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When Can You Bath Puppies? Expert Advice on Puppy Hygiene - PawSafe

When Can You Bath Puppies? Expert Advice on Puppy Hygiene

Photo of Tamsin De La Harpe

Written by Tamsin De La Harpe

when can you bath puppies

Welcome to our comprehensive guide on when to give your puppy a bath and how to do it. As a proud owner of a feisty little pup named Arthur, I’ve had my share of challenges and triumphs in the world of puppy grooming.

From personal experience, I know that introducing a puppy to bathtime requires patience and a gentle approach. I remember vividly the process of gradually desensitizing Arthur to being in the tub, and navigating through his initial reluctance to avoid any dramatic episodes. This journey has not only been a learning curve for Arthur and me but also an opportunity to bond and build trust.

In this article, we’ll delve deep into the world of puppy bathing, guided by expert advice from renowned groomer Sue Dallas VN, and Sandy Blackburn. We’ll explore the key factors that determine the best time to introduce your puppy to washing, balancing their physical needs with their emotional readiness. Whether you’re a first-time puppy parent or a seasoned dog owner, this guide will equip you with all the necessary insights to make wash time a positive and stress-free experience for your fur baby.

We all want our dog to smell nice to facilitate the cuddles and kisses. However, it is essential to remember that washing a puppy too frequently can strip their coat of its natural oils and cause dryness and irritation. Remember that large breed puppies can usually cope better with being drenched in water than small breeds, as smaller dogs have a harder time regulating their body temperature.

In his book, Charles Hallock recommends to avoid washing young puppies when it is cold as it can make them more vulnerable to health issues like distemper, which can spread to other puppies in the kennels, leaving you to wonder what to give a dog for a cough.

Ensure not to rush the grooming process. This is a perfect time for you and your pup to bond and check for abnormalities on their skin. Rinse thoroughly to prevent any shampoo residue and moisture in the ears to avoid facilitating the growth of bacteria causing ear infections and irritating their skin. 

Managing A Puppy’s First Bath

Small mixed breed puppy in plastic tub covered in shampoo and bubbles first bath

Washing your young canine can be an exciting experience, and it is one way of creating and strengthening the bond between you and your canine companion. However, it is essential to understand when it’s appropriate.

Washing a puppy too early or too often can harm their health, while waiting too long can cause them to develop bad habits such as being reluctant to be forced into water. It is recommended to start grooming dogs while young to help them get used to it and reduce anxiety.

Puppies are born with a natural oil on their skin and fur that helps protect them from the environment. This oil and their mother’s grooming help keep them clean and healthy.  It’s essential to wait until puppies are weaned before giving them their first tub time, as they are still under their mothers’ care and their natural oil production is still developing.

Use lukewarm water to avoid high fluctuation in their body temperature. Also, shun the frequent use of human shampoos because they are too harsh for their delicate skin and cause irritation. Bar soap, however, can be used in some cases to stop bleeding, especially when you have accidentally cut your nails excessively by simply pressing the pin into the bar.


Introducing your young dog to baths is an important step in their development. Since being cleaned is something they will do for the rest of their lives, a proper introduction can go a long way and enhance a positive experience for both the puppy and the owner.

Here are some tips to help prepare for the journey:

1. Start When They Are Young

Young pups are always willing to please. Like socialization, when you introduce your dog to water in their early stages, it helps the puppy to transition into a calm and well-behaved adult. When I got Arthur at eight weeks, I spent the first week getting him familiar with the bathroom and the tub before embarking on any actual washing.

2. Gather Grooming Supplies

Before starting, gather all the necessary supplies. This includes a mild puppy shampoo, towels, a non-slip mat, and a brush. A shampoo specifically designed for puppies is essential as their skin is more sensitive than adult dogs.

3. Starting Slow With Desensitization

Introduce the puppy to the tub slowly. Start by placing the puppy on the non-slip mat and giving them treats to create a positive association with the site. Gradually introduce the sound of running water and the feel of wet fur by using a damp cloth to wipe the puppy down.

Giving Arthur his first wash was a thoughtful process that required both patience and a gentle approach. I started by familiarizing him with the bathroom environment, allowing him to explore the tub when it was dry, and letting him sniff around the shampoo bottles and towels. 

I placed a non-slip mat in the tub to ensure his safety and comfort. Gradually, I introduced the sound of running water, without directing it at him, so he could get used to the noise in a non-threatening way.

4. Create a Comfortable Environment

Make sure the area where your dog will be washed is warm and comfortable. Use warm water and avoid getting water in the puppy’s ears and eyes. It is crucial to keep the puppy calm and relaxed throughout the process.

On the day of my pup’s first time, I made sure the room was warm and the water was lukewarm – not too hot or cold. I gently placed Arthur in the tub, reassuring him with a calm voice and gentle petting. I used a small cup to pour water over his body, avoiding his ears and eyes, and applied a puppy-specific shampoo, massaging it in softly. 

