When can you bathe a puppy? The complete guide to bathtime

Written by Napo HQ
Reviewed by Dr Sarah Elliott
5th Jan 2024
4 mins read
a brown puppy having a bath
Summary
It's no secret puppies have accidents, and get up to mischief. Whether it's dirt, food, or something less savoury, you're probably going to want to wash your pup at some point. Here's a quick guide on when you can bathe a puppy, how often you should wash them, and tips to make bathtime the best experience for your furry friend.
Knowing when and how to give your puppy its first bath can be tricky to figure out. A new puppy is exciting but it often comes with lots of questions, especially for first-time pet owners. In this guide, we'll explore the ins and outs of bathing your puppy, from when you can start washing them, and how often.

When can you bathe a puppy?

You shouldn't bathe a puppy until they're at least 8 weeks old. Puppies can be more delicate because they’re small, and their immune systems are still developing. That means it’s best to wait until they are at least eight weeks old before they have a bath. Waiting until this age makes sure your pup has had enough time with their mum and siblings to learn important self-grooming skills. Plus, a slightly older puppy is better able to handle the excitement (and chaos) that comes with bath time like the different textures and smells.

How often should you bathe a puppy?

You shouldn’t bathe your puppy too often. A good routine is to bathe your puppy every two to three months. Only bathe them sooner if they get covered in something mucky like food, dirt, or
poop
, or if they've started to smell bad. Bathing your pup too often can strip their skin of natural oils, leading to dryness and irritation. Sso it's important to only wash them when they need it.

Can I bathe my puppy before vaccinations?

Generally, it's fine to bathe your puppy before their
full vaccination schedule
is complete, as long as you do it at home. Avoid letting your pup splash around in public areas where they might come into contact with other dogs and their potential germs and illnesses.

Can I bathe my puppy after flea or worming treatment?

Depending on what type of flea or worming treatment your puppy had, you may need to wait to bathe them. If your puppy had a spot-on treatment, it's best to wait for at least 48 hours before bathing your dog. This lets the treatment fully absorb into their skin, which makes it more effective. 
Different flea and worming treatments can have different recommendations on wait times. If you’re not sure, check the packaging or leaflet of the treatment you used, or check with your vet for specific advice.

Can I blow dry my puppy after a bath?

While it might be tempting to give your puppy the full spa treatment, you shouldn't blow dry your puppy after a bath. Puppies are sensitive to loud noises, and the feeling of warm air blowing on their fur might be overwhelming. Instead, opt for a soft towel and gently pat or rub your puppy dry.

Should you bathe a puppy?

Yes, you should bathe your puppy. It’s not good just for hygiene, but for their socialisation and well-being too. In your puppy's first 16 weeks, you should socialise them with different experiences, like baths, so they know how to behave when they’re older and know not to be scared of them. It's also an opportunity to bond with them, spending some quality time together and help them make bathtime a positive experience. 
Regular grooming sessions, including baths, help your puppy get used to being handled. This is important for vet and groomer visits so they’re more comfortable when they do go. 
Bathing and grooming your pup is also the perfect time to check them for any signs of illness or injury, like cuts or skin irritation. Check their ears, teeth, and overall health. They'll start to learn that bath time = handling and health checks, and they’ll learn to be more relaxed about it.

How to bathe a puppy

When preparing to bathe your puppy, you’ll want everything ready beforehand and within reach. There’s nothing worse than trying to keep a wiggly, wet puppy still while stretching to grab the dog shampoo! Here are the 6 steps to a successful bathtime.
  1. Start by getting your supplies.
    A mild puppy shampoo, a soft washcloth, cotton balls (for their ears), and a towel for drying. It's also a good idea to have treats on hand for positive reinforcement.
  2. Reward every step. Praise and reward your puppy every time you try something new, and they act calmly while brushing and washing them.
  3. Give your puppy a gentle brush.
    This will remove any loose fur or tangles. Mats and tangles can get worse when they’re wet, so it’s important to get rid of them before washing your pooch. 
  4. Fill a basin or sink with lukewarm water.
    It shouldn’t be too hot or too cold, check the temperature with your hand. Gently introduce your puppy to the water, letting them explore and get comfortable. Use the washcloth to wet their fur, avoiding their head for now.
  5. Apply a small amount of puppy shampoo.
    Lather it through their coat, avoiding their eyes and ears. Rinse thoroughly, making sure there's no shampoo residue left.
  6. Dry off gently.
    Carefully lift your puppy out of the water and wrap them in a towel for a cosy, post-bath cuddle. 

brown and white puppy having a bath
Conclusion

Bathing a puppy is a vital part of taking care of your pup and prep them for the behaviour you want at bathtime. By waiting until they are at least eight weeks old, using puppy-friendly products, and making the experience positive, you can make sure bath time is a stress-free routine for both you and your pup for life. 
Remember, it's not just about getting clean, it's about building trust and creating positive associations with grooming. 
And if they’ve had a spot-on worming or flea treatment, wait the recommended amount of time before washing your pup.
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