Dog Grooming

Vet Recommended Best Shampoo for Dogs to Keep Your Pooch Smelling Fresh!

Best Shampoo for Dogs

This is perhaps my dog’s least favorite post I’ve ever written—yup, selecting the best shampoo for dogs!

When I bathe my dog, my goal is for him to come out clean, smelling fresh and nice, and I want this to last, and I bet we’re on the same page when I say this!

I’ve tried several different dog shampoos over the years, but most of them have been major fails because they either didn’t have high-quality ingredients or give my puppy a clean and silky feel.

Therefore, I set out on a quest to find the best shampoo for dogs—one that would lather well, smell sweet, soothe my paw-friends skin, and improve his coat.

And most importantly, I wanted the best dog shampoo that was free from parabens, phthalates, weird ingredients, or unnatural fragrances!

The good news is that I found several options, so without further ado, here is the lowdown on what I looked for in the best shampoo for dogs.

When selecting the best dog shampoo for your dog, my advice is to choose natural dog shampoos with ingredients such as aloe vera, oatmeal, vitamins, herbal proteins, and citrus extracts. I also sought my vet’s advice on the best shampoos for my dog.

The goal of dog shampoo is somewhat similar to human shampoo—it should remove oil and dirt effectively, without damaging your dog’s coat.

However, just because you share your home, and possibly everything in it with your dog, there’s one thing that you should never share with your paw-friend—your shampoo!

Can I Wash My Dog with Just Water or without Water?

Yes, you absolutely can wash your dog with just water, but that’s not going to get rid of that “doggy smell” or effectively clean an incredibly dirty dog unless you use a waterless dog shampoo.

If you’re concerned about using dog soaps or dog shampoos or your dog is averse to water, here are a few alternatives you can try.

Can I Wash My Dog with Just Water or without Water?

Vinegar and Apple Cider Homemade Dog Shampoo

First, mix 5 percent weak apple cider vinegar with 95 percent water, and wash your dog with it. The vinegar serves as a natural disinfectant, and a pH balancer for its skin, which also makes it a good choice for dogs with itchy skin.

Baking Soda Method

If you don’t want to use water and/or shampoo, you can wash your dog using the baking soda rub method. You will need a generous amount of baking soda to cover your entire dog, a bath brush, and a dog towel.

It’s best to perform the baking soda dry dog wash method outside because you’ll drive yourself crazy trying to clean up the mess off the ground.

Start by sprinkling baking soda over your dog, but refrain from getting it on his face, ears, or eyes. After sprinkling the baking soda, let it rest in its fur for a few minutes.

Once the baking soda has blended in well with your dog’s coat, use your fingers to gently massage it into its hair and skin, so that the powder can absorb the excess oils, lift dirt, and eliminate odor.

Next, use the dog brush to brush your dog, so that the baking soda is spread all across its body.

If your dog shakes off, then that’s great, because you won’t have to perform the following step. But if he doesn’t shake off, you can remove the excess powder with a towel.

You can use a lick mat with some peanut butter or yogurt to reduce your dog’s anxiety or boredom during his dry dog bath.

LickiMat Slow Feeder for Dogs

Key Features:

  • 5 colors available 
  • Helps calm and soothe your dog 
  • Works with all treats and foods 
  • Textured surface protects your dog's teeth and gums
  • Not a replacement for a dog chew toy
As an Aamzon affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases at no cost to you!

Do Waterless, Dry Dog Shampoos Work?

Dry dog shampoos or waterless dog shampoos are a great way to deodorize your furry pal in between grooming sessions, and also make a great alternative for pets that are anxious about water.

Waterless dog shampoos are available in several different forms, most commonly as a powder, foaming mouse formulas, and sprays. Waterless dog shampoos are highly effective at cleansing your dog, as long as you use them properly.

How Do Waterless Dog Shampoos Work?

Wondering how waterless dog shampoos work?

