How Old Should a Puppy Be Before its First Bath?

Written December 6th, 2012 by
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If you are a puppy owner you may be eager to know when you can bathe the puppy. Puppies sometimes need washing if they happen to be covered in feces or urine, but otherwise bathing a puppy is not required unless it is going to be groomed (clipped). Other times a puppy might have fleas so the owner wants to give it a flea bath. Sometimes people just want to bathe their pup because they feel it is a nurturing thing to do, but they should not be in a rush to put a young puppy through the bathing process.

If you are a new puppy owner please do not rush to give your pup a bath, read on to learn when your puppy should have its first bath, and get tips on bathing a pup.

© by Author, Shih Tzu puppy

© by Author, Shih Tzu puppy

Pups Under 6 Weeks Old

If the puppy is still with the mother the mother dog will do her job of keeping it clean and as such there is usually no need to even consider bathing the puppy. If the puppy is really dirty it can be wiped with a warm damp cloth and dried off. Do not use any products on the puppy or the mother may ingest them when she grooms her pup.

If the puppy has fleas you can remove the fleas by hand and stick them to tape for disposal. You can get a flea comb to use as well.

Puppies 6 to 12 Weeks Old

This is the normal time in which a puppy is weaned and goes to its new home. Actually 8 weeks is best, but issues on weaning are a whole other article! By now the puppy is larger, more robust, and produces its own body heat quite well, it can tolerate more stress, including a bath at home (but only if needed because this is still young).

After 12 Weeks of Age

By now your puppy can be bathed at any time, and if it is the type of puppy (such as a Shih Tzu, Poodle, or Bichon Frise) that will need a regular haircut the pup should get use to being bathed. Typically these pups would go to a groomer for a bath and “puppy cut” at 12 weeks of age, this being around the time they are fully vaccinated and ready to be out where other dogs are found.

Other pups can be bathed if needed too.

Tips for Bathing Pups Over 6 Weeks of Age

When bathing a pup for the first time it is important to avoid causing the pup any trauma. Keep the water and shampoo away from the pup’s eyes. Be sure not to get any water in the ear as this can cause an infection. Be sure to rinse the shampoo well, long haired breeds may require conditioner. Always dry the pup well. You can use a blow drier but be sure not to have it too hot near the skin.

Always use a puppy shampoo, not one for people. In a pinch human baby shampoo can be used. Dawn dish soap can also be used and some people have claimed it is good against fleas.

Flea shampoo can be used with caution and never if the puppy is already being treated for fleas with another product (note all over the counter flea products are risky).

Other Reading

How Often do Dogs Need to be Bathed?


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I have worked with pets for many years, been to college to study horses, worked in an animal shelter, kept pets, owned my own pet supply store, and currently live on a hobby farm in Alberta. I have sheep, a donkey, llama, have kept chickens, pheasants, and pigeons, as well as lots of other critters. I am also interested in travel and science. I am not a veterinarian but have a lot of pet and animal knowledge.

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