You should bathe your puppy about no more than once a month unless necessary. Puppies and adult dogs have natural oils in their coat to prevent their fur from getting brittle or damaged and to keep it soft and silky. Bathing your dog too often can strip away those oils.
How often to bathe a puppy will vary from breed to breed. A long-haired dog breed is likely to get tangled or matted fur if they go too long between baths. Frequency of baths may also change from one season to another.
Puppies are playful, curious explorers. They’re likely to find joy and adventure by splashing in mud puddles or rolling in something smelly. So, although bathing every four weeks is the average recommendation, your curious puppy may need an extra bath or two in between, and that’s okay.
When Can You Start Bathing a Puppy?
Puppies should not be bathed until around eight weeks old. Older dogs’ body temperature self-regulates, but young puppies don’t have that ability yet. A puppy less than eight weeks old might get overheated or too cold during the bathing process. Prior to them being old enough to bathe, try wiping them down with a warm, wet cloth when needed.
You can bathe your puppy at home or take them to a groomer or a self-wash station. Make sure they’re fully vaccinated prior to visiting a self-wash place. Groomers often have vaccine requirements as well.
Puppy Bathing Checklist
When the time comes to bathe your puppy for the first time, make sure you have everything you need on hand, including:
- Treats. Use puppy treats to reward them for good behavior and to help them associate bath time with things they love.
- Towel. Depending on the breed and coat of your dog, they may be quick or slow to dry, but either way, you’ll need a towel to dry them off—and maybe another for you.
- Brush. Make sure you choose an appropriate brush based on your dog’s hair (long, short, coarse, etc.). A brush can help remove loose hair and address any tangles.
- Shampoo. Choose a shampoo made specifically for dogs, as human shampoo is not suitable for their fur.
- Hair dryer. Use with caution, as puppies can overheat if you hold the dryer too close or for too long. If the loud noise scares your puppy, try rewarding them with treats so it becomes a positive experience.
- Bathtub, sink or container. Whether you use bathtub, sink or kiddie pool, your puppy will probably splash around or shake water from their fur. So, make sure the surrounding area is suitable for getting wet.
How to Bathe a Puppy
Once you have all your supplies, washing your puppy just takes a few steps:
- Start when they’re young. When they’re eight weeks old, puppies are old enough to be bathed—and it’s better to start early so they can get used to the routine.
- Gently brush out their coat. Before bathing them, start brushing your puppy slowly, as this can help them relax. Simple movements with an appropriate brush will also remove dirt and debris from their coat, and alleviate matting and knots.
- Pick a spot. Sinks are perfect for bathing small puppies. A hose or kiddie pool in the backyard can work for larger breeds in the summer months. Make sure the surface is non-slip with something like a rubber mat to help them feel more secure, then gather all your supplies pre-bath. Don't leave a wet puppy unattended, or you may end up mopping the whole house.
- Give plenty of praise and the occasional treat. Bath time should be an enjoyable experience for you and your puppy. A great way to make baths something they look forward to is to give them lots of praise and reward any good behavior with treats.
- Make it fun. Your puppy is more likely to behave during bath time if they’re having fun. Try tossing their favorite toy into the tub, or just give them lots of love and attention.
- Scrub gently. Gentle scrubbing will wash and massage your puppy while getting them used to being handled. This is also an excellent time to check their skin. Feel all over for lumps and rough areas and call your veterinarian if you find anything suspicious.
- Rinse well. Once you’ve massaged a specially formulated puppy shampoo into their coat, rinse them off thoroughly. Just like humans, leftover shampoo can cause dry, itchy, flaky skin. Try to avoid getting water in their ears or eyes.
- Prepare for the post-bath shake. Dogs dry themselves quite a bit by shaking. Unfortunately, that can mean your puppy is mostly dry, but everything else is soaked. You can try tossing a towel over them and rubbing them dry before they shake. Using a hair dryer on a warm or cool setting can also help speed up the process. If it’s cold outside, keep them inside until completely dry.
- Treat time. Reward your puppy for a successful bath by offering them a special treat or fun toy.
How to Get Your Puppy Used to the Hair Dryer
If your puppy’s coat is particularly long or thick, they can take a long time to dry. In this case, using a hairdryer might be necessary. Sometimes, puppies can find hair dryers to be loud, confusing and even a little frightening, so reassure them and reward them for good behavior if they seem to tolerate it well.
To get your puppy used to the hair dryer, introduce it from an early age, initially just using the dryer to make noise in the room, before moving towards your puppy while giving them calm and soothing encouragement. Make the sessions short at the beginning and have patience as you both are learning in this process/activity.
Check Your Dog’s Skin
Bathing is an excellent opportunity to check your puppy’s skin. Feel all over for lumps and rough areas and call your veterinarian if you find anything suspicious.