A dirty dog can be more than just smelly. By simply doing healthy dog activities such as playing outside, digging in the dirt and interacting with other animals, dogs can attract insects and parasites that can cause many problems for both pets and owners. That is why dogs must be washed regularly to keep them clean. Not only does this reduce the chances of them carrying pests and parasites, but it also improves their smell and overall health. But, it can be challenging to find the best dog shampoo because there are so many different brands on the market today, each with its own variety of formulas, scents, and unique features. To complicate matters further, choosing a dog shampoo also depends on your dog’s size, breed, skin type, and coat.
Whether you have just gotten a new dog or are looking for a new shampoo better suited to your pup’s health needs, the following guide will help you make the decision that keeps your four-legged friend happy, healthy, and smelling fresh.
5 Best Dog Shampoo Options
- Vets Preferred – Editor’s Choice: Best overall dog shampoo
- Buddy Wash – Runner Up
- PetAg – Honorable Mention
- Burt’s Bees – Informative Brand
- Richard’s Organics – Great Smell
How Did We Choose These 5 Shampoos?
Considering how important a dog is to an owner (and vice-versa), creating this list involved careful examination of:
• Ingredients: We looked for shampoos containing safe ingredients that won’t leave a dog’s skin dry and itchy. The best dog shampoo options will be made with a gentle formula free from harsh synthetics, chemical additives, and other potentially harmful ingredients like sulfates.
• Scent profiles: Some shampoos come with a scent that can make dogs smell worse than they did before the bath. Additionally, some scented shampoos don’t last long after the dog is washed and dried. That is why we looked for shampoos that provide a fresh or natural scent that lasts for an extended period of time.
• Ease of use: Washing a dog shouldn’t take up an entire day. We favored dog shampoos that lather easily, cover a dog thoroughly, and wash out quickly.
• Function: Whether it’s deep cleaning for sensitive skin, conditioning and/or detangling a dog’s coat, deodorizing or something else, what a dog shampoo is designed to do will determine which one is best for your dog. This is why we considered dog shampoos that can do more than leave your four-legged friend fresh and clean.
After all of the research was completed, we narrowed down the list of contenders to just five products that we’re sure are the best dog shampoo choices available today. Below, you will find detailed information about each product so that you can determine which is best for your dog.
Best Dog Shampoos – Reviews & Analyses
1. Vets Preferred – Editor’s Choice: Best overall dog shampoo
• Safe for all breeds of dog
• 5 in 1 formula for all types of coats
• GMP Certified
• Plant-based vegan-friendly formula
• Only suitable for dogs and puppies over 12 weeks
Why We Chose Vets Preferred
With five different uses packed into one bottle, Vets Preferred is the most versatile shampoo on our list. Ideal for any breed and coat, Vets Preferred is genuinely the best dog shampoo on the market for those that are looking for a multipurpose formula that can keep their dog clean, healthy, and happy.
Vets Preferred 5 in 1 shampoo offers the essential features dog owners seek in high-quality dog shampoo, including:
• Cleaning: This formula leaves all types of coats, from short to long and dry to oily, looking and feeling cleaner than ever before.
• Conditioning: Enriched with aloe vera, this shampoo moisturizes the dog’s skin and coat while reducing the itching and scratching associated with dry, irritated skin.
• Detangling: A combination of coconut oil and glycerin helps gently soften and detangle a dog’s coat, which reduces the amount of time the owner needs to brush their dog after a bath.
• Antibacterial: With ingredients like coconut and tea tree oil, this shampoo fights infections caused by bacteria, fungi, and other potential skin irritations.
• Deodorizing: The fresh scent of this shampoo not only smells great but also lasts for an extended period of time, helping to keep your dog smelling fresh and clean between baths.
Usage & Sizes
Vets Preferred dog shampoo comes in 16 oz. bottles. It is recommended to use a generous portion after wetting your dog thoroughly. After lathering, the shampoo should be rinsed away immediately for a residue-free bath.
Vets Preferred GMP certified shampoo is best for any type of dog that is over 12 weeks old. Their plant-based formula is an eco-friendly, all-natural shampoo that is safe for pets and won’t dry skin. Furthermore, the shampoo is available for purchase through a subscription, saving money in the long run for those with multiple dogs.
