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How to Bathe a Puppy for the First Time

It's completely natural and expected for puppies to get dirty very easily, but it's disgusting when they look and smell awful. When you finally decide it's time to give your puppy a bath, many questions and concerns may come to your mind - you most definitely wouldn't want to do the wrong thing and hurt your puppy! Fortunately for you, this article will teach you all the basic steps to bathing a puppy for the first time - plus, there are little tips and tricks to make bath time an enjoyable moment for both you and the puppy!


1 Prepare your puppy by playing with it in the bath or sink without water a few times, giving treats and generally making it a fun place to be. Let them sniff everything — they won't be comfortable until they've done so!

2 Play with them with a little bit of water in the bath. Get them used to splashes, the sound of the water running, the bowl or jug, the sensation of water, and the noise of the shower head or faucet.

3 Buy dog shampoo from a pet store. Let your dog get used to the smell, even if they will probably always hate it!

Human shampoo is not acceptable or desirable for bathing puppies or dogs because the pH (acid/alkaline balance) of dog skin is different from the human pH level.

4 If the puppy is very small, bathe it in the kitchen sink. That will be more comfortable for you and it as well.

5 Place a clean wet wash cloth on the bottom of the sink/bath so the pup won't slip.

6 Unless you want the puppy to think of bath time as an unpleasant, noisy time, bathe the puppy without children in the house. They will giggle and screech and this will stress out your puppy! Don't let anyone tease the puppy about the bath or it will learn that bathing is something to be feared!

7 Properly relax! Put on some calming, quiet music to soothe you. This is for you - not the dog. If you are stressed, your puppy will pick up on your stress! To the puppy, you are pack leader - if you are calm the puppy will be calm(er). To make it easier for the both of you, do whatever it takes to wind down and be relaxed.

8 Dress in comfortable clothes that need to be washed. Expect them to get wet and possibly dirty, as there may be wet cuddles and frequent shakes from the puppy involved. Your bathroom may also get wet, so be prepared for that.

9 Think ahead and try to prevent any distractions that may occur while you're bathing the puppy. If those distractions turn out to be unavoidable, ignore them. Such distractions can be the phone, door or oven - you should never leave a young creature or any kind of animal in the water unsupervised!

10 Make sure the house, and the bathroom particularly, is warm.

11 Dogs feel heat more strongly than humans do, so run the bath water about 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

12 Test the water the way you would a baby bath, using your wrist or elbow. If it feels warm enough for your bath, it's too hot for the puppy! The water should be about half the dog's height, as you do not want it to drown.

13 Once you have filled your bathtub or whatever you're planning to wash your puppy in, fetch a plastic bowl or jug. Also, bring some treats along but keep them out of the splash zone - you may need them to calm the puppy down!

14 Make sure the puppy has gone to the toilet recently - if not, all that water could be too much excitement for it!

15 When you're ready, clear your mind again and call the puppy. Puppies seem to have an innate ability to sense when they are getting a bath (they are picking up keys from you), so they might run and hide. Patiently and slowly pursue them if necessary. This is easy if you have tired them out with a walk first! If you can pull off lazy indifference, you'll have more success.

16 One in the bathroom, close the door so that your puppy will be unable to escape. Before bath time, have some cuddles with your puppy so that it's relaxed.

Bath Time

1 Gently immerse the puppy into the water, keeping the head above the water but getting the body wet all over. Talk soothingly, giving it treats and praise.

2 Pour a little bit of shampoo into a cupped hand and work it in with your fingers. A little shampoo goes a long way - you don't want to be rinsing it out of your puppy's fur forever! It's easier to add more than take it off.

3 Don't forget to wash the tail!

4 Keep a soothing hand on top of the puppy's back when washing the legs and tummy, or your puppy may try to leap out of the water! Be careful when washing the legs, for if your puppy twists the wrong way, it could end up getting hurt.

5 When you have the body all soaped up and worked into the coat, rinse thoroughly in a normal patting motion. If necessary, drain out the soapy water and refill the sink with clean water to rinse away the soap - but bear in mind your puppy might get cold and start shivering, which you don't want. If you have a shower head where the water comes at a constant heat (not too hot) and pressure, this can be useful for the puppy's body, but keep the puppy close and don't let it splash too much.

6 It is very important that all the soap is removed from the coat. Not only will it taste bad if the puppy licks some by mistake, but it can also be harmful for the puppy!

7 Using the jug or plastic bowl you fetched earlier, gently pour warm water over the puppy's head - from behind the skull and avoiding the face. While you're doing this, tip the puppy's nose up so that the water runs down and over the body, away from the nose and eyes.

8 There is usually no need to wash a dog's head unless it is visibly dirty or considerably smelly! It is normal and right for a puppy to have a light dog smell. If you do find that it's necessary to wash your puppy's head, follow the steps below:

Squeeze a tiny amount of shampoo onto your hand and gently lather. Work this the ears and neck and under the chin, avoiding the eyes and mouth.

Rinse the head twice with warm water from the cup, again pouring from back of the skull to front, as before. Give the head a little smell - it should smell pleasantly of wet dog with just a hint of the shampoo.

Towel dry the head and face. Make a fuss over the puppy with lots of praise.

The reason to wash the head last is because water on the head results in automatic shaking of the whole body. Since the pup is secured in a towel while you wash the head, you avoid having water sprayed all over the house when the head gets wet.

9 Once your are finished washing your puppy, remove it from the basin and wrap it well in a towel, leaving its head exposed.

10 Never dry your puppy with a hairdryer! It is very easy to burn a puppy with a hairdryer. Instead, use an old ugly towel (you might want to make this your dedicated dog towel) and dry as thoroughly as possible. If you make enough of a fuss, your puppy will enjoy bath time because it gets to have cuddle time!

11 Keep the puppy inside in warm rooms; don't let it go out as soon as its bath time is finished. Close off the door to other rooms such as bedrooms and the kitchen, for it probably will run around and shake water off - this is to be expected! It's easiest to embrace this as part of puppy life.


  • Be very gentle with the puppy, since it's the first time.
  • Don't bathe the puppy unless he is dirty or very smelly.
  • Too much bathing will strip the protective oils from the puppy's coat.
  • Don't be surprised if you see dandruff on the puppy's fur while you dry and brush it. Dandruff is a normal reaction to a stressful situation and means nothing, so don't panic!
  • Make very sure that the water is not too hot, but also that it's not way too cold.


Don't promptly dump the puppy into the water. Let it explore it a little bit first before gently setting it into the water.
Don't leave the puppy alone in the water without supervision, as this can result in a mess or the puppy drowning.
Never be rough or hurt the puppy in any way. Since it's the puppy's first bath, the natural reaction is for it to be surprised and scared.

Things You'll Need

  • A sink or anything that's not too big for the puppy
  • Treats
  • Dog shampoo
  • A bowl or anything else you can fill with water
  • Old clean towels
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