Imagine you are a tiny puppy taking your first bath. Your pet parent is towering over you. Out of nowhere, water is pouring over you. And you’re standing in something called a “tub.”
This would all seem so foreign and that’s because it is; everything about bath time is new to puppies initially! Therefore, it’s important to provide your pup a positive bathing experience early on so they find it enjoyable for years to come.
Along with promoting a squeaky-clean furry friend, baths help strengthen the bond with your dog because they trust you to lead them through the process. With small, developing bodies and delicate skin, pups especially have specific needs when it comes to bathing. Read this step-by-step guide on how to bathe a puppy!
With bath time comes supplies, and what you will need can vary depending on where you will bathe your dog. The bathroom tub may be a great option for larger furry friends while the kitchen sink is sufficient for small pups. If the weather is warm enough, using a basin outside is a fun twist on bath time—and offers the perk of less cleanup afterward!
Regardless of your choice, we have listed must-have items and optional items (that may make the process that much simpler!) when it comes to puppy bath time:
Also, have treats handy to reward your pup for their great behavior!
The Importance of a Puppy-Specific Shampoo
Though it may already be in your home, human shampoo should not be used on your puppy. Dogs’ skin has a higher pH than ours, so your own shampoo may dry out your furry friend’s skin. Plus, puppies’ skin is especially delicate, meaning you will want to select a high-quality puppy shampoo containing a gentle formula that’s ideal for all coat types.
Ensure all your supplies are handy and within reach of the puppy bath area. This is key, especially because you never want to leave your puppy unattended in the bath.
Before you and your dog hit the tub, taking care of this prep work will help ensure a smoother bath time experience.
Detangle the Coat
Once you wet your pet’s coat, any existing tangles and mats in dogs become tighter and more difficult to remove. Therefore, before the bath, use a pet comb or brush to gently detangle and demat your puppy’s coat.
Set up and Fill the Tub
If your dog is in the bathtub or sink, wrap a piece of steel wool around the drain stopper; this helps collect dog hair so it doesn’t clog your drain. You can also place an optional skid-proof mat down in the bottom of the tub, sink, or basin. This will prevent your pup from slipping, offering them security while making your job easier.
Then, fill the tub with water before placing your pup inside of it. Ensure the water is just a few inches high so they feel comfortable and in control. Test the water temperature; puppies easily get chilly and are sensitive to heat, so a lukewarm temperature is ideal.
Place Cotton Balls in Your Puppy’s Ears
Gently insert cotton balls over the opening of your dog’s ears to help prevent water or shampoo from getting in their sensitive ear canals (be sure to take extra precaution while probing their ears). You can feed your puppy treats or soothe them with head rubs while completing this step to ease them!
Time for the main event: giving your puppy the bath! Handle your pup gently and speak to them in a calm voice offering positive reinforcement the entire time. Keep in mind that while you are learning how to bathe a puppy, your puppy is also experiencing a brand-new process. Therefore, patience is essential!
Place Your Puppy in the Tub and Wet Their Body
Gently place your pup in the tub. Start accustoming them to the feeling of water by scooping up water with your hands and dribbling it on their back. Continue to do this, petting your dog as you are wetting them to reassure that they’re safe.
Continue to either scoop water or use a water spray attachment on the lowest setting (and with lukewarm water) to gently wet your pup from their head to their tail—avoiding your dog’s eyes and ears. Every part of your dog should be thoroughly wet.
Wash and Shampoo the Skin and Coat
Start with rinsing your puppy’s face and head with water only; do not use shampoo on these delicate areas because it may cause ear and eye irritation. Use a washcloth dampened with clean, warm water so you can carefully maneuver your pup’s face and head.
Next, apply shampoo to your puppy’s wet coat and work it together for some lather. Shampoo the rest of the body using gentle hand motions. Focus on one area at a time and go in a specific order so you don’t forget any spots such as the paws or under the legs.
Rinse Your Puppy
Once you are done shampooing your dog, drain the soapy water. Then, use a cup with clean water to rinse your puppy—the cup will offer you control when rinsing and help avoid shampoo getting in their eyes or ears. Rinse your furry friend more than once and thoroughly; any residue can irritate a puppy’s skin.
You bathed your pup…now what? Follow these after-bath tips for a shiny and satisfied furry kid!
Dry Your Puppy
Take your puppy out of the tub and lightly dry and wrap them with a clean towel. Remove the cotton balls from their ears.
If you are outside, you can let your pooch shake out and dry. If you’re indoors and it isn’t too cold, you may want to let your dog air dry. You could also use a blow dryer; just be sure to put it on the lowest setting and continuously move it to different parts of your dog’s body so it doesn’t feel too hot. Ensure you keep it a few inches away from your dog’s fur.
Brush or Comb the Coat
Just how you groomed your pup before their bath, you should also use a pet brush or comb appropriate for your puppy’s coat type when they are dry to release any excess hair and reduce shedding. This will result in a lustrous, heathy coat!
Reward Your Furry Friend
Reward your dog with a puppy treat and give them a high paw for being such a champ while getting through their first bath!
Once you and your pup conquer the impossible (a.k.a. bath time), you should establish a routine so they continue to get accustomed to bathing and stay happy, healthy, and clean! How often you should bathe your puppy depends on different factors such as their dog coat type, breed, and lifestyle. If you have more questions about how to bathe a puppy, contact your veterinarian.
For other ways to groom your pup, discover our essential grooming supplies for your dog!
Four Paws®, Magic Coat®, and Wee-Wee® products are available at major pet stores everywhere in the U.S. Please check with your local retailer or our Where to Buy page for product availability near you.