How to introduce your puppy to baths
The world for a puppy is super exciting and chock full of new experiences! As new puppy owners, it’s key to get them to experience as many new things as possible whilst they’re young to ensure they’re really comfortable with all of the situations that will come their way in their lifetime. One of those new things that your pup will experience is being bathed! The chances are, your dog will have to have several baths throughout their lifetime, so introducing them to baths early and creating a positive association with bathing will make bath time easier for both of you in the long run. But where to start? As dog bathing experts, we at Animology have put together our top tips for introducing your puppy to bathing.
Before we dive in (pardon the pun), it’s not advised to give puppies a proper bath until they’ve reached 8 weeks of age, before this point if they’ve gotten particularly dirty and need cleaning try to give them a wipe with a warm, damp washcloth.
- Create a calm and comfortable space
You want to make sure that where you bathe your dog is comfortable and calming so that they enter the environment relaxed. Depending on your puppy’s size and age, you may decide that your bathtub isn’t the right space to start with as if they are particularly small, just being in such a big tub might be quite scary, so consider what vessel is the right one for your pooch – you may consider using the bathroom or kitchen sink, or even a plastic tub. Once you know what you’re going to bathe your dog in, take a look around the space and remove anything that may be overstimulating or intimidating for them. For example, if you’re using the kitchen sink it’s probably a good idea to make sure that the dishwasher isn’t on and making lots of unusual noises at the same time your pup is having its first bath – you don’t want to spook them. In the bathroom, you might want to ensure that children’s toys aren’t around the bathtub causing a distraction and that there won’t be people bursting in and out of the room.
- Get your supplies ready
Once you know where you’re going to bathe your pup, it’s time to get your supplies ready! You’ll need to select a puppy shampoo for your dog. Dogs have very delicate skin, and puppies even more so, so it’s important to choose a cleaning product specifically formulated for puppies. Using human shampoo on any dog would be far too harsh for their skin and could cause damage and irritation. For your puppy always choose a puppy-friendly shampoo and check the back of the pack to make sure to check any age limitations to ensure it’s a suitable product for your pup. You’ll also need to ensure you’ve got towels at the ready, a brush for combing through your puppy’s coat and a jug or cup to help with rinsing usually comes in handy too! Spend a few minutes before starting the bath to gather these things and make sure you’re all set, as the last thing you want is a wet and slippery puppy trying to jump out of the bath whilst you search for a towel!
- Brush your puppy’s coat
Before they even go near the water, it’s important to brush your puppy’s coat, this will help to loosen any dry dirt and debris so that it will rinse out of their fur as easily as possible. This will also help loosen any knots and tangles that they might have in their fur to ensure that they don’t get more tangled in the shampooing process. Pay close attention to combing through under their belly, in their ‘armpits’, and between their paw pads as these are places that are prone to knotting and matting, particularly for longer-haired breeds.
- Choose the right time of day
Puppies’ days are filled with cycles of activity usually consisting of sleep, toilet time, playtime and then some calm before falling asleep again. When deciding when to give your puppy their bath, you want to make sure they’re not too sleepy, that they’ve fully relieved themselves and that they’ve had some positive attention, stimulation, and play to avoid any hyper outbursts or accidents in the bath!
- Introduce them to the water slowly
We wouldn’t recommend plonking your pooch straight into deep water, that is likely to be pretty scary for a little dog! Instead, make sure the water in the bath/sink is run shallow and before putting them straight in, scoop some water up in your hand and dampen their paws so that they feel the sensation and temperature of the water, let them have a sniff or even lick of the water from your hand and get comfortable in the room for a moment before placing them in their bath. Please note, puppies struggle to regulate their temperature so ensure that the water is lukewarm – very hot or very cold could cause issues for your pup. Once in, this is where the cup or jug can come in handy to slowly wet the rest of their body. For pups experiencing their first bath, this can be a lot less scary than using a shower head which can be noisy and will give lots of new sensations on their skin.
This is probably an easy step to overlook, but your pup will look to you and your emotions to gauge how to respond to the situation – if you’re stressed, they’ll sense it! Try to be as relaxed as possible and give lots of encouraging words and positive reinforcement to your dog. They’ll feel your calm and enjoy the closeness and attention you’re giving to them (you can even add in the odd treat to make the experience extra lovely for them).
- Apply the dog shampoo
It’s time to lather up! Grab your puppy shampoo and dispense a small amount on the palm of your hand, we’d recommend starting with the size of a £2 coin for a small-medium puppy and you can always add a little more as you go on if needed. Rub your hands together to evenly distribute the shampoo across both palms and start to massage this into your pup’s coat. Start from their neck/shoulder area and then move across their back massaging this into the fur with your fingertips. You can then wash down each of your dog’s legs and don’t forget to get under their belly too. Pet shampoo is formulated to be mild and gentle so that it’s suitable for a pet’s delicate skin and easy to rinse out - because of this, it shouldn’t be super foamy or bubbly as you lather up your pet, but don’t worry this will be cleaning their fur just as it should.
- Rinse them off
This is where your cup or jug will come in handy again to rinse all the shampoo out of your pet’s fur. Gently wash away the soap as you massage through the fur with your other hand to ensure you’re washing the soap out right from root to tip of their fur, it’s important to get all the shampoo washed away so that their skin isn’t irritated after their bath.
- Time to dry
Try to get as much water off your pooch with your hand before scooping them out of the bath by giving them a good stroke. Gently lift your pup out of the bath and wrap them up warm in a fresh towel and gently rub them all over to take as much excess water out of their fur as possible. Make sure to be very gentle around their face, and again, keep on talking to them and giving lots of words of encouragement and maybe even a couple of treats! It’s a good idea to get your dog used to a hairdryer from an early age to desensitise them to the sound of this common household appliance, not to mention it’s a much quicker way to get your pooch dry now and for all their baths and rainy walks moving forward! Make sure to check the temperature on your hairdryer and set this to a cool setting so that it doesn’t harm their delicate skin. Hold the hairdryer at least 6 inches away from your pup and give them lots of strokes and tickles as you work the hair dryer across their body. Try to ensure your dog is as dry as possible following their bath as you don’t want them to catch a chill. You could also consider a drying coat or wearable towel for your pooch following bath time to keep them extra snug whilst their fur dries completely.
And that’s it! Your puppy’s first bath all done and dusted. We’d recommend trying to keep up a regular bathing routine of once a month whilst your dog is a puppy to ensure that they get used to bathing without too much time passing between experiences – of course if they get very dirty in the meantime go ahead and get them cleaned up!
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