Click here to learn more about Vets Preferred shampoo
2. Buddy Wash – Runner Up: Best for dogs with irritated skin
• Vast essential oil profile
• Soap-free formula
• Safe for human use
• Rich lather
• Scent can be too subtle for some dog owners
Why We Chose Buddy Wash
Buddy Wash offers a powerful 2 in 1 shampoo and conditioner specifically designed to help reduce skin irritation in dogs. The rich lather not only cleanses but also conditions the dog’s coat, leaving it smooth and soft after every bath.
This shampoo is formulated with a variety of pure botanicals, natural conditioners, essential oils, vitamins, and proteins, including:
• Aloe Vera: Supports healthy skin and coat
• Coconut Oil: Helps moisturize the skin and kill bacteria
• Rosemary: Promotes skin healing and circulation
• Sage: Fights bacteria, fungi, and viruses
• Mint: Prevents potential skin irritations caused by allergens
• Lavender: Supports healthy coat growth
• Nettle: Detangles and softens the coat
• Vitamins C & E: Antioxidants that promote healthy skin
• Wheat protein: Ensures long-lasting and powerful deodorization
Furthermore, Buddy Wash’s soap and alcohol-free formula creates a rich lather, making it ideal for those who really need to spend time scrubbing their dog clean.
Usage & Sizes
Buddy Wash is available in 16 oz. and one-gallon bottles. It is recommended to rinse your dog before gently rubbing soap into your dog’s fur to create the richest lather. Be sure to rinse the shampoo out thoroughly and towel dry when finished.
For those looking for a dog shampoo that can help alleviate, reduce, or remove skin irritation in their dog, Buddy Wash’s 2 in 1 shampoo and conditioner can’t be beat. It is perfect for all breeds and can even be used by humans who like to share bath time with their furry companions.
Click here to learn more about Buddy Wash shampoo
3. PetAg – Honorable Mention: Best for dogs with long hair
• Easy-grip bottle
• Long-lasting scent
• Packed with detangling agents
• Thin viscosity
Why We Chose PetAg
The struggle to keep a dog’s coats un-matted and untangled is one of the most frustrating parts of owning a dog. PetAg promises to alleviate this issue by offering a shampoo specially designed to make grooming more manageable and less time-consuming.
PetAg’s unique blend of ingredients is an environmentally friendly formula that is pH-balanced, soap-free, and highly conditioning, including:
• Vitamin E : Promotes soft and healthy skin and coat.
• Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice : Adds moisture to the hair follicles from root to tip, reducing tangles and making grooming easier.
• Sodium Laureth Sulfate : Creates a rich lather that leaves your pet’s coat shiny and vibrant in color.
• Sodium Lauryl Sulfoacetate : Detangles and conditions hair
• Citric Acid : Promotes pH balance and reduces potential skin irritation
PetAg’s fresh fragrance profile is guaranteed to last up to two weeks, ensuring that your dog smells great between baths. Because of its rich lather formula, you can use less shampoo, reducing waste and saving you money in the long run.
Usage & Sizes
PetAg dog shampoo bottles come in 18 oz., 32 oz., and one-gallon bottles. It is recommended to use warm water with this shampoo. Be sure to rub shampoo into the dog’s fur from root to tip, adding more if necessary to create enough lather. Rinse thoroughly when finished and repeat the process if necessary.
PetAg’s Fresh & Clean dog shampoo is an excellent option for those looking for an all-around shampoo that can handle both the cleaning and detangling aspects of bath time. In addition, it is perfect for dog breeds that have long hair and need a little extra help keeping their coats mat-free.
Click here to learn more about PetAg shampoo
4. Burt’s Bees – Staff Pick: Best for puppies
• Won’t interfere with flea or tick treatments
• Tearless formula
• Puppy friendly
• No scent
Why We Chose Burt’s Bees
Many of the formulas on this list are ideal for dogs older than 12 weeks; that kind of leaves out puppies. That’s where Burt’s Bees comes in: it’s specially formulated as a safe and effective puppy shampoo. Considering that all dogs start as puppies, this tear-free formula couldn’t be more appropriate on a list of the best dog shampoos.
