How Often Should You Bath Your Puppy? Age, Breed & Coat Insights
While many pooches enjoy playing with the hose and getting wet, most of them aren’t that thrilled about doing the same in the tub. Some dogs even find it extremely stressful and scary.
Introducing pups to bathing at a young age can be a good way to train them to love bath time. But how frequently should you do that? And at what age can you bathe a puppy?
Today, we’ll be covering everything you need to know before bathing your puppy for the first time.
Can You Bathe A Puppy At 8 Weeks Old?
As a responsible pet parent, you’re probably wondering when can you bathe puppies. And the answer is around the time they stop nursing, which is roughly around when they're 8 weeks old. Born with a thin, fluffy coat of fur and a slightly lower body temperature, puppies rely on their mother to keep them warm for those first two months of life (1).
If you were to bathe your puppy before the 8-week mark, that might cause more harm than good. Without the ability to regulate their body temperature on their own, puppies can easily get sick from getting wet.
Around two months of age, they start developing thicker fur, which works as an insulating layer that protects their skin and body from external factors. Because of that, puppies no longer need to huddle together with their mother and the rest of the litter to stay warm, as their new coat can do that now.
At this point, bathing a pup isn’t as risky anymore, as they can regulate their body temperature after getting wet. Of course, you should still dry your pooch after a bath. Letting them dry naturally, especially during colder months, can easily get them sick regardless of their age.
How Often To Bathe a Puppy?
It depends. You see, there’s no real reason to bathe your puppy if they’re clean and without odour. Washing them with shampoo isn’t exactly good for their coat, as it can strip away oils and moisture from their skin. And if you do that too often, it can cause their skin to become dry and flaky. This can lead to skin infections and dermatitis.
“The best bath frequency depends on the reason behind the bath. Healthy dogs who spend most of their time inside may only need to be bathed a few times a year to control natural ‘doggy odours’.” - Dr Jennifer Coates, veterinary advisor, PetMD (2)
If your little pooch is between two and six months of age, try restricting bath time to no more than once a month. Puppies at this life stage have thicker fur that’s still not grown into an adult coat, distinctive for their breed. After the 6-month mark, you can bathe your dog more frequently than that, if needed.
You should also keep in mind that the seasons have an impact on the dog’s fur. As you probably know, many breeds shed seasonally, in spring and autumn. During this time of the year, more regular bath time can help them get rid of dead hair.
Factors That Determine The Bathing Frequency
Exactly how often should you wash your pooch depends a lot on the type of coat.
“There are so many different types of dogs and coats which each need to be addressed separately, because of varying textures and lengths. In a salon, the groomer can address these distinctions, but at home, a pet owner may not realize the difference.” - Mari Rozanski, groomer at Plush Pups Boutique, PetMD (2)
Generally, dirt and debris are more easily picked up on a long coat. Plus, it can also get matted and tangled without regular maintenance. For that reason, dogs with this type of fur might need to be washed more often. However, before you resort to bathing, try brushing the debris away instead.
For instance, poodles require regular grooming, including washing. This breed should be bathed every 3 weeks, which is enough to keep the coat clean and tangle-free, without stripping their skin from oils.
But not all long-haired dogs need a bath regularly.
Polar breeds, like Samoyeds and Alaskan Malamutes, have a long, thick double coat that works as a natural layer of insulation. And once it gets wet, it can take hours to dry. These dogs need to be brushed daily but washing them isn’t necessary unless they develop an odour.
Medium-haired breeds, like Golden Retrievers and Border Collies, also don’t need a regular bath. Unless they get dirty from playing in the mud, you won’t need to be washed more than a few times a year. These breeds aren’t known for becoming smelly easily and their naturally oily hairs cause the dirt to simply slide away.
Interestingly enough, many short-haired breeds need to be groomed more often than those with a long coat. For instance, Basset and Shar Pei are two breeds that need a bath at least once a month but would benefit from doing that on a more regular schedule. These dogs have a naturally shiny coat, but should never be oily. And not just that, but their wrinkly skin can hold both odour and bacteria, so they must be meticulously washed to maintain a healthy coat.
What About Hairless Breeds?
Finally, we have dog breeds, such as the Chinese Crested dog and the Xoloitzcuintli, which have little or no tufts of hair. But while they don’t have a coat per se, that doesn’t mean they don’t need to be bathed.
Hairless dogs still have skin cells, which they shed in the same way humans do. And the lack of a protective layer in the shape of fur makes their skin susceptible to absorbing pollutants from the air.
For that reason, these dogs require the most upkeep among them all. Ideally, you should do it weekly, to prevent a film of oil from building up on their skin. And if left for too long, it can cause skin irritation and even infections.
What Products To Use For Bathing A Puppy?
You should never use shampoo for humans to bathe a puppy, even if it’s baby shampoo. Human skin is rather acidic, with a pH level ranging between 5.2 and 6.2. Dogs, on the other hand, have more neutral or alkaline skin and hair, ranging from 5.5 to 7.5 pH (3). For that reason, human shampoo can disrupt the acid mantle, causing their skin to become more vulnerable to pathogens. Plus, their coat can become dry and brittle.
Dog shampoo is a must for washing your little canine companion. If possible, look for products specifically designed for puppies. These shampoos are much gentle on their skin and hair, and are easily washed away, leaving no residue. What’s more, most puppy shampoos are made with no-tear formula, so they won’t irritate if they get in their eyes.
PRO TIP: Aloe vera, glycerin, honey, jojoba oil and oatmeal are natural ingredients that are very gentle and soothing, making them suitable even for very sensitive puppies.
When choosing the best product for your little furry friend, it’s always best to go with unscented ones. Deodorised shampoos are designed to eliminate unpleasant odours, but dogs don’t usually like having their natural scent covered up. While lavender-scented pooch might sound good to you, your canine companion probably won’t feel the same. If you see them rubbing against the furniture after a bath, that’s a clear sign of disapproval of their new scent.
If you can’t find a product specifically designated for puppies, you can still safely use one for adult dogs. Your best bet is a hypoallergenic shampoo, as it usually only contains natural ingredients that are gentle on your pup’s skin and hair.
PRO TIP: If you wash your dog more than once a month, consider getting a dog conditioner. Aside from making the fur softer, a conditioner also closes the hair shaft, allowing it to retain moisture (4).
Providing your puppy with regular baths ensures their coat and skin stay clean and without an odour. How often should you wash your puppy depends on the breed as well as the lifestyle. But while they’re still young, you should refrain from doing that more than once a month, as their coat is still thin and delicate.
- Shojai, A. April 5, 2022. “How to Take Your Puppy's Temperature” The Spruce Pets. Retrieved September 24, 2022. https://www.thesprucepets.com/puppy-temperature-2804793
- Pet Editorial. February 16, 2017. “How Often Should You Bathe Your Dog?“ PetMD. Retrieved September 24, 2022. https://www.petmd.com/dog/grooming/how-often-should-you-bathe-your-dog
- Pet Editorial. September 16, 2009. “Can You Use Human Shampoo on Dogs? Maintaining Your Dog's Skin pH” PetMD. Retrieved September 24, 2022. https://www.petmd.com/dog/grooming/evr_dg_shampoo_for_dogs
- August 13, 2018. “Ask A Groomer: Does my dog really need conditioner?“ Bay Side Pet Resort. Retrieved September 24, 2022. https://www.baysidepetresort.com/ask-a-groomer-does-my-dog-really-need-conditioner/