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When Can You Give Your Puppy Their First Bath?

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When a toddler eats messy food or tumbles in the dirt, it’s incredibly easy to clean them off – remove the dirty clothes and get them in that tub ASAP! Unfortunately, though puppies are just as messy as little kids, keeping them clean is much harder.

A dog getting a bath

Plus, where a baby can be bathed from being one day old as soon as they get home from the hospital, there are specific guidelines for bathing puppies that must be followed to keep your canine companion happy and healthy.

The most important rule is this: puppies should only be bathed at six weeks or older, and even at this age, the utmost care should be taken in order to prevent illness. In an ideal world, owners should wait until eight weeks to bathe their pups.

So, why should owners wait six weeks (as a general guideline) before bathing their little bundles of furry joy and how exactly does one give a puppy a bath, anyway? Let’s find out!

How Early Can You Give A Puppy a Bath?

You might find more experienced breeders, handlers, or carers giving puppies a bath as early as four weeks after birth. However, this is not recommended behavior for the average dog owner, as it’s possible water could be inhaled accidentally by the pup.

If a puppy inhales water, it could result in fluid in the lungs, which is an incredibly dangerous and potentially lethal experience to be avoided at all costs. It is only considered safe to bathe a puppy after the initial six weeks.

That being said, even professionals will say that a bath after six weeks is more than fine as long as you keep hold of the puppy at all times. It’s up to you as an individual to decide if you feel confident protecting them or not. Remember – they’re wriggly!

Can You Bathe An 8 Week Old Puppy?

Yes! Personal and expert opinions would suggest that once a puppy has surpassed two months, they will have developed significantly, reducing the danger of water inhalation and making the experience much easier and safer.

Is It Safe To Bathe A Four Week Old Puppy?

You can, yes, but it’s not recommended unless you’re an expert with a lot of experience.

If a puppy is dirty, you should leave it to their mom and siblings to lick them clean – it might sound gross, but this is the safest way.

How Soon After a Puppy Has Been Neutered/Spayed Can You Bathe Them?

It is widely believed – and encouraged by veterinarians – that owners should wait at least a week, if not ten days or longer, before bathing a puppy following their neutering or spaying surgery.

How Do You Give A Puppy A Bath? Guide To Bathing Your Puppy For The First Time

Giving a tiny puppy a bath might sound simple, but it’s deceptively difficult. It’s also very important to get everything right in order to keep your furry friend safe and happy. The first bath, in particular, can be a little bit of a struggle for some.

Where inquisitive puppies might love the water and happily splash around in it, other more timid dogs might start to panic and make continuous escape attempts. Have you ever tried to keep a soaking wet and wriggling puppy in a bathtub? Exactly!

Of course, the earlier a pup is initially introduced to a bath, the better. While it isn’t safe to bathe them before they are at least six weeks old, you could definitely take them upstairs and let them have a sniff of the tub without any water.

Here is a clear step-by-step guide to washing your puppy for the first time and, of course, any subsequent scrubbings! Remember, water inhalation is incredibly dangerous, so if your pup starts to cough or hack violently, shows difficulty in breathing, or appears suddenly very lethargic, get them to a vet ASAP.

Step One: Get Everything Ready!

Start by getting yourself a suitable puppy brush. Then, gently brush through their coat, and be sure to keep them in your lap or somewhere they feel comfortable and secure. Try and tease out any tangles as delicately as you can!

Once they’re all brushed and ready to go, make sure you’ve got all of the accessories you require before drawing them a lukewarm, shallow bath. Puppy-friendly shampoo is a must, as are treats and some clean, fresh towels.

Worried about the potential for fur to clog up your drain? If you’re not going to keep the plug in during bathtime, then you can always use a mug or some steel wool to cover the drain holes and present any stray hairs causing a blockage.

Step Two: Head To The Bathroom

Again, it’s helpful if your pup has already had a sniff around the bathroom prior to their first actual bath, so they don’t freak out immediately at the change of scenery.
It’s important to fill the bath before the puppy enters, as taps can be noisy and scary!

Have plenty of treats at the ready (though most dogs won’t need them anymore after the first couple of baths), and using your most encouraging voice, give them lots of praise and fuss while you carefully lower them into the tub.

Don’t worry if they jump in and out a few times at first – you might need a second pair of hands to help out if this is the case, though. Not all dogs will take to water initially, in the same way, some babies really hate bath time… it’s strange and different!

Step Three: Wash With Warm Water

Now they’re successfully in the tub; you can start to begin the actual wetting process. Either using a small jug, cup, or an integrated shower head (on the lowest pressure setting), begin to soak their fur in warm water.

Pay attention to the temperature! Just because you can withstand it doesn’t mean your pup can! Ensure it is warm enough that they don’t get cold and start shivering but stay cool enough that they aren’t uncomfortable or, worse, scalded.

Step Four: Gently Start Shampooing

Once dripping wet, it’s shampooing time. As with kids, it’s important to avoid the eyes and make sure you’re using a sensitive, puppy-specific formula. Very carefully and evenly rub the shampoo through their entire coat.

Be sure to get a nice foamy lather going, and make sure you get in all the hidden nooks and crannies, especially if they’re a wrinkly dog. Focus on their underside and tails, being careful not to get any suds in their eyes or ears.

Step Five: Rinse And Repeat (Or Not)

Once their fur is soapy all over, it’s time to rinse. Again, you can use a gentle stream from the shower head or go old-fashioned and tip the water out of a plastic cup. Holding a washcloth over their eyes is a good idea to shield them from stingy suds.