  • Just like you and me, your dog has sebaceous glands that are connected with hair follicles.
  • These glands are present in large numbers in the back of your dog’s neck, rump, chin, tail area, and near its paws.
  • Sebaceous glands produce a substance called sebum—a light, oily substance that helps keeps your dog’s skin well-moisturized, healthy and shiny.
  • Sebum serves as a natural first line of defense against bacteria, possesses antibiotic properties, and gives your paw-pal a distinct scent.
  • The more sebum buildup, the stronger the scent, which typically happens between washing, leaving your dog with greasy, dull, and dirty-looking hair or fur.
  • Starch powders and clay are the two main ingredients in waterless dog shampoos that work collectively to absorb the excess sebum from (oil) from your dog’s hair or fur, resulting in a restored shine, and healthy coat.

It’s worth mentioning that waterless dog shampoos aren’t a substitute for regular dog shampoos, owing to the fact that dirt and pollutants can accumulate daily, and the only way to remove them is with water and soap baths.

You should also buy waterless dog shampoos that are chemical-free, and ones that don’t come in aerosol form.

Waterless dog shampoos are a great way to make your dog feel less greasy and smell better but don’t thoroughly clean your dog’s fur and skin, for which a regular bath with soap and water is a must!

You should also refrain from using too much waterless dog shampoo because doing so will remove more excess oils, and consequently eradicate your dog’s natural antibacterial barrier.

The Spruce Waterless Pet Wash
  • Made from carefully selected natural ingredients
  • Infused with Clary Sage and Lavender 
  • Prevents skin from getting dry and itchy
  • Made in the USA
  • Free from caustics, dyes, synthetic fragrances
As an Aamzon affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases at no cost to you!
Burt's Bees Waterless Shampoo

Key Features:

  • Cleans, soothes, and softens dry skin 
  • Made with all-natural ingredients
  • pH balanced mild shampoo 
  • Cruelty, sulfate & paraben free
  • Veterinarian recommended formula
As an Aamzon affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases at no cost to you!
Begley’s Waterless Dog Shampoo

Key Features:

  • 4 fragrances 
  • Natural ingredients 
  • Easy to use 
  • Environmentally friendly 
  • Made in the USA
As an Aamzon affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases at no cost to you!

Difference Between Dog Soap and Dog Shampoo

The terms dog soap and dog soap are often used interchangeably, and even though both are geared towards cleaning your dog, one may work better than the other depending on your canine.

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If your dog has short hair, soap may be a good option, as long as it’s a natural dog soap bar. Dog bar soap is also a great option when you’re bathing a dog that hates baths because you can hold your dog with one hand, while you rub the soap on its body.

But if you have a long-haired dog, dog shampoo will provide the extra moisturization and cleaning its coat needs.

WashBar Natural Dog Soap Bar
  • Helps soothe dog dry skin
  • Suitable for use as a mild dog shampoo
  • 100% natural ingredients 
  • Wet your dog, rub the bar over their fur, massage and rinse 
  • Equivalent to over 600mL of liquid shampoo 
As an Aamzon affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases at no cost to you!

Can I Use Dish Soap Instead of Dog Shampoo?

Just because the AKC (American Kennel Club) suggests that dish detergent is a great way of washing away oils of your dog’s coat, it is indeed a big mistake!

Dish detergent will remove any fleas that are currently on your dog’s coat, and even does a good job at de-greasing and remove oil from his skin, but this is not what you want to do, and here’s why!

Your dog has naturally less oil on its skin for protection because its skin is covered with hair.

Can I Use Dish Soap Instead of Dog Shampoo?

When you wash your dog with dish soap, you’re basically removing its skin’s natural defenses (oil), which can lead to a painful skin infection. So, the money you just saved by using dish detergent may end up costing you more in vet treatments.

Award-winning dog groomer Billy Rafferty says using dawn or another dish detergent to wash your dog should never be an option because it’s not only its skin that’s at risk but coat and eyes too!

If dish soap accidentally reaches your dog’s eyes, it can cause irritation, and since dish soap forms a lot of lather, it could be extremely difficult and time-consuming to rinse out thoroughly.

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Can I Use Human Shampoo on My Dog?

The simple answer is a big “NO” – Never! Even though it may be tempting to wash your dog with human shampoo, it can have far-reaching consequences.