Puppies can sometimes have trouble with shampoo formulas designed for larger dogs. This is because their skin and eyes are far more sensitive in the first few weeks, which is why Burt’s Bees formulates their products with:
• Buttermilk: Offers superior moisturizing and cleansing properties
• Honey: Moisture retaining ingredient to aid fur growth and strengthen hair
• Xanthan Gum: Thickening agent that supports thick, luxurious coats
• Coco Betaine: Gentle cleansing agent that doesn’t irritate the eyes and nose
• Glycerine: Draws moisture to the skin and helps quench dryness.
• Beeswax: A common ingredient included in all Burt’s Bees products to lock in moisture and reduce redness, irritation, and flaking of the skin.
These ingredients work together to provide a premium shampoo for puppies with sensitive skin and eyes and any grownup dog that needs the gentle formula of a cruelty-free shampoo specifically formulated to lock in moisture and not irritate the dog’s skin or coat.
Usage & Sizes
Burt’s Bees is available in a 16 oz. bottle. It is recommended to rinse your pup before applying shampoo from the back of the ears down to the tail. Rinse thoroughly when finished and towel dry.
Burt’s Bees has always been a champion of organic products that lock in moisture and are gentle on the skin. Their dog shampoo is no different and will provide the ultimate softness and shine without causing irritation to the youngest puppy’s delicate areas or the oldest dog’s sensitive skin.
Click here to learn more about Burt’s Bees shampoo
5. Richard’s Organics – Recommended: Best for dogs with fleas & ticks
• Specially formulated to kill fleas and ticks
• No artificial colors or fragrances
• Repels mosquitoes
• Safe for use on dogs & cats
• Lather must be kept on for several minutes for maximum efficacy
• No shipping to California
Why We Chose Richard’s Organics
For pet owners that live in areas with year-round humidity, Richard’s Organics is an excellent choice for the best dog shampoo. This all-natural best medicated dog shampoo uses essential oils and other natural ingredients to protect your pet against mosquitoes, ticks, and fleas that can cause disease and skin irritations.
With a shampoo base made up of organic ingredients, Richard’s Organics is an all-natural shampoo that provides gentle cleansing to remove all dirt, dander, and debris without causing damage to the skin or coat. It also helps relieve itchy skin for dogs with allergies or sensitive skin.
To ensure that your dog is kept free from fleas, ticks, and other irritating pests, Richards’s Organics formulates its medicated dog shampoo with:
• Peppermint oil: A natural insect repellent that is gentle on the skin and coat
• Clove oil: Calming agent that reduces inflammation, redness, itching, and more for dogs with sensitive skin or bites from pests
• Cedarwood oil: A natural ingredient that breaks down and exfoliates dead skin cells
• Cinnamon oil: Fights bacteria, fungi, yeast, and mold that can impact the immune system
• Rosemary oil: Reduces inflammation and repels mosquitoes
These ingredients work together to provide a solution for protecting dogs against fleas, ticks, mosquitoes, and other irritating insects. In addition, it helps soothe skin irritations caused by the bites of such pests. Furthermore, Richard’s Organics uses a rich lathering agent (sodium lauryl sulfate) to ensure that every inch of your dog’s skin and fur can benefit from its anti-pest properties.
Usage & Sizes
Richard’s Organics Flea and Tick shampoo comes in a 12 oz. bottle. It is recommended to rinse your dog before using and work shampoo from the back of the head to the tip of the tail, ensuring that your pup’s coat is covered from root to end. For maximum effectiveness, leave the shampoo in for several minutes.
Richard’s Organics provides a complete solution to ensure your dog is free from pests while also protecting you and your family – a win-win for any dog parent. Additionally, these ingredients work to ensure that any size or breed of dog has healthy skin and fur.
Click here to learn more about Richard’s Organics shampoo
Why use dog shampoo?
When it comes to keeping your dog healthy, shiny, clean, and free from pests, it is best to use a shampoo specifically formulated for dogs. This is because dogs have different pH levels than humans and many human shampoos tend to strip the natural oils from a dog’s fur, causing dryness, itchy skin, irritation, and hair loss.
What human shampoo can I use on my dog?
It is always highly recommended to only use shampoo on your dog specifically formulated for their age, breed, and size. However, there are a few types of human shampoos that won’t strip the oils from your dog or cause excessive irritated skin. If you do choose to use human shampoo on your dog, be sure that it:
• is free of dyes and perfumes
• is gentle and tear-free (for the eyes)
• is non-comedogenic (will not clog pores)
• contains moisturizers such as oatmeal or colloidal oatmeal, or aloe vera to replace natural oils stripped by human shampoos.
