How to Bathe a Puppy – Your Complete Guide

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This review guide was updated in February 2019.

You may not be too comfortable with the idea of bathing your puppy 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, and possibly slipping on the soapy floor in the process.

However, any dog lover who has been through the puppy stage knows this doesn’t have to be the case.

It is possible for your puppy to learn to love baths if you approach the entire process with gentleness and a positive attitude.

When it comes to bathing your puppy for the first time, the first thing to bear in mind is that washing a puppy is different from bathing a fully 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 correctly.

However, the one obvious difference between bathing a baby and washing your young dog is that a puppy has fur and can run, fast, especially at bath time!

Thus, your first consideration for bathing your puppy is the safety of both you and your pup.

As we illustrated earlier, water and soap can get quite slippery. It’s also not safe to just splash water and shampoo over your puppy and hope for the best.

Doing this wil only get into orifices and irritate body tissue.

bathing a puppy

So far the process of bathing a puppy may still sound a little scary, but it’s actually easy once you get the hang of it.

To help you out, here’s our Pet Search brief step-by-step guide on how to wash a puppy for the first time:


Before a battle, a soldier polishes his armor. Before an operation, a surgeon checks that he has everything they will need. Before an art exam, a student sharpens their pencils.

In the same way, pretty much everything requires some preparation and bathing your puppy is no exception.

TIP: 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, trust us, we’ve been grooming dogs for over 20 years!

For starters, dress up in clothes that you don’t mind getting wet or covered in doggy shampoo.

Now 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 your dog with afterward.

Prepare the place where you will wash your pup. This can be the sink, a bathroom or a spot outdoors.

It helps if, in the weeks before their his first bath, you have brought your puppy to this spot and gotten your dog comfortable with it. Let the puppy associate it with hugs and their favorite treat, and your task will be much easier.

Just make sure that, wherever your grooming spot is, the area is warm.

Your puppy’s skin surface area is pretty big, so they’re going to get cold quickly.

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 a better judge of temperature than your hand.

Begin: Take a deep breath and take your puppy to be bathed calmly and gently.

It is crucial to remain calm even if this is your first time, as your puppy may sense any of your tension

If you convince yourself beforehand that they will enjoy the bath, your puppy just might!

Bathing a Puppy

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

Place your puppy in the basin with water, making sure that the water level isn’t too high.

If they try to get out, just guide them back in gently. Talk to your puppy throughout with a soothing voice to calm them down.

Wet their whole body but try not to get any water on their head for now.

Dogs in general hate getting their heads wet and doing so early on may startle them.

Massage in the puppy shampoo – Do this with firm yet gentle pressure in rhythmic, circular motions.

Since you probably know your puppy pretty well by now, you may know some of the sweet spots where he loves getting petted.

Massage these first, so your pup associates the bath with pleasant sensations. We advise a dedicated puppy shampoo to start with as it can be gentler on the skin and coat of your young dog.

Shampoo their 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 and make sure to kill the tick afterward or it may find its way back to your pup again.

After washing the entire body, wet your puppy’s head just a little bit and shampoo it as well. Take care not to get water in your dog’s eyes, ears or nose.

No matter how gentle your shampoo, it can still irritate these areas.

Rinse your puppy thoroughly and don’t leave any shampoo residue after the bath as this can lead to dry skin.

Drying Your Puppy After a Bath

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 they are nice and dry is, therefore, an essential part of the cleaning process.

Take your pup out of the bath with a soft, dry towel and massage their fur with it to absorb some of the water.

You may use a blow-dryer if it’s unusually 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 their sensitive skin.

TIP: You may want to spread a bunch of towels on the floor for him to roll around on. Dogs of all ages just seem to 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 didn’t quite go so well.

Maintain the best parts, so they always find something enjoyable about being bathed, and tweak the unenjoyable moments slightly until you arrive at 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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