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Puppies don't necessarily love baths, but you can make it fun


© Text Copyright the American Kennel Club, Inc., 2006.

No portion of this article may be reproduced without permission of the copyright holder. Reprinted with permission from Text Copyright the American Kennel Club, Inc., . .

Bathing a puppy can he a real challenge, especially when your clever pup uses every resource in his little canine brain to thwart your attempts to get him clean. Who wants to sit, all wet and bedraggled, in a slippery bathtub when there are butterflies to chase, squirrels to harass, treats to wheedle?

But don't give tip on this important grooming ritual. The way you bathe your puppy matters because you are teaching him, here and now, exactly what bath time will be like for the rest of his days. If you want a well-behaved adult dog who not only tolerates but actually enjoys his bath, follow this guide.


The first thing to do, before you even run the hathwater, is to collect all the supplies you will need. Here are the basics:

  • Small treats of irresistible food. Keep the treats tiny, but don't he stingy. You'll need a lot of these the first few times.
  • Nylon collar and leash
  • Coat-conditioning spray (for long-haired dogs)
  • Natural-bristle brush
  • Slicker brush during times of heavy shedding
  • Steel comb
  • Bath mat or other nonskid surface
  • Soft-bristled scrubbing bath brush and/or nail brush or toothbrush for small areas
  • Shampoo appropriate for your dog's coat type
  • Sprayer attachment, or large cup or pitcher with a handle
  • Large towel for your dog
  • Blow-dryer with a cool setting


Now that your supplies are in order, put them all (except the blow-dryer) within reach of the tub where you will bathe your puppy. The bathtub works fine for some people, hut small dogs fit perfectly in a sink, and this can be easier on your back. You may prefer to bathe really big puppies in a child's swimming pool and use the garden hose, weather permitting.

Next, put on a bathing suit or other clothes you don't care about getting soaked. Make sure the door to the backyard is closed, and latch that doggy door.

Get a few of those treats ready, along with the nylon collar and leash. The entire affair will work better if your puppy is hungry, so don't bathe right after mealtime. Call your puppy to you. Praise lavishly, offer a treat, remove his regular collar, put on the nylon collar and leash, and give him another treat. Say to him, "Good dog! We're going to have a bath! Won't this he fun?" Take ynrir puppy into the bathroom, and give him one more treat. Show him a favorite toy, and play in the bathroom a hit. Who's in a hurry? Remember, you want this to he fun.


Now it's time for a thorough brush-and-comb. Any knots or tangles in your puppy's coat will tighten and become worse when wet, so you want to comb out all tangles before turning on the faucet. Spray long coats with conditioner and brush thoroughly, then comb through, making sure you get all the way down to the skin.

Pay special attention to the areas behind your dog's ears, where legs meet body, and under the tail, where mats tend to form in long coats. Remember to praise throughout this process and stay cheerful, and keep offering treats.

When your dog's coat is completely free of tangles and dead hair, put the nonskid mat on the bottom of the tub, sink, or pool, and loop the nylon leash around something sturdy like the faucet or, if you are outside, a fence, deck post, or heavy piece of lawn furniture. Now your puppy can't escape and you still have both hands free. Show him his toy and let him play with it a little in the tub before you run the water. Remember to do this with each new step, so your puppy gets rewarded instead of getting nervous.

If your dog has sensitive eyes, put a tiny dab of Vaseline in the corners of his eyes to protect from soap. Then, test the water by turning it on slowly, rather than slamming it on in a loud blast that could scare your puppy. Don't let the water touch the dog until you are sure it is the right temperature: cool to lukewarm. If using the garden hose, make sure any sunheated water sitting in the hose has run all the way out. Now, thoroughly soak the coat with water. Avoid the eyes and ears, and keep praising.


Now, put some shampoo in your palms and rub them together, or apply some to the middle of your dog's back. Apply the shampoo to your dog's coat by massaging in circles for short coats, or massaging in long strokes with the growth of hair in long coats, to prevent tangling. Using the scrub brush, work the shampoo in, again using a circular motion on short coats and long brushstrokes on long coats.

As you scrub and soap your puppy, he will probably shake his coat and soak you. This is a natural reaction in dogs when they get wet. If he does this, do not scold him!

Next, it's time to rinse. If you leave shampoo in the coat, it can attract dirt and cause tangles, making your dog look worse than before you bathed him. Using the sprayer attachment or a pitcher, rinse out all the soap from along the back, under the belly, between paw pads, and in all the little cracks and crevices. When you are sure you've rinsed out all the soap, do it again. There's always more soap than you think. Finish with a conditioner, if you like, following the directions.


When the bath is over, wrap your puppy in a big, soft towel and gently squeeze and blot the water from his coat. Don't rub the coat as wet hair breaks and tangles easily. After you dry your puppy, he will shake again, just to dry himself a little more. Go with it, and stay cheerful. You're already wet anyway!

If you want your dog to airdry, which is perfectly fine for shortcoated and some medium-coated dogs, you don't need to blow-dry the coat. However, your dog will probably tear around the house and rub his coat on the furniture to get dry. If that scenario would make you unhappy, or you don't want to smell the "wet dog" odor for the next hour or two, get out that blow-dryer.

Set the blow-dryer on the coolest setting. Brush the coat as you blow-dry, frequently checking the dryer output to he sure it isn't too hot. Brush and blow until your dog's coat is fluffy, clean, and shiny.

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