How To Take Care Of A Puppy (Grooming / Handling)

Care of a puppy

Building a bond with your puppy is essential to the quality of life you will have together.  There are many ways to do this and one of the key ways is how you handle your puppy.

Grooming from week 1 is the best way to establish a puppy handling routine where your pup sees this as a fun, positive experience.

This positive association will prove invaluable when you need to examine their paws / gums / ears as part of a regular at home health check.

This will also help you to have less stressful visits to your vet for their routine vaccinations and physical examinations.

A calm firm approach is best and of course please be gentle!

Start with pups’ head and examine gums/teeth, then ears, then handle their paws (including nails).

Some breeds will be more resistant to your handling their paws then others (terriers have a particular dislike to their paws being touched) but gently persist, as it may be essential for you to examine their paws to help them, if they have an issue at a later stage.

You can of course use their favourite treat intermittently to create a positive association with puppy handling.

Should I Bath My Puppy?

Dogs produce oils that help keep their coats clean.

Brushing their coat regularly will help stimulate production of these oils so giving your puppy a bath is not a requirement.

However, if your puppy decides to roll in something he thinks smells delightful (like foxes’ poo!) then a bath does become a requirement.

Preparation is key!  So, for that emergency post fox poo roll, please ensure you have the correct items to bath your puppy with:

  • Puppy Shampoo
  • Grooming scissors
  • Fragrance Free Wipes (Baby wipes are perfect!)
  • Grooming brush (A double sided pin and soft bristle brush suits most coats)

Include these items in your puppy shopping list when you go for your first visit to your local pet store.

Puppies skin (much like babies) is much more sensitive and delicate than an adult dog, so you MUST use a PUPPY SHAMPOO.

It is also advisable to only give Puppy a full head to toe bath if absolutely necessary.  You can simply give them a tops and tails wash instead to only target where they need to be cleaned.

They must be fully towel dried after and finished with a hairdryer, on a low setting, to avoid catching a cold.

Puppies are not as well able to regulate their temperature as adult dogs so always keep them indoors after a bath until they are fully dried.

Of course, the degree of grooming, bathing or cleaning depends on the type of coat your puppy has.

Short-haired pups, for example, terriers or beagles, generally need minimal bathing (regular brushing can take of most of their coats requirements).

Dense coats will need more attention. Old English Sheepdogs have a dual coat which will probably require the assistance of a groomer to keep it maintained properly.

There are also certain breed specific items to watch out for.  Cocker Spaniels ears need regular cleaning to avoid ear infections developing.

Always ask the advice of your vet on your first visit and they will be able to provide a recommendation based on their physical examination of your puppy.

Do I Need To Cut My Puppies Nails?

Walking your puppy on hard surfaces like pavement can wear down their nails naturally.

To judge if your pups’ nails need to be cut, a general guideline is that a dogs’ nails should not touch off the ground when they are in a standing position.

If you find your puppies nails are getting too long, ask your vet for a lesson in cutting their nails.

Never try it yourself the first time as dogs have a vein that runs through the nail called the “quick” and it is important to avoid cutting into it.

The vein is relatively easy to spot if your puppy has white nails, however if he has black nails it makes it quite difficult to judge where the vein starts.

Just like our nails have a white part of the nail above the fingertip, dogs have a section of white, nerve-free nail but just below that has nerve endings.

So always ask for your vets’ advice first!

How To Bath My Puppy

Brush out their coat first whilst it is still dry (taking care to not pull at their skin).  This will get rid of some of the dust and debris stuck in their coat.

If you find a knotted section that is difficult to brush, use your grooming scissors to cut it out. Always place your hand flat between their skin and the scissors to avoid nipping their skin by mistake.

The reason we brush out the coat first whilst it is still dry is to have the coat knot free before you use water and shampoo.

If you bath them without brushing first, any knots will tighten, and their coat can tangle whilst wet, which will make it nearly impossible to brush after and you may yourself at your local groomers asking for their coat to be shaved!

So, when you have their coat brushed through, wet the coat with warm water (starting with over the back of their neck / shoulders and towards their tail).

Do not pour water over their head or near their ears.  This will help keep them relaxed and it also a good idea to gently massage them as the water washes over them and you begin to add the shampoo.

  • Use your fragrance free / sensitive baby wipes to clean their ears.
  • Use cotton wool dampened with warm water to clean their eye area and always wipe in the direction away from their eyes to avoid infection.

So, when their coat is wet, massage in some puppy shampoo and work it to a lather, rinse out most of it and then massage in some more shampoo.  When you are doing the final rinse, ensure you have washed out all residue of shampoo to avoid irritating the skin.

Remember to avoid going near their head throughout this process.

Once the shampoo is fully rinsed out, wrap them in a towel and then you can finish off drying their coat with a hairdryer.

Keep the hairdryer at a low setting and ensure the air is always blowing in a direction away from their heads.

Reward them with treats as you are bathing and drying them to create a positive association with the process.

Taking care of your puppy grooming requirements can be a lot of fun for both of you and the end result of a fluffy freshly fragrant pup is an added bonus!