Best Dog Shampoo: Our 2018 Buyers Guide

Since dogs are such a diverse species with over 400 recognized breeds in the world, plus designer breeds and crosses, there is a lot of variation in coat types. You can find dogs that have everything from thick plush coats to keep them warm in the Himalayas to hairless dogs from Mexico. It makes sense that dogs with different coat types would need different kinds of shampoos and grooming products. Voila! There are an abundance of products made today to meet the bathing needs of virtually any dog.

Here’s a quick look at the basic coat types found in dogs today:

Coat Types

  • Corded Coat (Example: Komondor, Puli)
  • Curly Coat (Examples: Poodles, Bichon Frise, Pumi)
  • Double Coat (Short or long hair; examples: Rottweiler, Chow Chow, Siberian Husky, Rough-Coated Collie, Setters, Cocker Spaniel, Pomeranians
  • Hairless Coat (Examples: Chinese Crested, Xoloitzcuintli (Xolo) – Mexican Hairless Dog)
  • Oily Coat (Example: Irish Water Spaniel)
  • Silky Coat (Examples: Shih Tzu, Lhasa Apso, Maltese, Yorkshire Terrier)
  • Single Coat (Afghan Hound, Bichon Frise, Maltese, Poodle, Spanish Water Dog)
  • Smooth Coat (Examples: Beagle, Boston Terrier, Boxer, Bulldog, Dalmatian, Greyhound, Labrador Retriever)
  • Wire Coat (Sometimes called “broken” coats; examples: Airedales and many other Terrier breeds, Wirehaired Dachshunds)
  • Wooly Coat (Example: Lagottto Romagnolo)

This list isn’t definitive. In fact, there can be some crossover among coat types. For example, a dog can have a smooth coat and be double-coated, such as the Labrador Retriever and other breeds. Setters can be double-coated and have a silky coat. The Bichon Frise is both curly-coated and it has a single-coat. The Maltese is single-coated and silky-coated. And so on.

If you have a designer dog, such as a Labradoodle or Goldendoodle, some dogs can have a mixed coat type.  Not only can puppies in the same litter have a variety of different kinds of coat, but an individual puppy/dog can have shorter hair in some places and wavy hair in other places – sometimes making it a challenge to choose the best shampoo!

In general, knowing your dog’s coat type will help you choose the best shampoo for him. You should also pay attention to whether he has any special skin or coat problems. There are lots of shampoos made today for dogs who have dry, itching skin or other skin problems. On the other hand, if your dog has healthy skin and coat, don’t feel that you have to buy a product that’s made for extra moisturizing or sensitive skin. Good dog shampoo products are usually made to be gentle on your dog’s skin and coat so you should buy the correct product and don’t be worried that it will be too harsh for your dog. Buy a product for your dog’s skin and coat as it is at this point in time. (Of course, this isn’t true if you are buying poor quality products. Inferior products can be harsh on your dog’s skin and coat.)

Most pet owners don’t have as much time to commit to grooming their dogs as professional dog handlers and groomers but that doesn’t mean your dog can’t look good. If your dog has a short, smooth coat, you can generally brush them once a week or go over them with a hound glove to remove loose hair. Dogs with longer hair usually need to be brushed a couple of times per week to prevent matting and remove dead hair so they won’t shed through your house. These dogs may need a pin brush on long feathering. If your dog has a curly or wire-haired coat he may not shed very much but going over the coat with a palm pad or slicker brush can help remove any dead hair or dirt. These are only general guidelines. Check the information for your dog’s breed for more details.

In general, most dogs don’t need a bath more than once a month. If your dog doesn’t get very dirty, he may not need a bath very often. Of course, some dogs need a bath more often than others. If your dog has oily skin and coat, skin problems that require medicated shampoos, dry skin or itching that need soothing bath products, or if he visits schools or other places where he needs to look his best, he’ll probably need baths more frequently. And, if you have a dog who just can’t resist rolling in rotten, dirty, smelly things when he finds them, you will have to resign yourself to giving lots of baths. Frequent bathing does remove the oils from your dog’s skin, especially if you are using harsher shampoos. This can cause the skin to produce more oil which can set up a cycle of skin problems. So, if you’re going to bathe your dog often, make sure you use a gentle shampoo followed by a good conditioner.