Human shampoos will indeed clean your dog, but the big question is if it’s good for your dog?

Even though human shampoo won’t cause any disastrous consequences if used once or twice, it can cause some uncomfortable side effects in your dog over prolonged use.

Why You Can’t Use Human Shampoo on Your Dog? Key Takeaways

  • The outer layer of both human and dog skin aka “stratum corneum” is covered by a highly important component known as the acid mantle.
  • The acid mantle serves as protection for the stratum corneum (outer layer of the skin) from environmental contaminants such as bacteria and viruses.
  • The goal of the stratum corneum is to keep the outer body of the skin well hydrated, but when we bathe using soaps and shampoos, we disrupt the acid mantle, resulting in dry, flaky, irritated, peeling skin that leads to itchiness, rashes, and infections.
  • The good news is that both human and dog shampoos contain moisturizers to replace the acid mantle that’s washed away, but the difference is in the pH levels.
  • The acid mantle of human skin is characterized by having a normal pH level between 5.4 and 5.9, which is weakly acidic.
  • Depending on the breed, gender, climate, and the size of the dog, pH levels in canines are between 5.5 to 7.2, which is more alkaline than human skin.
  • If you use human shampoo on a dog, it will also disrupt the acid mantle, but will not help the canine’s skin to recover as quickly, making it susceptible to parasites, viruses, and bacteria.
Furminator DeShedding Shampoo

Key Features:

  • Enriched with Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids 
  • Non-irritating hypoallergenic formulation
  • Veterinarian recommended 
  • Promotes healthy skin and coat 
  • Reduces excessive shedding
As an Aamzon affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases at no cost to you!

Further, it will also leave your paw-friend’s skin dry and flaky, which will cause him to bite and scratch at it.

Another big reason you should refrain from using human shampoo on your mutt is his low skin sensitivity compared to humans.

Humans have a total of 7 layers of skin, whereas dogs have 3 layers of skin.

Owing to the fact that your dog’s skin is essentially thinner than you and me, using human shampoos that contain harsh chemicals and ingredients can easily erode these layers, leading to drying, skin rashes, flaking, and even intense itching.

What’s worse is that some dog owners will unknowingly wash their furry pals repeatedly with human shampoo, which takes a much bigger toll on their skin’s acid mantle/pH level.

In short, your dog’s skin is more sensitive than yours, so using human shampoo on him isn’t a good idea!

Which Shampoo Is Right for Your Dog’s Coat?

Shampoo’s main goal for humans and dogs is to clean the hair and underlying skin to make them shinier—a task that can only be achieved when there is no dirt and oil present to dull the appearance of the hair fibers.

Adding to this, since all dogs are different, you should ask your vet for recommendations for the best shampoo for your dog.

4Legger Dog Shampoo & Conditioner
  • Easy to lather and rinse with cedar and organic guar gum 
  • For sensitive skin, itchy skin, and dandruff
  • Certified Organic & USDA
  • Made with vegan ingredients 
  • Biodegradable 
As an Aamzon affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases at no cost to you!

Ingredients in Dog Shampoos to Avoid

Given that not all dog shampoos are created equal, there are certain ingredients you want to steer of such as artificial colors and fragrances that can cause skin irritation, and ultimately harm over time.

Tea tree in dog shampoos offers antibacterial and antiseptic properties for your dog and is a great ingredient in natural dog shampoo when used in a concentration between 0.1 to 1 percent. On the downside, tea tree in its undiluted and purest form is toxic to dogs.

