6 Best Shampoos for a Poodle in 2020

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Known for their intelligence and versatility, Poodles (Toy, Miniature, and Standard) have been popular for hundreds of years. While many people picture them in a dog show coiffure, strutting around the ring, Poodles originated in Germany as hunting retrievers. Some people still hunt with them today. They have also worked as truffle dogs, circus dogs, military dogs, and assistance dogs. So, forget everything you think you know about how a Poodle should be groomed. If you have a Poodle as a pet or if you are doing obedience, therapy work, agility, or hunting with your dog, you can find an easy pet cut that works for you and your dog.

The Poodle’s coat is normally curly with a naturally harsh texture, and dense all over his body. If it’s allowed to grow out it will eventually form cords, like the Puli or Komondor, but this takes several years. The cords look like dreadlocks. Some Poodles are exhibited this way at dog shows but not many. Caring for a dog with a corded coat is not easy. Baths are difficult and it can take several days for a dog to fully dry afterwards. The cords are not brushed out. If sticks or other debris get caught in them, they must be gently picked out by hand. Puppies under a year old are usually shown in a “puppy” clip.

An adult Poodle in a show clip requires hours of grooming each week. They are usually cut down into a clip that needs less maintenance after their show career is over. You can usually expect your pet Poodle to need a haircut about every 6 to 8 weeks.

Most pet owners opt for a short, fluffy trim with the hair trimmed away from the face and feet, leaving them looking “clean.” Groomers may leave a topknot of about 1.5 inches and perhaps a pom on the tail. Other pet cuts can also look good on pet Poodles. They will keep the dog looking neat in appearance without requiring a lot of upkeep between visits to the groomer.

Poodles are one of the breeds with a single coat. They don’t have an under coat. This means that they shed minimally. Some people consider them to be hypoallergenic, although no dogs are completely free of allergens. They do shed a little but the dead fur tends to become mixed in with their dense natural curls so many people aren’t aware of the shedding. If you don’t brush your Poodle regularly, the dog’s coat can become matted because of the dead hair caught in the curls. (Since corded dogs are not brushed, their cords will contain some of this dead hair. The cords can become very heavy as they grow.)

Poodles come in a wide range of colors, including solids and parti-colors.

Pet owners should plan to brush their Poodle often to loosen dead hair, dirt, and mats. A slicker brush is fine for this job.

If you’re bathing your Poodle at home, you will need a good shampoo, conditioner, and other grooming products. Everyone has their favorite products, including professional groomers, dog handlers, and breeders. Not all of these products are a good choice for pet owners. Since Poodles are so heavily groomed for dog shows, some of the products used such as hairspray, chalk, very heavy conditioners, and some shampoos wouldn’t be appropriate – or necessary – for the dog in your living room. Show dogs often have a couple of baths per week and these products are washed out after a show. In addition, many pet owners tend to prefer natural or organic shampoos and these are not very common with dog show products.

Some professional handlers and groomers will also use human shampoos on their dogs, at least occasionally. These products can wash out a heavy build up of conditioning products. But you wouldn’t normally use them on a pet dog since the pH of human shampoo and dog shampoo is very different. We do not recommend that you use human products on your dog even if you see a dog professional doing it.

There are many good shampoos and other grooming products that will work well for Poodles. A good cleansing shampoo is appropriate for many Poodles. If your dog has a soft coat, you may want to use a texturizing shampoo to bring out the curls. A texturizing shampoo will make the coat feel a little stiffer so that the curls “pop” or spring out. If your dog has sensitive skin, there are lots of soothing shampoos and shampoos that have natural ingredients so they are extra gentle. And, of course, there are shampoos if your dog is having problems with fleas and ticks.

If your dog has any kind of skin problem there are also medicated shampoos; shampoos for itching; and shampoos for hot spots. These are just a few of the shampoos available.

Here’s a look at shampoos and other products that can be good for your Poodle.

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What to look for in a good Poodle Shampoo

A good shampoo for your Poodle should gently cleanse and remove excess oil and dirt but it shouldn’t be harsh or strip away all of your dog’s natural coat oils. Poodles can have some skin problems so you need to avoid any shampoos or products that could cause rashes, itching, or drying. Shampoos that are too harsh can also damage your Poodle’s coat and leave it in poor condition. This can happen if you use some cheaper shampoos or human shampoos. We often recommend natural and plant-based shampoos that don’t strip away al of the natural oils in a dog’s coat.

