Dog Shampoo Types Explained: Which One Should You Use?

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dog shampoo types

Have you walked down the dog shampoo aisle at your local pet store? The choices can be overwhelming. But you know you need to keep your furbaby clean. 

Proper pet hygiene contributes to your pup’s overall health and wellbeing. When you use a product that’s designed to meet your pup’s needs, it helps to cleanse and nourish the skin and can help to repel parasites like fleas and ticks. Specially formulated products can also help address different skin conditions or meet the unique demands of different coat types. 

In practice, my clients sometimes asked me why their dogs smelled so stinky all the time. My answer frequently turned to proper hygiene and regular bathing. Invariably, the pup patient was bathed too often or not often enough, or their guardian was using the wrong type of shampoo.

In this article, we’ll discuss the different considerations you may have when choosing a shampoo for Fido. Sometimes, you may make a selection based on your preferences, such as opting for an organic or vegan formula. However, there are times when your pooch will dictate your choices. For example, if Fido has a skin condition or a particular coat type, you may look at products formulated for those needs. The key to making a good choice for your dog is understanding the different shampoo types out there. 

Let’s take a look.

Dog Shampoo Considerations

Much like their pet parents, dogs have a plethora of shampoo options to meet their grooming needs. Depending on your pup’s age, coat style, and skin, you can choose a product that’s the best fit. 

Understanding the different types of shampoos out there can help you make the right grooming choice for your pooch. Let’s look at a list of considerations you may have when selecting a coat wash for Fido:

  • Form – When you need to bathe your dog, you can choose from traditional wet shampoo, dry shampoo, or grooming wipes. While the most common form is useful for a thorough cleansing, it requires water. The other two varieties can be excellent choices for spot cleaning.
  • Lifecycle – Puppies and adult dogs usually have different needs when it comes to shampoo. Younger canines tend to have more sensitive skin and require a more gentle cleanser that’s pH balanced for them. Puppy shampoos also tend to be “tearless” formulas. You should use puppy shampoo on dogs under eight months old and possibly older canines with sensitive skin.
  • Smell – When selecting a shampoo, you may need to take the product’s scent into account, particularly if you struggle with allergies or if you’re trying to overcome skunk or another odor on your pooch’s hair. Check the label for any perfumes or fragrances to determine whether the source is natural or chemical. If you’re sensitive to most aromas, consider a fragrance-free option.
  • By Coat Type – Your dog’s coat type may affect the type of shampoo you buy. There are products out there specifically designed for thick or double coats, wiry hair, curly or coarse coats, and more. Some formulas also claim to help control shedding or to enhance a specific coat color.
  • Skin Conditions – If your pup suffers from some common conditions like dry, itchy skin, dandruff, oily skin, hot spots, or skin sensitivities and allergies, you need to consider the ingredients in your shampoo. Look for formulas that are designed to soothe the skin or help combat yeast, bacterial, or fungal infections.
  • Skin Diseases – Unfortunately, some pups suffer from more severe skin issues and diseases like pyoderma, seborrhea, folliculitis, or dermatitis. In these cases, you may need a medicated shampoo that your veterinarian prescribes.
  • Other Conditions – Beyond skin-specific problems, your pooch may suffer from an infestation of fleas, ticks, or lice. These conditions often call for specialized formulas that are designed to eliminate the parasites. If your pooch contracts ringworm, consider antifungal products.
  • Usage Features – There are a variety of features that different brands highlight. You may prefer a product that’s tear-free or no-rinse for your convenience. If your pup has sensitive skin, check for gentle formulas for everyday use. Other features to check for are a proper pH balance, conditioning, and products that help clear up tear stains.
  • Ingredients – You know your dog’s needs and your preferences. Check the ingredients to see if they have specific materials that either will or will not work for your pooch. If your pup has skin rashes, oatmeal may be soothing. Benzoyl peroxide can help combat bacterial skin infections. Natural ingredients such as lavender may be added to neutralize odor and provide a fresh scent. Tea tree oil may help combat parasites and infections, but it’s best to consult with your veterinarian about this ingredient. The wrong concentration can be toxic.
  • Production Quality – Shampoos are produced under a variety of conditions. Some are made using no animal-based products to suit vegan consumers. You can also check for all-natural, organic ingredients. Quality products should be free of harsh or harmful chemicals and made to be eco-friendly or biodegradable. Cruelty-free products were formulated without harmful animal testing.

