Rub-a-dub-dub, puppy in a tub: Tips for bathing your young dog

Puppies are great at getting down and dirty, which is why bath time tends to come around quite often. But how often should that be? TAG24's dog guide has all the puppy tips you need to keep your little pet all squeaky clean!

Puppies have sensitive skin, so even if they are covered in mud, scrubbing them isn't smart.
Puppies have sensitive skin, so even if they are covered in mud, scrubbing them isn't smart.  © 123RF/rasskaz

Puppies love to put their snouts where they don't belong, whether it's a puddle of mud, a dirt mound, or anything else that's stinky.

They are small, curious creatures that are still figuring out those motor skills and learning to put one oversized paw in front of another.

That means that getting covered in food or dirt is part of the puppy phase.

Disney rhino is tracking her steps for science
Animals Disney rhino is tracking her steps for science

Baths are a necessary joy or chore, depending on your pup's preferences and your tolerance for a dirty dog.

But even if your pooch is great at getting down and dirty, puppies are different from older dogs, they shouldn't be bathed all that often. In fact, puppies should only be bathed a few times a year. But don't worry, TAG24 has you covered.

No baths for the first few months

When it comes to bathing puppies, there are a few things to keep in mind. First off, puppies' skin is more sensitive, like most young animals.

Bathing might make Spot and Lassie smell good, but it isn't good for their skin.

Owners need to be mindful of not bathing their pup too early. In fact, it's best to give the bathtub a wide berth for the first three months of a dog's life.

Their skin is too sensitive and can dry out quickly, and a bath can break the skin's protective layer. This can make it easier for bacteria or other microorganisms to get in under the puppy's skin and irritate them or cause an injury.

Baths once in a blue moon

Some veterinarians and dog experts suggest bathing dogs only twice a month, while others say that bath time should be an even rarer event. Regardless if you choose to scrub your older dog once or twice a month, puppies should be bathed as little as possible.

Most of the time you can "clean" a dog simply by brushing them. That's because dirt doesn't really stick to their skin, it is in their fur, and you can brush off that dirt.

But if your puppy has gotten into something sticky, or greasy, you can remove that too without bathing your pooch. All you need is a soft, damp cloth. Then just rub dirt or grease out of their coat. But take care not to scrub their coat with too much gusto, or you could irritate or damage their delicate skin.

Though, if your dog smells worse than death, you can bathe your puppy. Just try to keep bath time to once in a blue moon.

Bubbles aren't always a good idea

Some dog experts recommend that you don't use shampoo on your dog. But if your dog has rolled in some poop, for example, then there is no way around it. You need something with real cleaning power.

That's where a special puppy shampoo comes in handy. These dog suds are tailored to the needs of sensitive puppy skin and don't contain skin-irritating fragrances or other problematic ingredients.

Your shampoo smells good to you, but dog owners should never use human shampoo, not even baby shampoo. That's because what seems mild to human skin is super strong for dogs, in terms of pH values: humans skin is somewhere around 5.5 on the scale, while a dog's is closer to 7.5.

Dog skin is thinner and more sensitive. This is of course especially true for puppies.

Make bath time a good time

Take it slow when introducing your pooch to bath time. This will reduce stress and make bath time more fun for you both.
Take it slow when introducing your pooch to bath time. This will reduce stress and make bath time more fun for you both.  © 123RF/supergranto

Proper grooming, which includes brushing and bathing, can strengthen the bond between puppy and owner. But that's only the case if you make sure the experience is a plosive one for everyone involved. Here are a few tips to make bath time a good time.

1. Have a dry run: Before the real bath, you should give the puppy a chance to get used to where they will be getting a bath, and the order of bath events. Put the puppy in the bathtub or shower, but without water. You can also pretend to shampoo your pooch by rubbing your hands through their coat. Then the next time you can add a bit of water. Take bath time one step at a time.

2. Pay attention to the water temp and pressure: Dogs aren't used to human made showers, so take it slow. You should not immediately spray the dog with the water running full force and make sure it isn't human hot shower, hot. It is better to turn up the water pressure slowly and introduce them to it one paw at a time. Then gently massage in a little shampoo and rinse the dog off with slow movements and low pressure.

3. Careful with their head: When bathing puppies, you should always make sure that you don't get soap in their mouth or eyes. Use as little shampoo as possible and be very gentle. They are baby dogs after all and have sensitive snouts.

Extra Tip: A little praise can go a long way. Puppies may not way to stay put, but you want to encourage good behavior. Praise them when they stay in the shower and let themselves be soaped up. And avoid yelling or punishing the pup if they jump out of the tub. Punishments during bath time may create negative feelings about bath time.

If your pooch learns to hate bath time, it's hard to unlearn that lesson.

Blow-drying puppy is a no-go

Nope! You should never, ever blow-dry puppies. The hot air can dry out their skin. After bath time, all you need to do is give that puppy a gentle rub down with a fluffy towel.

That won't dry the fur completely, which is why some owners think about blow-drying their dog's fur. But the best thing you can do for your damp pup is to make sure they have a nice warm place to air dry, like a dog basket next to the heater.

If you really want to make your pooch comfy, you can put a dry towel in their basket and change it out as they dry.

Having a warm, cozy place to hang out after bath time is better for your dog than drying them off with the blow-dryer.
Having a warm, cozy place to hang out after bath time is better for your dog than drying them off with the blow-dryer.  © Unsplash/hannah grace

Puppy bathing: less is more.

The bottom line when it comes to puppy bath time is that less is more. Dog owners should refrain from bathing the puppy for the first few months. Then, when it is time for rub-a-dub-dub, they should make sure that bath time is a positive experience complete with the puppy shampoo.

But remember, if you do need to wash the dog more regularly or if skin problems crop up, then make sure to head on over to see the vet.

Cover photo: 123RF/rasskaz

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