Puppy bath time should be fun! But it’s something that new puppy parents often worry about.
A daily puppy bath is not essential. Once a month with a gentle puppy shampoo is enough. This will help your puppy get used to bath time from a young age.
You can bathe or rinse your puppy more often if they get very muddy and after swimming in salt water.
If you’re asking “how often should I bathe my puppy?” or what products to use, this guide has the answer. You’ll find out how to bathe a puppy. When you can bathe a puppy. And what to wash a puppy with!
Let’s start by finding out when you can first give your puppy a bath
QUICK LINK FAQs
Puppy First Bath Age
Planning your puppy’s first bath? Puppy bath time doesn’t need to be a daily event. Small puppies don’t need daily baths in the same way that human babies do.
Plus, some folks with clean healthy dogs never bathe their puppies at all. Unless the puppy gets poop on themselves or steps in something equally nasty, of course.
We will look at this a bit more in the moment.
But for now, this means there is no specific date on which you should give your puppy his first bath. Let’s take a look at when you might want to give your puppy his first bath, and how often you should bathe him after this.
Can You Bathe a Puppy at 8 Weeks Old?
Yes, you can bathe a puppy at 8 weeks old if he needs a bath.
Most puppies will at some point. After all, they are prone to falling and stepping in poops and puddles!
But, this doesn’t mean your puppy will need a full bath every day. A small puppy’s fur doesn’t need washing with shampoo on a daily basis.
And little marks, a bit of spilled food for example, can be simply wiped off a short-coated puppy with a damp sponge.
When Can You Bathe a Puppy Regularly?
You can bathe a puppy regularly from the day he arrives home. But, whether you should or not is another question. So how often should you bathe a puppy?
There are a couple of cons to bathing dogs regularly. Especially once they are out and about in the world.
But, there are some pros too, so we’ll look at both.
One of the main disadvantages of regular baths is that even the gentlest of shampoo is likely to disrupt the natural balance of your puppy’s skin and fur to some extent.
Plus, it disrupts the natural waterproofing that fur develops as your puppy matures.
Under your puppy’s fur is a little microworld of friendly bacteria. This helps to keep your puppy’s skin at just the right level of acidity. Changing that balance with shampoo may reduce your puppy’s natural resistance to skin problems and infections.
Your puppy’s soft baby coat is replaced by a typical adult coat in the first few months of life. Let’s take a look at this coat in more detail.
Waterproof Adult Fur
Between six and twelve months old, most puppies will have grown their adult fur. One of the traits of adult fur in many dogs, is that it is fairly waterproof.
This waterproofing is made by oils from the skin. Plus, it helps keep your dog warm and comfortable when he swims or goes out in the rain. This is also what makes the smears you’ll see on a white wall if your dog regularly sleeps up against it!
Shampoo strips out those natural oils. When this happens, water can penetrate your dog’s coat right through to the skin.
How Often Can You Bathe a Puppy?
Here’s a puppy bathing schedule for you to use as a guide:
- Once a week until three months old
- Once a month until six months old
- Twice a year thereafter or as necessary
But, bear in mind that it probably won’t hurt your puppy if you never bathe them at all. So why use the schedule above?
I mentioned before that there were some benefits to regular bathing, let’s look at those now.
Benefits of Regular Bathing
One of the major benefits is to let the puppy to get used to being bathed. Let’s face it. He’s almost certainly going to need a bath at some point in his life.
Your puppy may need a bath:
- For medical reasons (infections, parasites, allergies)
- To remove nasty substances from fur
- To reduce odor
If a puppy has never had one before, a bath on his third birthday because he meets a skunk or steps in some engine oil, is going to be a pretty traumatic experience.
It Benefits You Too!
The other benefit is really for you.
Some breeds of dog, especially some of the sporting breeds have a natural strong body odor.
Labradors and other gun dogs can be very smelly. Some dogs are affected more than others.
My yellow Lab for example smells very strong if not bathed occasionally. While my chocolate Lab has only the mildest body odor.
Many dogs smell stronger as they get older. Older dogs can get very smelly if not bathed occasionally.
So sharing your home with a Lab that hasn’t had a bath for a couple of months can be a pretty intense experience.
Keep Your Dog Feeling Happy
So, to avoid upsetting your older dog if you need to start giving them baths from time to time, it’s a good idea to get a puppy used to baths right now.
This means it’s a good thing for all puppies to be used to happy bath times from an early age.
Bathe your puppy once a week for the first three or four weeks, then once a month until they are six months old, then at least twice a year after. Then, bath-time should be a peaceful non event for your dog.
What to Wash a Puppy With
Don’t be tempted to use human shampoo on a puppy. If you get it in his eyes they will sting and he won’t want to have another bath, ever again.
Baby shampoo can be used in an emergency. But a dog’s skin is less acid than human skin. So, it’s best to use a dog shampoo designed for the purpose. Check the previous link for a great option.
Where to Bathe a Puppy
Some puppies may panic if plunged into a giant white bath tub. Which if you think about it, isn’t really that surprising!
You can help accustom your puppy to the big bath by standing him in it for a few seconds, a few times a day. Plus, give him some tasty treats to eat while he’s in there.
A popular alternative for bathing a puppy is the kitchen sink. But be careful as wet puppies are slippery and if he wriggles out he may fall and hurt himself.
If your puppy doesn’t like the bathtub, a safer place is in a plastic washing up bowl on the kitchen floor!
