Picking the best dog shampoo may seem like an easy task.
After all, hair is hair, and all shampoos contain similar enough ingredients that you think it doesn’t really matter which one you pick.
In fact, sometimes, in a pinch, you even scrub your own human shampoo into Fido’s coat and hope for the best. In reality, this is all SO wrong. Dog shampoos are not one-size-fits-all, and picking the wrong shampoo could quickly result in serious harm.
The Best Shampoo for Dogs: Our Top Picks
The Number One Rule of Dog Shampoo
If there is one thing to take away from this article, let it be this: the number one rule of picking a dog shampoo is that you must pick a dog shampoo. Under no circumstances should you ever use shampoo (or any other products) intended for humans on your dog.
The natural pH of a dog’s skin (that is, the level acidity or alkalinity) falls between 6.5 and 7.5. If you remember from your basic chemistry course (sorry to bring back the bad memories) the pH scale ranges from zero to 14, with zero being the most acidic, 14 being the most basic, and 7 being neutral.
A dog’s skin is considered to be neutral, like a glass of water. Human skin, on the other hand, has a natural pH of around 5.5, making it quite a bit more acidic than a dog’s. In fact, human skin has the same level of acidity as a cup of coffee.
Human shampoo is specifically designed to have a pH similar to human skin and dog shampoo is formulated to have a pH similar to dog skin. Therefore, if you use human shampoo on your dog, it will be far too acidic and may cause skin sensitivity, irritation, or even burns.
How to Pick a Dog Shampoo
Now that you’re convinced that purchasing dog shampoo is a good investment, there are a few factors you must consider while choosing the right one for your dog.
First, you must consider the age of your dog. Puppies should be bathed with a shampoo that is gentler than shampoos for older dogs.
Establishing a comfortable bathing routine is important, and reducing chances of irritation when your dog is a puppy will help considerably. Look for shampoos that are specifically formulated for puppies or that advertise being gentle or “tear-free”.
Another factor you must consider is the current condition of your dog’s skin. Watch your dog for frequent scratching or rubbing, which may indicate irritation or other skin conditions.
Skin that is flaking or dry requires shampoo that is moisturizing and contains natural ingredients like oatmeal or aloe vera to reduce irritation. If the issue persists, you may need to visit a vet to ensure that there is not a more serious condition that may require medical intervention (source).
Other skin conditions to look for are the presence of parasites like fleas and ticks. Purchase special shampoos to supplement regular flea and tick prevention treatments, particularly if your dog is prone to getting them or if you frequently walk in tall grasses and in the woods (source).
If you notice that your dog frequently smells bad, you may consider getting a shampoo that is deodorizing. Deodorizing shampoos don’t just cover up bad odors, but work to eliminate them. In addition, while most dog shampoos are formulated to have a pleasant smell, some are specifically made to smell good. This might be a good option for a dog that usually stays indoors and that doesn’t have very sensitive skin.
When purchasing highly fragrant shampoos, make sure that they contain as few artificial ingredients as possible.
Specific shampoos also exist for dogs with specific coat features. For example, there are special shampoos that can be used on light-colored or white dogs that keep their coats bright and prevent yellowing.
Additionally, if your dog has long hair that is prone to tangles, you can purchase a shampoo that contains a conditioner to help maintain the coat. Use of a conditioner after shampooing may also be a good option for dogs with especially difficult tangles or frizz.
Frequency of Bathing
The frequency of bathing your dog depends on the dog’s activity level, its environment, and your own personal preference. A thorough bathing once a month is recommended for all dogs.
If your dog is constantly outside or getting dirty, you may want to bathe him more frequently than if he is an indoor dog.
Keep in mind that overuse of shampoo can be extremely drying to a dog’s skin, and you should not use shampoo more than once a week (source). If more than once a week is necessary, be sure to use a moisturizing shampoo or a soap-free shampoo to prevent excessive drying.
Best Dog Shampoos
While the market is overloaded with different types of dog shampoo, remember that simplicity is key.
Unless your dog has a special need or requires a medicated formula, look for shampoos with as few ingredients as possible. In the wild, dogs do not take baths, so anything unnatural that you are introducing to their skin has the potential to be harmful.
Keep in mind that using a new type of shampoo (even if it’s all-natural) could cause irritation or an allergic reaction. You may have to try a few different types before finding one that best suits your dog’s skin.
Earthbath All Natural Pet Shampoo
This shampoo comes in over 10 different varieties for all shampooing needs. Best of all, the ingredients are all-natural (and all pronounceable). There are no artificial fragrances or colors, but the shampoos range in smell from mango to peppermint, and some are even fragrance-free. Whether you have a puppy (try the tearless and extra gentle “Ultra-Mild Puppy Shampoo”), a light-coated dog with yellowing hair (try the “Light Color Coat Brightener Shampoo”), or a dog with itchy or dry skin (try the “Oatmeal and Aloe Shampoo”), there’s an option to suit your dog’s needs.
While its natural ingredients are safe for all pets, this shampoo does not produce many suds, and it is very easy to overuse it to ensure that you get good coverage. It also may take longer than usual to wash your dog. In addition, the scents tend to quickly wear off after just a few days.
- All natural ingredients
- There’s a type for every dog and need
- Easy to overuse
- Does not produce many suds
Wahl Dog Shampoo
This shampoo comes in multiple varieties for all dogs’ needs. From shed control to brightening to general moisturizing, whatever your dog’s needs are, you can find a shampoo appropriate for use. While the shampoo is paraben and alcohol-free, it is not all natural and contains artificial colorants. Due to the ingredients, it is recommended that dogs with very sensitive skin should not be bathed using this shampoo.
Most varieties of this shampoo are concentrates, meaning that only a small amount needs to be used to produce thick, lush suds. The bottle also lasts more washes than a non-concentrated shampoo. Overall, this would be a good choice for those looking for an economically priced, generally good shampoo that results in soft, shiny hair.
- Variety of types for all needs
- The concentrated formula produces thick suds
- Results in soft, shiny hair
- Not recommended for dogs with sensitive skin
- Not made with all natural ingredients
Fresh ‘n Clean Scented Shampoo
This shampoo is a good choice for dogs with no special conditions or bathing requirements. It is not made from all-natural ingredients, although the ingredients are all naturally derived. It contains fragrance and colorants, but the scent lasts up to weeks after washing. This shampoo is excellent for preventing tangles and mats and keeps hair shiny and soft. It works well for all types of hair.
This shampoo is recommended for dogs that do not tolerate baths very well as it suds up very quickly and rinses quickly and cleanly. It would be a good option for a quick touch-up between visits to the groomer, but the product is quite thin and you may need to use a little bit more than usual to completely clean your dog.
- Great scent that can last up to weeks after washing
- Prevents tangles and mats
- Works to keep all hair types shiny and soft
- Not made from all-natural ingredients
- Contains artificial color and fragrance
- Not recommended for dogs with specific conditions or needs
Our Top Pick
Without a doubt, our favorite dog shampoo is the Earthbath All Natural Pet Shampoo.
This shampoo contains only the basic, necessary ingredients to keep your dog clean without unnecessary chemicals, added artificial colors, or fragrance.
No matter your dog’s condition, you will feel comfortable knowing that there is an all-natural solution available.