Dog Shampoo Category Breakdown

Now that we’ve had an overview of the different considerations to use when shopping for the right shampoo for your dog, let’s take a closer look. Below, we’ll review each category and discuss the different types of formulas out there.


Shampoos come in three general forms. Wet products are the traditional formulas that require water bathing. Dry shampoos can be applied to the coat then brushed out or removed using a damp cloth. Pet wipes can be helpful for spot cleaning and deodorizing.

  • Wet Dog Shampoo – The vast majority of dog shampoo options are traditional or wet shampoos. These formulas require bathing and rinsing with water. Depending on the cleansing agent, wet shampoos are designed to provide a deeper cleaning for your dog than dry products or pet wipes. Many formulas come in a concentrated solution, so you only need a small amount to create a rich lather. Traditional shampoos are your best choice if your pooch has a muddy or dirty coat. They’re also an excellent choice for regular grooming needs.
  • Waterless/Dry Dog Shampoo – Yes, dry shampoo is for dogs too! If you’ve used this type of product on yourself, you have an idea of the potential benefits. These shampoos are available as sprays, foam, aerosols, powders, and gels. For your pal’s safety, we recommend spray or foam options. Generally, you apply the product, massage it into the coat, then brush out or towel off with a damp cloth. Waterless products are helpful when you’re dealing with a pooch that’s terrified of water or if your furbaby has a physical condition that makes water bathing difficult. Because it may not provide a deep clean, we recommend it for touch-ups in between full grooming sessions. 
  • Dog Shampoo Wipes – Pet wipes are another way to clean your pooch without water. Dog-safe products are specially formulated to be safe for your pooch. They can be used for spot cleaning between regular baths or to freshen up your furbaby’s coat. Some varieties are specialized for different uses such as:
    • To clean skin folds of wrinkly breeds 
    • To wipe your pup’s teeth and gums
    • For cleaning paws after a walk in the rain or snow
    • To wipe the anus if your pooch has smelly residue
    • To clean around the eyes or ears

Lifecycle or Life Stage

As with their diet, a dog’s bathing needs change with age. Puppies tend to have more sensitive skin than adult dogs, so they need a gentle cleanser. For mature animals, you can select a pH-balanced product that’s designed for your furbaby’s coat type (see below). Senior dogs may need specially formulated products because they tend to have dryer skin and are at higher risk for odor-causing bacteria. 

  • Puppies – It’s essential to use puppy shampoo on juvenile dogs. With their sensitive skin, they require a gentle product that has a neutral pH of around 7. This will be less irritating if you accidentally get some suds in Fido’s eyes. Formulas made for puppies often use mild cleansers and include natural ingredients like oatmeal or vitamin E that nourish and soothe the skin. 
  • Adults – Dog shampoo that’s safe for adults should also be pH balanced for canine skin. These formulas may have detergents to help remove dirt and grease from your pal’s hair. They should be made using natural ingredients and contain no parabens, sulfates, phthalates, or mineral oil because they can irritate the skin. Avoid products with chemical dyes and fragrances because they can trigger allergic reactions or irritate the skin.
  • Seniors – As your dog ages, the skin and coat may need extra attention. Older pups tend to have drier skin and may need more frequent bathing to remove dirt and debris. Additionally, dogs can develop more environmental sensitivities and allergies over time. Senior shampoos often include low-allergen, soothing ingredients like oatmeal or coconut oil to help reduce itching and remove dander. If your dog is less active or has reduced mobility, you may also want a product that’s formulated to help combat odor. 


The scent or smell of shampoo can make a big difference for you and your pooch. If you or Fido are sensitive to fragrances, you may need an unscented brand. Otherwise, there are aromas that help freshen that doggy smell or control unwanted odors, including skunk. Some formulas are designed to have a long-lasting scent. You can choose a variety that best suits you and your furbaby.