You might also find that your dog needs a different shampoo at different times of the year. He might need one kind of shampoo in the summer, when his coat is lighter; and a different shampoo in the winter when he has a heavier winter coat. Sometimes you won’t know these things without a little trial and error.

Breeders, professional groomers, and dog handlers all have their favorite shampoos and conditioners but they are not always the best choices for pet owners. Show dogs are groomed daily and bathed frequently but they can have heavy conditioners applied to their coats that would not be appropriate for pet dogs. Heavy conditioners and oils can be good for the coat for short periods but they also attract a lot of dirt and grime – hence the frequent baths. Some products for show dogs also contain chemicals that most pet owners would probably avoid such as ingredients to brighten the coat. Pet owners often prefer products made from natural or organic ingredients. Some grooming products used by professional handlers are also more expensive than most pet lovers use. Professionals may also sometimes use human hair products on dogs which is not advisable for pet owners. A human shampoo, with a more acidic pH, can cut through a heavy conditioner that builds up on a show dog’s coat, but it wouldn’t be recommended for regular use on a pet dog’s coat.

If your dog needs help with sensitive skin, there are lots of soothing shampoos and conditioners made with natural ingredients that are extra gentle. There are also good shampoos if your dog needs help with fleas and ticks. No matter what kind of coat your dog has or what kind of condition his skin is in, you will likely be able to find a good shampoo for him.

Here’s a look at shampoos and other products available for your dog.

What to look for in a good shampoo for your Dog

Healthy skin produces oil which protects the skin and keeps it moisturized. Brushing your dog stimulates the skin to produce this oil and spreads it throughout the coat. This gives it the beautiful natural sheen that we all like to see on our dogs’ coats. Brushing also stimulates new hair growth as it removes the old, dead hair.

Bathing your dog removes the oil as it gets dirty. It can loosen old hair so that it comes out easily when you brush your dog. It helps spread the healthy oils throughout your dog’s coat. And, of course, it removes dirt and noticeable odors from your dog’s coat.

A good dog shampoo will gently remove the old oil and dirt from your dog’s coat without stripping away all of the natural oil. But if the shampoo is harsh, it can strip away all of the protective oil. This can leave your dog’s skin dry and cracked which leads to itching and scratching. That’s when you can get skin problems. A shampoo should gently clean your dog’s coat but still leave the skin smooth and supple. If the shampoo is too harsh it will also open up the cuticle of your dog’s hair, leaving it in poor condition. This can happen with cheaper shampoos. If you are using a good natural, plant-based shampoo it should avoid stripping all of the natural oils from your dog’s coat.

At the other extreme, if you use a shampoo that doesn’t clean well, it can leave too much oil in your dog’s coat. The coat can look dull, limp, and greasy even after your dog’s bath. The same is true if you use a heavy conditioner or if you use too much conditioner and don’t rinse it out well.

A good shampoo should rinse out easily. Not only will your dog’s coat look lifeless if you leave shampoo residue behind after the bath but it can also make your dog feel itchy. This can result in scratching, hot spots, and other skin problems. The same is true if you don’t thoroughly rinse out conditioner. Many shampoos that are hard to rinse out are oil-based so be extra careful with these products. You should also keep in mind that if you don’t rinse out products thoroughly, your dog can lick them off his fur.

Many people are unaware that a dog’s skin pH is different from that of a human’s skin pH. Dogs have a pH that is more alkaline. While human shampoos and some lower quality pet shampoos have a pH around 4.5 to 5.5 (in the acidic range), dogs have a pH around 6 to 7 which is more neutral to basic. If you use a shampoo with a lower pH, such as a human shampoo, it can irritate your dog’s skin, stripping the coat of oil and leaving the skin dry.

Most dogs will do well if you use a shampoo that is natural and free of harsh chemicals, especially if your dog doesn’t have any special skin problems that require medications. Some owners prefer organic ingredients. You should try to avoid some common chemical ingredients such as phosphates, parabens and methylparabens, and phthalates.

