The hair-care aisle at the pet supply store is starting to look like the wall of your favorite salon. There are as many shampoos, conditioners and styling aides for dogs as there are for humans, but you'll notice most of them warn against using the product on young puppies.
Delicate Puppy Skin
Puppies' sebaceous glands -- the ones that produce the natural oils that lubricate hair and skin -- aren't fully developed and don't start working until they're about 4 months old. This makes your puppy prone to dry skin until that time, and lathering her up with any shampoo, including one that is formulated for dogs, can dry out her delicate skin. Even using a gentler puppy formula shampoo can be drying for your dog if she is less than 16 weeks old.
Keeping Your Young Pup Clean
So if you can't use any kind of shampoo on a puppy under 4 months old, you might be at a loss for how you can keep your baby clean. Good old water is the solution that will come to the rescue if your pup gets into something messy or if you just want to freshen her up a bit. Just dampen a washcloth with warm water and wipe her down. Disposable pet wipes are available at pet supply stores, but they should be used sparingly and only if you need the extra help to remove a sticky mess from your puppy's fur, as they can still be a bit harsh for a young one.
When to Start Bathing Your Puppy
You don't have to necessarily celebrate your pup's 4-month birthday by dipping her in a tub and lathering up her fur, although some experts advise that you can avoid bath-time drama later in your pup's life by getting her used to regular baths early on. In "Pampering Your Pooch," Jason R. Rich recommends consulting your vet on when the proper time is to start bathing your baby. The timing will depend on your puppy's breed and size, as well as the climate, so your vet is the ideal person to consult when making the age and bath frequency decision.
Dog Shampoo vs. Human Shampoo
Once you do start bathing your puppy, it's important you use doggy shampoo instead of using your favorite people shampoo on her. Your shampoo might smell great, but the perfumes and other chemicals in your shampoo can be harmful to a pooch. There's another reason to stick with dog shampoo, too: even once your puppy's oil glands start working, the pH of her skin will be different than yours. She'll still have sensitive skin and hair that can easily dry out, and dry out it will if you use a human shampoo on your pup that was made to remove oil from the hair.
Elle Di Jensen has been a writer and editor since 1990. She began working in the fitness industry in 1987, and her experience includes editing and publishing a workout manual. She has an extended family of pets, including special needs animals. Jensen attended Idaho and Boise State Universities. Her work has appeared in various print and online publications.