Rub-a-Dub-Dub: How to Bathe Your Puppy

11 minute read By Lucy Hughes
Reviewed by: Pawrade Team
June 01, 2024

A Corgi with his tongue sticking out gets a bath

You may wonder why anyone needs a long explanation on how to bathe a puppy. Don’t you just put them in the water, shampoo them, and let them air dry? 

While you have the right idea, there’s so much more to bathing a puppy than you may expect. You’ll need to consider several factors to make bathtime with your puppy the best experience possible, including the size of your dog, its skin and coat type, products to use, how you dry your puppy, and the best brushes and combs for your puppy to get the job done thoroughly. 

Bathing your dog as a young puppy will help establish a routine and get them used to having them touched all over their body, especially their paws, nails, and face. They’ll know what to expect and be less stressed for the next bath if tub time is a regular part of their life. 

Make bathtime a pawsitive experience with these tips and tricks for getting the most out of learning how to bathe your puppy. Grab your supplies, put on some soothing music, and put your puppy in the tub for some rub-a-dub-dub time. 

Preparing to Give Your Puppy a Bath

When grooming your puppy at home, the key to bathing your puppy is to be prepared. When you have all your supplies ready, your experience will go much more smoothly. Your pup will have a more relaxing time and associate bathing with a positive experience. If you aren’t prepared, you run the risk of experiencing a comedy of errors as your sopping-wet, sudsy puppy streaks through the house and rolls around on your couch! 

Take care of their needs first

Has your puppy napped, gone potty, or eaten recently? Try to fit in a bath when all of your puppy’s essential needs have been met. You definitely don’t want anything in the water that is not soapy water!


Location, location, location

Where you bathe your puppy is dependent on a few factors: How big is your puppy? What spaces do you have available in your home, or will you go to a DIY dog washing station? Do you have an outdoor space with a hose that dispenses temperature-appropriate water? Some puppies are small enough to fit in your kitchen sink, while large puppies would do better in a tub or a shower. 

We recommend using a detachable spray nozzle, which is much easier to use than dipping a cup in the water and pouring it over your puppy. A detachable spray nozzle will allow you to get down to the skin and thoroughly remove shampoo and conditioner. We also recommend securing your dog with a tie-out groomer’s loop if you use an outdoor or DIY dog-washing space because a nervous puppy may try to bolt. 

Choosing a shampoo: What type of coat does your puppy have? 

Choosing the right type of shampoo for your puppy is not as simple as grabbing the first one you see on sale. Not all puppy coat types will respond to the same shampoo. You should determine if your puppy has a coat made of fur or hair because it will make a difference when choosing a shampoo.

A long-haired puppy that sheds heavily may require a different type of shampoo than a short-haired one. Curly coats may need a de-matting formula to prevent painful tangles and mats from forming with the friction of washing and air drying. Puppies with allergies or sensitive skin will need a specialized gentle formula that won’t irritate. Some coat types require multiple shampoo products, including a cleansing or clarifying shampoo and a de-shedding formula.

Regardless of your product needs, always choose non-toxic shampoo products that are safe for pets and won’t dry out or irritate your puppy’s skin, face, and eyes. See how the manufacturer recommends applying it before you begin a bath, as some of them need to be diluted first and others can be applied directly to the fur. If you aren’t sure which shampoo brand to use, you can ask your vet, a professional groomer, a friend, or read reviews to help you select the best one. 

The best brushes and combs for your puppy 

Before you bathe your puppy, you should thoroughly brush their coat. Just like humans with different hair types, puppies will need brushes and combs to suit their coats. Short-haired dogs will do well with a curry brush or grooming mitt. Medium and long-haired dogs do well with bristle or slicker brushes. Doodles and other dogs with curly hair may require both a comb and a brush. Heavy shedders may need a shedding blade tool in addition to brushes. Lastly, wire-haired dogs may benefit from hand-stripping rather than a brush or comb, where owners remove dead hairs by hand. Knowing your dog’s coat type will help you choose the best dog brushes and combs to make their coats shiny and healthy. 


Afloia Dog Grooming Kit from

Air dry or blow dryer? 

Some dogs will be fine letting them air dry after a bath. Their coats will keep their shape and luster, and won’t tangle. All you’ll need to do is give them a thorough wipe-down with an absorbent towel and a quick brushing, and they’re good to go! 

However, some dogs absolutely must be dried with a blow dryer to prevent painful tangles and mats. For example, doodle mixes shouldn’t be left to air dry because their hair needs to be completely dry to avoid a musty smell, and it takes a long time to dry with all those thick curls. Air drying could cause even more mats than when you began the bathing process.

You’ll need to purchase a dryer specifically for dogs because regular dryers may be too hot and accidentally burn your puppy. Some puppies may be scared of the dryer, but early exposure to dryers will get your puppy comfortable with the sensation and the noise. 

Regardless of whether you choose to air dry or use a blow dryer on your puppy, make sure to keep a stack of clean towels and a washcloth for your puppy’s face next to the tub because chances are you’ll get as wet as your puppy!

Don’t forget the treats

Some puppy owners have found smearing a bit of peanut butter on the side of the tub or sink will keep your puppy’s focus on that rather than squirming around. Keep treats nearby and use an upbeat, happy voice, even if you are frustrated. Reward your puppy for being such a good boy or girl during bathtime, even if they’re a little stinker! 

