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Exactly how often should you bathe a puppy?
When you first bring home a new puppy from the breeder or the shelter, you might be tempted to bathe them right away to get them ready for their new home. Similarly, dedicated pet parents often want to give their pups regular baths to keep them clean, hygienic, and healthy.
This understandable sentiment is unfortunately incorrect. Bathing your puppy too often can actually do them more harm than good.
Like with most things, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to how often to bathe a puppy. In this article, we will go through the various things that you need to consider to decide when to start bathing your puppy and how often you should be lathering them up with shampoo.
We’ll also share some top tips in terms of the best products to use and how to make bath time as painless as possible for you and your pup.
When Can I Start Bathing My Puppy?
First things first: you should not bathe your puppy until they are at least eight weeks old. Why? Until this age young puppies have a lot of trouble regulating their body temperature.
Giving them a bath can significantly reduce their body temperature as the water evaporates off their skin. If they are then unable to regulate their body temperature, it can actually lead to hypothermia and death!
If they are with their mother until this age, their mother will keep them clean by licking them on a regular basis (much like cats). If they aren’t with their mother, you may need to occasionally wipe them down with a dry cloth to remove dirt and grime that has gotten stuck to them.
If you do have a puppy who is less than eight weeks old, try to keep them somewhere clean and regularly clean up food and waste so that they won’t become too smelly.
As we stated, you might be tempted to give your new puppy a bath as soon as you bring them home. It is normal to want to wash off the smell of the rescue or kennel and prepare them for their new home, but this is also not the best idea.
Smell is essential to how dogs engage with the world, and their own smell matters a lot. When you bathe them you can change their scent, especially if you use perfumed shampoo.
It is best to let your dog settle in with their familiar and comfortable scent before you start changing that too. Besides, baths can be quite traumatic experiences for some dogs, so it is also better to wait until you have built up a bit of trust before you bathe them.
All that being said, you can still safely give your young puppy a bath. Just be smart and take precautions. We understand that a puppy that rolled around in poop needs a bath. Be smart. Make sure your puppy stays warm, gets thoroughly dried off, and use puppy shampoo. Scroll down for more information on how to bathe your puppy.
How Often Should I Bathe My Puppy?
In a perfect world, you should only need to bathe your puppy once a month, but there are lots of exceptions to consider. While there is no single strict rule for how often you should bathe your puppy, there are guidelines that can help you decide what might be right for them.
The first consideration is their coat type. Generally speaking, a short coat means that they should need bathing less often and will probably be fine with a monthly bath.
A longer, thicker coat often needs more care; however, this is not always true. For example, hairless breeds such as Chinese crested dogs actually need to be bathed more often since they don’t have the protection of a furry coat.
Long coats tend to need more bathing because they are more likely to pick up dirt and debris as your dog goes about their daily business, but sometimes regular brushing is a kinder way to deal with this debris, rather than submit them to over-regular bathing.
Consider the type of dirt. Dust and debris that they pick up in the house can probably just be brushed out, but if they are spending a lot of time outdoors, the grime they accumulate is likely to be stronger so more regular bathing could be welcome.
The key is to observe the condition and smell of your dog’s coat and bathe them only as often as is needed, rather than bathing them on a schedule in the interest of hygiene.
This is because bathing can strip oil from their skin, which can undermine the quality of their coat, and also undermine their coats’ ability to do essential things like insulate them against the cold and shed as required.
So, really, the rule is to bathe your dog as little as you can get away with (rather than as often as you can manage). Some people say that if you can no longer hug them, then it is probably time for a bath. If you want to “freshen up” their coat, better to reach for a brush than the shampoo.
What Type Of Shampoo Should I Use For My Puppy?
If you have read our article on dog shampoo, then you will know that you should never use human shampoo on your dog. This is because the pH of human skin and hair and dog skin and hair is different.
Dogs tend to have hair and skin that is neutral or alkaline, around 7-7.5, while human skin and hair is more acidic, with a 5.2-5.5 pH level. Human shampoos are designed for acidic hair and can damage your dog’s coat when used repeatedly.
This is the same reason that we don’t tend to use adult shampoo on babies, but rather use a gentler shampoo for their more sensitive skin and hair.
Puppies also have more delicate skin and coats than adult dogs, and so can benefit from a shampoo designed specifically for puppies. The formula is more gentle and won’t irritate their skin, or their eyes if some of it happens to go in there.
When choosing a shampoo for your puppy, it is best to go with something unscented. Most dogs don’t like having a strange scent on them, which is why dogs will often rub up against things for a good period of time after a bath. They are trying to rub off the scent of the shampoo. Puppies may be even more sensitive to this than older dogs.
Best Puppy Shampoos
Looking for the best puppy shampoos? Here are our top picks from Chewy.
This affordable puppy shampoo is made with all-natural ingredients that won’t irritate any part of your dog’s body. It has buttermilk to soothe soft skin, honey to help them regulate and retain moisture in the hair, and it won’t interfere with any topical treatments you may be giving your pup. As well as being all-natural, it is also cruelty-free.
This tearless and soap-free shampoo has the right pH balance and the right ingredients for sensitive puppy skin. If your dog is suffering from an itch, they will thank you for the soothing aloe vera in this formula.
This is another shampoo made from all-natural ingredients and without soap, so it won’t dry out your puppy’s coat. While it does have a slight coconut aroma, it should be mild enough not to set off your dog’s senses.
