If you’re like most people we know, the most pampered member of your family is your dog. You want to get the best kibbles, the best brush, the best chewy toy, the best pooper scooper, and–last but not least–the best dog shampoo. But given the wide range of dog shampoos offered online today, how do you really know what’s best?
This time around, we’ll talk about what to look for in dog shampoo, before listing 10 of our favorites. Let’s make your pup shine.
How to Choose a Dog Shampoo – Buying Guide
So, what makes a good dog shampoo? Well, depends on your pup–how big she is, how much fur she has, whether she spends most of her time chasing after chickens in your backyard or lounging in your purse. Let’s break it down.
First, Figure out What You Want and Your Dog Needs
No two shampoos are the same. You’ve got ones that’ll condition fur and leave your pup smelling like a field of flowers on a spring day, and you’ve got ones that are meant for banishing dirt, fleas, ticks, and other undesirables. They’re not the same, and they contain different ingredients.
Similarly, you’re going to want different shampoos for large, small, and tiny teacup dogs, old dogs and young dogs, house dogs and shepherds–so sit your pup down, and talk about what’s best for the both of you.
There’s Skin under That Coat Too; Is It Oily or Dry?
It should say, right on the bottle, whether a dog shampoo’s for dry, normal, or oily skin. Whether your pup’s skin is dry or oozing oil, depends, in large part, on her breed.
If he’s tiny and lounges around on your couch all day, he’s probably got dry skin. Small indoor types are exposed to air conditioning and heaters all the time, which guzzle up moisture. Run your finger through his coat. If your fingertips pick up dandruff, or if his fur feels rough and dry, then get shampoo that’s meant to hydrate dry skin.
On the other hand, larger breeds–like Labradors, German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, and Rottweilers–secrete more oil. Hounds and other large canines were often bred for hunting, rescues, and dashes through the icy tundra, so they need the oil to protect them from dirt, rain, and snow.
But if your dog isn’t going to be fording any rivers, then the excess oil won’t just smell; it’ll cause outbreaks. Mitigate this with shampoo meant to calm and treat oily skin.
Common Ingredients and What They Do
Quick, tell us, what does pH stand for? For those of you that spent high school chemistry doodling swirls in your notebook, the answer is “power of hydrogen.” And since your pup’s skin–like ours–is mainly water (which has got two hydrogen atoms), it’s got a pH level too.
Generally speaking, your dog’s skin is more alkaline than yours. While slightly acidic skin forms this protective mantle to keep out toxins and bacteria, alkaline skin is left vulnerable–it’s sensitive and prone to dryness and inflammation. So make sure your dog shampoo’s got solid ingredients.
Here’s a few good eggs to check for in the ingredients list. Aloe vera alleviates inflammation and dryness. Eucalyptus deodorizes, disinfects, and gets rid of itching. Glycerin fights dandruff. Oatmeal soothes allergic pups with sensitive, irritated skin.
If you’re not sure about what your dog needs specifically, or if the shampoo’s giving your pup odd side effects, you can always consult a vet, groomer, or other specialist.
Types of Dog Shampoos
There are five main types of shampoo, each serving a different purpose. Think about what’ll suit your pup.
General Purpose Shampoo for the Healthy, Carefree Dog
What can we say? It’ll get the job done. General purpose shampoos get rid of dirt and add a gleam to your dog’s coat. (You’ve also got black shampoo, which adds so much shine to black coats, your dog will look like a giant opal.) There’s a bunch of them, so they’re pretty cheap, and are widely available in pet supply shops.
But–don’t forget–they’re made for pups that have healthy skin. If your dog’s got a condition, steer clear.
Gentle Shampoo is Mainly Composed of Natural Ingredients
Just like the name says: gentle shampoos veer away from any ingredients that could irritate your dog’s skin, and instead take advantage of nature’s bounty. They’re sweet and cool on irritated skin, but won’t go after bacteria as aggressively as, say, medicated shampoo. So if your pup’s got an infection or skin disease, they might actually aggravate the situation.
Oatmeal might be the king of gentle shampoos. It’s nutritious–feeding and glamorizing fur–soothes itching, and relieves allergy symptoms.
Medicated Shampoo for Dogs with Sensitive Skin
Medicated shampoo is–big surprise–composed mostly of medicinal ingredients. Get it if your dog’s got sensitive skin. Just remember that there’s many causes that underlie sensitive skin, so read the bottle and see if the formula targets the exact condition your pup has.
If you’re worried, remember that customer reviews are your best friend. Don’t get anything that fellow dog lovers say is irritating, aggravating, or–on the opposite end of the spectrum–downright useless.
Antibacterial Shampoo, the Darling of Veterinarians
It gets right to the root of the problem–eliminating bacteria that, if left to roam free, could smell and cause skin disease. So, yes, antibacterial shampoo is sterilizing, but that also means that it’s powerful stuff. Take time, read the instructions, and don’t use it too much or too often.