Throughout the process, I kept praising him and offering treats to associate tub time with positive experiences. After a thorough but gentle rinse, I wrapped him in a towel and gave him a good cuddle, making sure he was completely dry. The key was to keep the entire experience as stress-free and comforting as possible, turning wash time into a bonding activity rather than a chore.

5. Creating a Positive Experience

Make the cleaning session a positive experience by rewarding the puppy with treats and praise. This will help create a positive association and make future cleaning time  easier.

Pro-tip: if your puppy loves food, attach a lick mat to the side of the cleaning to keep them busy while you wash them.

6. Handling Puppy Anxiety

Some puppies may become anxious when they first place them in water. To help them feel more comfortable, speak to them calmly and reassuringly to help them relax. Additionally, offer treats and praise throughout process to reinforce positive behavior. See this article for a guideline on why dogs hate baths and how to prevent this issue.

Bathing Procedure

puppy getting first bath

Following a proper procedure is essential to ensure their safety and comfort when and after bathing a young puppy. After preparing the area, here are some other steps to follow:

  1. Brush

    Brush the pups to remove any loose hair and mats. Remember, they get rid of excessive hair by shedding, especially if they have a long coat like the Newfoundland or Yorkshire Terrier.

  2. Shampoo

    Apply shampoo, wet them, and gently lather it over your puppy’s body, avoiding the eyes and ears. Use a tear-free face wash and a soft cloth to clean your puppy’s face if needed. Be cautious around the eyes and ears to avoid irritation and infections.

  3. Rinse

    Rinse and dry your pup thoroughly and ensure no residue is left on their coat. Be cautious not to rub forcefully as it can lead to tangles, which can be painful to detangle.

  4. Reward

    Be sure to reward your puppy with treats and praise throughout the process, especially after grooming, to create a positive interaction.

Post-Bath Care

Pom Pom puppy wrapped in pink towel after bath

Post-bath care is as critical as the actual wash to ensure your puppy remains comfortable and healthy. You can take care of them by:

Monitoring for Allergic Reactions

Some puppies may be allergic to shampoo or other products. Signs of an allergic reaction can include itching, redness, and swelling.

If you notice these symptoms, use a hypoallergenic dog shampoo next time. If the symptoms persist, contact a vet.

Regular Grooming Schedule

Establish a regular grooming schedule to maintain your puppy’s hygiene and health. This can include brushing the dogs’ fur, trimming their nails, and cleaning their ears. Regular grooming can help prevent matting and skin irritation, making their coat shiny and healthy.

Professional Grooming Options

Several options are available if you prefer to bathe your puppy by a professional. Many pet stores offer grooming services, including washing, shampooing, rinsing, trimming, and nail clipping. Additionally, there are standalone grooming salons that specialize in pet grooming.

Professional groomers have experience handling puppies and can ensure the bath is done safely and effectively. They may also use specialized shampoos and conditioners designed specifically for puppies, which can help prevent skin irritation and dryness.

When choosing a professional groomer, it is essential to do your research or ask your vet or a friend. Look for a groomer with experience working with puppies, and check reviews and ratings from other pet owners. 

Prices may vary depending on the location, the size of your puppy, and the specific services you request. Ask for a quote before scheduling an appointment to avoid surprises. However, some groomers will often ask to see the dog to give you a quote. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

When is it safe to bathe a young puppy?

It is safe to wash a young puppy once it is at least eight weeks old. Before that, it is not recommended to wash them as they are still adjusting to their new environment, and their immune system is not fully developed.

What age can a puppy have its first bath?

A puppy can have their first wash when they are eight weeks old. This is the recommended age, as the puppy is old enough to handle the stress of being in water and young enough to be trained and used to the bathing routine.

What is the best way to bathe a puppy for the first time?

Using a mild puppy shampoo is essential when bathing a puppy for the first time. Fill the bathtub with lukewarm water and put a towel on the bottom to prevent slipping. Wet the puppy’s coat with warm water, apply shampoo, and gently lather. Rinse thoroughly and dry the puppy with a towel.

Can I bathe my 2-month-old puppy?

Yes, you can bathe a 2-month-old puppy. However, using lukewarm water and not washing them too often is essential as it can dry out their skin.

How often should I bathe my 3-month-old puppy?

A 3-month-old puppy should be washed once every month or when they are having the time of their lives after they roll in stinky stuff.

What can I use to wash my 8-week-old puppy?

Using a mild puppy shampoo to wash an 8-week-old puppy is recommended. Do not use human shampoo or soap, as it can be too harsh for their skin.

Final Thoughts

Note that puppies should not be washed until they are eight weeks old. This is because their immune systems are still developing, and they cannot yet regulate their body temperature effectively.

When it is time to bathe a puppy, it is essential to use a mild, puppy-specific shampoo and to avoid getting water in their ears. Drying them thoroughly after the bath is also essential to prevent them from getting chilled.

Bathing a puppy can be a fun and bonding experience for both the puppy and their owner. By following the guidelines outlined in this article, you can ensure that your puppy stays healthy and happy while enjoying their bath time.

Meet Your Experts

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Tamsin De La Harpe


Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.

Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.