How to Bathe a Puppy

You’ve brought this wonderful bundle of fur home, and you’ve spent hours playing with him in the garden. But now your puppy is covered in leaves and mud and is leaving a trail of dirt wherever he goes in the house. It’s time for a bath!

Bathing your puppy can be an exciting experience for both you and him. It gives you a chance to bond with your amazing new friend and it is a chance for him to learn that bathing can be fun. This will help you as he grows—bathing a puppy is easier than bathing an unwilling fully-grown dog. Here are some tips on how to get it right.

Be prepared

Puppies are adorable but mischievous animals. It is likely that he will escape from the bath more than once, or try and lick you when covered in soap. Wear clothes you don’t mind getting wet. Keep everything you need for the bath at hand, so that you can simply reach over and pick them up when needed. Hunting around the house for that grooming brush with a wet puppy on the loose is never a good idea. If this is your first time bathing your puppy, ensure there is nothing that demands your presence, such as work or a meeting you have to get to. It is best to give your puppy your undivided attention, so that he knows that bath-time is valuable and fun.

When to bathe your puppy

Dogs are not like us. Puppy grooming is important, but bathing too often can irritate their skin; it can give them rashes and make them scratchy. Their coat needs natural oils to stay soft and silky, so it is best to bathe your puppy only when he is dirty or smelly. This differs from puppy to puppy, as dogs with longer fur may get mud and dirt more easily caught in their coat. It also varies throughout the life of the dog, often changing from year to year and as they age. Puppies are extremely curious, sniffing under sofas and digging for bones—their enthusiasm for life is boundless, so they may get dirty more often at this age.

Where to bathe your puppy

There are several places you can bathe your dog.

Outdoors: If it is a pleasant day, a hose or an outdoor kiddie pool could be the perfect idea. Make sure there are no escape routes however, especially if you don’t want to chase your puppy through the garden.

In the house: As they are so small at this age, you could bathe your puppy in the bathroom itself. A bathtub or shower allows you more room, but the sink is ideal to contain your puppy’s enthusiasm. Bathing him in the sink means that you will not have to bend down for the time it takes to bathe him, which is better for your back. You can also keep everything you need by the side of the sink, within easy reach.

Don’t forget that this is a new experience for him. Above all, it is important that he feels comfortable and safe. If your puppy is shy or generally nervous, make sure you’ve introduced him to his bathing place several times before. That way, he is familiar with his surroundings and is not frightened of what is about to happen.

What you need for bathing puppies

Water: It is important to get the temperature of the water just right. Lukewarm water is best, but make sure it is colder than what you would use for your own bath. Test the water temperature with your wrist or elbow, as you would for a baby’s bath.

Brush: If your puppy has long fur, comb it thoroughly before starting the bath. This will ensure he doesn’t shed too much in the water, and that his fur does not get too tangled with all the soap and rinsing. Dried knots can be impossible to remove sometimes.

Products: Use dog-formulated soap and shampoo to wash your puppy. Products may vary depending on the type of dog, as different coats need different treatments, so get the one best suited for yours. Using too much soap can make your puppy’s skin irritable. Leaving soap on him can have the same effect, so make sure you rinse him properly to get it all off. If your puppy is resistant or squirms a lot, he may be scared or unused to water. Do not rush him. Introduce the water gently, in small amounts. Take your time, praise him, and soothe him with petting. It is important that he is happy and that you are thorough.

For goodness shake!

Watch out for the full body shake! Dogs like to get water off their fur by shaking their entire bodies—which means a lot of the water can end up on you. Keep towels handy to absorb the extra water and make sure it does not get onto your bathroom walls. As they are tiny at this stage, you can even hold them in your arms and towel them dry. We don't think there is anything cuter than having a puppy poke his face out of a towel, grateful for all the fun he’s had.