Whether your dog is covered in fur, has short hair or is even hairless, all dogs will need bathing at some point in their lives. Getting them used to the process when they are young will make the process easier for both you and your pup.
How often should I wash my puppy?
The general rule with bathing your dog is to only do it when your pup becomes dirty or smelly. This avoids causing skin irritation and stripping of natural oils.
Although this is generally a good rule, different breeds need different bathing routines. Long haired dogs will often need to be washed more regularly to avoid matting and tangling and some working breeds will become smellier quicker because of their habits and fur types. If you are unsure you can read the breed profile of your dog for more information or seek the advice of a vet or professional groomer.
Puppies don't usually need to be washed unless they accidentally get some of their toilet mess on them. That being said, it's a good idea to get your puppy used to the process to avoid them becoming fearful of it later in life so make the effort to wash your puppy every 4-6 weeks (unless told otherwise by a professional) so that they don't become anxious by the activity.
Where should I wash my puppy?
This decision comes down to several factors- choose a place where you have enough room to manoeuver around your dog and that you don't mind getting wet or can be easily cleaned down. You can put your puppy into a bath, shower, sink, bucket, washing up bowl or just have them stand outside if it's warm enough- this will depend on what you have available and how big your dog will grow to be. Put a non-slip mat down on whatever surface you choose to use to stop your pup slipping about and potentially hurting themselves.
Get your puppy used to being in the bath before launching into their first bath. Put them in the bath without any water and give them a toy or a treat and lots of praise. Repeat the process several times a day for a couple of days or until your pup is used to being in the bath. You can then add a little tepid water to the bath and let them feel it on their paws so they get used to the sensation. Repeat the same process of praising and rewarding them. Your puppy should soon start to associate the bath with positive things.
Brush your puppy to remove any knots or tangles before you wet them. Washing your dog when they have tangles in their fur will likely make them worse and could lead to matting and irritation.
Gather bathing supplies. Have the shampoo and towels with you before you begin bathing. Only ever use dog shampoo when washing your dog, even gentle human shampoos and baby shampoos may be too harsh for your puppy's delicate skin.
If you have a big dog or one with lots of hair you may want to wear a splash-proof apron or even some waterproofs to avoid you getting wet through when they shake off or scramble about!
How to wash your puppy
Before putting your puppy in the bath (or alternative) get the water running to a luke warm temperature, checking the heat on your wrist or elbow. It's very important not to have hot water as this can burn your puppy or make them overheat.
Wet your puppy's coat, making sure it's completely saturated, using a shower head or jug filled with water.
Squeeze some dog shampoo into wet hands and lather it slightly before rubbing it into your puppy's coat, starting at the neck and working your way down. Ensure you properly cover all areas including the tummy, tail, paws and bottom. The shampoo should lather, if it's not doing then you may need to apply more.
Avoid contact with your pup's eyes, mouth and within their ears. It's best to simply not wash the dog's face unless completely necessary and instead use a damp wash cloth to clean it.
Rinse the fur really well. Any left over shampoo will cause irritation to your puppy so this step is very important. Rinse several times if you are not sure if all the shampoo is out.
If your dog has long hair you may choose to use conditioner too to make brushing and maintenance easier. The process for this is exactly the same as shampooing but there will be no suds and you should massage the conditioner into the fur in the direction of hair growth.
Give your pup a final brush to stop any matts from forming. You can skip this step if your dog has short hair.
Drying your puppy
Allow your pup to shake off the excess water whilst they're still in the bath- this will make your job a lot easier. Then take them out of the bath and straight onto a towel or bath mat. Cover them with a towel and rub them down in the direction of fur growth.
Rub them down until their fur is dry to the touch and when you run your hands through it. Ensure sensitive areas such as the inner legs, tummy, bottom and tail are thoroughly dried to avoid irritation and infection. If it is a warm day or you have a fire or warm area, it is ok to leave your puppy's fur slightly damp and let them dry off naturally.
You may choose to blow dry your dog's fur if it is long or thick. If doing this, have your hairdryer on a low heat setting and don't keep the dryer on one spot for too long. Dogs' skin is very sensitive and can burn easily so avoid doing this unless you're sure of what you are doing.
- Get someone to help you keep your puppy still so you can focus on washing. It's normal for pups to wriggle and it can be a bit of a handful on your own!
- Small bits of dirt or food stains should be wiped away with a damp cloth and don't mean your pup needs a full wash.
- Bathing is a good time to check your puppy's skin for lumps, rashes or dry areas. If you find anything, contact your vet.
- If you struggle to bathe your pup or don't know what you're doing, ask for help from a professional groomer.
- If you know your puppy will need professional grooming when they are older, take them in for a puppy groom so they get used to the experience of being handled by someone else.