Some other ingredients that have been commonly used in shampoos in the past have been linked to cancer in recent studies. Since dogs tend to lick their fur, any kind of chemical in the shampoo you use – especially if it’s not rinsed out well – can be ingested. Chemicals to avoid include artificial coloring such as D&C, FD&C, or Yellow 5. Try to avoid Cocomide DEA or MEA. These ingredients are made from coconut but they can still be harmful to your dog. The same is true for Cocamidopropyl Betaine. The ingredients doazolidinyl urea, imidazolidinyl urea or quarternium-15 release formaldehyde so you should avoid them. Isopropyl or rubbing alcohol turns into acetone in the body. It can also be listed as isopropanol, 2-propanol, and propyl. Another ingredient to avoid is Methylchloroisothiazolinone – a known carcinogen. Whenever you see these chemical names, it’s a good idea to try to avoid them.

In summary, look for a good quality shampoo for your dog that has a pH between 6 and 7. The shampoo you choose should rinse out easily and thoroughly. Most pet owners prefer natural ingredients unless your dog needs a medicated shampoo.

Different Kinds of Shampoo for your Dog

There are lots of good product lines of shampoos today. We say “product lines” because many brands don’t just make one kind of shampoo. Companies tend to make a whole range of shampoos that do different things for different dogs. So, a company may make a puppy shampoo, a moisturizing shampoo, a shampoo for sensitive skin, a shampoo for fleas and ticks, a 2-in-1 shampoo, and a shampoo for dry skin – and more! If your dog has basic, healthy skin and coat, you may not know which shampoo to buy since none of these products say they are made for a “normal” dog.

If your dog doesn’t have any skin or coat problems you can usually look for a good “cleansing” shampoo. These shampoos will remove dirt and excess oil. You can use a small dollop of conditioner after the bath, making sure to rinse it out thoroughly. This should work well for many dogs who have no pre-existing skin or coat problems. We do recommend that you use a good quality shampoo and conditioner. Natural, plant-based shampoos and conditioners that rinse out easily are a good choice.

If your dog has a longer coat, you may want to use a good leave-in conditioner or detangler after the bath. These products make it easy to comb out your dog’s hair and keep it from tangling between baths.

Some people like to apply colognes to their dogs after baths but, honestly, dogs don’t usually like them. You and your dog have different ideas about what smells good. Most bath products already have some scent anyway. If your dog starts smelling a little “off” between baths, there are some light-scented sprays and spritzes that you can use which smell nice – and your dog probably won’t mind them. Do remember that anything you put on your dog’s coat can be ingested when he licks his fur so be careful about what you spray on him. It’s probably not a good idea to spray him with your Dolce & Gabbana perfume.

If your dog’s skin and coat are healthy you may want to buy a shampoo to make his coat look good. These products are based on coat type such as “silky,” “texturizing,” and “volumizing.” (Some companies may use their own similar terms.) Shampoos for silky coats are products that make the hair lie flat and smooth. After the bath, your dog’s coat should look smooth and silky, though you will need to comb it out. These products are good for dogs such as a Maltese or Afghan Hound with a long coat. “Texturizing” with dog products is code for wire-haired. These products clean the coat but they keep it feeling crisp and wiry. They do not soften the coat or make it feel silky – because that’s not how wire-haired dogs are supposed to feel. Volumizing shampoos lift the hair, making it look and feel big and fluffy. They are a good choice for Pomeranians, Samoyeds, Siberian Huskies and other breeds that have coats that stand out from their bodies.

You can also use a shampoo that has color enhancers, whiteners, or brighteners, though we wouldn’t recommend this unless your dog has healthy skin and coat. Read the ingredients carefully since some of these shampoos can be stronger than ordinary shampoos and contain chemicals. Be sure to use a good conditioner afterwards.

There are also “deshedding” shampoos which claim to make it easier for your dog’s under coat to loosen and be removed by shedding tools (such as the Furminator).