Finding a human shampoo that covers all of these points can be challenging, not to mention expensive. This is why many veterinarians highly recommend only using shampoo specifically designed for your pup.
What are the benefits of using dog shampoo?
In addition to avoiding the skin and coat damage that comes with using human shampoo on dogs, the benefits of using a dog shampoo include the following.
Ease of Use
Shampoos formulated explicitly for dogs utilize specialty lathering agents that ensure the shampoo will completely cover a dog’s coat and remove all dirt, grease, and odors. Unlike human shampoos, a dog shampoo will not run off the body and cause a mess, making it a convenient option for owners who don’t want to create a huge mess when washing their dog outdoors or in the bathtub.
A healthy coat results from regular grooming with a high-quality shampoo that contains moisturizers and natural oils essential to maintaining a shiny, healthy coat. High-quality dog shampoos contain natural essential oils and pH-balanced skin cleansers that will not strip the natural oils from their hair or cause irritation.
Many dog shampoos have an added odor-fighting agent that helps control bad smells in addition to removing dirt and oil. These deodorizing agents ensure that a dog doesn’t just smell good for a day or two but for weeks on end in some cases.
Medicated shampoos are an effective way to repel fleas, lice, ticks, mites, and other pests. Not only can these pests make life unbearable for your pup, but they can have severe health consequences for humans who interact with a dog.
The eyes of a dog are far more sensitive than the eyes of a human being. In fact, the phenomenon known as ‘dog tears’ that can happen when washing your dog with regular human shampoo results from harsh chemicals and high pH levels that can burn your dog’s eyes.
Additionally, considering that a dog’s nose is thousands of times more sensitive than a human nose, using shampoo not meant for dogs can lead to respiratory problems, congestion, sneezing, and even infection.
How to choose the best shampoo for your dog?
Much like shampoo for humans, a dog shampoo is carefully formulated to meet the specific needs of your dog. Therefore, it is crucial to consider the following when choosing the best dog shampoo for your furry friend.
Dogs come in over 340 different breeds, and dog shampoos are specifically formulated to match the needs of each breed. For example, the Lhasa Apso is a small dog with long, wiry fur that tends to be dry and flaky. In this case, choosing an oatmeal-based dog shampoo or one containing aloe vera can help keep your puppy’s skin healthy and their coat shiny and sleek.
Alternatively, breeds of dogs with short hair, such as a Chihuahua, are likely to have sensitive skin, requiring a specific type of dog shampoo that is made without harsh chemicals. For dogs with thick, coarse hair, such as a Newfoundland, using a moisturizing-infused shampoo can help soften and detangle their coat while also soothing dry and itchy skin.
Not all dog shampoos are ideal for dogs of all ages. For example, shampoos that contain dog-friendly sulfates or parabens may be okay to use for pets that are of an age where they do not experience aggressive shedding. However, these ingredients may be too harsh for puppies less than 12 weeks old and senior dogs that naturally experience more shedding or who have sensitive skin. This is why it is important to check the label for details on what ages a particular dog shampoo is appropriate for. Manufacturers usually will detail this near the instructions, and those that make formulas specifically for puppies will mark it on the packaging.
If you are unsure whether a dog shampoo is age-appropriate based on the labeling, look for terms such as tear-free, soap-free, and alcohol-free to ensure that the shampoo won’t cause irritation or other skin conditions.
Like humans, a dog’s skin can be all sorts of types ranging from oily to dry and everything in between. For dogs with naturally oily skin, finding a dog shampoo with ingredients such as coconut oil and palm kernel oil will help balance the pH levels in your pet’s skin and leave them feeling fresh and clean.
Dogs with dry skin will benefit from dog shampoos containing ingredients such as aloe vera, honey, oatmeal or colloidal oatmeal, or even baking soda that help moisturize their skin.
If your dog has a lot of allergies, it’s best to choose a best dog shampoo that is free from sulfates, parabens, artificial fragrances, dyes, or other harsh chemicals.
Living Environment & Climate
Selecting the best dog shampoo for your favorite companion is also dependent on the location where you live and where your pup sleeps. For example, humid environments prone to mosquitoes, ticks, fleas, and other pests require a dog shampoo that helps repel or kill these bothersome bugs.