You’ll find a few bottles in animal hospitals or dog salons. See if you can choose one with the help of your local vet or dog groomer.
Dry Shampoo for Senior Dogs and Pups Who Hate Water
Dry shampoo will clean your dog, no water necessary. It’s pretty helpful if you’re stuck smack-dab in the middle of winter, and don’t want to be spraying your dog with water so often. It also works wonders on pups that hate water, canines recovering from surgery, and grandpa and grandma dogs who’ve run out of stamina.
The ingredients are non-toxic and won’t hurt your dog, even if he licks himself a lot. And since it stays in your dog’s coat, dry shampoo is usually free of harmful chemicals and surfactants. Use a bottle for a quick touch-up in between more serious washings.
Get a Bottle You Can Finish in Half a Year, Please
The market is inundated with dog shampoos, so it was only a matter of time before these huge, gallon-sized “economical” bottles started showing up. But–hold up–we recommended not going for Costco packs.
Get something you can use up in half a year. Shampoos expire, just like anything else, and after six months, your medicated and antibacterial shampoos just aren’t going to be the same.
And you probably don’t wash your dog every day, either. Keep that in mind before lugging a huge thing of shampoo all the way home, too.
Top 10 Best Dog Shampoos to Buy Online
Now, let’s look at 10 of our favorite dog shampoos. Sit down next to your pup, glance through the rest of the article one last time, and get choosing.
10. Cloud Star Buddy Wash Lavender and Mint (16 Ounce)
Two-in-One Conditioning Basic Shampoo
It’s never a bad thing when a shampoo sounds good enough to eat. Buddy Wash smells like lavender and mint, steers free of alcohol, and is instead coconut-based. (We can’t vouch for how it tastes, though.) We do know it’s gentle, perfect for itchy skin, won’t dry out your pup, and soothes skin allergies. A pup mom actually stopped having to run to the vet for injections.
Coconut, if you didn’t know, doesn’t lather very well. If you’ve got a family of large dogs, you’ll go through a bottle of this stuff fast. Your canines will thank you; your wallet won’t.
9. Pupkiss Pets Professional All-in-One Natural Dog Shampoo (16 Ounce)
Antibacterial Shampoo for Sensitive Skin
Here’s another tropical contender. You’ve got coconut, oatmeal, and aloe, which soothes inflammation, relieves itchiness, burnishes fur. It’ll also hydrate, condition, and smooth out tangles, so your brush’ll flow smoothly through your pup’s coat. (And you won’t yank out any fur.) Get it if your dog scratches, has allergies or skin problems, or looks like Rapunzel.
If your water’s hard as rocks, it won’t lather well, but otherwise, you’ll be up to your elbows in suds. And if you’ve been using 3 different shampoos at bath time, the 5-in-1 formula might just save you some cash.
8. Wahl Flea & Tick Shampoo Concentrate (24 Ounce)
Kills Critters but Leaves Your Dog’s Skin Healthy and Smelling Sweet
If your pup’s always scratching herself–whether her skin’s dry, her coat’s wet, or there’s little critters in her coat–try lathering this over her. It banishes smell–for pups that love to roll in the mud, splash in puddles, and do everything they can to get that wet dog odor–leaving behind this floral scent that your Rottweiler and Boxer will definitely appreciate. (It’s a bit strong, though, and some sneezing has been reported.)
While it kills fleas, it’s not super preventive. It won’t do anything to eggs, and, though it warns fleas away, there have been a few reports of critters jumping on for a free ride anyway.
7. Earthbath All Natural Pet Shampoo (16 Ounce)
Recommended by Vets for Optimal Skin Protection
Your dog sweats out a river, but can’t take frequent showers because he’s got dry and itchy skin. He’s allergic to everything, bites and scratches himself to the point of drawing blood, and has got tangled fur, to boot. This shampoo will take care of all of that. It’s got oatmeal and aloe to soothe and heal; while it won’t cure the allergies themselves (it’s a shampoo, remember), it offers enough relief that the scratching’ll stop.
It’s also 100% bio-degradable and free of animal cruelty, so you can love Mother Nature as much as you love your dog,
6. EQyss Micro-Tek Pet Shampoo (16 Ounce)
Long Lasting Shampoo That Offers Speedy Cures
If your dog’s got open wounds–either from incessant scratching, or just because she’s a wild one–give this shampoo a try. It won’t leave her with any burning sensation, since there’s no harmful ingredients (that includes silicone, petroleum and other chemical detergents). The botanical extracts relieve signs of skin irritation and dryness.
It’s recommended by vets and is available both as a shampoo and as a spray, which can be stored for up to a few years.
5. Paw Choice Foaming Mousse Dog Shampoo (8 Ounce)
Fruity Dry Shampoo for a Quick and Easy Bath
It’s summer; you’re going on a big road trip and bringing your dog on for the long haul; throw one of these in your bag. Paw Choice’s Foaming Moose Shampoo needs no water–in case you’ve got a dog that’s recovering from surgery, or hates water as much as a cat.
