The Best Dog Shampoos To Keep Your Pup Clean And Smelling Amazing

For the freshest-smelling pup 🐶

dog wearing shower cap and shampoo
Rowan
Rowan

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You might think that all dog shampoos are basically the same, but that’s actually not true.

Just like there are tons of different shampoos for people, there are lots of different types of dog shampoos, and the one that’s best for your dog depends on a few factors.

The Dodo spoke to Helen Schaefer, a national certified master groomer and a certified canine esthetician with Heart + Paw, and Dr. Lydia Harbour, a veterinary dermatology resident at Dermatology for Animals in Phoenix, Arizona, to find out what to look for when buying a dog shampoo.

How to find the best dog shampoo

Different dogs need different types of shampoos, just like people. Here’s what to look for and what to consider when choosing the best shampoo for your pup:

Safe ingredients

An important aspect of picking a shampoo for your dog is checking out the ingredients to make sure they’re safe for your pup.

A good rule of thumb is to make sure the shampoo doesn’t have dyes, sulfates, parabens, alcohol, fragrances or other chemicals added, since these things can irritate your dog’s skin.

Your dog’s shampoo should always be formulated specifically for dogs, too. His skin has a lower pH than yours, so using a human shampoo on your dog can lead to skin irritation and even contact dermatitis.

Allergies

There are medicated dog shampoos that help with itchy and dry skin from allergies. Dr. Harbour recommends shampoos that have chlorhexidine, ceramides and sometimes climbazole, miconazole or ketoconazole.

These ingredients help reduce bacterial and yeast growth on the skin, support the skin barrier and moisturize the skin.

Function

Some dog shampoos are made for more than just cleaning your pup’s fur. They’re formulated for specific functions, like getting rid of fleas and ticks or dandruff. So if your dog needs some help in those areas, look for a shampoo specific to that.

According to Schaefer, some ingredients to look for in dandruff shampoos for dogs include alpha hydroxy acid and salicylic acid. “These will help gently exfoliate the old dead flakes off and reduce any greasiness, and will most likely be in any vet-prescribed shampoo,” Schaefer told The Dodo.

Dandruff shampoos should also include humectants, substances that attract and retain moisture in the skin, such as oatmeal and aloe.

Most flea and tick shampoos contain pyrethrins, a compound found in chrysanthemum flowers, which repels insects.

Type of coat

If your dog has thick fur or sheds a lot, you might want to consider a deshedding shampoo to help control it.

Deshedding shampoos should have moisturizing ingredients, including vitamins and fatty acids, to strengthen your dog’s coat and loosen dead hair.

“Common ingredients in deshedding shampoos include alpha hydroxy acids, vitamin E, omega-3 and omega-6, shea butter, dimethicone and any number of natural extracts and essential oils, such as argan oil, ginkgo oil, chamomile, aloe, etc.,” Schaefer said.

Scent

Pick a scent that smells good to you and isn’t too pungent for your dog, since your pup’s sense of smell is way stronger than yours.

How to bathe your dog

Once you pick out your shampoo, here are the steps to bathe your dog:

  • Brush your dog gently to untangle knots.
  • Use warm water to wet your dog.
  • Apply the shampoo and lather, avoiding his face and ears.
  • Rinse extra well to make sure you get all the shampoo out of his fur.
  • Dry your dog’s fur with a towel or dog blow dryer (dryers for humans can get too hot).
  • Use a dog perfume or cologne to make him smell great.

Best dog shampoos

Best natural dog shampoo: Rowan THE FUR WASH

This dog shampoo is made for pups who shed, which is really most dogs. (And if your dog doesn’t shed, you can get this shampoo instead.) It hydrates your dog’s fur and moisturizes his skin at the same time with coconut and argan oils, and it has a coconut scent. There are no sulfates, parabens, silicones or dyes. Plus, it’s veterinary dermatologist-approved. We even gave it our Paw of Approval

Best deshedding dog shampoo: The Coat Handler Undercoat Control

Schaefer recommends this deshedding shampoo that includes omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and vitamin E to moisturize your dog’s coat and dry skin. It loosens the undercoat to remove dead fur and strengthens your dog’s hair to prevent shedding. It’s also 100 percent biodegradable and cruelty-free. You don’t have to worry about pesky bugs either because the shampoo won’t rinse away topical flea and tick medications. And it’s used by professional dog groomers.

Best dandruff dog shampoo: Green Groom DandRUFF Dog Shampoo

Schaefer recommends this dandruff shampoo. It’s biodegradable, made with all natural ingredients, and is soap- and cruelty-free, so you can feel good about using it on your pup. It’s pH-balanced for dogs and made with zinc pyrithione, which can help treat flaky skin. It’ll leave your dog smelling like baby powder, too.

Best dog flea and tick dog shampoo: ADAMS Plus Flea & Tick Shampoo with Precor

This shampoo kills fleas, lice and ticks, plus flea eggs and larvae, for up to 28 days. It contains aloe, coconut extract and oatmeal to soothe itchy skin and has a fresh coconut scent. The shampoo is safe to use on dogs who are 12 weeks and older. 

Best dog shampoo for dry and itchy skin: Davis Oatmeal and Aloe Dog and Cat Shampoo

Schaefer recommends this hypoallergenic dog shampoo for dogs with itchy skin from allergies. Aloe soothes skin irritation, while oatmeal moisturizes. It doesn’t include any soap, so it won’t remove topical flea and tick treatments. It also has a yummy apple fragrance, so your pup will smell super fresh after you bathe him with this shampoo.

Best medicated dog shampoo:  BioHex Chlorhexidine and MicroSilver Shampoo for Skin Infections in Dogs

This antiseptic and soap-free shampoo is made for dogs who have skin conditions. It contains chlorhexidine and microsilver to protect against bacteria, and miconazole reduces the chances of reinfection. It has both antibacterial and antifungal properties, so it’ll keep your dog’s skin extra clean and free from infection.

Best foam dog dry shampoo: Wahl Pet Friendly Waterless No Rinse Shampoo for Animals

This waterless dog shampoo is made with oatmeal extract to soothe itchy skin as it cleans. It’s pH-balanced and alcohol- and paraben-free, so it’s safe to use on your pup. The coconut lime verbena scent is super refreshing, too.

Best spray dog dry shampoo: Wild One Rinseless Shampoo

This dry shampoo is vegan, hypoallergenic, sulfate- and paraben-free and made with no dyes, fragrances or chemicals. It’s a yummy cedar and citrus scent that you might even want to use on yourself. And it’s human-grade, so your pup will really be getting the spa treatment when you use it on him. 

Best powder dog dry shampoo: COAT DEFENSE Canine Daily Preventative Powder

If your dog doesn’t like sprays, try this powder dry shampoo. Not only does it clean your pup and make him smell good, but it also soothes itchy skin, hot spots, rashes and bug bites. For dogs who have skin folds, like pugs, it can be used to keep them dry and free from bacteria.