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When Can You Bathe a Puppy? The 8 Step Process

Let’s be honest, newborn puppies are pretty much the cutest things on this planet, wouldn’t you agree? If you’re anything like me, all you want to do is snuggle with them day and night, but there is one issue…

…newborn puppies have an incredible knack for rolling and stepping in gross things which their mother is unable to clean. If that recently happened to your young puppy, you might be wondering if you can bathe them, and if so what the best method of puppy bathing is.

Those are great questions, and you’re a responsible dog owner by researching the topic rather than just soaking the puppy in the tub without any knowledge.

Most websites will tell you to avoid cleaning a newborn at all costs and that it’s the mother’s job to deal with cleaning. Although the mother should do the majority of the cleaning, it’s completely fine for humans to do the cleaning every once in a while. In fact, not only is it ok, it’s recommended! But more on that later.

Younger Than 6 Weeks Vs. Older Than 6 Weeks

Before we continue, we need to talk about the difference between a newborn bath and a puppy bath. A dog is considered a newborn up to 6 weeks, and that’s precisely what this article will be addressing…how to clean a newborn puppy that is six weeks old or less.

If your puppy is older than six weeks old, it’s ok to give them a standard bath where you either place them in some water up to about mid leg level or spray them down gently with a hose.

You do NOT want to do that with a newborn puppy that is under six weeks. In this article, we will be going into detail on how to properly bathe a newborn puppy that is six weeks or younger. If your puppy is older than six weeks, then the advice in this article does not apply.

The 8 Step Warm Wipe Down

You won’t be giving newborn pups that are six weeks or younger a traditional bath. You only want to do this in the extreme cases where the “Wipe Down” method talked about below won’t do the trick.

If you HAVE to immerse your puppy in water do it as quickly as possible and make sure you keep them swaddled in a towel and in a warm room if possible. It’s even better if you can hold them against your chest so you can keep them warm with body heat.

Important: For this method DO NOT use any sort of shampoo, just use water.

Step 1: Warm The Room

This step is optional but if at all possible warm up the room you will be cleaning them in. If you have a portable heater, turn it on in that room and close the door for about 10 minutes. After 10 minutes the room should be warm enough. It’s crucial to keep your puppy warm during this whole process.

Step 2: Prepare Some Treats

Again, this step is optional, but it’s a huge help. Your puppy is NOT going to like getting wiped down by anyone or anything other than their mother. If you are prepared to give them a treat, this will distract them while you are giving them a quick wipe down.

Step 3: Decide on a Towel or Cotton Ball

Next, you’ll need to decide if you want to give them a total body wipe down or if you just want to spot clean. If you have a small area you want to clean (or if the puppy is tiny), a cotton ball will do the trick. However, if you’re going to do a full body clean, then you might need to use a towel.

If it’s possible to use a cotton ball, we recommend going that route. It’s much more gentle on the skin. The only downside is it doesn’t cover as much surface area so the cleaning process might take a little longer.

Step 4: Hold Them Close

We can’t overstate how important it is to keep your puppy warm during this whole process. If you’re able to hold them close to your chest while wiping them down, that would be the ideal situation.

Step 5: Begin Wiping Them Down

Now is when you will finally begin the cleaning. You want to finish this as soon as possible so don’t take any more time than needed.

Run a towel or cotton ball under warm water. Dogs have very sensitive skin so make sure it’s not too hot or too cold. It should be just warmer than room temperature.

Be gentle when wiping them down. If you are cleaning their whole body, then start with around the eyes and work your way down to the tail.

Step 6: Dry Them Off With a Towel

You want to make sure you thoroughly dry them off, don’t just run a dry towel over them and let them run loose. Be VERY gentle when wiping them off with the dry cloth.

Step 7: Finish Drying Them With a Blow Dryer

After your dry them off with a towel, their fur is still going to be slightly damp. Now is when you want to finish drying them with a blow dryer. Place the blow dryer on a low setting and use it to finish drying off your newborn puppy.

Step 8: Place Them Back With Their Mother

The final step is to place them back with their mother. Newborn puppies and moms need to be together. I know it’s tempting to get that extra snuggle time in with the newborn, but you would be doing them more harm than good. They want to be with their mother, and their mother wants to be with them.

How Often Should You Do This?

Now that you know the eight steps to clean a newborn puppy, you are probably wondering how often you can do this.

A schedule of once per week would be ideal. Don’t clean them more than once per week if you don’t have to

Why Some Say Not To Do This

When researching this topic, you’ll come across plenty of “experts” that claim you should never bathe or groom a newborn puppy yourself and that the mother should be doing all the cleaning and grooming.

Below are the most common reasons why these sites say that and our “rebuttal” to each one.

Newborn Puppies Can’t Regulate Their Body Temperature

True! That’s one of the reasons we don’t recommend soaking them in water and prefer the warm wipe down method. Since newborn pups can’t regulate their body temperature very well, there’s a chance they can develop hypothermia.

This won’t be an issue if you take the necessary steps to keep them warm. Warm up the room before you start, hold them close to your chest, use warm water, and finish the drying process with a blow dryer.

Newborn Puppy Fur isn’t Waterproof

There’s a difference between newborn puppy fur and dog fur. Dog fur is much more resistant to water than newborn fur. This means dog fur does a great job at keeping the skin dry whereas newborn fur does not keep the skin dry.

If you soak your puppy in water, that would be an issue and could dry out the skin. However, by simply wiping them down as we recommend, the skin won’t get wet.

The Mother Should Do All The Cleaning

A mother’s tongue does a much better job at cleaning a puppy than we ever could using a cotton ball or towel. However, there are certain situations where a mother’s tongue can’t adequately clean the messy puppy. At that point, there is nothing wrong with a human stepping in to help

Why You SHOULD Do This

We recommend you do this once per week for the first six weeks of the newborn puppy’s life. Below are the three reasons for this recommendation.

The Puppy Will Get Used to Human Grooming

This is the primary reason we recommend doing the 8 step warm wipe down method for the first six weeks. You’ll notice most dogs HATE bath-time. Part of the reason for this is because they were used to their mother doing the grooming and don’t quite understand that all you’re trying to do is groom them.

If you begin the process of grooming them during the first few weeks of their life, they may never necessarily like it, but they will submit to it and not put up a fight.

You Can Spot Clean Them Better Than The Mother

The mother does an incredible job of doing all the major cleaning. However, you will be able to do a much better job at cleaning specific spots on the puppy.

It Will Teach The Puppy To Bond With Humans

At some point, the puppy will be taken away from their mother. Yes, it’s a sad thought, but it will eventually happen. It’s important the puppy learns to also bond with humans and not just the mother and the siblings.

So even if your puppy doesn’t need that wipe down, it’s still a good idea to do it once per week.

Summary – So At What Age Can You Bathe a Newborn Puppy?

The quick answer here is you can start right away, but it depends on how you define a bath. A puppy should not go through a traditional bath until they are older than six weeks.

However, you can (and should) do the 8 step warm wipe down method on a puppy that is six weeks or younger. As long as it’s properly followed it’s safe and has many long term benefits for the puppy.

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