Puppy's first bath? 5 tips from a pro groomer

December 16, 2023 - 3 min read
This article is not intended to be a substitute for professional veterinary advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your veterinarian with any questions you may have regarding your pet’s care, treatment, or medical conditions.
Puppy in bathtub

There are so many benefits to grooming your puppy yourself—not just for your puppy, but for you.

It's truly a bonding experience once you're able to get past the initial stress of trying to get your wiggly pup groomed. But if you're like me, you have a lot of questions about doing it right. Because really, you're setting the foundation for how your dog will react to future grooming sessions, which is kind of a big deal!

So to get some answers, it's probably best to talk to a pro. Enter one of our favorite groomers in the game, Imani Jeffries. She's the owner of Primp My Pet, a mobile grooming service in Atlanta, and has bathed a plethora of puppies in her time.

Let's jump in!

Make sure your puppy's ready for a bath

Puppy's first bath is a milestone, but timing is key. Generally, puppies can have their first bath when they're around 8 weeks old. Before this age, they can have a bit more trouble regulating their body temperature.

So bottom line: There's a sweet spot in timing. You don't want to delay too long, because it's also a great time to get your puppy used to the whole process, according to Imani.

"I recommend starting bathing and grooming early on to help familiarize [your puppy] with the process."

That said, if your puppy is especially dirty or has fleas, reach out to your vet for advice.

I recommend starting bathing and grooming early on to help familiarize [your puppy] with the process.

Puppy getting a bath

Choose a safe puppy bathing zone

OK, so you're ready for the big day. Where's the best place to give your puppy a bath?

  • A sink: can work for smaller breeds or puppies. Make sure it's deep enough so they won't leap out and that it's disinfected beforehand.

  • A tub: more space for larger puppies, but might be harder to hold onto your puppy (and will definitely be harder on your back and knees!). A long hose for your shower head is very helpful.

  • A shower: can be less intimidating for a nervous pup, especially if you're in there with them. A note here: it can be difficult to finish the process if your shower is a walk-in (and your puppy can just walk out).

  • A DIY grooming location: Yes, it keeps your house cleaner. But if your puppy doesn't yet have their vaccinations, this may not be worth the risk of exposure.

There's not really a right answer here, as long as you're bathing your pet in a clean, safe, slip-free zone.

Thinking about bathing your puppy outside? Proceed with caution. Dogs tend to love rolling in mud right after they get wet, and puppies could also have more trouble regulating their temperature if it's cold outside.

Puppy getting shower

Have puppy-bathing supplies on hand

Before you start bathing your pup, make sure you have everything within arm's reach, advises Imani.

Here's what you can grab:

  • puppy-formulated shampoo and conditioner

  • towels

  • a non-slip mat or towel for anti-slippage

  • a brush and comb for pre-bath grooming

  • treats for positive reinforcement

  • a cup for rinsing (unless you have a hose showerhead or faucet attachment)

  • a blow dryer

You could even throw all of these supplies into a little bucket or plastic caddy so you're ready for bathtime at a muddy moment's notice!

Keep the bathing experience paw-sitive

Now, for the main event: believe it or not, this doesn't have to be stressful! It just requires you to slow down.

"[Bathtime] is new for your puppy, so be patient and give them lots of kisses," says Imani.

Here are some steps you might find helpful for your puppy's first bath:

  1. Start by letting your puppy explore the bath area without water.

  2. Gently introduce lukewarm water. Use a calm, cheerful voice to soothe them.

  3. Lather with puppy shampoo (and/or conditioner afterwards), avoiding the face.

  4. Rinse thoroughly, as leftover soap can irritate their skin.

  5. Blot fur with a towel and then blow dry on low heat.

Throughout, offer treats and praise to associate bathtime with positive experiences. This will help you lay a positive foundation for the future, when your pup's bound to be bigger and potentially more unruly!

Puppy getting a bath

Don't overdo it

There's no hard-and-fast rule for how often to bathe a puppy, says Imani. It all just depends.

"How often [your puppy] needs a bath will depend on the type of coat they have and how quickly they dirty themselves. Anywhere from every 2–3 weeks to once a month can help puppies stay clean."

[Bathing] anywhere from every 2–3 weeks to once a month can help puppies stay clean.

As with hoomans, over-bathing can strip your pup's coat of natural oils, leading to skin irritation. Let "gentle" be the mantra for everything at this stage!

And remember, no matter what bath time brings, patience is key when it comes to grooming.

Each bath will help build trust and strengthen your bond. Soon, your puppy will learn to enjoy—or at least tolerate—their splashy spa day!


Leanna Zeibak
Content Manager

Leanna Zeibak is a Content Manager at ManyPets. In her spare time, she paints pet portraits and bakes far too many chocolate chip cookies.