However, the shampoo must clean well or it can leave too much oil and dirt behind. Then your Poodle’s coat will look dull and grimy even after his bath. This can also happen if you use a heavy conditioner or too much conditioner without rinsing it out well.

For any dog, if you don’t rinse the coat thoroughly, removing all traces of shampoo and conditioner, it can make your dog itch and scratch, leading to later skin problems. Make sure you rinse your dog completely after using each product.

Poodles can produce a lot of oil from their skin. Dogs with seborrhea can have an odor, especially if they have a secondary skin infection. The shampoo you choose should have a good, long-lasting fragrance to cope with this issue. Most shampoos today do have nice fragrances. Choose something that both you and your dog can live with. There are also some nice spritzing products that you can use between baths that aren’t overpowering. Keep in mind that your dog’s sense of smell is enormously more developed than yours so don’t douse your dog in a scent. You can make him miserable if you do that.

One of the most important things to look for when choosing a shampoo for your Poodle is the pH of the product. Dogs have a skin pH that is higher than our human skin. The dog’s pH is about 6.5 to 7 which makes it in the neutral/basic range. Human pH is much more acidic. It’s around 4.5 to 5.5. Some low quality dog shampoos can also be in this range. These products can irritate your Poodle’s skin, making them dry and itchy. They can result in skin infections if your dog scratches his skin. They will also strip the oil from your dog’s coat.

We also recommend that you look for shampoos that are soap-free when possible. We usually think of all sudsy cleaners as being “soapy” but there are lots of shampoo that don’t use soap. Soap products in shampoos can often dry your dog’s skin and strip the coat. There are lots of very good shampoos that use more natural cleaners and won’t irritate your dog’s skin or coat.

Natural and plant-based shampoos are a good choice for most pet Poodles, especially if your dog doesn’t require a medicated shampoo for a skin problem. Some pet lovers prefer organic shampoos and they are also available. It can be hard to avoid all chemicals in shampoos but there are a lot of good shampoos that are trying hard to be more natural. We like to avoid chemicals in shampoos because some of them are hard to wash out of your dog’s coat and your dog can ingest them when he licks his fur. Some of them can be harsh. And some of them can make your dog feel itchy. Ingredients to avoid include phosphates, parabens, sulfate, methylparabens, and phthalates. If your dog requires a medicated shampoo for whatever reason, you may have no choice but to use a product that contains some stronger chemicals.

Other ingredients used in some shampoos have been linked to cancer in some studies. Since your Poodle is likely to lick his fur (like any dog), that means he could ingest these chemicals. Some of these chemicals to try to avoid include artificial coloring such as D&C, FD&C, or Yellow 5. You should also try to avoid Cocomide DEA or MEA. Cocomide DEA and MEA are from coconut, yes, but they are altered in a dangerous way. The same is true about Cocamidopropyl Betaine. The ingredients doazolidinyl urea, imidazolidinyl urea or quarternium-15 release formaldehyde. 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. There are others but these are some of the most common and most dangerous. Again, if your dog has a serious skin condition and needs a medicated shampoo, your options may be limited but you can try to use a shampoo with stronger chemicals only on a short-term basis.

Some Poodles can be prone to assorted skin problems such as allergies, Sebaceous Adenitis, red mange, and others. There are some good products to help with these conditions. However, it’s important to understand that these problems are not simple coat issues. While good shampoos and other products may be able to help your dog, you and your dog will need to see your veterinarian as a first step. Itching, rashes, dryness, hair loss, and other problems can all be symptoms of some of these conditions.

There are some issues such as skin infections from yeast, bacteria, or fungi that can clear right up with a good medicated shampoo. Many of these shampoos are easily available. However, you may still need to consult with your veterinarian to determine exactly what kind of infection or skin problem your dog has.

A good shampoo for dogs should rinse out of the coat easily. You may not think this is important but a shampoo that leaves a residue on your dog’s coat makes it look lifeless. It can make your dog’s skin feel itchy which can lead to scratching and skin problems. Shampoos that are hard to rinse out are often oil-based. Along with these issues, if a shampoo leaves a residue, it means your dog can lick it off his fur.