  • Fragrant Shampoo for Smelly Dogs – If your dog gets stinky between baths, his hair may be picking up ambient odors from the yard. Other pups love to roll in pungent things like poop and dead animals. No matter the case, it may be time for a scented shampoo that cleanses the fur, removing smelly odors and leaving a fresh fragrance behind.  These products usually rely on natural ingredients rather than chemical perfumes for their aroma. That way, you’re less likely to bathe your pooch with something that irritates his skin. There are a variety of scent options available, so pick one that appeals to your senses.
  • Fragrance-free Shampoo – If you or your pup have allergies or sensitivities to different fragrances, you may be better off with an unscented option. These formulas do not include any added fragrances and should not have any smell. It may not be the best choice for a stinky dog, but the product should still have a cleanser to remove dirt and debris.
  • Shampoo with Long-lasting Smell – Some scented shampoos smell good out of the bottle and for a few hours after bath time, but there are products that claim to have a long-lasting fragrance. These formulas often use plant-based materials that help to control odor and leave a long-lasting scent that’s refreshing but not overwhelming for you or your pooch. Products that claim to be long-lasting should maintain their aroma on your pet for about 10-14 days.
  • Odor Control – When it comes to odor control shampoos, you need a product that gives the coat and skin a deep clean and leaves a fresh scent. The solution should create a rich lather that reaches deep into the coat for a thorough cleansing. Formulas that are specifically designed to neutralize unwanted smells usually use natural fragrances like chamomile, lavender, vanilla, or a dog-safe essential oil. They should also be formulated to neutralize odors and may include enzymes to eliminate bacteria, salicylic acid, or natural cocoa surfactants. 
  • Skunk Smell – If your pooch gets sprayed by a skunk, odor control shampoo may not be enough. In this case, you’ll need a product that’s specifically formulated to remove the skunk odor. They often contain heavy-duty degreasers and strong chemicals that could be irritating to your pooch’s skin. Consult with your veterinarian when considering a shampoo to remove skunk odor, and follow the label instructions carefully.

By Coat Type

Dog coats can vary widely and influence your pup’s grooming needs. Some pups have a single coat while others have two layers for extra protection. The hair itself may be straight or curly, long or short, smooth or coarse. Some shampoo formulas are designed to address the different traits. Some products also help to enhance particular coat colors such as white, yellow. or black.  You can also find formulas to help manage heavy shedding and to reduce matting and tangles. 

  • Curly Coat – Breeds like the poodle and labradoodle tend to have tightly coiled hair that qualifies as a curly coat. With tight waves, swirls, and twists, these types of coats are more prone to tangling or frizzing if you use the wrong product. They’re also more likely to trap debris and dirt. Formulas for curly coats should produce a rich lather for deep cleaning and include natural conditioners to prevent tangles. 
  • Coarse Coat – Coarse or wire-haired dogs have a bristly, water-repellent top coat that was originally meant to protect them from harsh outdoor conditions. Beneath, there’s a thick downy undercoat for insulation. With this combination, shampoos for a coarse coat need a textured shampoo with a lower pH to keep the hair hard and wiry. You should also use a conditioning product to help nourish the skin and undercoat and keep them healthy. 
  • Double Coat – When dogs have a double coat, it means they have an outer layer with one type of hair and an undercoat that’s dense and soft. Some people refer to these dogs as having a thick coat. Most of these breeds shed the undercoat in spring and fall, but some require hand-stripping. Shampoo for dogs with a double coat should produce a good lather to help the cleansing agents reach through the undercoat to the skin. Look for natural products and conditioning agents to help prevent the matting of the downy fur. 
  • Greasy Hair – If your pooch has an oily or greasy coat, you need a shampoo that can help to control the amount of oil. While some pups have natural oils to protect the coat from water, it should be manageable. Excess secretions can trap dirt and debris and result in unwanted odor or skin infections. Shampoo for greasy hair should have a gentle cleanser that cuts through the oil but is safe to use on a regular basis.
  • Matted Coat – If your pooch has a matted coat or is prone to tangles you may need a shampoo specifically made to prevent knots. Conditioning shampoos have a rich, thick feel and include ingredients that help to lubricate the hair follicles. Common ingredients include silicone-based products and plant-based materials like linseed or jojoba oil. 
  • Shampoo for Fur and Coat Health – Some products are formulated with vitamins and minerals that nourish the coat and leave the hair looking shiny. The formulas also rely on plant-based cleansers like oatmeal rather than soap that won’t dry the skin and hair. These products are useful if you need to bathe your pooch frequently.
  • Shampoo for Shedding – Products dubbed “deshedding shampoo” are formulated to nourish the skin and reduce the amount of hair your furbaby sheds. They are intended for dogs with a healthy coat and are not meant to replace regular brushing of your dog’s coat. With natural ingredients like aloe vera, vitamins, and omega fatty acids, these formulas help to loosen dead hair and moisturize the skin underneath. De-shedding products may be particularly helpful during spring and fall heavy shedding periods.
  • Color Enhancing Shampoos – Color enhancing shampoos, like human hair colorants, deposit the desired color pigment into the cuticle layer of the hair. They can be found in a variety of shades including black, gold, red, and white. These are chemical treatments that have a semi-permanent effect and should be used sparingly.
    • Black – Black color treatments are helpful to restore a sun bleached coat to its original midnight shading.
    • White – Whitening shampoos help to remove staining and yellowing to return the hair to a snow-white appearance.
    • Yellow, Red, and Other Colors – Varying combinations of yellow, red, and black coloring shampoos can be used to achieve the desired coat color. These products may help return breeds like the golden labrador, golden retriever, or Irish setter to a show-quality coat. 

