it can affect the way your puppy will feel about washing for the rest of his or her furry life, it will also affect a puppy physically and directly.
The general rule here is always to use items that are made specifically for puppies. Even if you’re running low on supplies, don’t use human shampoo. Not only is that harmful to their skin and coat, but it can also sting their eyes, giving them a traumatic experience they will never forget.
If you do have an emergency where only human shampoo is at hand—only use baby shampoo. It is the least acidic. However, again—try never to use human shampoo.
Dog shampoos are specially-formulated and balanced with the correct PH to be most effective and the least harmful for dogs.
Where to Give a Puppy a Shower
Throwing your small puppy into an outdoor bath pool might not be the best way to help them adjust to the experience—it might even cause panic or hysteria.
However, depending on the size of your pup, you can use anything from a big plastic bowl to your own bathtub (when done correctly).
Getting used to being placed in a huge white container with water might be a scary experience at first (and a struggle - extremely wet one for you). However, you can help ease big-bath time by helping your puppy get used to the experience.
First, let him or her stand in the big bath for a few seconds. If you want to really prepare them for the bath, you can have them standing in there a few times a day—if only for a few seconds—and possibly give them treats. That way, they can get used to it.
Slowly add some water when you feel your puppy is comfortable with the tub. On the first bathtime, you can add just an inch or two of water. Filling up the tub can frighten your puppy, and he or she should be allowed to adjust to the rising water level at its own pace.
If your puppy is pretty small, a sink or small washing bowl will suffice. The only part to look out for here is that they might make a break for it, and you know that slippery surfaces and a slippery pup can’t be the best combination. You may also just simply wash your dog outside if your showerhead or faucet isn’t detachable, making the entire process a little bit more difficult.
8 Essential Tips to Ease The Bathing Process
Easing the pain for your first-timer (and you), here are a few last-minute tips to help the puppy-bathing process:
1. Place your pup in the tub. If you have a rubber mat at the bottom, it will make your dog feel more secure and help ease your worry about them slipping away.
2. Gather all materials beforehand. Once your pup is in that tub, you need to keep an eye on them, or they may make a break for it!
3. Use a cup to get him or her wet first so that they’re used to the water. This will allow your puppy to get used to the feel and temperature. If you want, talk to them using a calming voice, so they also feel calm.
4. Let them smell the “tools” (brush, comb, etc.) you may be using and the shampoo. This will allow them to feel more comfortable with the whole process.
5. Using the puppy-formulated shampoo, apply a line along the back. Using your hands which are already wet, massage down the back, each leg, and the tummy. Don’t forget to get to the entire length of the tail and the paw pads/toes (where you can use assistance from a soft-bristled brush). Get the top of the head, the neck, and the chest.
6. Do NOT get water into their ears or on their face. If you need to wipe around the eyes, use your fingers or a washcloth.
Avoid the nose, mouth and inner ears (water inside the ear can lead to an infection). This will also avoid making him or her shake, which can make a wet bath time for you, too!
7. Once they are soaped up, shield your dog’s eyes as you rinse the top of his or her head. You can always use treats if you feel your dog is getting uncomfortable. Work your way around their body to knead the soap suds out of their fur. Rinsing is one of the most important parts of the bathing process. If you do too little and leave the shampoo on your pup, they can have dry skin later on. Dry skin will go hand-in-hand with flaky, itchy discomfort.
8. Once you've washed your dog completely, it’s time to move onto the drying process. Although dogs love to shake and it’s pretty sufficient, you still have to dry them with a towel. If your dog is tempted to shake, you can hold his or her head still, since most shakes begin there.
When drying, as soon as your pup is out of the bath or finished with it, take the towel and place it over your pup immediately. Use an absorbent towel and go through the drying process from the head to the tail.
If you've just given your puppy a bath and it’s really cold outside, you can benefit from a blow dryer. However, just make sure that you are keeping the settings on warm or cool. You can burn your pup if the air is too hot. Always keep a distance with the blow dryer from his or her coat.
Bath time, although you may think is an extremely impossible thing can actually become a quite enjoyable experience for you and your puppy—not to mention adorable!—and possibly wet.
However, bath time is extremely vital and should never be passed if your dog is dirty. Not only is it important to clean your pup, you can also use bathing as the perfect opportunity to check your dog’s skin for rough areas and lumps. If you find anything unusual when your pup is clean (or else it could have been some built-up dirt), you should contact your vet for a consultation!
Giving your puppy a shower is part of being a pup-parent! We hope that these tips have helped you through bath time.