If your dog has allergies, there are many good shampoos that can help with skin problems. Dogs with  allergies can scratch themselves raw and have sores, coat damage, and hair loss. Some skin problems area the result of food allergies or other kinds of allergies so any good, soothing shampoo can make your dog’s skin feel better. Lots of shampoos use oatmeal and soothing oils to help itchy, red, irritated skin heal. There are also some good hypoallergenic shampoos for dogs that may be sensitive to some of the ingredients used in shampoos. These shampoos shouldn’t cause your dog to have any more skin irritation because of their ingredients. Of course, if your dog has a severe allergy problem, you may need to talk to your veterinarian about medicated shampoos. Some of these shampoos can be purchased from your vet but others can be bought online once you know what kind of shampoo your dog needs.

If your dog has fleas or ticks, there are lots of flea and tick shampoos available. These products range from natural shampoos to products that contain pesticides. It’s important to get rid of these pests but you also need to be careful that you don’t use a product that is too harsh for your dog’s skin. Before buying a flea and tick shampoo, we would suggest talking to your veterinarian so you are aware of all of the options for getting rid of these pests today. You might decide to use a topical flea treatment or a one-time pill instead of using a shampoo, for example. There are also flea and tick control products that work with heartworm medications, if that would work for your dog. Remember to treat your home and yard, too.

If you have a puppy or a senior dog, many people like 2-in-1 shampoos. When you use a 2-in-1 shampoo and conditioner, your dog doesn’t have to spend as much time in the bath. There’s only one application and one rinse. This can be a real bonus, especially if you have an elderly dog. Waterless shampoos are another good choice if you have an old dog or a dog with health problems. When you use a waterless shampoo your dog doesn’t have to get in the bath at all. You can use it wherever your dog happens to be. Just apply it and rub it out with a wash cloth to clean your dog.

Bathing a puppy takes a little extra consideration. For one thing, they are often wiggly which can be challenging. Secondly, you want your puppy to have a good experience so he doesn’t hate baths forever. And, finally, you need to be careful that you don’t get shampoo in his eyes. Fortunately, there are lots of good puppy shampoos today that are tearless. They won’t hurt your puppy’s eyes if you accidentally get some of the shampoo in them. These shampoos are formulated to be mild on your puppy’s skin.

Some dogs like to get stinky and smelly. If your dog can’t resist rolling in garbage when he gets the chance, you’re in luck. There are some good deodorizing and neutralizing shampoos available. Even if your dog encounters a skunk, you can find products to get rid o the odor.

Most dog shampoos today come in a ready-to-use, 16-ounce size. This is usually a good size if you have one dog. You can also buy gallon jugs of shampoo (concentrated) if you bathe your dog often or if you have multiple dogs. These products have to be diluted but they are economical in the long run if you will be using a lot of shampoo. Expect shampoos that use natural and organic ingredients to cost a little more. Some well-known, popular brands can also be more expensive.

Specialized Shampoos

  • 2-in-1
  • Color Enhancing
  • Dandruff
  • Flea and Tick
  • Hot Spots
  • Hypoallergenic
  • Itching
  • Medicated
  • Neutralizing/Deordorizing
  • Organic
  • Puppy
  • Sensitive Skin
  • Silky
  • Texurizing (for wire-haired dogs)
  • Volumizing
  • Waterless

If you have a mixed breed and you’re not sure what kind of coat your dog has, try running your fingers through your dog’s coat to feel it. Does he have a soft layer close to his skin? Is there a different layer of fur on the outside? Many dogs are double-coated. The soft inner layer tends to shed a lot in the spring and fall (Hello, dust bunnies!). This under coat insulates your dog, keeping him warmer in winter and cooler in summer. The outer layer protects your dog from dirt and wet weather. Unless you see some signs that your dog has some other coat type, you can usually assume that he has a double coat. A dog with a single coat doesn’t shed or sheds very little. Single-coated dogs can have short, long,  straight, curly, or wiry hair but they don’t have an under coat. A wire-coated dog will have a wiry coat, as the name suggests. There are shampoos and grooming products made for all of these coat types.