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Other ingredients to avoid and why include:

Ingredient Reason
FormaldehydeFormaldehyde is considered toxic if inhaled or absorbed, through the skin, and cause cancer.
Isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol)Rubbing alcohol should not be used at home on your dog's skin, because rapidly absorbed through your dog’s skin. When absorbed, rubbing alcohol can cause skin irritation and excessive dryness, and remove the skin’s naturally occurring moisture barrier.
Artificial ColorsArtificial colors and fragrances can cause itching/scratching in your dog.
Cocomide DEACocomide DEA is used as a foaming agent in bath products like dog shampoos and dog soaps. Cocamide DEA can be absorbed through your dog's skin and cause irreparable damage to its reproductive system and body organs. Dog shampoo manufacturers use clever combinations of words to hide the presence of Cocomide DEA in their products, but you can identify them in any ingredients list by looking out for words ending in -lamine as well as those that contain the letters DEA, TEA, and MEA.
Mineral Oil Mineral oil is a byproduct of distilled gasoline made from crude oil. It prevents your dog's skin from releasing its own natural oils or eliminating toxins.
Sodium Benzoate PreservativeSodium Benzoate Preservative is best known as a food preservative, and when mixed with citric acid and/or ascorbic acid (vitamin C) can become benzene - a cancer-causing chemical associated with leukemia and other blood disorders.
Sodium Lauryl SulfateSodium lauryl sulfate or SLS in short can irritate delicate dog skin.
Sodium Laureth SulfateSodium laureth sulfate may cause irritation, and/or dryness of the skin.
Ammonium Laureth SulfateAmmonium laureth sulfate is a surfactant known to cause skin irritation in dogs. It is also linked to the development of cataracts and in young pets
PolysorbatesPolysorbates can be absorbed through your dog's skin and result in developmental and reproductive toxicity, not to mention irrevocable skin damage and allergies.
Cocamidopropyl BetaineCocamidopropyl betaine is a chemical derivative of coconut oil but is known to cause skin allergies in dogs.

Ingredients you can’t pronounce such as methylchloroisothiazolinone.

How to Choose the Best Shampoo for Your Dog?

To reiterate what I’ve discussed earlier—you should never attempt to use human shampoo on your pet, regardless of how mild these products are claimed to be, owing to marketing hyperbole by the manufacturer.

The next most important thing to do is follow these 3 tips on buying the best shampoo for dogs.

1. Determine the type of skin your dog has

The first thing to do is figure out the type of skin your dog has, and there are several ways to go about this, but the sure-shot way is getting in touch with your vet.

If your paw-pal has dry, itchy, and flaky skin, along with a rather dull coat, choosing a dog shampoo with a gentle formulation is a smart option.

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2. Invest in products to control shedding

All living organisms shed hair including you and me! It’s just that human hair doesn’t cause allergies to others, but dog hair does as the small parties that accompany the shedding can easily get airborne and cause allergies in certain people.

Buying a dog shampoo that controls shedding with ingredients such as antioxidants, amino acids, and healthy oils can greatly reduce the amount of shedding in your furry pal, and improve his coat.

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3. Untangle your dog’s coat

If your dog’s coat is prone to matting, aka tangling, you can try using a combination of the best dog shampoo and conditioner to help restore moisture in its hair and skin.

Tangled clumps are more prevalent in long-haired dogs, especially during shedding season.

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It’s also a good practice to monitor your dog after a bath to check for any adverse reactions, especially when using a new dog shampoo.

Can I Use the Same Shampoo for Single and Double Coated Dog?

Generally, yes, but technically no, because different dog coats have varying grooming needs. For example, dog breeds such as Chihuahuas, Basenjis, and Vizslas have thin fur or hair, therefore may be more sensitive to hot and cold environments.

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Furthermore, dogs with low-density coats do not need to be bathed as frequently as breeds with medium density (Poodle, Rottweiler, and the Cavalier King Charles Spaniels) or dense coat dog breeds such as Bernese Mountain Dogs, German Shepherd Dogs.

But is a task that must be done, and using a shampoo formulated for your dog’s specific coat is an optimal choice.

Medium dog coat shampoos may contain a formula that is a bit more robust compared to a shampoo geared towards thin-coated dogs.

Vetericyn Foam Care offers two coat-specific formulas to choose from, so you can provide your dog with a more thorough clean and rinse.

Best Shampoo for Single Coat Dogs

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Best Shampoo for Double Coat Dogs

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Should I Use Organic Dog Shampoo?

Yes, Yes, and Yes, for several reasons! First, there are no regulations that hold manufacturers responsible for using poor quality ingredients or for making hyperbolic “natural” claims about their dog grooming products.

