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When you get a new puppy, you want to do everything you can to care for them. For many of us, this includes keeping them squeaky clean.
However, it actually is not a good idea to shower your puppy too soon or too often. So, when can you shower a puppy?
Showering a puppy when they are too young can represent a major risk to their health, as they can easily get sick in the aftermath of a shower.
Showering them too often can also leave them open to skin issues such as skin irritation and excess shedding.
In this article, we will look at exactly when you can start showering your puppy and why showering them correctly and at the right age is so important.
We will also look at how often you should shower them to keep their coat in tip-top condition.
Spoiler Alert! You should only start to shower your puppy when they are 7 to 8 weeks old. How often you should shower them depends on the type of coat that they have, but it can be as little as 1 to 4 times a year.
When Can You Shower A Puppy?
How early can you give a puppy a shower? Ideally, you should wait until they are at least eight weeks old, and definitely no earlier than four weeks.
This can be difficult for some pet parents to hear, as puppies can have a bit of a distinctive smell to them when you bring them home.
They also are very messy and tend to get into their food and feces, which can leave an odor. Still, it is better to brush them or wipe them down with a warm, damp cloth until they get a bit older.
Why? Until they are about four weeks old, puppies have a lower body temperature than is standard for most dogs.
Puppies in their first month of life will have a body temperature of around 97 degrees Fahrenheit, which will gradually increase until they are about four weeks old when they will reach around 100.5 degrees Fahrenheit.
The standard temperature for most adult dogs is between 100.5 and 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit.
For this reason, it is hard for young puppies to keep warm. This is part of the reason that they like to snuggle up to their mother and their littermates, as shared body temperature helps keep them warm.
If you give them a shower during the first four weeks of their life, they are at an extremely high risk of falling ill from being too cold, no matter what measures you take to warm them up. Puppies can die within the first few weeks of life if they can’t keep warm.
While they are warmer between 4 to 8 weeks old, their bodies have still not learned how to regulate their temperature. If something causes their temperature to drop, like a shower, they might not be able to warm themselves up, again putting their health at risk.
You will know if they are still struggling to regulate their body temperature, as they will seem cold even when the air temperature around them is not that cold.
They will spend a lot of time snuggled up to their mother, littermates, you, or a heater to keep warm.
When they start doing this less and spending more time venturing away from their normal heat sources, it is because they are getting better at managing their body heat themselves.
If your puppy still seems like they are struggling to maintain their body temperature at nine weeks old, however, it is time to speak to your vet!
How Often Should You Shower A Puppy?
Once it’s time to start showering your puppy, infrequent showers are recommended at first. At the absolute most, you should be showering them once a month, but this could be as little as four times a year depending on their breed and lifestyle.
The coats of dogs are designed to self-regulate. They naturally produce oils to maintain a healthy coat and skin, and they shed dead or unhealthy hair or hair that is no longer needed.
Excessive showering can interfere with those natural processes and stop them from working properly.
Showering a dog too often results in them having an unhealthy coat that is excessively dry. This can also lead to itching and irritation of the skin. It can even interfere with their natural shedding patterns.
Hair that needs to come out can get caught up in their coat, leading to matting, or the hair can be erroneously identified as unhealthy, leading to excessive shedding.
For these reasons, you should wash your dog’s coat as little as possible and only when necessary.
Exactly how often you should shower them depends heavily on the type of coat they have (and we will look at specific coat types below). It also depends a lot on your dog’s lifestyle.
Dogs that spend most of their time indoors with just a quick daily trip to a grassy park aren’t going to need to have a shower very often.
On the other hand, very active dogs that spend more time outdoors, for example, playing in the mud or going swimming in the ocean a lot are going to need to have a shower more often.
Tips For Showering Your Puppy
It’s important to know when it’s time to shower your puppy versus when a simple rinse or wipe down with a cloth is all that’s necessary.
If your dog ends up getting a little dirty on their way home from the park, a good, thorough shampooing is not always the best way to clean their coat.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when assessing whether or not it’s shower time for your pup:
- If they have been in water (saltwater or chlorinated) or some mud, rinsing with water without shampooing might be all they need.
- If they have picked up some dirt and debris, brushing their coat can probably remove most of it.
- If they have rolled in their own food or feces (it happens), targeting the area with a damp cloth can be your best approach.
When you do shampoo your puppy, make sure you use a shampoo that is right for them. Never use human shampoo on puppies or adult dogs.
Human hair and skin are a little acidic, and our shampoo products are designed for that. Dogs are more neutral to alkaline, so human shampoo can irritate their skin.
What To Look For In A Puppy Shampoo
When choosing a dog shampoo, look for something that meets these criteria:
- A pH specifically designed for dogs, usually between 6.5 and 7.5
- Contains mostly natural ingredients, as these are less likely to irritate their skin
- No scent or minimal scent, as dogs don’t tend to like having a scent other than their own hanging around them. This is why they tend to rub up against everything after a shower: to remove the scent. Avoid citrus scents, since these are particularly bad and irritating for dogs.
- Won’t undermine your dog’s topical flea treatment if they are using one (which they should be!).
- Contains soothing ingredients such as oatmeal or aloe vera to moisturize your dog’s skin
- Contains oils, such as omega oils, to ensure their coat does not become too dry
- Preferably does not require a separate conditioner, as you want to keep your dog’s showering session as short as possible (trust us!).
Different Coat Types And Their Grooming Needs
Once you are ready to start showering your puppy regularly, how often they need a shower will depend a lot on their coat type. Let’s take a look at the main types, how often they should be showered, and some showering tips for each particular type.
