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Bathing Your Puppy

By: PetPlace Veterinarians

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Your cute adorable puppy loves new experiences. This is the time to get your pup used to bathing. If you wait too long to introduce him to soap and water, you may end up bathing an unwilling and uncooperative dog – and end up all wet.

Here are a few tips to make the ritual of the bath more enjoyable, or at least tolerable, for the both of you. With some patience and practice, your dog, rather than you, will get the lion's share of the bath. As time goes on, your pup will eventually tolerate, and may even enjoy, a periodic dip in the tub.

To Bathe or Not to Bathe

The first step is to consult your veterinarian about your particular pooch. Different breeds and lifestyles will dictate when it is safe to begin bathing your pup and what sort of pet shampoos work best. Never wash your dog outside if the weather is cold. This is particularly true for puppies, who have trouble regulating their body temperatures. Puppies should be at least four weeks old before they receive their first bath.

Start Slowly

First get your puppy used to the tub or bathing area. Place him in the tub and offer a treat. Make it a fun experience. Don't start running the water or getting your puppy wet. Let him think this is just a happy place to be.

Then, begin to wipe your puppy with a wet towel while he is in the tub. Still offer treats and make it a fun experience. If you are getting frustrated, quit and start over later.

After your pup is used to the wet towel, pour some water over your pup from a pre-filled bucket. Once he is used to this, it is safe to begin bathing as you would an adult dog.

Be Prepared

Before you tackle your dog, you'll want to go through a pre-bath checklist. Prepare the bathing area out of your dog's presence. There's no point in warning him ahead of time; he'll only get anxious. Here are some items you'll want to have on hand:

  • A veterinarian-approved dog shampoo (people products can cause allergic reactions)
  • Mineral oil and/or cotton balls
  • Washcloth or sponge
  • Towels (the bigger the dog, the more towels you'll need)
  • A warm, draft-free area
  • A bathing tether if you're bathing him in a tub. (If you're bathing him outside, a tether to a fixed point will do.)
  • Brush and comb for his coat
  • A soft brush for between his toes and on his nails
  • A rubber tub mat

    Before bathing, comb and brush out all mats. Otherwise, the water will turn the mats into solid masses, which will require clippers to remove. If your dog's hair is matted with paint, tar or some other sticky material, trim with clippers or soak the area with vegetable or mineral oil for 24 hours. (You may want to speak with a professional groomer if the tangles are difficult.)

    Now it's time to prep your dog. Put a drop of mineral oil in the eyes to protect them from suds. Some people use cotton balls in the ears. If you use cotton balls, make sure they're the right size for your dog's ears; if they're too small, they may slip down the ear canal.

    If you're using a tub, fill the water to the level of your dog's knees. The water should be about his temperature; around 102 degrees Fahrenheit.

    The Bath

    Bring your dog into the tub. If you have a bathing tether, attach one end to his collar and the suction cup to the bathtub. Ladle the warm water over him. If you use a spray, use it on low and hold it gently against his coat so the spraying action doesn't scare him. When he's thoroughly wet, apply the shampoo on his back and work it gently through the coat for about 10 minutes. Be careful not to get soap in his face or mouth. Use the washcloth or sponge to clean and rinse his face, and the soft brush to clean the paws, between toes and on nails.

    When you're ready to rinse, don't forget to drain the tub first. The rinsing cycle, by the way, is very important. You want to do it twice to make sure all the soap is rinsed off. Leaving soap on the dog can cause an allergic reaction.

    If necessary, drain the tub again so your dog isn't standing in water while he dries. Now, you'd better back up; your dog has been waiting to shake off the excess water since you began.

    Gently squeeze out excess water (don't forget to remove the cotton from his ears) and finish drying him with the towels. If you use a hair dryer, keep the heat and blow force on low. Remember to dry the ears with cotton balls to prevent infection.

    Keep your dog away from any drafts until his coat is completely dry.

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