Skin Conditions

Some dogs have mild skin conditions that can affect their coat. Whether your pooch suffers from allergies and environmental sensitivities, dry skin, oily skin, or dandruff, there are medicated products to help keep the coat clean and healthy. Many of these products are available over the counter.

  • Itchy Skin – Dogs with itchy skin need soothing products to help ease the irritation. Antipruritic formulas often include ingredients like oatmeal, menthol, or aloe vera to reduce inflammation and soothe the skin. These shampoos can be helpful if your pup is scratching excessively. Because many itchy dogs may have skin allergies or dry skin, it’s best to go with a hypoallergenic moisturizing formula for itchy skin.
  • Sensitive Skin/Allergies – Dogs with sensitive skin need gentle cleansing formulas that are made from plant-based materials. If your pooch is prone to rashes or has allergies, choose a hypoallergenic formula. Ingredients like oatmeal, rose water, and aloe vera help to soothe sensitive skin. The shampoo should also be free of fragrances and dyes that could irritate the skin. 
  • Hot Spots – Hot spots can crop up on any dog due to an irritated patch of skin. If left to itself, it can become infected, so it’s important to keep the area clean and dry. Shampoo for hot spots should have a gentle cleanser, an anti-inflammatory agent, and soothing ingredients. Natural ingredients like chamomile and aloe vera help to reduce irritation while materials like tea tree oil and witch hazel can combat inflammation and keep the area dry. 
  • Bacteria/Fungal/Yeast Infections – When dogs have severe itching, and soothing antipruritic formulas don’t seem to help, it might mean they have a skin infection. Dogs with bacterial, fungal, or yeast infections require specially medicated shampoos to combat the microorganisms. Depending on the cause, pups with skin infections may have dry, scaly skin or a greasy, smelly coat. Products that treat these conditions should have an active antibacterial or antifungal agent, soothing agents like aloe vera, and may include deodorizers.
  • Dry/Flaky Skin and Dandruff – Dogs with flaky, dry skin need a shampoo that hydrates and moisturizes the skin while removing loose skin cells and other debris. To do this, you should look for a formula that has gentle cleansers and is free of alcohol, parabens, and other harsh or irritating chemicals. Helpful ingredients include oatmeal or aloe vera to soothe the skin, jojoba or coconut oil to moisturize the skin and reduce flakiness, and shea butter to nourish the coat. Honey and chamomile are also helpful remedies for dry skin. If your pup has signs of dry flaky skin or is incessantly scratching, he might benefit from a hydrating and moisturizing shampoo.
  • Eczema – If your dog is scratching constantly and has extremely dry, cracked skin and patchy hair loss, he may have eczema. You should contact your veterinarian to determine the underlying cause. One treatment they may prescribe is gentle shampooing with a medicated formula. Shampoos for eczema usually contain colloidal oatmeal or other soothing ingredients to help to soothe and nourish the skin.
  • Elephant Skin – Elephant skin, or thick blackening of the skin, is caused by yeast dermatitis. When a dog suffers from this condition, part of the treatment involves bathing with a medicated shampoo. Some dogs with this skin infection will develop greasy skin, so the first cleansing will need to include a degreasing agent like benzoyl peroxide. Following that, you should bathe your furbaby with an antifungal shampoo containing ketoconazole, chlorhexidine, or miconazole about every 3-5 days for several weeks. 
  • Oily Skin – The skin produces oil for lubrication and protection from the environment. Some pups bred for activity in water or the field have extra oils and need regular bathing to help prevent unwanted odors. Use products that include ingredients like baking soda or citrus oil to naturally cut through excess oil but won’t dry the skin.