Other handy supplies

You’ll want some cotton balls to place in your dog’s ears. Even if they get wet, they’ll prevent water from streaming into their ear canal. Steel wool placed around your drain will help collect dog hair, and a no-slip mat will keep your dog from skidding and sliding around. You may also want a padded mat for your feet or knees to prevent hurting yourself. Calm music and safe scents for dogs will also help the ambiance!

How to Bathe Your Puppy 

Once you have all your supplies laid out and ready, it’s time to start the bath! Follow these steps for a smooth time in the tub. 

Brush your puppy first

Remove dirt, debris, mats, and tangles from your puppy’s coat before you get him wet. Brushing and combing your puppy also removes dead hairs that could clog up your drain even worse than what hair may be shed during the bathing process. 

Wet your puppy

Before you place your dog near the water, make sure the water temperature is just right. You don’t want to shock your dog with cold water or burn him with water that’s too hot, so always test it first. Insert the cotton balls into your puppy’s ears. Fill the tub with warm water with a little bit of shampoo mixed in, and put the steel wool over the drain. Place your puppy in the water and start wetting him by cupping your hands and dribbling water onto him so he gets used to the sensation, telling him what a good boy he is to reassure him. Then when he’s comfortable, start by spraying his neck and working your way down to his tail, making sure the water gets all the way down to his skin. Do not spray water directly onto your puppy’s cute little face to avoid water getting into his eyes, ears, and nose. 


Lather up 

Even though we said lather up, you’ll want to take the washcloth and gently wash your puppy’s face, eyes, and ears without soap to avoid irritation. You can also use specialty wipes for the face, paying attention to any tear stains common in some dog breeds. 

When the face is clean, take your shampoo bottle and either rub some together in your hands or apply directly to the neck and back evenly. You might not notice many suds, which is fine. Work the shampoo in sections to eventually cover and wash the whole body, getting the dirtiest areas (paws and sanitary area), the tail, neck, chest, back, and down each leg. You can go in any order, but work in sections. 

You don’t want to scrub back and forth, mussing up the hair and causing it to go in all directions. Instead, use your fingers to gently push and knead in the direction of the hair growth. 

Wash the blues away

How’s your puppy doing so far? This is a great time to give treats and reassurance in an upbeat voice. This also might be a rather hilarious time as your puppy tries to shake off the suds. If you gently keep your hand on the back of their neck, you may have success in holding off being pelted with water droplets!

Rinse your puppy’s coat thoroughly, using sweeping motions with the spray nozzle, draining the water simultaneously. Be sure to reach the areas where fur grows thick or under nooks and crannies like the elbows to remove all the suds. When you think you’re done, keep rinsing some more! Soap can hide in patches of fur, and any shampoo left has the potential to cause skin irritation and flaking. 

If you need to wash your dog again, begin Round 2. Some people also like to use a conditioner or detangling spray at this stage. 


Get bone dry

Grab some thick, absorbent towels and start with the face, making more of a patting motion rather than a circular or back-and-forth rubbing motion to remove excess water. Once the towels are soaked through, keep grabbing towels until your dog is damp. 

Some dogs are fine to air dry, while others will need the professional grooming dryer we mentioned previously. Use the recommended temperature, and watch your puppy for any signs of discomfort when drying them. Use the same order as you did when you used shampoo, making sure you get every area dry down to the skin. Remember, your puppy needs to be thoroughly dried and not just left for “good enough” to prevent an odor and mats from forming. 


Your puppy may get the zoomies after the bath, which is fine. Try to wrangle them back and get them focused for a brushing session using more treats. Other dogs may be completely relaxed after a bath. Take the right brush for your puppy’s coat type and carefully brush out the fur to where they are fluffy floofheads ready for cuddles and snuggles. 

Optional DIY grooming

You may want to pay attention to other areas of grooming at this time, such as cutting your puppy’s nails while they’re soft from the water. You can also clean out ears with a special ear solution, address any hot spots you have found on their skin, and brush their teeth with dog-specific products. If you aren’t comfortable cutting nails, you can always get this service at a groomer’s without a full bath and drying session. 


Now is the time to give them a huge reward, whether it’s a full snuffle mat, a huge bone, or a brand-new toy to help their teething gums. Lavish lots of praise to make bathtime hold positive associations. 

Bathe a Pawrade Puppy

We’d love to help you select the perfect puppy to bathe, whether you want a puppy with a smooth, short coat, a long, silky coat, or a curly coat. All of our puppies are from reputable, hand-selected breeders and come with a 3-year health guarantee following our Puppy First Approach, 30 days of MetLife insurance, and a health certificate. Most importantly, you’ll have peace of mind knowing your puppy is ready for the world when they leap into your arms for the first time. 

Let us help you browse our puppies for sale to discuss the best one for you while you go ahead and buy a cute duck-hooded towel for that first bath! 


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Lucy Hughes

Lucy Hughes has been teaching and writing professionally for half her life. She has a passion for helping people choose a puppy and lead an exciting life with their new furry companion. She enjoys spending quality time with her family and her beloved Golden Retriever, Bowie.

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