If the weather is fine you can do the whole thing outside, using a portable shower.
I actually use one of these in the bath too, for my dogs. This is because the shower head in my bath is not detachable.
My portable dog shower has made puppy bath time much easier. And the 5 litre tank is enough for one adult Labrador without refilling.
Especially if you make her wet with water from a cup first.
Portable Shower Heads
You can also get battery operated portable shower heads. These have a little pump at one end that you stick in a bucket of water.
I should think they are easier to store than the pump action container type that I use. I can’t tell you how good they are because I haven’t tried one. But this one has some pretty good reviews
It’s Puppy Bath Time!
Now we’ve taken a good look at when to bathe your puppy, plus the pros and cons of puppy bath time. So, let’s move on to the actual bathing process.
First of all, make sure you have everything ready. If you don’t have a hand held shower spray, you’ll need an enamel or plastic cup for rinsing. Or a portable shower.
Set your cup out within reach of the bath. Along with the puppy shampoo and at least two good sized towels.
Many puppies will also love some tasty treats. So have a pot of these to hand too. You want to make bath time the best fun so that he is happy to repeat it next time it’s needed.
It is also a really great idea to have a helper with you the first time you bath him. Controlling a wet wriggling puppy is not the easiest of tasks, so a second person can help!
Preparing for the Bath
On top of all this, you need to have a towel handy. This will save you time and wet floors when you’re finished!
It’s important to remember the area you wash your puppy is almost guaranteed to get wet. So, don’t wash your puppy somewhere you need to keep dry.
How to Bathe a Puppy
First you need to make sure you’re using the right temperature of water. You can test the heat on the inside of your wrist to avoid burning your puppy. Lukewarm water will make the whole process the most comfortable for your puppy.
Wet the puppy with this warm water a little before you apply shampoo. But don’t be surprised if this is difficult!
Most puppies have quite water repellent coats. Spread a little slick of shampoo down the puppy’s spine. Then with very wet hands start to work it into his coat. Do each leg in turn and then his tummy and bottom.
Don’t shampoo the puppy’s face unless absolutely essential. And keep the shampoo away from his eyes.
Rinse and Repeat!
Keep adding a little more water to spread it around and overcome the water resistance of the coat. Rinse thoroughly with your plastic cup or (shower spray). And change the water before repeating.
The second shampoo will be much more successful and you should be able to work up a nice lather. It is very difficult to thoroughly wet most dogs.
Give the puppy a little treat at frequent intervals. You may need to use a whole meal up this way the first time, to keep him happy.
It’s really important to make sure your puppy is thoroughly rinsed off. Leaving any shampoo residue on your puppy can cause skin problems.
Should I Use Dog Conditioner?
Some people like to use dog conditioner as well as shampoo when they are bathing their dog. Especially if their dog has longer fur, as it can help to prevent knots and tangles.
However, this is not essential.
You do not need to use conditioner when bathing your puppy, shampoo will be enough. But if you do decide to use one, make sure it is specifically made for dogs.
Plus, make sure you rinse thoroughly after conditioning, so that none of the product is left on your dog’s skin.
After the Puppy Bath..
When your puppy has been thoroughly rinsed off, lay a towel over your lap and scoop him up in the other. He may shake off the water before you are able to do this, so prepare to get a little wet!
Pop your pup into your lap and give him a good rub down. Most puppies will find this fun and exciting. So be prepared for playful nipping and grabbing at the towel.
If you have someone helping you, it can be easier for one person to gently hold onto the puppy whilst the other dries him off.
He will shake when you put him down. This will happen no matter how well you dry him!
Can I Leave My Dog to Air Dry?
You can leave him to air-dry in a warm room. Give him a towel to scoot around on if he wants. As this will speed up his drying and keep the damp away from some of the rest of your house.
You can dry your puppy with a hairdryer. If he doesn’t mind the noise. But, if he seems unsure, then don’t use it.
If he seems happy then put it on a low, warm setting and focus the stream of air from the dryer through your hand with your fingers spread out. This is so you can make sure the temperature isn’t too hot on his skin.
Make sure your dog is thoroughly dry if possible, after you’re finished bathing. Let’s take a look at why this is important next.
Make Sure to Dry Thoroughly
It’s important to dry your dog thoroughly, especially if they have a double coat.
Leaving your dog’s coat wet can encourage fungal infections or hot spots.
So, feel your dog’s coat with your fingers after a bath to find any areas that need extra attention.
Plus, make sure to speak to your vet if your dog shows signs of irritation following his bath. They can help you find the cause of this, and avoid any further problems in the future.
Puppy Bath Time – Summary
However you choose to wash and dry your pup, just remember to make puppy bath time as enjoyable and fun for him as possible. Plus, use a dog shampoo specifically made for dogs to avoid any harsh soaps.
But, by all means bathe your puppy if he is really grubby or has rolled in something smelly. And bathe him often enough for it not to be an alien experience. But don’t overdo it.
For small mishaps, or muddy paws, wet wipes are often all that you’ll need.
And remember, there is no such thing as ‘too many towels’, when you have a wet dog in the room!
References and further reading
- Meyer W & Neurand K. Comparison of skin pH in domesticated and laboratory mammals. Archives of Dermatological Research 1991
- Matousek J et al. A comparative review of cutaneous pH. Veterinary dermatology 2002
- Saijonmaa-Koulumies L and Lloyd D. Colonization of the canine skin with bacteria. Veterinary Dermatology 1996