Skin Disease

Some skin conditions of dogs can be managed with medicated shampoo and dietary management. But if your pooch struggles with more severe issues, you’ll need to consult with your veterinarian. They can help you diagnose the underlying disease and prescribe the right medications and shampoo. Diseases such as folliculitis, dermatitis, pyoderma, and seborrhea need veterinary support.

  • Folliculitis – When bacterial,( also known as pyoderma) or fungal infections affect the hair follicle, you may see hair loss, redness, and swelling or pimples. It’s best to contact your veterinarian if you note these symptoms to get a diagnosis. Once the microorganism is identified, your veterinarian may prescribe topical or oral medication along with an antibacterial shampoo. These formulas will contain gentle cleansers to remove excess sebum and oil from the skin surface and an antibacterial or antifungal agent. It’s important when using this shampoo to follow the bottle’s directions. Usually, you should leave the solution on your pooch for at least 10 minutes before rinsing thoroughly.
  • Dermatitis – In dogs, dermatitis, or inflammation of the skin surface can be caused by a range of triggers, but is usually due to an allergic reaction. Dogs with these reactions may have excessive scratching or licking, redness, or fur loss. Shampoos for dermatitis should be hypoallergenic, contain no fragrances or dyes, and have a gentle cleanser. Some ingredients you may find in these products include oatmeal or aloe to soothe the skin and an anti-itching agent. 
  • Seborrhea – With seborrhea, the body produces either too much or too little keratin, a protein that’s essential for skin health. The result is itchy, red, scaly, flaky skin that can be dry or greasy. Part of the treatment for this condition includes shampoo formulated to address the symptoms. Antiseborrheic formulas include salicylic acid and coal tar to help remove excess keratin. Initially, affected dogs should be bathed every 2 to 3 days. Follow your veterinarian’s instructions to determine the best frequency.

Other Conditions

There are also shampoo formulas designed to address other conditions such as skin parasites. Dogs suffering from flea and tick infestations or lice need a product that’s designed to kill the invaders. Another condition dogs may suffer from is ringworm, which is a fungal infection.

  • Fleas and Ticks – If your pup has a flea or tick infestation, you need a shampoo with ingredients that are designed to kill the parasite and its eggs. Some products use antiparasitic agents like permethrin while others have essential oils like neem oil. When applying flea and tick shampoo, carefully follow the label instructions for the best and safest results. It’s best to follow up with a preventative product for long-term protection.
  • Lice – When dogs have lice, they may have reddened skin, dry or matted fur, itchy skin, or show restlessness. If you notice symptoms or see lice or nits on your dog, consult with your veterinarian for treatment instructions. Shampoos to treat lice may not be sufficient to eliminate an infestation on their own, but they are part of the package. Look for formulas with pyrethrin, pyrethroid, or lime-sulfur to kill the insects. Apply the shampoo every 1-2 weeks for about 4 weeks to ensure the elimination of all the parasites.
  • Mites – Another skin parasite that can cause itching and discomfort is the mite. Ear mites cause irritation, scratching of the ears, head shaking, and a brown or black discharge. Mange mites burrow under the skin. Consult with your veterinarian to diagnose the type of mange and determine the appropriate treatment regimen. Generally, a shampoo with benzoyl peroxide or another ingredient that can pass through the upper skin barrier and kill the adult and juvenile parasites. The formula should also contain a moisturizer to hydrate dry, flaky skin. 
  • Ringworm – Also known as dermatophytosis, ringworm usually shows up as circular areas of hair loss. Treatment usually involves oral medications and topical treatments. Shampoos to treat ringworm usually include antifungal agents to kill the microorganisms.

