Bathing A Puppy For The First Time

Bathing a puppy for the first time can be a scary experience for you both, and the last thing you want to do is frighten your puppy, right?

Follow our ultimate guide on introducing your Cocker Spaniel to his first puppy bath to make sure he enjoys bath time and isn't traumatized for life!

7 Simple Steps For Bathing A Puppy

When bathing a puppy for the first time, you should take it slowly; otherwise, you may frighten your pup. The whole idea is to make your puppy think that bath-time is fun!

Follow these seven easy steps, and you'll have your puppy looking forward to being bathed in no time!

Step 1: Place Your Puppy In An Empty Bath

It's probably better to begin bathing your puppy in the family bathroom (rather than the kitchen sink) because he won't always be this small and, at some point, may not fit into the sink. 

I recommend you get him used to being in the bath at some may as well be now.

Don't forget to put a non-slip bath mat into the bottom of the bath first so that he doesn't slip and slide, as this could frighten him.

Cocker Spaniel puppy having a bath in a tin bucket, with yellow duck and towelI love my little duck!

Don't run any water into the bath at this stage; the point of this exercise is to get your puppy used to being inside an empty bath.

If he seems relaxed and isn't upset, give him a small treat and tell him he's a good boy.

Let him play with his favourite toy for a couple of minutes, but don't worry if he's not interested. Just let him explore the bath.

You can make it more fun for him by running your fingers along the bottom of the bath, tapping with your nails as you go, or tickle him gently under his chin or stroke his ears; anything to keep his mind off being in 'this big scary white thing'!

If your puppy tries to get out of the bath or cries, don't reassure him (otherwise, he'll think there IS something to worry about); simply distract him with a couple of treats and more play, and continue telling him he's a good boy.

Why not climb into the empty bath with him for the first couple of sessions?

Your goal is to have your pup play happily inside the bath for a couple of minutes each time to help him to understand that no harm will come to him; bathing a puppy is meant to be fun!

Practice this every day until your puppy is completely relaxed and happy in the bathtub.

Step 2: Bathing A Puppy: The SOUND of Running Water

Once he's okay with being in an empty bath, your next step is to get your puppy used to the sound of running water.

At this stage, don't run the water while he's in the bathroom as the sudden sound of running water, especially if it echoes off the walls, may frighten him.

Have someone turn on the taps (gently at first and then onto almost full stream) while you stand just outside of the bathroom door, holding your puppy in your arms. 

If he seems happy and isn't startled by the sound of the rushing water, take him into the bathroom and let him see the water running into the bath.

If he becomes anxious or uncomfortable, leave the bathroom immediately.

Don't reassure him (otherwise, he'll think he was right to be worried); just leave the room quickly and calmly and have someone turn off the taps and try again another day.

Step 3: Bathing A Puppy: Standing In Water

Once your puppy is okay with the sound of running taps, run a couple of inches of tepid water into the bath and then turn off the taps.

If he seems relaxed, place him into the warm water and praise him.

Let him play for a couple of minutes or wriggle your fingers in the water to get his interest.

When your puppy seems happy standing in a bit of water (this may take a session or two), lift him out of the bath and run some more water (gently) into the tub to keep him used to the sound.

Don't put him back into the bath until you've finished running the water; let him get used to the sound in his own time.

Step 4: Put Him In The Bath With RUNNING Water

The next stage is to run the water while your puppy is in the bath.

Little black cocker spaniel puppy taking a bath - cute!Bathing a puppy is fun!

Place your puppy at the other end of an empty bath (away from the taps) and then turn on the water very gently, so you don't startle him, and then slowly increase the flow.

Ensure the water doesn't get too hot; otherwise, you may scald him; keep it at body temperature as you would for a baby.

If you prefer to use a spray for bathing your puppy, make sure you have it facing away from him when you turn on the water; otherwise, you might startle him. 

Your aim is to get your puppy used to the feel of warm water and the sound of it splashing around him without feeling anxious or frightened.

If he seems uncomfortable at any stage, turn off the taps to see if he settles down before trying again.

If he doesn't settle, simply pick him out of the bath, wrap him in a fluffy towel, and try another day. 

Step 5: Get Him Used To The FEEL of Running Water

Buff American cocker spaniel in tin bath, wearing shower capI'm ready for my bath now Mom!

Your Cocker Spaniel should by now be happy with the sound of gently running water while he's sitting in the bath.

Now we need to get him used to the feel of the water on his coat.

Ask him for a paw. When he gives it to you (awww!), place your hand underneath for support and, with the other hand, gently scoop us some water and pour it onto his paw.

Let him see where the water's coming from and feel it running onto his paw.

He may try to drink the water, but that's okay as long as there are no doggie bath bubbles in it!

Gently run water from your hands over his coat. Take it slowly and gently; you don't want to startle him. You never know; he may take to his puppy bath like a duck to water, in which case you've cracked it!

Step 6: Bathing A Puppy

Don't forget the whole point of bathing a puppy is to have a clean (relaxed and happy) dog. Be prepared to get wet and soapy, if not a little grubby!

Now that your pup is happy in the bath and water, it's time to get him clean. 

Rather than repeat myself, you'll find our ultimate guidelines for bathing your dog here. You'll find lots of helpful advice and information on washing your Cocker Spaniel and a helpful list of bath time essentials.

The advice is the same for bathing a puppy, just take it easy and make sure your puppy is fully relaxed and comfortable with the bathtub first.

When you've finished, don't worry if your puppy just sits there - he may be slightly shell-shocked, especially if this is his first bath!

Step 7: Drying Your Cocker Spaniel Puppy

For now, you'll be able to dry off your puppy with a soft fluffy towel, but as he gets older and grows feathers, this won't be enough. 

He may already be familiar with a hair-dryer if you have used one whilst socializing him. If he is, you can finish drying your puppy with a hair-dryer.

If he's not, now is the time to do it.

Common sense prevails here.

  • As always, take it slowly and gently.

  • Never use the highest heat setting; always use the coolest or a warm setting on your hairdryer.
  • Don't hold it too close to your puppy as the heat may burn his delicate skin.

Once he's been bathed and blow-dried, your little furry bundle will smell and look clean. His coat will be shining and feel soft and silky to the touch, just how a tiny puppy should feel.

Puppy bath-time should be fun; let his first experience be a happy one!

Brushing Your Cocker Spaniel Puppy

Bathing a puppy can make tats and mats worse (if there are any), and that's why it's always best to get into the habit of brushing your puppy before you bathe him to remove any tangles or matting first.

Beautiful golden cocker spaniel, freshly groomedPosing for the camera

Bathing a puppy can make tats and mats worse (if there are any), and that's why it's always best to get into the habit of brushing your puppy before you bathe him to remove any tangles or matting first.

At the moment, your Cocker Spaniel puppy will be pretty easy to brush.

However, when he's fully grown, his coat will grow longer, and he will develop feathers, which will attract dirt, leaves, burrs, twigs and other sorts of debris, all of which can cause tangles and matting.

Simply follow the link if you'd like to read more about brushing an adult dog.