A puppy is often a handful when it comes to their first bath. The bigger the puppy the more of a challenge this might be. Scout is here to help you plan and get the right supplies so that bath time goes as smoothly as possible. Giving your puppy their first bath is something you need to do when you have time to give your puppy the love and attention they need so they begin to think of bathtime in a healthful way. Establishing a bathing routine when your dog is young will reduce the likelihood of bath time behavior issues when they are grown dogs.
What age should my puppy be when they have their first bath?
Generally speaking, a puppy should be 6 weeks old before their first bath unless there are circumstances at play such as flea, tick, or other skin issues
It is very important to get puppies used to bath time because the older a dog gets, the harder it can be to get them used to it. When it comes to giant breed puppies, it becomes even more critical. There is a big difference between teaching a 12 week old 1 lb Chihuahua to take a bath and a 12 week old 25 lb Great Pyrenees!
Having all the supplies on hand so that the first bathe goes smoothly is critical to creating a feeling of comfort and trust with your dog so you don’t create an environment of fear that leads to worse behaviors in the future.
Supplies For Bathing Your Puppy
You are going to need some supplies to give your puppy a bath. Here is a minimal list of what you will need.
When it comes to shampoo you need to look on the bottle and make sure that the shampoo is safe to use on puppies. Some shampoos contain ingredients that are not suitable on puppies under a certain age such as 8 weeks or 12 weeks. These are most often shampoos that are made with chemicals used to kill or deter fleas and ticks. Your best bet is to get a conditioning shampoo specifically labeled for puppies. These formulas are often no tear formulations so you don’t have to worry if a little bit of soap gets in your puppy’s eyes. Here are a few puppy shampoos that you should consider..
OxGord Natural Oatmeal Dog Shampoo & Conditioner
This natural tearless puppy shampoo comes in a generous 20 oz size and works wonders on mats and tangles. At under $10 it is a good value for budget conscious puppy parents that don’t want to sacrifice quality.
Burt’s Bees has expanded to pet care with great results. This super gentle puppy shampoo is under $7 and will stand up to the toughest messes.
The type of tub or basin you use to clean your puppy is going to depend on what breed you are dealing with. A small livestock waterer can work very well and the larger 30 gallon containers can be a really good way to bathe larger puppies.
Of course if you are comfortable bathing your dog in your own tub or in a smaller tub set into your own, then you can save yourself some mess and trouble.
The type of brush or comb you need should be based on the length and texture of your puppy’s coat. Always be sure to be as gentle as possible because puppy skin is more delicate than an adult dog. Very short coats need a very soft light brush whereas long haired puppies need both a stiff brush or detangling comb to get rid of the worst mats and tangles followed by a softer bristled smooth finishing brush.
To start out many puppy parents choose a brush that has two sides. One side detangles and gets rid of mats while the other smooths.
Nozzle Or Scoop
While a hand held sprayer is very convenient, you can get away with a scoop to rinse. Some puppies respond better to the gentle flow of you pouring water over them than the intensity of a sprayer so in the beginning, a scoop may be best. This can be as simple as a 16 oz plastic tumbler or measuring cup.
If you choose to use a sprayer, start with it at the lowest point on your puppy and hold it close to the skin. The spraying action and noise can cause your puppy distress, especially it it’s their first bath. Think about how a dog naturally enters the water. They start from the bottom up and that feels a lot more natural to them so they are not as easily alarmed.
You can even get sprayers that attach to either your shower or garden hose and have a shampoo head to help you massage and shampoo your puppy at the same time so you can get to that deep down dirt.
Any dog is going to want to shake off when wet. If you don’t want a big mess then you need to have a towel ready and put it around your puppy immediately after you are done rinsing and they have a few seconds to drip. Toweling your puppy off is definitely less trouble and mess than having to deal with the results. If you have a 30 lb puppy with long hair like I have in the past, then the amount of water and mess they can make after that last rinse can be pretty outstanding.
Having very absorbent towels is a big help and reduces the amount of towels you need. Here are a few to consider for those washing puppies at home.
This 10 pack of towels for $26 is the best bargain on our list and ideal for having on hand for puppy bath time. We love that these towels come in different colors so they are easier to keep looking great than white towels.
