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How often should you bathe a puppy?

How often should you bathe a puppy?
(Image credit: Getty)

How often should you bathe a puppy? Dog owners may have different opinions on the topic, but there is a general consensus regarding how often you should give your pup a bath according to the delicacy of their skin.  

It's common for many pet owners to think of washing their puppy on a frequent basis since they can easily get into a mess but overbathing may actually cause more harm than good. If your pup has rolled around in some of their own poop, then it's clear that a bath is in order, but make sure you're using the most efficient dog shampoo for new friend. While many adult dog shampoos are safe for you to use on your puppy, there are a range of dedicated products specifically created to meet their sensitive skin. 

In this guide we’ll be taking a look at how regularly you should wash your puppy, what dog shampoo you should use, how to bath nervous puppies, and the benefits that washing them can bring.

How often should you bathe a puppy?

The answer to this question is: it depends. You don’t necessarily need to wash your puppy if they’re not obviously dirty or smelly, especially if they’re a little bit nervous.  It will also depend on how long your dog’s fur is, how much they smell naturally, and the propensity they have for getting mucky.

However, if they’ve rolled in something particularly disgusting, or you’re treating them for something like fleas and ticks, then it’ll of course be more often. 

A good rule of thumb to aim for is no more often than once every 2-3 weeks, especially when they are very young, unless they really need it.

Can I wash my dog too much?

Absolutely. Puppies in particular have delicate skin that is still developing a natural resistance to infections and skin problems. Too much washing can strip your puppy of their natural oils that makes them resilient, so it’s worth bearing that in mind. 

It can be tempting when you’re a new puppy parent to think you should wash your dog every day, just like you would a human baby (or yourself), but it’s really not necessary, and can also be a little overwhelming and distressing for many puppies.

A good idea is to always have a pack of pet wipes to hand to give them a quick freshen up, or you could also consider dry shampoo for the same reason. A full bath or wash should generally be reserved for when they are muddy, have been swimming in dirty/salty water, or have rolled in something unsavory.

What type of dog shampoo should I use for puppies?

It’s always worth having to hand a good supply of shampoo ready for washing your dog; you can guarantee they’ll definitely roll in something if your cupboard is bare. 

You should always avoid using human shampoo for your dog, as its different chemical formulation is not good for your dog’s skin – especially a puppy’s. If you’re in a real pinch and you absolutely must wash them, baby shampoo is a much better option than adult shampoo. 

As well as more general dog shampoo, dedicated puppy shampoo is also available. Shampoo which is developed for younger dogs takes into account their more delicate skin, while some formulations promise to be kinder on eyes which is helpful if you’ve got a wriggly puppy who isn’t used to baths just yet. 

Our guide to the best dog shampoo will help you pick a formula which works well for your dog – including a recommendation for puppies.

How often should I bath my puppy?

(Image credit: Getty)

How to bathe your puppy for the first time

First, make the bathing area a positive space for your pup, either by playing with them in the sink or the bathtub without any water involved. They'll have positive associations with the bathing space and won't be scared to go in there! 

Once they seem comfortable in the bath or sink (this make take a few days), slowly introduce water so they can get used to the sound and feel. Let them play in the area as it fills with water, and make sure to incorporate treats. This will make bath time a fun and easy experience for all parties involved. 

How do I bath a nervous puppy?

Many dogs are understandably a little nervous around baths and water, making it important that you work hard to introduce bath time to your puppy in a safe and calming manner. Even if you don’t need to wash your puppy all that often, there will inevitably come a time when it’s necessary, so it’s best to get them used to it from a young age. 

Start by placing your dog in the bath with no water running to get them used to the environment first. You could also put one of their best puppy toys in with them and make it a playful activity. Slowly introduce small amounts of warm water and have plenty of puppy treats and encouragements on hand, too.

Give them plenty of praise as you wash them with shampoo, and pick them up with a clean, dry and warm towel while continuing to heap praise on them. Don’t use a hairdryer on nervous dogs, but instead towel dry them as much as possible and leave them to dry naturally. In the colder months, make sure they have somewhere warm they can retreat to as well.

For more detailed information about bathing dogs, check out our in-depth How often should I bathe my dog feature. If you’re worried about a nervous puppy, also check out the top reasons why dogs hate baths.

Bath time bonding

All-in-all, too much washing of your puppy can be detrimental to their health, but don’t forget about the positive aspects too.  Bath time can be a great way to bond with your new puppy, and of course you’ll leave your pooch, and your home, smelling clean and fabulous. 

By following our tips for washing your puppy, you should be left with a calm, healthy, happy and clean dog throughout its life.

Amy Davies

Amy Davies is a writer and photographer with more than ten years’ experience working in the media. She lives with her miniature dachshund, Lola, a rescue dog who is very much the boss.