Because Poodles do come in so many colors, including white and black, there are lots of color enhancing shampoos for them. According to experts, the coats on most Poodles will start to fade as they get older. Their coat can look duller; and they can start to hold stains on their coats longer. A black Poodle can start to have a red tinge to his coat from exposure to the sun. White Poodles, especially, can start to show more staining around their face, chest, and paws. There are many good shampoos that can enhance a dog’s natural color and help remove stains, especially on a white or light-colored dog. These shampoos can still be gentle on the coat. We do advise you to avoid shampoos and other products that would dye the coat since these products can be harsh and drying.

The bottom line: Look for a good quality shampoo for your Poodle that is gentle with a pH between 6 and 7. It should rinse out easily. Natural ingredients are preferable unless your dog needs a medicated shampoo.

Different Kinds of Shampoo for your Poodle

We talked to a professional dog groomer and a long-time Poodle breeder for advice about shampoos for Poodles.

For Poodles with a soft coat, a good texturizing shampoo is recommended. This can bring curls back to life. It also makes the coat easier for a groomer to trim since a soft coat is a little more difficult to scissor correctly. If your Poodle’s coat isn’t particularly soft, you can use a good cleansing or deep cleaning shampoo.

If your Poodle’s coat is looking faded or stained, consider a color enhancing shampoo. Shampoos for black dogs and for white/light coats are especially popular with Poodle owners. Shampoos for white or light dogs will need to remove stains and have optical brighteners to make the coat look lighter again. (Again, we do not recommend products that dye the coat.)

Conditioners are also a good idea after bathing. They smooth the hair cuticle and help restore the soothing, protective layer of emollients on the dog’s skin. A good leave-in spray can also be helpful since it can help keep your Poodle clean between baths; repel dirt and debris; and make combing and brushing easier after the bath.

Colognes for your Poodle are optional. Most dogs don’t like them. As we mentioned earlier, dogs have a much better sense of smell than humans and many heavy scents bother them. Try to choose bath products that have a lighter scent so they won’t drive your dog crazy. If you want to use a spray between baths to keep your dog smelling nice, choose something that doesn’t smell too strong. As always, remember that your dog can lick anything you put on his coat so look for products that don’t contain a lot of strange chemicals.

There are also good shampoos made for dogs with sensitive skin. These shampoos often have oatmeal, aloe, and other ingredients to help soothe the skin. They usually avoid the kind of chemicals that are known for skin irritation.

If your dog needs a medicated shampoo for hot spots or a skin infection, there are some very good shampoos for these problems. You can also find shampoos for dry skin and itching. Some Poodles seem to be especially prone to dry skin.

If your dog has allergies, a hypoallergenic shampoo can be a good choice. These shampoos help soothe  skin that is itchy, red, and irritated. Some of them can have healing ingredients. If your dog has a severe allergy problem you may need to talk to your vet about medicated shampoos that can help with itching and healing the skin. Dogs with allergies often scratch themselves which can lead to sores, coat damage, and hair loss.

If your Poodle picks up some fleas or ticks, there are plenty of flea and tick shampoos available. You have your choice of products that range from natural ingredients to shampoos that contain pesticides. You need to get rid of the pests but do be careful about using products that might be too harsh on your Poodle’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 fleas and ticks 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 Poodle.

2-in-1 shampoos are a good choice for elderly dogs, puppies, and any time you want to save time. These shampoos combine shampoo and conditioner in one product so 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. You can apply the waterless shampoo to your dog wherever he happens to be and rub it out with a wash cloth.

Puppy shampoos are often formulated to be especially mild. They won’t irritate your puppy’s skin or his eyes. Even if you get shampoo in your puppy’s eyes the shampoo won’t hurt him or cause tears.

In the rare event that your Poodle is stinky and smelly – say he encounters a skunk or rolls in something noxious in your yard – there are good neutralizing and deodorizing shampoos. These shampoos are specially made to get rid of bad odors on your dog.

Most dog shampoos today come in a ready-to-use, 16-ounce size. This is usually a good size if you have one Poodle. 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.