This super absorbent towel fits over your hands so drying feels more like getting petted for your puppy. The towel resembles a shammy and will absorb at least 7x its weight in water. The microfiber material dries out quickly. You will want to keep one of these on hand for when your dog comes in from a rainy afternoon too!
If your puppy enjoys blankets or close cuddling then The Snuggly will be comfortable all while helping protect furniture, car interiors, and more from your wet puppy. You should think of this towel like it’s a bathrobe for your adorable puppy!
Do-It-Yourself Dog Washes
In many urban and suburban areas there are businesses dedicated to providing dog owners with a space to wash and groom their pets themselves. If you live in a small space then this can be a really nice way to go about puppy washing. You pay a fee to use the tubs and you can buy all your shampoo and such right there. This keeps you from making a mess around your own house or apartment. Doggy washes are often excellent ways to socialize puppies since they get to be around other dogs and people.
Mobile Dog Groomers
A quick search online for mobile dog groomers is worth it if you have a dog that gets nervous when riding or going to groomer. This service comes at a premium price but can be very helpful if you are too busy to bathe and groom your pup.
Remain Calm At All Times
If you are stressed out already then you need to wait until you are calm to bathe your puppy for the first time. You do not want to get too irritated with your puppy during this important part of training. Here are some tips from Scout on how to get and stay calm during puppy bath time.
Bathe your puppy when you are at your best. If you are morning person do it then.
Use soothing language with your puppy. They need to know they are okay. Resist the urge to raise your voice because an elevated voice often causes puppies to get upset.
Allow enough time for the bath. A first bath should be done slowly. Avoid bathing anytime when you have something pressing to do immediately afterward. Your day off is a good choice.
Use rewards when appropriate. After toweling off your puppy giving them a treat for good behavior can help them behave better when it comes to the next step.
Only Bathe When Necessary
There is the urge to over bathe a puppy. Generally puppies only need a bathe every month or two unless they get into a messy situation. If your puppy rolls in the mud or finds something interesting like a cow pie then you may need to give an emergency bath. This brings up the importance of using a puppy shampoo that is conditioning so you are not stripping your puppy’s skin of important oils.
Some breeds of dog do not tolerate frequent bathing as much as others. You may want to ask your vet about guidelines for your puppy if you have one that is a breed more subject to skin problems. Labrador Retrievers are one of the most common breeds of dog in the United States but also have a tendency to suffer from flea allergies and other skin irritations.
Keeping Your Dog Clean Between Baths
If you are in need of a bit of a dog refresher and don’t want the hassle of a full on hose down, you can use foam that you just wipe off. This can be helpful if you are having guests over or your puppy gets a bit smelly playing. A formula like Vet Recommended Puppy Mousseis easy to apply and safe to use as frequently as needed on your puppy.
Baking Soda Mist
If you want a good odor reducer for very smelly situations you can make a solution of baking soda and warm water can be very helpful. When my Great Pyrenees make friends with a skunk, this has been a lifesaver. Of course you want to be careful and not get it into the eyes but it does and excellent job of deodorizing if you leave the mist on their fur for 5-10 minutes and then wash then in a good dog shampoo. A lighter mist can be good for refreshing a dog but just make sure you don’t spray it more than once a week or you might irritate the skin.
Handy and inexpensive dog wipes like those from Earthbath are ideal for keeping your puppy clean between baths. If your puppy comes in from play time a bit smelly, these can take care of the problem and they are gentle on skin, especially if you use the version that is specifically formulated for puppies.
Puppy Bath Time On Your Terms
Scout wants you to be prepared for any type of situation that may arise during puppy bath time. Your puppy has their own personality so how you approach getting into a good puppy washing routine will vary some. The most important things to remember are:
Start establishing a bath routine as young as possible but no sooner than 6 weeks of age.
Plan on bath time taking longer than you would expect.
Have everything you need on hand. This means shampoo, brushes, gloves (optional), plenty of towels, and a shower head sprayer or scoop for rinsing.
Make sure to have some puppy treats for positive reinforcement when puppy is good.
Always talk in a calm tone and praise your puppy.
With these tools and tips you will be surprised how easy it really is to get your puppy used to good grooming and health habits.