Usage Features

Dog shampoos come with a variety of features. Depending on your pooch and your preferences, you may choose a product that’s safe for everyday use, rinse-free, or tearless. Other use options include medicated shampoos to address different conditions, products to remove tear stains, and conditioning shampoo for soft, silky hair. 

  • Tearless Shampoos – As with humans, tearless shampoos for dogs are gentle formulas with chemicals that shouldn’t cause a burning sensation if they get in the eyes. They are free of harsh soaps and usually made for puppies. In addition to being tear-free, many of these products will also be easy on the skin. If your pup is sensitive to shampoo, tear-free options could be a good choice.
  • No Rinse – No-rinse shampoo comes in gel, foaming, spray, or powder forms. They include ingredients that absorb excess oils from your dog’s skin and help to eliminate debris and odors. No-rinse or waterless shampoos are useful for freshening up your furbaby between baths or when you don’t have time to soak and rinse your pooch. If you have a dog that’s terrified of a spray down, these products can also eliminate hours of stress and frustration. 
  • pH Balanced – Ideally, any dog shampoo you choose should be pH balanced for canine skin. The pH balance of the protective barrier of a dog’s skin tends to be higher in pH than that of humans, but it varies by breed. When you use a shampoo that’s not balanced for the skin, it can cause damage or strip the skin over time. Consult with your veterinarian to determine your pup’s skin pH so you can find products that are balanced to suit his needs.
  • Medicated – When your pooch suffers from parasites or skin conditions, you may need a shampoo that goes beyond cleansing the hair. For milder conditions, you can find mid-range over-the-counter medicated shampoos that address your furbaby’s situation. If your special pal has a more serious condition, you may need a prescription product. Either way, check with your veterinarian to determine the best option for Fido’s needs.
  • Conditioning – If your pooch has long or curly hair that’s prone to tangles and matting, you may opt for a conditioning shampoo. These products are usually thicker and include ingredients like coconut or jojoba oil that can help nourish the skin and coat and encourage the hair follicles to slip past one another. Dogs with naturally oily skin or a greasy coat are not good candidates for conditioning shampoo.
  • Everyday Use – Non-medicated shampoos that are not designed for a specific condition are suitable for everyday use. These products will generally focus on cleansing the hair and keeping it healthy. They may contain all-natural or organic ingredients and should be useful for deodorizing and removing dirt. For many dogs, this is a suitable option.
  • Tear Stains – Although any dog can have tear stains around the eyes, it’s more common in certain breeds like the Bichon Frise, light-colored poodles, and Maltese. The deposits can leave unsightly reddish-brown tracks. Fortunately, there are tear stain removers available to help you clean your furbaby’s face. These cleansing products contain ingredients that help to gently eliminate the discoloration around the facial area and make the hair look clean and bright.


Sometimes, you may be looking for a particular ingredient for your pooch. Some options include tea tree oil to help combat lice, lavender or other safe essential oils for deodorizing, and oatmeal to soothe the skin. 