If you have a double-coated dog, bathing your dog and keeping him clean will help loosen the under coat so it will brush out easily, especially when your dog is shedding. That way your dog won’t shed all over the house quite so much.

Even if you have a purebred dog, the coats of individual dogs will vary. For example, one double-coated dog may have a heavy under coat and another dog of the same breed may have a very light under coat. (I have one dog who has practically no under coat; her daughter has so much under coat that she looks like a furry little bear when she’s not groomed.) One dog may naturally grow a very long coat while another dog of the same breed never grows much coat. (Ask people with show dogs about the trials and tribulations of trying to get a dog’s coat to grow.) Every dog is different, even if you take meticulous care of your dog’s coat. Genetics, climate, food, grooming products, health, exercise, luck, prayers, careful grooming – all of these things can affect your dog’s coat.

Overall Best Dog Shampoo for All Breeds

Professional groomers and dog show handlers often have their favorite shampoos and grooming products. Brands such as Best Shot, Quadruped, #1 All Systems, Chris Christensen, Espree, and Isle of Dogs are often favored. Some of these brands are only sold from dog show vendors or at dog shows. We checked with groomers, handlers, and breeders and they recommended the following shampoos for bathing and grooming your dog at home.

Earthbath Oatmeal & Aloe Dog & Cat Shampoo

The Earthbath line of products is popular with many dog owners. Earthbath Oatmeal & Aloe shampoo is a bestseller on Chewy.com with hundreds of favorable reviews for all breeds. It’s especially good for dogs with dry or itchy skin. It’s also soap-free which we like. It re-moisturizes and soothes dry skin, cracked skin and reduces itching. It won’t irritate your dog’s skin or wash off topical flea products. This formula is 100 percent biodegradable and it’s paraben. pthalates, and phosphate-free. No synthetic dyes or perfumes. Made in the U.S. This is our number one pick for dogs of all breeds. We can also recommend other Earthbath shampoos and conditioners.

6 More Best Shampoos for Dogs (All Breeds)

There are several other top quality shampoos you may wish to consider for your dog. Here are some that we really like.

Buddy Wash Original Lavender & Mint Dog Shampoo & Conditioner

Buddy Wash Original Lavender & Mint Dog Shampoo & Conditioner is a top seller on Chewy.com. Many people like it because it’s a 2-in-1 product so it’s half the work as other shampoos and conditioners. It also comes in Relaxing Green Tea & Bergamot formula. Buddy Wash uses natural, cosmetic-grade ingredients, including botanical extracts and essential oils instead of harsh cleansers. It’s all-natural and soap-free. The shampoo makes a rich lather that rinses out easily. This lavender and mint formula includes aloe vera and tea tree oil to help soothe irritated skin. Buddy Wash Original Lavender & Mint Dog Shampoo contains no alcohol so it won’t burn your dog’s skin and you can use it often. The company uses no animal testing. Made in the U.S.

Isle of Dogs Clean Coating Shampoo for Dogs

We really like Isle of Dogs products and so do many other dog lovers. Their products have been popular with professional groomers and dog handlers for a long time. They are starting to be well-known to pet owners. Their Clean Coating Shampoo gently but thoroughly cleans the coat, removing dirt, grimes, and odors. It helps extend the time between bath. It features green tea extract, aloe leaf juice, and witch hazel extract to deodorize your dog’s coat and leave it feeling renewed and clean. The signature fragrance for this shampoo is red berries and champagne with a blend of strawberries, jasmine, and champagne. Isle of Dogs also has shampoos and conditioners for silky coats, lush coats, volumizing products, and more.