Here we are talking about dogs with dense, wiry coats, such as poodles, Bichon Frises, and water spaniels. These dogs need pretty regular brushing and showering because their thick coats hold on to everything, including dirt and debris.
Many pet owners claim these dogs don’t shed simply because they don’t leave a lot of hair lying around. However, they are still losing hair; much of it is just all caught up in their coat. They need very regular brushing and should have a shower 4 to 6 times a year.
It is best to schedule their shower after a grooming session when their hair has been thoroughly brushed and cut.
Many popular dog breeds have a double coat, which is basically two coats that grow (and shed) independently of one another. The undercoat is usually short and tough and grows (and sheds) faster than the longer and silkier top coat.
These dogs only need to be showered about twice a year, ideally just after their spring and fall seasonal sheddings. However, these dogs also tend to have active lifestyles, so they can be showered a bit more often if needed.
Short Smooth Coat
Dogs with short and smooth coats such as Rottweilers and Pinschers don’t need to be showered very often at all and are often best served with just an annual shower. The rest of the year, they can be cleaned with a damp cloth just to remove any obvious dirt.
How To Shower Your Puppy
Even dogs that love to swim don’t tend to enjoy shower time. This means you need to do what you can to make dog shower time as quick and painless as possible. Below are our top tips for getting through shower time easily and quickly.
- Brush and comb your dog’s hair thoroughly before you give them a shower, and remove any matting. Water can worsen even mild matting, making it thick and clumpy like cement. If this happens, often the only way to remove the problem is with some electric clippers.
- Be prepared! Have everything you need available and within reach before you start washing your dog. If you need to leave to grab something, your dog may attempt to make an escape, leaving a trail of water behind them.
- Use products specifically designed for dogs and puppies, looking for the characteristics listed in the section above. Using human products can do more harm than good to your dog’s coat.
- Choose a basin of the right size. Your dog should be able to fit comfortably into whatever you are using, and the water level should be no higher than the top of their legs. Any deeper than this, and some dogs can start to get anxious.
- You can try to wash your dog in the shower, but most dogs don’t really like to have the water raining down on them. You may need an attachment that lets you direct the water.
- Heat the water to around 100 degrees. This temperature is comfortable for most dogs. Just don’t go too hot, as it can burn their skin, and you may not see this immediately due to their coat.
- When lathering with soap, do the body first and head last. Dogs are most likely to object when you start to work around the head, so make sure to get the bulk of your work down before starting here.
- Rinse your dog thoroughly, as any residual shampoo can irritate their skin.
- Dry your dog thoroughly, especially for puppies, so there is a minimal risk of their body temperature falling too low.
QUICK RECOMMENDATION: We use Burt’s Bees Puppy Shampoo when showering and bathing all of our puppies.
FAQs About Showering Puppies
When can you give puppies their first shower?
Puppies can have their first shower at around 8 weeks old. Before this, young dogs are unable to regulate their body temperature, and they are at a high risk of developing a chill post shower. This can lead to a variety of illnesses.
When they are too young to be showered, you can clean them by wiping them down with a damp cloth.
How often should you shower a puppy?
As little as possible! Your puppy’s coat has evolved to self-clean and care for itself through shedding. Excessive showering can interfere with this process and leave them with an unhealthy coat.
Many people say to only shower your puppy when you can no longer stand the smell! Long, thick coats usually need to be washed around 4 to 6 times a year, while short, smooth coats can get away with just an annual wash.
Use alternative cleaning methods, such as brushing and wiping down with a wet cloth in between showers.
Should you wash a dog after they swim?
You may be tempted to wash your dog after they have a swim, but depending on how often they swim, this can lead to overwashing. Unless they have sensitive skin, a thorough rinse down to remove salt or chlorine can be a better approach.
However, if your dog’s coat is white or very light in color, you might want to wash them after they swim in chlorinated water, as it can turn their coat green.
Can you wash puppies with dish soap?
Do not use dish soap to wash puppies. It is too harsh and will tear away the natural chemicals that keep your dog’s coat healthy. It will also irritate them if it gets into their eyes, nose, or mouth.
Use a shampoo specifically designed for dogs, and you can also opt for a no-tears formulation for puppies and dogs that just will not stay still.
How do I dry my puppy after a shower?
Puppies have methods for drying themselves, like shaking off and rubbing up against everything. They will then probably look for a warm, sunny spot to sit.
However, puppies benefit from being dried as quickly as possible, and you can help dry them off after a shower. If they have a short coat, a good rubbing down with a towel is probably enough to get them dry.
If they have longer hair, you could use a hair dryer on a low heat setting.
While you might be tempted to give your puppy regular showers from day one to keep them clean and healthy, don’t do it!
Young puppies should not be showered at all, as they can’t get warm again after a shower. This can pose a major risk to their health.
Instead, wait until they are at least eight weeks old. At this point, they will have reached normal dog temperature and learned how to self-regulate.
When you do start showering them, don’t be tempted to over shower them. This is bad for them, as it interferes with the coat’s natural self-cleaning process through oil release and shedding. You should be showering your dog as little as possible.
Here’s how often each main coat type generally needs to be showered:
- Thick, wiry coat: 4 to 6 times a year
- Double coat: 2 to 3 times a year
- Smooth, short coat: 1 to 2 times a year
In between showers, use other strategies to keep your dog’s coat clean, such as rinsing, brushing, and wiping them down with a wet cloth. This is the best approach for a happy dog with a healthy coat.
Do you have any top tips for maintaining a healthy coat for a puppy?
Share them with the community in the comments section below.
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