Overall Best Shampoo for a Poodle

Buddy Wash Original Lavender & Mint Dog Shampoo & Conditioner

Buddy Wash Original Lavender & Mint Dog Shampoo & Conditioner is one of our favorite shampoos for any breed and it’s a top seller on Chewy.com. We think it’s a great choice for Poodles, too. This 2-in-1 formula means half the time in the bath for your dog and half the work for you. 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. And it contains no alcohol so it won’t burn your Poodle’s skin. And it’s safe to bathe your Poodle often with this formula. The company uses no animal testing. Made in the U.S.

5 More Top Poodle Shampoos

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

Earthbath Light Color Coat Brightening Lavender Dog & Cat Shampoo

If you have a white or light-colored Poodle, we can recommend Earthbath Light Color Coat Brightening Lavender Shampoo. Earthbath is known for its natural shampoos. This color enhancing shampoo is soap-free and contains a special blend of optical enhancing minerals to lift away dirt and stains on the fur. The lavender scent keeps your dog smelling nice. Brightens the coat without using harsh chemicals. It’s 100% biodegradable, paraben and phosphate-free.

Vetoquinol Seba-Hex Shampoo

Some Poodles can be plagued by skin problems. If your Poodle has bacterial or yeast infections, pyoderma, folliculitis, or seborrhea complex, Vetoquinol Seba-Hex is a good choice. This medicated shampoo contains 2 percent Chlorhexidine Gluconate in a keratolytic and keratoplastic shampoo base as a topical disinfectant. Also contains 2 percent sulfur and 2 percent salicylic acid. Safe to use 2-3 times per week on your dog. This product is often sold by veterinary practices for twice the price that it’s sold on Chewy.com.

Isle of Dogs Deep Cleaning Shampoo

Isle of Dogs is popular with dog handlers, professional groomers, breeders and now it’s becoming well-known with all pet lovers. This deep cleaning shampoo gently and thoroughly removes dirt, grimes, and odor without being harsh on your Poodle’s skin or coat. It contains no sulfate or parabens. It has the Isle of Dogs signature fragrance Red Berries and Champagne.

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

Another shampoo we like for Poodles is 4-Legger Organic, Hypo-Allergenic, Lemongrass & Aloe Dog Shampoo. This shampoo is all natural and certified organic. 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 Poodle. 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 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. If you have been searching for a good organic shampoo, 4-Legger is a good choice.

Zesty Paws Oatmeal Anti-Itch Dog Shampoo with Aloe Vera & Vitamin E

If you’re looking for a good soothing, anti-itch shampoo for your Poodle, look not farther. Zesty Paws Oatmeal Anti-Itch Dog Shampoo has oatmeal, vitamin E, aloe vera, vitamins, quinoa, and almond extract to nourish your dog’s coat and leave it feeling soft and clean – as well as looking shiny. The oatmeal also leaves a moisturizing protective layer on your dog’s skin to help relieve itching. Vitamins E and C help neutralize hot spots, reduce shedding, and improve a dog’s brittle fur. Aloe vera also contains natural antifungal and antibacterial properties to soothe troubled skin. The shampoo has a light vanilla scent and helps eliminate odors and deodorize the fur. This product is proudly made in the USA in an FDA-registered, Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP)-certified facility.

Conclusion

Depending on how much grooming you want to do, Poodles can be one of the more time-consuming breeds to groom. However, if you opt for a basic cut, it doesn’t have to be too difficult to care for your Poodle’s coat. For most Poodles, a good cleansing or deep cleaning shampoo is a good choice. If your dog has dry, itchy skin, look for a good quality shampoo that will help moisturize the skin and soothe any irritation. If your dog has allergies or serious skin problems, see your veterinarian. Many of the medicated shampoos recommended by veterinarians can be found online for less.

Many thanks to Julia Ingvalson, Blue Ribbon Grooming, for advice on this article.

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Carlotta Cooper

Carlotta is a long-time contributing editor for the weekly dog show magazine Dog News. She's also the author of The Dog Adoption Bible, the Dog Writers Association of America Adoptashelter.com Award winner for 2013. In addition, she's written Canine Cuisine: 101 Natural Dog Food & Treat Recipes to Make Your Dog Healthy and Happy.

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