This is a great option if you have a particularly smelly pup as it neutralizes odors while cleaning and conditioning their coat. It is safe to use with topical skin treatments for fleas and will also reduce static electricity in your dog’s coat.
This tearless formula will leave your puppy’s coat soft, shiny, and natural-looking. It contains no parabens or sulfate, which means it is safe to use on puppies who may not have learned never to eat shampoo!
This puppy shampoo uses vitamin E and Pro-V B5, organic aloe vera, and rosemary leaf extract to create a gentle shampoo that also conditions young coats.
The shampoo is hypoallergenic, so it’s guaranteed not to leave your puppy with any blotches. It also comes with a waterless shampoo that you can use to freshen up your pup between washes if they do manage to get into some dirty trouble.
How Do I Bathe My Puppy?
Giving your dog a bath isn’t difficult, but if it is the first time that you have done it, it is normal to be unclear where to start.
Like with all things, you will need to train your dog in terms of what is expected of them at bath time. The best approach is to use positive reinforcement training. This means showing them what you want, and then rewarding them when they comply.
Each time you bathe them they will have a better understanding of what you need from them.
Make sure you have a good space prepared before you get started. You might want to set yourself up inside the shower or outside, as they may make quite a bit of water mess.
Make sure the water that you use is lukewarm. Not only will this be less of a shock to them, but it also minimizes the problems relating to cold and regulating body temperature.
Get them completely wet, maybe pouring water over them using a cup. Then you are ready to add your chosen shampoo.
It is a good idea to know whether it is a high lather or a low lather shampoo, as you don’t want to be rubbing them hard to try and get a lather when the shampoo is the reason you’re not getting suds. Rub gently without applying too much pressure.
While you want to be thorough and get the shampoo everywhere, avoid the eyes and try not to let the shampoo get into their mouth or ears. You will have to wash it out if you do, and this is something that your puppy probably won’t enjoy. You don’t want to create bad experiences associated with bath time.
When you are done, make sure that you rinse thoroughly as shampoo residue can irritate their skin if left behind. Most dogs don’t really need a conditioner, but if you choose to use one, now is the time to add it. If it is not a leave-in conditioner, make sure to rinse thoroughly again with lukewarm water.
Before releasing them into the wild, you will want to get them as dry as possible. A good rub down with their own towel is usually enough to do the trick. Some people prefer to use a hairdryer, but don’t use your own.
The sound of the machine is very likely to scare your dog. You can get special dog hair dryers that are designed to make almost no noise, but unless your dog has a particularly long or thick coat, it is probably not necessary.
Try to use the same process every time you bathe your dog, and do it in the same place. Your puppy will find reassurance in the routine. If you choose to bathe them somewhere different every time, it will be much harder for them to associate this bath with their previous bath and repeat the behaviors that they learned.
You can find more Labrador retriever grooming tips here.
Can I bathe my puppy once a week?
If your puppy leads an active, outdoor lifestyle, you might feel like you want to bathe them as often as once a week. This is fine as long as you use an appropriate shampoo and monitor their coat and skin for reactions. You should only bathe them more than once a week in a mud-related emergency.
Why do puppies shiver after a bath?
Yep, your puppy is shivering after a bath because they are cold. As the water evaporates off their body, it cools them down significantly. This is also why smaller dogs with thinner coats don’t tend to like to go swimming; it is just too cold for them afterward.
Dogs will shake to remove as much water as possible and warm up more quickly, and a nice toweling down can also help.
Should you give a puppy a bath when you bring them home?
You might be tempted to give your puppy a bath as soon as you bring them home, but this urge is best resisted. Puppies shouldn’t be bathed until they are at least eight weeks old. Even if they are already of bathing age, it is better to let them settle in for two weeks before giving them a bath.
Changing the scent that they are familiar with can make it more difficult for them to adjust to their new home. Plus, bath time can be a little traumatic, so you should wait until they trust you.
Is it OK to let your puppy air dry?
It is generally not advised to let your puppy air dry as they are likely to roll around in the grass and dirt in order to dry off and remove any shampoo smell. The result might mean that they need another bath. A good toweling down is usually enough to get your dog sufficiently dry.
Giving your puppy a bath isn’t rocket science, and it is not hard to get right. But it is also not hard to get wrong, and doing it wrong can actually put your puppy’s health at risk.
The biggest challenge for many new pet parents is that they are overzealous in wanting to care for their new canine friends, so they start bathing their puppy too soon and too often.
Bathing your puppy too soon can put their health at risk and make it harder for them to settle into their new home. Puppies shouldn’t be receiving baths until they are eight weeks old since before this time they can’t regulate their own body temperature well enough to keep bathing from causing their temperature to drop dangerously.
You should also wait at least two weeks after bringing them home before bathing them to make it easier for them to adjust.
After that, the general rule is “as little as you can get away with,” rather than “as often as you can manage.” Your puppy’s coat is largely designed to look after itself, and if you wash them too often you can undermine its ability to do that by stripping it of essential oils that it needs to do its job.
Ideally, you should only bathe your puppy when they are too dirty or smelly to be tolerable, rather than just to “freshen them up” like you might do for yourself. If you want to freshen them up a bit, best to reach for a brush.
Do you have any essential bathing tips for new pups?
Share them with the community in the comments section below.
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