Choosing your own shampoo shouldn’t be done without considering factors like hair type and skin sensitivity. It is the same when it comes to shopping for a dog grooming shampoo, according to the experts we spoke with. According to veterinarian Liz Bales, every dog has different needs, especially those with delicate skin and high-shed coats, that should guide your search for a shampoo. Does your goal involve washing off the mud they just rolled in? Do they have a bacterial infection that needs to be treated? Is there an itching sensation? Is there a flea infestation? They smell bad, don’t they? Bales says different shampoos are needed for each of these problems. It’s hard to name one shampoo as best for every dog in every situation after talking to her and four other vets and groomers. However, depending on the needs of your dog and what you hope to achieve from bath time – whether a healthier coat, a better smell, or less itching – they have recommendations for everyday shampoos and stronger, medicated options for more serious problems.
Small Door Veterinary’s medical chief of staff, Dr. Jamie Richardson, says you should look for shampoos with ingredients that are known to be sensitive on skin. She mentions aloe vera, colloidal oatmeal, avocado oil, marshmallow root, and coconut oil as examples of such ingredients. Because “dogs have much more sensitive noses than humans,” Richardson warns against shampoos that are too heavily scented. Bales warns dog owners not to simply spray shampoo on their dogs’ hair or fur, because the effectiveness of any shampoo depends on proper bathing techniques. Could you just apply shampoo directly to your scalp? Put it in your hands first. She explains that most shampoos, especially medicated ones, are also highly concentrated and should be used with the same consideration for your dog. Afterwards, rinse off all shampoo thoroughly, ensuring there are no suds left behind, and then dry the dog off thoroughly – including “the ears and any skin folds to avoid infections,” says Richardson. Here are nine shampoos our experts recommend for everyday cleansing, freshening up coats, treating itchy skin, and more. All of the shampoos are non-prescription, but it’s always a good idea to consult your vet before trying a new one to make sure it won’t cause any unpleasant side effects.
Best dog shampoo for sensitive skin
Earthbath Oatmeal & Aloe Dog & Cat Shampoo (16 oz)
Dr. Alex Schechter of Pure Paws Veterinary Care calls this shampoo a “fantastic, safe, natural product that is also cost-effective.” In addition to relieving dry, itchy skin, the colloidal-oatmeal-and-aloe formula will also balance pH levels, leaving coats (of hair or fur) looking extra fresh. Stephanie Downes uses this on her Yorkshire terrier, Oak: It’s “nothing fancy” but it does the job. Strategist contributor Chantel Tattoli has used it on her (human) mane too, saying it never leaves a film or strips her hair, and because of its minimal ingredients (no fragrances), it’s easy to use. helps relieve itching and dry skin “better than dozens of other hypoallergenic shampoos I’ve tried.”
Best affordable dog shampoo
Burt’s Bees for Dogs Natural Oatmeal Shampoo (16 oz)
The Earthbath product isn’t too expensive, but Burt’s Bees is even cheaper and contains just as good ingredients that veterinarian Dr. Stephanie Liff, medical director at Pure Paws Vet Care in New York City, describes as “fairly clean.” (Burt’s Bees claims the product is 99.7 percent natural.) With its nonirritating formula of beeswax, honey, and colloidal-oat flour, it soothes the skin while gently cleansing it and leaving behind a pleasant oatmeal scent behind.
Best-smelling dog shampoo
Aesop Animal Shampoo (16.9 oz)
Since dogs have a superior sense of smell, heavily scented shampoos may be too potent for them. As a high-end product with an amazing finish, Schechter recommends Aesop’s shampoo, which has a light enough scent that is still detectable. In addition to calming the skin as the shampoo cleans dirt and grime, the mild formula contains ingredients such as lemon rind and tea-tree leaf, which give the shampoo its fragrance. This is not an all-natural shampoo: This contains sodium laureth sulfate, a common chemical detergent used for foaming. Editor Mia Leimkuhler uses this on her miniature schnauzer, Reggie, and says it keeps him clean and smelling great. (Leimkuhler occasionally uses the shampoo herself, too: “Incidentally, it also works really well as a human bodywash.”)