Douxo Chlorhexidine PS Dog & Cat Shampoo

If your dog has a serious skin condition due to bacteria or fungi, we can recommend Douxo Chlorhexidine PS. It’s recommended by many veterinarians and even sold in some veterinary practices. Douxo Chlorhexidine PS is an antiseptic lathering solution with special moisturizing ingredients. Chlorhexidine climbazole and phytosphingosine help manage superficial and severe skin conditions. Lipacid helps restore the skin barrier by moisturizing and leaving a lipo-protidic file deposited on the skin. This deposit helps regulate associated seborrhea and inflammation. Phytosphingosine – salicyloyl is a modified pro-ceramide which possesses anti-inflammatory and anti-seborrheic properties, helping eliminate pruritus and itching. This product can treat your dog’s itchy skin and make his quality of life better. Many dog owners report that their dog’s skin and coat look better, too. If other medicated shampoos have not helped your dog, we encourage you to try Douxo Chlorhexidine PS. This product is  more expensive than most shampoos but it’s medicated and if your dog needs it, it’s better than buying products that don’t work.

Nature’s Miracle Supreme Odor Control Oatmeal Dog Shampoo & Conditioner

Nature’s Miracle has long been known for their terrific odor control products. We usually think of these products for the home – cleaning up a puppy mess on the carpet. Now Nature’s Miracle has their own line of dog shampoos. We like Nature’s Miracle Supreme Odor Control Oatmeal Dog Shampoo & Conditioner. This is a 2-in-1 product so it combines shampoo and conditioner in one application. It’s soap-free and safe to use with spot-on flea and tick products. It contains no dyes or parabens. Plus,  it has oatmeal to soothe and hydrate your dog’s skin. It neutralizes a wide variety of odors, deodorizes, cleans the skin and coat, and conditions your dog’s coat. It’s a natural cocoa surfactant shampoo providing good cleaning, enhanced hair softness, reduced static electricity, and keeps your dog’s coat clean for a long time. Very reasonably priced.

4-Legger Organic, Hypo-Allergenic, Lemongrass & Aloe Dog Shampoo

4-Legger Organic, Hypo-Allergenic, Lemongrass & Aloe Dog Shampoo is another shampoo we like.  This shampoo is all natural and certified organic so it should appeal to anyone looking for an organic shampoo. It’s also non-toxic, biodegradable, vegan, and cruelty-free. Made in the U.S. Plus it has no detergents or sulfates and no synthetics. It’s also naturally deodorizing and naturally moisturizing. This is a very natural shampoo for your dog. It has lemongrass and aloe vera as cleansers which work well for dogs with all kinds of skin issues including dry, itchy skin and allergies. Plus, it has organic oils and essential oils to soothe your dog’s skin. It won’t strip the natural oils in your dog’s skin and coat. It lathers and rinses out easily and it won’t remove topical flea treatments. This is a concentrated formula so it only takes a little to bathe your dog.

TropiClean Luxury 2 in 1 Papaya & Coconut Pet Shampoo and Conditioner

We can also recommend Tropiclean Luxury 2-in1 Papaya & Coconut Pet Shampoo and Conditioner. TropiClean is another brand that has lots of good shampoos and conditioners. This product cleans and moisturizes your dog’s coat so it’s easy to brush. It nourishes dry skin and conditions the coat. And it leaves your dog’s coat smelling good. It’s soap-free and doesn’t remove topical free or tick treatments. Made in the U.S. If you or your dog don’t like the papaya and coconut formula, TropiClean has lots of other formulas such as medicated, hypoallergenic, deshedding, deep cleaning, whitening, waterless and more.

Honorable mention: Burt’s Bees dog shampoos. Burt’s Bees has lots of products that people love. They now have dog shampoos, too, and they’re getting lots of favorable reviews. They might be something for you and your dog to try.

Conclusion

There is seemingly no end to the different coat types dogs can have. And there are just as many dog shampoos and products today. Try one and see if it works for your dog. Most professional groomers, dog handlers, and breeders have shelves full of shampoos and other products that they have tried. Some work for some dogs – and not for other dogs. We recommend buying small size bottles at first until you know a product works for your dog. Then you can think about buying a larger, more economical size bottle. You will find brands and shampoos that you like. Here’s hoping you and your dog have fun in the bath!

 

Sean Green

Sean Green, a leading developer of several pet-related websites and devoted pet owner. Sean is supported by a knowledgeable team of pet-loving writers who work together to provide you with a wealth of information about training and caring for your pets.

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