Bathing your newborn puppy is a strong temptation, but a puppy isn’t supposed to be bathed before they are four weeks of age, at least. The risk of hypothermia setting in is a concern when a puppy is under four to eight weeks of age as they can’t self-regulate temperature yet.
Since puppies lack the ability to control their body temperature effectively until they are at least four weeks old, they can easily catch a chill. Wetting them for a bath is not advisable unless there is an emergency or they have become so dirty that it may cause illness.
How to Bathe a Newborn Puppy
There are two ways to bathe a newborn puppy, but it is important to remember that bathing a young puppy is dangerous and should be avoided where possible.
When cleaning a newborn or young puppy, it is important to start with the spot cleaning method first, which is the safest way to clean a young puppy. If the puppy is really soiled, you can then opt for the classic or full-bathe method.
Spot Cleaning Method
Puppies play with everything they can find, and this often makes them dirty. For the most part, the best way to clean them is to brush them. Nature’s instinct is for the mother to clean her own puppies when necessary. Usually, this is quite sufficient to keep puppies clean.
If a puppy messes on their feet or rolls in something dirty, you can do a spot clean.
- Warm water
- Paper towels
- Absorbent cotton towels
To spot clean your young puppy, find an area in your home that is warm and free of drafts. Your puppy will easily become chilled when wet, so make sure they won’t be in the wind or exposed to cold. Working outdoors is not an option.
Fill a container with warm water. Be careful and test the water temperature as you would for a human baby. Dip your elbow into the water, and if it feels comfortably warm, you know it is right for the puppy. Coldwater can lead to loss of body heat in the puppy, while hot water will scald.
Dip the sponge into the water, squeeze excess water-free, then begin to wipe the spots that are most dirty on the puppy. It is best to work from head to tail, wiping in the direction of the puppy’s hair growth. Avoid all chemicals and even puppy shampoo, which isn’t suited to puppies younger than 8 weeks.
Methodically wipe the stained areas, then gently dab with the paper towels to get the most moisture off the puppy. Wrap them in a warm towel to further ensure they don’t catch a chill. If necessary or if your puppy’s hair is very long, you can use a hairdryer to help dry them.
When using a hairdryer to dry your puppy, be careful not to hold it too close to their skin as a puppy has delicate skin and can easily burn. Rather hold the hairdryer further away (at least at arm’s length) and move it frequently to distribute the heat. Also, use the lowest heat setting.
When the puppy is dry but still slightly damp, be sure to keep them with the mom in a warm place that is out of the wind and secure from drafts. By placing the puppy back with the mom, she will keep it warm with her body heat until the puppy is completely dry.
If your puppy is completely soiled, you may need to bathe them completely. This method is a last resort when your puppy is really young. The temptation may be there to simply dunk your puppy, but this is not advisable. Young puppies struggle to thermo-regulate their bodies.
When using the full-bathe method, be sure to work in a warm and draft-free area in your home. After the puppy has been effectively dried, be sure to place the newborn puppy back with the mom to ensure that she can warm them with her body heat.
- A container or large bucket
- Warm water
- Paper towels
Fill the container or bucket with warm water. Be sure to avoid cold or hot water as this can seriously harm your puppy. Holding the puppy in one hand, use the other hand to scoop water with the sponge. Gently dribble water with the sponge, dabbing at the most soiled areas.
Work from the puppy’s head to their tail, sponge bathing the areas that are most soiled. Avoid the ears and face as much as possible. Do not use shampoo or any other chemicals to clean the puppy as their skin is very sensitive.
When you have finished cleaning all the soiled areas with the sponge, gently wrap the puppy in the towel, patting at their wet fur. After gently towel drying them, use the paper towels to dry them further. If necessary, use the hair dryer to further dry your puppy.
With the hairdryer, it is important to hold the dryer far away from the puppy and use the mildest or lowest heat setting as puppies have very sensitive skin and can easily burn.
Why Would It Be Necessary to Bathe a Newborn Puppy?
In rare instances, it may be necessary to bathe a newborn puppy. These circumstances include a puppy that’s born with a skin disease or rash that needs to be treated. Puppies that are born during a rainstorm may need to be bathed to help warm them up.
A newborn or young puppy may also need to be bathed if the litter has some contagious disease or parasitic infection that needs to be managed such as mange and fleas. Fortunately, there are other alternatives to bathing a puppy for disease management.
Bathing a puppy because of a medical reason may often be replaced with a topical treatment or powder to remove parasites better and with less risk than bathing with water.
If your puppy smells, which is quite natural for puppies, you can opt for a baby powder to help improve your puppy’s smell. With newborn puppies, it is best to let the mom clean her own litter of puppies.
The mom will patiently bathe them with her tongue, matching the puppy’s internal temperature, which ensures the puppy doesn’t get cold.
Puppy Bathing FAQs
When can puppies have their first bath?
Puppies should only have their first bath when they are four weeks old, and even then, you should follow best practices to keep the puppy out of the wind and avoid over-wetting them. It is better to wait until puppies are at least eight weeks old before giving them their first bath.
How often should you bathe a puppy?
A young puppy under four weeks of age should only be bathed when absolutely necessary. An older puppy may be bathed once a month or when they need it. Bathing a puppy can remove vital oils from their skin and their ability to self-regulate their body temperature in cold weather.
How do I get rid of the dog smell on my dog?
Dogs, especially puppies, have a particular smell that is pure “dog.” This is their natural smell, and it indicates the dog is healthy. When your dog smells “off,” it may be necessary to bathe them. It’s far better to brush your dog frequently.
Regular brushing distributes oils on their skin and removes loose hair that may attract parasites like fleas and ticks. Brushing stimulates new hair growth and removes foreign particles. For puppies, brushing with a puppy brush can improve their smell and appearance.
Puppies are bound to become dirty at some point as they explore their world. Bathing a young puppy should be a last resort, and if you have to do it, then bathe them correctly. Never bathe a puppy with soap and hot water as this will expose their delicate skin to extreme heat and chemicals.
Nature will clean your puppy as the mom’s tongue is quite good at spot treating spills and stains on her puppies. If you have to help, follow the steps in this guide.