  • Benzoyl Peroxide – Benzoyl peroxide is a useful ingredient in dog shampoos. It can help to remove extra grease and dirt from your pal’s skin and coat. This substance helps to open pores and soften the skin so that the shampoo can work with greater effectiveness. When you’re dealing with a pooch that suffers from conditions like mange, excess oil, seborrhea, or dermatitis, benzoyl peroxide can help.
  • CBD – CBD shampoo includes hemp oil as a soothing agent. This oil is absorbed directly through the skin and helps to relieve itching, inflammation, and swelling. Other than the CBD, these product lines are like other dog shampoos.
  • Oatmeal – Another type of shampoo that helps to soothe itchy, irritated skin is a shampoo with oatmeal. This natural ingredient contains chemicals that help to relieve inflammation and restore the skin’s pH balance. Many times, a product with oatmeal will include other natural ingredients like aloe vera and vitamin E to help nourish the skin. 
  • Lavender – While lavender is toxic to dogs if they eat it, controlled topical application can be very therapeutic. Some shampoos include lavender essential oils because the ingredient can help to eliminate odor, soothe irritated skin, and calm anxious pups. You may choose a dog shampoo with lavender if your pooch has itchy skin or if he gets nervous during bath time.
  • Tea Tree – Dog shampoos with tea tree oil can be helpful to treat some skin conditions. This essential oil has natural antibacterial and antifungal properties that make it effective for combating infections. It may also help to soothe irritated skin by reducing inflammation. If your pooch suffers from a yeast or bacterial skin infection, a tea tree shampoo that’s specifically formulated for dogs may be in order. Do not use human products because it’s likely to have a higher concentration of oil and could be harmful to your pooch.

Production Quality

Depending on your preferences and lifestyle choices, you may prefer a shampoo that’s made under certain conditions. There are products available that contain only natural or organic ingredients. Others rely strictly on plant-based materials or are made to be biodegradable to help protect the environment. 

  • Natural/Chemical-Free – While some shampoos contain harsh and harmful chemicals, natural shampoos will not include synthetic ingredients. Many of the materials in these products are gentle and less likely to irritate the skin. Natural ingredients also tend to be biodegradable. Common natural ingredients include oatmeal, honey, coconut, and vitamin E. To choose the right chemical-free shampoo, read the product label. Truly natural formulas will not have parabens, mineral oil, sodium Laureth sulfate, or other harmful ingredients.
  • Organic – Any dog shampoo that’s labeled “Organic Ingredients” must contain at least 70% organic ingredients. If the product is “certified organic”, it must be 95% organic. The materials in organic shampoo come from sources that are produced under stringent requirements that help to ensure the formula is made to be gentle and should be safe.
  • Cruelty-Free – Products that are labeled cruelty-free are not tested on lab animals. Some will have a certification from an animal rights organization such as PETA. If you’re concerned about animal welfare, using cruelty-free products can help give you peace of mind. 
  • Vegan – For pet parents that feel strongly about animal rights and cruelty prevention, there are vegan shampoo options available. These products contain plant-based ingredients and essential oils that are designed to cleanse your pooch safely. The formula should be pH balanced for dogs and be free of harsh or harmful chemicals. 
  • Eco-friendly/Biodegradable – With a biodegradable dog shampoo, at least 90% of the ingredients can break down into organic materials with the help of biological agents like bacteria. The process may take up to 6 months. They won’t degrade in water, so you’ll be able to get a rich lather during bathtime. Once the soapy water soaks into the dirt, bacteria will break the solution back into water, carbon dioxide, and organic materials. These products are wonderful for outdoor enthusiasts who take their dogs camping or backpacking. You can wash your dog without feeling concerned about impacting the environment.

The Final Woof

With the broad variety of categories and types of shampoo for dogs, it can be overwhelming to know which one to choose for your pooch. The key to making the best possible selection is understanding. Once you have a picture of the different options out there, you can evaluate the ingredient list to make an appropriate selection.

Some of the choices you can make involve personal preference. If you’re looking for a shampoo that provides a fresh clean scent or need perfume-free options to avoid allergic reactions, you should evaluate products by smell. For others, the manner of production will have an impact on the choice. All-natural, organic, vegan, and cruelty-free formulas might be your choice if you stand firmly for animal rights. 

Other choices are based on your pooch. They may be products formulated for a particular coat type, or you might need a medicated shampoo to treat a skin disease or condition. If your pup suffers from a condition or disease, you should consult with your veterinarian to help you determine which product to use. You may need a prescription product for some disease conditions. 

Photo of author
Dr. Libby Guise earned her DVM from the University of Minnesota in 1994. After working in private practice in Wisconsin for two years, she joined the USDA as a Veterinary Medical Officer. In 2011, Libby came home to focus on raising and teaching her adoptive daughter. She lives in Wisconsin with her daughter, husband, and two furbabies: Charis, a lab-mix rescue pup, and Chesed, a Springer Spaniel.

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