For those living in colder climates, you’ll want to consider a dog shampoo that promotes thick and healthy coat growth to help keep them warm throughout the season. In this case, it would be best to consider a shampoo that contains ingredients known for promoting healthy hair growth, such as colloidal oatmeal or shea butter.
All of these factors will determine the best dog shampoo for your canine friend. Additionally, it is always an excellent idea to consult your local veterinarian about which shampoo will be best for your dog.
How often should you wash your dog?
While humans bathe every day to keep themselves smelling nice and clean, dogs are not necessarily the same way. In truth, most professionals recommend washing your dog no less than once a month and no more than once a week. This is because dogs build up oils in their skin that naturally help keep them healthy and relatively odor-free. A good rule of thumb is that if your dog is no longer huggable, then it’s time for a wash.
With that being said, if your dog gets into the garbage or rolls around in something dirty, then it may require a bath sooner than that. Leaving excess dirt and debris on your dog even if they have been washed recently is never recommended as it can cause:
• skin irritation
• bad odors
• carpet stains
• pest infestations
So, unless there is a specific need to wash your dog, less is often more when it comes to hygiene.
What is the best way to wash a dog?
Much like choosing the best dog shampoo for your best pal, the process of washing a dog will depend on the age, size, and breed of your pet. For dogs under 12 weeks old, it is recommended to wash them using warm water and a rag with a bit of shampoo on it. Gently rub the dog shampoo into their skin and fur, starting at the back of the head and working your way towards their tail. To dry a puppy, use a dry cloth and gently rub away excess water or moisture.
Pro Tip: Avoid getting shampoo in their eyes and nose as this can cause painful irritation.
Large dogs older than 12 weeks can be washed indoors or outdoors, depending on your setup. If you have a running water source outside, then you’ll want to wet them completely and then apply a generous amount of shampoo into your hand and rub it thoroughly into their coat. Once they are completely covered, immediately rinse with water and towel dry or let them shake out the excess moisture on their own.
Alternatively, if you choose to wash your dog indoors, be sure to start a bath for them before putting them in the tub. Then you can use your hand or small cup to pour soapy water over them and gently rub it into their coat. Once they have been completely lathered from head to tail, drain the tub and rinse them with a detachable showerhead so you can control where the water goes and not cause damage to their eyes or nose.
Pro Tip: It is always best to use warm or lukewarm water as cold water may be startling and cause discomfort, making the bathing process more time-consuming and difficult.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Can I use dog shampoo on my cat too?
That depends on the shampoo. Some shampoos, though advertised as dog shampoo, can be used on cats – and even humans. However, other shampoos should only be used on dogs because they contain ingredients not suited for felines. It would be best to consult your veterinarian before using a dog shampoo on both, as it could cause serious problems with your cat’s skin and fur.
2. How long does a fragrance last after washing a dog?
Typically, fragranced shampoos are designed to last for up to two weeks. Unscented shampoos are designed to keep your dog odor-free for about the same amount of time. However, if you find that your dog’s bad smell keeps coming back soon after you wash them, consider using more shampoo or consulting your vet to see if there is a different health issue going on.
3. How do I get my dog to stay still during a bath?
Sometimes dogs hate taking a bath. It could be past trauma from a previous owner or just the general fear of water hitting their skin. In either case, be sure to keep some extra treats on hand as a reward for when the bath is finished. Additionally, calm tones and gentle touches are best for keeping a dog tranquil during bath time.
4. Will shampoos wash off tick and flea medication?
Some shampoos are not designed to be used when flea or tick medication has been applied. Follow the instructions on the medication regarding how long to wait before bathing, or choose a dog shampoo that won’t interfere with other medicines.
Keep Your Dog Healthy, Happy, and Clean With Dog Shampoo!
Dogs have a different kind of skin than humans. That means that washing your dog with regular shampoo may not be the best way to keep them clean or healthy. To avoid severe skin and fur issues, only use shampoo formulated specifically for your dog’s age, breed, and size. Remember that dogs have their own way of keeping themselves clean, so bathing should only be as frequent as needed to keep your dog smelling fresh and free from parasites or matted hair.
For further questions, check out any of the recommended best dog shampoo options above or consult your veterinarian for ideas about which ingredients to look for that will promote a healthy coat free from dirt, pests, and dander.