Just like human babies, newborn puppies need a lot of special care and attention. It may be tempting to give frequent baths to that cute little puppy body, but in most instances you shouldn't even bathe him at all until he gets a bit older.
Should You Bathe a Puppy?
The puppy's mother usually takes care of cleaning and grooming of a newborn puppy. Most of the time, you should not intervene with this cleaning ritual. If the mother is unwilling or you're dealing with an orphaned puppy, you can clean the puppy yourself. You will only want to do this in extreme cases, such as when the puppy is first born and the mother doesn't clean him for some reason or an orphaned puppy is completely covered in something icky, like feces.
Under normal circumstances, you shouldn't give a puppy a normal bath until he is 4 weeks old. After that, most dogs only need a bath every few months. The exception to this is only in the extreme cases listed in previous section. In these circumstances, you should only clean the newborn puppy the one time and then wait until the 4-week mark to bath again. Consult your vet for further advice.
Soap or No Soap
Puppy skin is extremely sensitive. There is no need to use puppy shampoo on a newborn pup. Water will do just fine. Shampoo will dry the little guy's skin out and can cause it to become quite itchy. Wait until he is at least 4 weeks old to use puppy shampoo on his coat.
How to Bathe a Newborn Puppy
You definitely don't want to dunk a newborn puppy into a tub of water, no mater how warm it is. This is due to the fact that he can't regulate his body temperature and can get hypothermia very easily, which can be fatal. Simply dip a clean, soft cloth into some warm water, wring out excess water and gently wipe the puppy. Start by the head and work your way back toward the tail. Use a clean, dry towel to remove excess moisture from the puppy. If you need to, use a low heat setting on a hair dryer to get him completely dry. When you're done, place him back with his mother or in a heated area with no drafts or temperature fluctuations.
By Susan Revermann
American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals: Newborn Puppy Care
American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals: Bathing Your Dog
American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals: Groom Your Dog
American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals: Grooming FAQ
Pet Place: Bathing Your Puppy
About the Author
Susan Revermann is a professional writer with educational and professional experience in psychology, research and teaching. She holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Washington in psychology, focused on research, motivational behavior and statistics. Revermann also has a background in art, crafts, green living, outdoor activities and overall fitness, balance and well-being.