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When can you wash a puppy?

Golden puppy in a bath advice
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Bathing a puppy is part of caring for her, and all puppies will need a bath from time to time. But from what age can you safely wash your puppy and what’s the best way to go about it?

By Nick Whittle

Bath time for any age of dog is a must and some breeds will need a bath more than others. When you wash a puppy you are not only keeping her clean; you are also warding off nasty skin complaints, fungal infections and parasites. Bath time is not just about making her look good: it is to make sure she is kept in the peak of physical health.

Some breeds of puppy will love to be washed: the Labrador, golden retriever and Portuguese water dog of just three dogs that don’t usually make a fuss about bath time. On the other hand there are some breeds of dog that will make a fuss and some that will hate to be bathed: the poodle, Shih Tzu, schnauzer and Bichon are dogs that you will find hard to bath.

However, you must persevere. To keep your dog clean and free of mud, saliva and faeces is part of being a responsible dog owner. You may not got any thanks for washing your puppy but you will be able to enjoy a squeaky-clean puppy afterwards.

How often should you wash your puppy?

Unless you find your puppy covered in fox dung, saliva or its own mess, you should not wash her too often. However, as she grows up a regular wash day should be part of life. Some owners wash their puppies once a month and some just two or three times a year. The frequency of the wash is determined by the dog’s skin, fur type, size, and the sorts of activities she engages in.

 In fact, washing your puppy or your dog too regularly can harm her skin and fur by taking away the oil her fur needs to stay healthy and waterproof. Do not use human soap on a dog. Human soap is designed to dissolve the acidic oil on our skin and if we use it on a dog it will destroy the protective layer of oil on a dog’s skin, leaving the skin vulnerable to bacteria, parasites, and viruses. 

If your puppy needs a wash then give her a wash but otherwise leave things until you are ready to begin grooming her on a regular basis. Between 6 and 12 months of age your puppy will have grown her adult fur. If she is of a breed that needs regular attention to her fur then you should consider visiting a groomer for the first time during this period. Most of them will advise you when next you should visit.

How to wash a puppy

Here are a few basic tips for when you need to wash your puppy:

Choose a specific dog shampoo. These are formulated to the correct acidic balance of a puppy’s skin (i.e. more or less neutral). Try to avoid shampoos that have lots of artificial smells and colours added to them. You may appreciate a perfumed puppy but your dog wont.

You can opt to bathe your puppy in shampoos that are infused with natural oil such as lavender or eucalyptus. However, use such shampoos sparingly and if you notice an irritation of your dog’s skin stop using it and resort to normal unscented products.

Preparing to wash your puppy

1. Before you wash your puppy brush her coat to get rid of any knots and mats. If possible, do this outdoors to avoid covering your furniture and floors in lint.

2. Prepare your bathroom or suitable room. Puppy bathing is a messy business and whether you use the bath or the sink your puppy will want to shake herself off afterwards. Make sure nothing can be damaged in the process. If you have a closable shower closet you should use this.

3. Have everything you need to hand: the shampoo, the water, a towel and the puppy. If you need to go back and forth to another room you will end up with a very wet house.

4. Make sure the clothing you are wearing will not ruin if it gets wet (because it will get wet!) As hard as it is for some people, leave your mobile phone in another room.

Washing your puppy

1. Test the temperature of the bath water with your wrist. The water should be lukewarm. If the water temperature is too hot or too cold your puppy will not enjoy the experience she will end up becoming fearful of bath times.

2. Saturate the dog using either a cup to scoop the water or a low pressure shower. High pressure showers will scare the puppy. Run your hands through her fur while you do this to make sure that every part of her is soaked.

3. Rub in enough shampoo to lather and massage this across your dog’s body with special attention being given to her back end. Shampoo her face last but avoid contact with their eyes and mouth.

4. Rinse with clean water enough times to rid the fur of all of the shampoo lather.

After your puppy has had her bath let her shake herself dry before you wrap her in a towel and dry her. Do not use a hair dryer on a puppy because she will get scared. If your dog shows any signs of irritation after a bath, she may be allergic to one or more of the ingredients in the shampoo. Seek professional advice if an irritation does not go away after a couple of days. Try a different product next time, such as one recommended by a vet. Puppy washing takes practice, but in the end it can be a bonding moment for you and the dog.