It’s easy to be skeptical, but this shampoo’s been used on dogs that’ve been prancing in the rain, swimming in fish ponds, rolling in their own pee, and they smell great afterwards. Rub it, and it magically turns into foam and dislodges dirt. And you only need three or four pumps for a canine that weighs around 50 pounds.
4. Lambert Kay Fresh N Clean Pet Shampoo (1 Gallon)
Price: $ 43.19
Groomer’s Pick for Silky Fur that Smells Refreshing
Here’s another product that lives up to its name. Take a stroll through the reviews, and you’ll be reading about tiny Yorkies that smell great for weeks or 100 lb German Shepherds that work on a farm and–surprise, surprise–smell great for weeks. It lathers, destroys dirt, and leaves the coat looking and feeling like silk.
It’s general purpose, so if your dog’s got dry skin, use it with a conditioner (or try something else). It won’t irritate skin, but it won’t be soothing any rashes either. It does exactly what it’s supposed to, and does it well.
3. Charlie & Shmitty All Natural Oatmeal Dog Shampoo (16 Ounce)
No-Tangle Oatmeal Shampoo that Smells Faintly of Lemons and Oranges
You’ve got a little Chihuahua that sleeps in front of the cooler and a Husky that slops around in the mud and a Maltipoo with a tangled coat. Use this shampoo for all of them. It’s got aloe and oatmeal that’ll moisturize dry skin and soothe irritated skin. It lathers will and slides out from heavy coat with a rinse. It loosens mats, softens fur, and stops that wet dog smell. (You won’t be able to stop cuddling and petting.)
The scent’s very light–some don’t even notice it. And it’ll leave your little white Maltese or Poodle looking like freshly fallen snow.
2. Top Performance Fresh Pet Shampoo (17 Ounce)
Intensive Moisturizer that Maintains pH Balance
The bottle says “Fresh Scent Lasts For Weeks,” and it’s definitely not lying. It’s almost like perfume; some love it, and some wish that it’d only last for a few seconds.
You know what else will last? The bottle of shampoo itself. It’s concentrated and needs diluting. And you can actually change up how much water you use depending on the breed of your pup. Two parts water and one part shampoo’ll be enough for your little Peekapoo; mix in less water, and it won’t slide off the coat of your Great Pyrenees. This is another general purpose shampoo, but it’s gentle and won’t irritate healthy skin.
1. Calily Life Dog Shampoo With Tea Tree & Aloe Vera (32 Ounce)
Price: $ 11.95
Hypoallergenic Hydrating Shampoo for a Pleasing Bath Experience
Aloe vera’s back on our list–this time with tea tree oil–which’ll soothe dry, irritated, red, and bumpy skin. It’ll cut down on dandruff and odor, so you can go back to using your pup as a pillow. If your dog’s got skin allergies, sheds, and has hot spots, it’ll cut down on the itching and flying tufts of fur. And the smell will calm down skittery pups (and stressed out humans).
One thing that may annoy you: the bottle’s big (a definite plus!), but there’s no pump (a minus). If you’ve got tiny soapy hands and a fussy dog, it’s going to be hard gaining purchase. But a little goes a long way, so you won’t be reaching for the bottle too often.
Things to Keep in Mind When Shampooing Your Dog
So you’ve picked out the best dog shampoo, but your job’s not over yet. Now, we talk about how to actually wash your dog. You can have the best shampoo in the world, but if you don’t wash your dog right, it’s not going to produce miracles.
Brush Your Dog Beforehand and Dry Him Afterwards
Step one, brush your dog before throwing her into the tub (or hosing her down in the yard). Work through her tangles, pick out leaves and twigs, and dislodge chunks of dirt first, and the shampooing will go much smoother. Then, run lukewarm water over her until her coat’s saturated.
After you’ve rinsed her off, put a dollop of shampoo in your hands and work up a lather. Start from the tail. Give her a good rubbing, so you’re washing the gunk from her fur and skin. Once she’s covered in suds, rinse her off, starting from the head. Make sure there’s no soap or water dripping into her eyes or ears.
After you’ve turned off the faucet, give her a once over to make sure there’s no residue. Left over suds could irritate her skin and cause all sorts of diseases, so rinse everything from her coat.
Now, you’ve got to dry her off. Get out as much water as you can with a towel, and finish off with a blow dryer. Some of our furry friends hate dryers, but remember: if you leave them damp, there’s a chance all sorts of microorganisms will start breeding. Just make sure the nozzle’s always a few inches away, and the dryer’s constantly in motion, so you don’t burn your pup.
So we’ve introduced you to our favorite shampoos, and told you everything we knew about how to make your beloved canine a little less smelly. There’s a million and two shampoos out there, and, really, there’s no definitive “best,” no ideal dog shampoo floating out there in Plato’s World of Forms. What’s best for you and your dog is whatever will suit his skin, his coat, his breed. It’s what’ll make him happy.
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