Postpone bathing your mother dog right after she gives birth. The demands on a mother dog's body are great during labor, birth and beyond. Her job isn't done once she has her puppies. Because she needs to produce milk for multiple little ones, her body will work even harder to keep up. Avoid doing anything such as bathing that takes her away from her newborn pups for the first week or longer.
Nature gives a mother dog a strong instinct to be with, feed and protect her litter. Your mother dog will not want to leave her puppies after whelping -- sometimes, even to eat or potty. It's important to allow her to remain with her litter around the clock for the first week or two except for necessary trips outside. You may know that she needs a bath, but there are things you can do to keep her clean until she's ready to take a break from the whelping box.
Right after she whelps her puppies, your mother dog will begin to clean herself in between nursing. She will be surprisingly thorough, although you can help with a gentle sponging. She will have a discharge for several weeks after whelping. This is messy but normal. Avoid spraying water or dousing your mother dog's nether regions after the whelps. Flushing her with water can cause irritation. If she seems messy, use a washcloth with warm water and a mild soap made for puppies to gently clean her. Don't use human adult shampoo or soap; these have a different pH level and chemicals that can hurt her skin. In a pinch, you can use baby shampoo.
Prepare Before Birth
Help your mother dog stay clean after the whelping by, before the puppies arrive, having a professional trim the hair on her stomach and under her tail, especially if she has a long coat. Your vet can help with this at your dog's final pregnancy checkup just before her due date. This helps to keep Mama clean after whelping, makes it easier for the puppies to nurse, and prevents milk from accumulating in the hair on her stomach.
Clean Her House
Clean the whelping box after your mother dog has had all her puppies. Change the bedding and put down fresh whelping pads or mats. Your mother dog and her litter will spend the next four weeks in the whelping box. Keep it clean so she and the puppies will be tidy. Change and wash the bedding daily when you take the puppies out to weigh them. Your mother dog will stay close to keep an eye on them. Once she realizes her little family returns to the box each day, she'll be more comfortable -- and you'll be able to remove her for a bath.
Wait at least a week to give your mother dog a full bath. Use a mild shampoo made for puppies, and dry her thoroughly before returning her to the whelping box. If her coat is damp, the puppies can become chilled. Choose a time after the puppies have nursed when they're sleeping to give you as much time as possible. Don't scrub your mother dog; use your hands rather than a cloth to gently clean her. Avoid stressing her if she's anxious being away from her litter, and keep the bath as short as possible. Once her puppies are weaned, she'll be happy to be primped and pampered again.
- Canine Reproduction and Whelping: A Dog Breeder's Guide; Myra Savant-Harris, R.N.
- The Whelping and Rearing of Puppies; Muriel P. Lee
- The Complete Book of Dog Breeding; Dan Rice, D.V.M.
- VCA Hospitals: Breeding for Dog Owners: Caring for Newborn Puppies