How to Bathe a Puppy

How to Give a Puppy a Bath for the First Time

You may not be too pleased with the idea of giving your puppy a bath for the very first time. Often, we associate bathing pups as an ordeal, which involves pinning the poor little dog down into their tub, chasing after him after he manages to squirm free, possibly slipping on the soapy floor in the process and finally catching him rolling in dirt.

Any dog lover knows that this needn’t be the case. It is possible for your puppy to love baths if you approach the entire process with gentleness and a positive attitude.

Now, the first thing to keep in mind is that bathing the puppy is a bit different from bathing a grown dog. In fact, it’s a lot like bathing a six-month-old baby. That is, the process needs far more thought and care than when, say, bathing yourself. This is because both babies and puppies still have delicate skin and body tissues. They also can’t naturally regulate their body temperature as well as adults meaning problems can arise when the temperature of bath water is not checked properly. Probably the one obvious difference between the two is that the puppy has fur and can run, fast, especially at bath time!

Thus, your first consideration for bath time is safety for both you and your pup. As we illustrated earlier, water and soap can get quite slippery. It’s also not safe to just dump water and shampoo over your puppy and hope for the best. This can get into orifices and irritate body tissue.

bathing a puppy

This may sound a bit scary, but it’s actually easy once you get the hang of it. To help you out, here’s a brief step-by-step guide on how to wash a puppy for the first time:


Before battle, a soldier polishes his gear. Before an operation, a surgeon checks that he has everything he will need. Before class, a teacher sharpens her pencils. In the same way, pretty much everything requires some sort of preparation and puppy baths are no exception.

You may want to get your puppy to pee and poop beforehand. If the call of nature is felt in the middle of the bath, things can get pretty messy.

For starters, dress up in clothes that you don’t mind getting wet or covered in doggy shampoo. Then you can begin to prepare everything you need. You may want to use a basin with a rubber mat to keep your puppy from slipping and some people also like using detangler or conditioner, but this isn’t necessary for young pups. Also, prepare several towels to dry him with afterwards.

Prepare the place where you will wash him. This can be the sink, a bathroom or a spot outdoors. It helps if, in the weeks prior to his first bath, you have brought him to this place and have gotten your dog comfortable with it. Let the puppy associate it with good things and your task will be much easier.

Just make sure that, wherever this is, the area is warm. Your puppy’s skin surface area is pretty big, so he’s going to get cold easily. Lukewarm water is usually most appropriate, but if it’s particularly cold, you may also use warm water. Make sure to test that the water is neither too hot nor cold by dipping your elbow in it. The nerves in your elbow are extra-sensitive, so it’s generally a better judge of temperature than your hand.

Take a deep breath and take your puppy to his bath place calmly and gently. He may sense any of your tension and think that he’s up for an ordeal. If you convince yourself beforehand that he will enjoy the bath, he just might!

The Bathhow to bathe a puppy

If your pup has long hair, use a soft brush to get rid of tangles gently.

Place him in the basin with water, making sure that the water level isn’t too high. If he tries to get out, just guide him back in gently. Talk to him with a soothing voice to get him to calm down.

Wet his body. You don’t want to get any water on his head for now. Dogs in general hate getting their heads wet and doing so early on may cause problems.

Massage in the puppy shampoo. Do this with firm yet gentle pressure in rhythmic, circular motions. Since you probably know him pretty well by now, you may know some of the sweet spots where he loves getting petted. Massage these first so that he associates the bath with good sensations. We definitely advise a dedicated puppy shampoo to start with as it can be nicer on the skin and coat of your young dog.

Shampoo his entire body in this manner, carefully feeling for lumps and ticks. If your pup does have ticks, apply an extra amount of shampoo into the tick to loosen its suction on his skin. Gently pull it off. Make sure to kill the tick afterwards or it may find its way back to your pup again.

After washing his entire body, wet his head just a little bit and shampoo it as well. Take care not to get water in his eyes, ears or nose. No matter how gentle your shampoo, it can still irritate these areas.

Rinse him well. Do not leave any shampoo residue as this may dry out his skin.

Drying up

As we mentioned earlier, puppies cannot regulate their temperature as well as adult dogs, and we all know that a wet pup is a cold pup. Making sure that he is nice and dry is, therefore, an important part of the cleaning process.

Take your pup out of the bath with a soft, dry towel and massage his fur with it to absorb some of the water. You may use a blow-drier if it’s particularly cold. Just make sure to use the drier on a warm or cool setting. Never use hot settings on your pup as this may burn his sensitive skin.

You may want to spread a bunch of towels on the floor for him to roll around in. Dogs of all ages love rolling around after a bath!

If your puppy didn’t quite enjoy their first bath, don’t fret! Ask yourself what parts they liked the most about it, and what parts he didn’t quite like. Maintain the good parts so that he always finds something enjoyable about it, and tweak the unenjoyable moments slightly until you find a bath time routine works.

Finally, congratulate yourself for giving your pup their very first bath! This is a milestone and is the first of many baths to come which will, hopefully, be positive experiences for you both.

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