The Best Dog Shampoos for Every Pup

Tackle odors, coat health and more with these vet-approved and paw-parent beloved brands.

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October 13, 2022

Our Top Dog Shampoo Picks

As a dog parent myself, I know how easy it is to treat your furbabies like, well, human babies. But unlike humans, dogs don’t need to bathe every day or every week or even every other week. Bathing them too much can actually be harmful to their coat and skin, but when it is time for a bath, choosing the right shampoo is critical to your dog’s breed, coat and skin. The wrong dog shampoo can even impact your dog’s internal health as harmful chemicals can absorb into the skin. If you’re wondering which shampoo is right to use for your puppy’s first bath or hoping to switch to a vet-recommended dog shampoo for regular use, read on for the brands experts and paw parents swear by.

How Often Should We Give Our Dogs a Bath?

Bathing frequency depends on the type of fur and length of coat, but in general, Dr. Mariah Coakley of Aledo Vet Clinic in Willow Parks, Texas says a good rule of thumb is "every three to four weeks for the average dog who is in a controlled environment." But skin conditions can change this timetable and may require more frequent bathing. "Certain medical skin conditions may require bathing several times a week based on your veterinarian’s recommendation," she said. These special cases could range from a dog with oil buildup to a rescued pup with mange.

What Kind of Shampoo Is Best?

There are a lot of dog shampoos out there, from homemade oatmeal goo to designer bottles with a designer price tag, but what's actually good for your dog? "Using a hypoallergenic, fragrance-free shampoo is usually the best, safest option for any dog," said Coakley. "Puppies and toy breed dogs in particular can be very sensitive to the chemical pyrethrin found in flea and tick shampoos, so avoid them unless under medical direction. Stripping soaps, such as dish soaps, may be necessary if a dog has been exposed to toxic chemicals or heavy flea infestation, but need to be rinsed very well and not used repetitively. Specific medicated shampoos are prescribed for skin infections and sensitivities, as well as for restoring skin barriers."

How Much Shampoo Should You Use?

Humans may be used to the old adage of a quarter-size dollop of shampoo for long hair and a nickel-sized dollop for short hair, but that is not the same for dogs. Always, always read the bottle label to see how much shampoo to use. Typically, there will be a guide with one pump of shampoo for a certain amount of body weight. Coakley added, "Generally, you will need less than you think and some shampoos are actually 'non-sudsing' on purpose to protect the dog’s skin. Always rinse very thoroughly and towel dry as much as possible."

What to Consider When Shopping for Dog Shampoo

It all comes back to your dog's coat and fur, and several breeds have skin-specific conditions to watch out for such as seborrhea in Labrador Retrievers or "Schnauzer bumps" in Miniature Schnauzers. And dogs with loveable rolls such as Pugs or Frenchies are often prone to yeast infections in those face folds. Knowing your dog's coat health and breed specifics will help inform your decision, but in general Coakley's favorite dog shampoo brands are DouxO3 and Animal Pharmaceuticals. "DouxO3 in particular has a nice website that gives a lot of information on dog’s skin health," she said.

Best Overall Dog Shampoo

DOUXO S3 CARE is a great all-around shampoo. It's fragrance-free and paw parents love that it's not too sudsy — which makes cleaning around faces much easier. One review on Chewy said it's a shampoo cure. "My vet recommended this shampoo for my chihuahua's flaky skin. I’ve used it three times so far. Seems to be making a difference. See a lot less flakes." And while this shampoo is one of the more expensive on our list, you can save 40 percent if you subscribe for auto orders on Amazon. It's great for cats, too, on the off chance you need shampoo for all of your furbabies. (Though, indoor cats almost never need to be bathed. They cover that themselves.)

Best Dog Shampoo for Puppies

Older dogs may begrudgingly sit for bath time, but a puppy won't. The experience is new and, in a lot of cases, completely traumatizing as some dogs find the sound of running water very scary. Add all that puppy energy to the mix and you've got complete chaos. A lick mat with peanut butter can help focus a dog's attention and keep them still, but for a moving target like a pup, shampoo in the eyes is bound to happen once. It's not ideal, but using a shampoo such as John Paul Pet's tear-free formula can make the frenzy a little more positive if you accidentally get suds in their eyes.

Best Dog Shampoo for Oily Coat

Not all oil is bad. Water breeds such as labs have a naturally oily top coat to essentially make them water-repellant in the water. If too much oil builds up in a dog's coat, that's bad. And retrievers are very sensitive to seborrhea, which occurs when the sebaceous glands produce too much oily sebum and cause very greasy hair. To tackle this, an antiseborrheic shampoo or even prescription shampoo is needed. For oily coats, Veterinary Formula Clinical Care has a top-rated shampoo that paw parents have called a miracle worker for dog dandruff. One review on Chewy said, "After numerous vets and using every imaginable shampoo, this is the ONLY thing that works."

Best Dog Shampoo for Dry and Sensitive Skin

Another common skin condition for dogs is dry, flaky itchy skin. Sometimes this happens because of seasonal allergies. Sometimes is happens with diet changes, and sometimes it's just the luck of the draw for breed-specific conditions. Whatever the case, a hydrating oatmeal-based shampoo such as John Paul Pet's formula can be just the ticket for calming itchy skin. And at under $10, it's also a good budget dog shampoo. One review on Chewy said, "This is the best shampoo for my GS who has sensitive and dry skin in the winter. Leaves his coat super soft and he stops scratching."

Best Dog Shampoo for Odor

Bathing dogs really comes down to pet husbandry, but at the end of the day, dogs smell. They naturally have a scent and they love to roll around in other scents, too. No shampoo should try to eliminate a dog's natural scent, however, when that sweaty, sticky dog smell is robust, try Douxo S3 SEB Odor-Control. Pet owners swear by this stuff. One review on Chewy said, "The shampoo is the only product that I have found to remove the doggy smell from our boxer. It’s well worth the extra money!! Just shampoo in and let it sit for about 5 or 10 minutes and rinse. No more stinky dog!!"

Best Dog Shampoo for Skunk Odor

Beyond common odors, there's one odor all dog parents fear: skunk spray. But whatever you do, never ever use tomato juice on your dog — or yourself. It doesn't actually work. The tomato juice just masks the skunk smell for your human nose temporarily, and it's also just a waste of tomato juice. Instead, opt for Skout's Honor. Unlike tomato juice, this shampoo breaks down and destroys skunk thiols and odor molecules. Paw parents love it because not only does it work on dogs, but it also works on household items your skunked dog comes into contact with such as blankets or rugs or, heaven forbid, your sofa.

Best Grooming Wipes

While many dogs can go a month without a bath, that's not to say that dogs don't have other more frequent grooming needs. For dogs in urban environments with city walks, it's important to inspect your dog's paws daily and clean them, but there's no need for a full-scale bath. I use organic, fragrance-free baby wipes from Costco on my dog's paws to ensure he doesn't track the city back into my apartment and also to ensure a fungal buildup doesn't happen between his toes. That Frito smell you think your dog's paws smell like? That's a yeast infection. For super posh pups, Wild One makes grooming wipes that have natural eucalyptus, and they smell amazing. It's a godsend for quick wipe-downs after my dog comes back from the dog park.

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