Organic dog shampoos however go through a much higher level of scrutiny and a stringent quality certification process that entails reviewing all the ingredients right from the time they are grown to when they are transported, packaged, and shipped.

Another key reason to choose dog shampoo is because these natural ingredients won’t cause any harm when your dog licks its hair or fur.

Key Ingredients in Organic Dog Shampoo

  • Certified organic extracts of chamomile, calendula, comfrey, horsetail, burdock root, Kakadu plum & nettle.
  • Pure essential oils such as citrus (lemon & sweet orange), rosemary, clary sage, chamomile, and rosewood have a beautiful, uplifting scent and also act as great odor neutralizers.
  • Rosemary oil works amazingly well towards giving your dog a healthy coat and shine.

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  • Actives including bisabolol natural, pure pro-vitamin B5, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, and antioxidants to condition and nourish your dog’s skin and hair.
  • Eco-certified cleansing powder and foam.

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How Often Should I Shampoo My Dog?

You’ve probably called your vet, asked family and friends, even your dog, or checked Dr. Google to figure out how many times you can shampoo your dog, just because your furry friend is so dirty all the time, but here’s the lowdown!

I mentioned earlier that your dog’s skin produces natural oils that keep its hair growing healthy every day.

If you shampoo and bathe your dog every day, it will lose those natural oils, and destroy its hair or fur coat and coat consistency.

Adding to this, a dog that is shampooed every day can also be exposed to dry skin, which can leave its skin flaky, itchy, and can lead to skin infections.

If your puppy is constantly getting dirty, cause that’s what dogs do, it may be tempting to bathe them every single day, but it is recommended that you split that up and use baby wipes to help keep your dog clean rather than giving it a bath often.

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Vets also recommend using a shampoo and conditioner to help keep your dog’s skin hydrated. That way, you won’t have to worry about your dog’s skin drying out, and getting irritated.

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With regards to how often should you bathe your dog, there’s no definitive answer, but the rule of thumb is roughly once a month unless they feel and smell extremely dirty, or you notice that its skin has overly dried out.

Should I Use a Dog Conditioner After Shampoo?

If you use a nice, gentle dog shampoo, you don’t really need to apply a conditioner.

But you can apply a conditioner in between dog baths if you feel your pet’s getting smelling or you simply don’t have time to give him a full bath.

You may also want to apply a dog conditioner as an extra layer of precaution to prevent dryness after shampooing.

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What About CBD Dog Shampoos?

You’ve read about organic, safe, and unsafe ingredients so far in dog shampoo, but two of the best ingredients to have in dog shampoos are CBD, and some type of natural protein.

But wait—aren’t you supposed to consume CBD orally? Yes, but CBD dog shampoo won’t help them relax or relieve their pain but will repair and protect their skin barrier.

CBD dog shampoo won’t get your dog high but will penetrate its skin, and interact with the receptors present in the ECS (endocannabinoid system).

Some of the noteworthy benefits of CBD dog shampoo include:

  • Soothes itchy skin
  • Refreshes your dog’s coat
  • Natural, non-toxic product is safe to use
  • CBD promoted natural wellness

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Sidney loves dogs of all breeds! He grew up with the most beautiful White German Shepherd. Ever since then, he has been obsessed with dogs and has owned a lot of different breeds. Sidney is the founder of Doggie Dawg., and he looks forward to spreading his love and knowledge of dogs, and the joy they can bring to the life of a pet owner!

1 Comment

  1. So many have no knowledge of the fact that fast hair growth scalp therapy shampoos (obviously without any sulfates, parabens or DEA) are even a thing. We all now may possess longer hair and have more alternatives. Undoubtedly worth searching.

    When you’re assessing alopecia, hair damage, avoiding scalp disorders, hair growth, hair care normally, the same thoughts actualize.

    In general, you want to stay away from hair products and treatments that contain chemicals such as parabens, DEA or sulfates.

    What is good for your hair is beneficial for your skin all the same.

    Clearly the content here is spot on for many reasons. It stays away from the accustomed mistakes and traps most fall into- using horrible alternatives. Thank you!

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