Be thorough, and don’t let them escape until every last bubble has been rinsed away. Before you let them out of the bath, drain the water so they can stand independently and allow them to have a thorough shake to remove any excess droplets.

Sure, you don’t have to force them to do this shake in the bath, but your clothing and the rest of your bathroom will be safe from being covered in the spray of a wet dog shaking off their fur.

Step Six: Dry Their Fur Properly

This is the most important step! Remember, allow your canine companion to partake in their own drying process with a ginormous shake before you go in yourself with the towel. It’s the natural way that a dog would dry itself if living in the wild!

As gently as you possibly can (without failing to remove any moisture), start to rub your pup dry with a clean, warm towel. Start with their underside and torso, moving around to the legs, paws, and face.

Pay close attention to the fur between their paw pads, as it can become uncomfortable and itchy if not dried properly. If you want to speed up the drying process, you could always break out your blow dryer – human ones are fine!

This is especially useful if you’re bathing a breed with an especially long or thick coat, but you should only ever use the lowest, coolest setting. If it’s too hot to hold over your own skin, then it’s definitely too hot for their delicate fur!

Some pups might be scared of the dryer, too, so maybe try introducing them to it in a neutral scenario. Switching it on and showing them how it works when they’re not soaking wet and can run away if frightened helps them realize it’s not dangerous.

Don’t just focus the blow dryer in one spot either, or you could cause irritation – it’s best to move it continuously throughout the entire drying process. Your dog may even like to walk around you in circles in order to help dry themselves quicker!

A dog getting a bath

How Regularly Should Puppies Be Bathed?

Now you know exactly what bathing a puppy entails, you’re probably wondering how often you have to go through this rigmarole! Well, keeping your dog clean is not only important for the sake of maintaining a clean and smell-free home.

It’s also vital that your pup is washed regularly, as without a proper cleaning, their fur can become a very attractive breeding ground for bacteria, parasites, and other unpleasant microbes, which puts not just them but your whole family in danger.

Although you can wash them every day if you want to – though your dog might not feel the same way about that! – the recommended waiting period between baths is approximately a month for puppies on the younger side.

When they’ve played in something nasty, however, it’s another story. Even if your pup only had a bath the previous day, should you find them covered in pee, poop, or equally as gross material, a second wash is not only acceptable but encouraged.

Plus, if your dog has been injured in any way or is currently suffering from a skin infection or inflammation, it will heal in the best and fastest way when you, as the owner, are making sure to bathe it regularly.

Do keep in mind that certain breeds that suffer from skin conditions like dryness should be washed less regularly; any dog can develop irritation, though, so if you’re worried, then consult professional advice. Be sure to research your breed thoroughly!

Once they get older and are a little less likely to roll around in poop, you can probably reduce their baths to around once every three months at a minimum. It’s pretty common to give your dog a weekly bath, however, which helps erase wet dog odor.

What Shampoo Is Best For Puppies?

That depends on which pup you have, as well as a variety of other important considerations. For instance, not only do you need to think about their breed, the length of their coat, and their age, but you must also address any health conditions.

Although they tend to be more expensive, it’s best to choose a shampoo made especially for puppies if you can afford it. These will not only be softer and gentler on the skin, but the formula is tear-free, so there’s no irritation should it end up in their eyes.

That being said, so long as the manufacturer clearly states it is also safe for puppies, you can use most dog shampoos without worry. Be sure to double-check before you purchase, though – their safety and well-being are at risk if you don’t.

A responsible owner will avoid shampoos containing any artificial chemicals, dyes, or fragrances, as these can be irritating at best and fatal at their worst. Sticking to natural scents like lavender or tea tree is your best bet for a clean canine!

When your dog suffers from strong odors, dry skin, or other conditions, you should try and get a shampoo that is proven to soothe or treat these issues. Again, you’ll end up spending more money, but it will probably save you a trip to the vet.

Likewise, you can also get formulas that have been specially designed to be hypoallergenic for the most sensitive of puppies. If you can find a shampoo recommended by vets or other pup professionals, then even better!

In Conclusion… It’s Hard Keeping Perfectly Clean Puppies!

So, now you know: puppies should not be having their first bath until at least eight weeks. Any earlier than this, and the only washing they should be experiencing is one from their mother, using her tongue! It sounds gross, but it’s actually very hygienic.

Although you might see trained professionals (or foolish amateurs) washing their puppies earlier than six or even four weeks old, this is usually because they have experience in caring for dogs and can avoid the potential risk of water inhalation.

Once they hit the age of two months, you’ll definitely want to start bathing them regularly. Much like mini humans, they have a habit of being mischievous and getting themselves into trouble, which often involves dirt or some other mess.

You can bathe them as regularly as you want to after that all-important milestone, though you should remind yourself that keeping a dog totally clean all the time, especially a puppy, is pretty much impossible!

Does your dog struggle more than average when it comes to bath time? You might need to enlist the help of a professional groomer who knows all the tips and tricks required to clean up even the most nervous of mucky puppies.

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About the author


Kerry White is an avid dog lover and writer, knowing all there is to know about our furry friends. Kerry has been writing for PetDT for three years now, wanting to use her knowledge for good and share everything she can with new dog owners.Kerry has two dogs herself - a German shepherd called Banjo and a chocolate labrador called Buttons. Kerry knows more than anyone how adjusting to new life with a puppy can turn your life upside down, and she wants to ease some of the burdens through her articles.