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What’s doggy bath time like at your house? For some pet owners, it’s a fun bonding experience. For others, everyone ends up soaked and nobody’s happy. Having the right shampoo can make things easier when the goal is a clean pet that doesn’t smell like wet dog.
“I like shampoos that dilute easily, clean well and not leave behind any residue, and that are as natural as possible as well as affordable,” says Kim Flatley, professional dog groomer and owner of St. Louis-based Fitness with Fido.
Dana Youngker, a groomer at Petworking & Co in Cumming, Georgia, outside of Atlanta, looks for natural ingredients in her shampoos, choosing organic when possible. When shampooing, she says get your dog nice and wet first, then start from the head and work your way down, being sure to get everywhere including paw pads and private areas, rinsing from the head down so all the dirty water doesn’t flow into clean areas.
We looked for the best dog shampoos that used the most natural ingredients with the fewest additives while still doing an excellent job getting pets clean. Here's what we found:
Best Overall: Earthbath Oatmeal & Aloe Pet Shampoo
Size: 16 ounces | Scent: Unscented | Usage: For puppies and dogs, 6 weeks and up
No parabens, sulfates, phthalates
Some people prefer scented
There are so many different formulas and scents that there’s sure to be an Earthbath shampoo perfect for you and your dog. The Oatmeal and Aloe is a good place to start. It’s fragrance-free with colloidal oatmeal and organic aloe vera to moisturize dry, itchy skin. Like all Earthbath products, it’s made without parabens, sulfates, phthalates, phosphates, and dyes. All items are cruelty-free and made in the United States.
Ask Earthbath fans and so many of them will have a favorite shampoo ranging from deodorizing to hot spot relief, shed control to conditioning. Natural scents include mango, peppermint, vanilla, and lavender. There’s also a popular vanilla and almond version of this oatmeal and aloe shampoo if you want something with a little scent.
Earthbath products are guaranteed so if you aren’t happy with the bath time results, they’ll refund your money.
Best Natural/Organic: 4-Legger Organic Dog Shampoo
Size: 16 ounces | Scent: Lemongrass and rosemary scent | Usage: Puppies and adults
Leaves hair soft
Some users did not like smell
“Looking for natural and organic is always the best way to go,” says professional groomer Youngker. “When products are certified organic, they don’t contain ingredients that can damage a dog’s skin.”
There are nine USDA-certified organic shampoos in the 4-Legger line, with an array of ingredients including oatmeal and lavender for dry and itchy skin, peppermint and eucalyptus for conditioning, and an unscented version with aloe vera for sensitive skin. This popular choice features aloe vera, lemongrass, and coconut oil for moisturizing.
All 4-Legger products are USDA certified organic and free of parabens, sulfates, phthalates, artificial colors and fragrances, or harmful preservatives. Shampoos are made in the United States and have a money-back guarantee. They’re vegan and cruelty-free.
- Groomer Kim Flatley suggests diluting shampoo in a cup before using it to help spread it around your pup and helping it later more easily.
- Use lukewarm water, says Groomer Dana Youngker. “Nothing you’d take a hot shower in,” she says. “If you wouldn’t bathe your baby in it, do not bathe your dog in it.”
Best for Sensitive and Dry Skin: Rocco & Roxie Calm Sensitive Skin
Size: 16 ounces | Scent: Coconut and honey scent | Usage: Puppies and adult dogs
No parabens, phthalates, or other additives
Leaves very shiny fur
Doesn’t lather well
Very thick and hard to get out of bottle
This gentle formula has aloe vera extract for moisturizing and soothing skin and chamomile for calming and cleansing. Rosemary helps protect and promote healthy skin growth. This shampoo is targeted toward dogs and puppies with sensitive skin and has a mild coconut and honey fragrance.
There are two other Rocco & Roxie shampoos: Soothe Oatmeal has shea and almond butter for dogs with dry, itchy skin and Shine Conditioning has vitamin A and argan oil for a shiny, glossy coat. All three formulas are free of paraben, phthalates, mineral oil, formaldehyde, artificial colors, dyes, and other additives. They’re pH balanced so they’re safe and comfortable for a dog’s skin.
Best for Odor: Buddy Wash Original Lavender & Mint Dog Shampoo & Conditioner
Size: 16 ounces | Scent: Lavender and mint scent | Usage: Puppies and adult dogs
Not tested on animals
Scent may be overpowering for some people
Very thick and hard to get out of the bottle
This two-in-one conditioning shampoo has a soothing lavender and mint scent created by a mix of essential oils and essences including chamomile, sage, and rosemary extract. The fresh fragrance should help erase the wet dog smell that brought you and your pup to the bathtub in the first place.
The product is soap-free and alcohol-free and is built on a coconut base. It lathers well and is easy to rinse out, leaving a smooth coat behind. Buddy Wash is made in the United States and hasn’t been tested on animals. It’s safe for use on people in case bath time is tough and it’s just easier to wash your pup in the shower with you!
Best for Shedding: Furminator deShedding Ultra Premium Dog Shampoo
Size: 16 ounces | Scent: Papaya scent | Usage: For puppies and dogs over 6 weeks old
Enriched with omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids
No parabens or chemical dyes
Has to sit for 5-10 minutes
Depending on your dog’s coat and the time of year, you might feel like you live in a perpetual cloud of dog hair. If you have a heavy shedder, the secret is “brush your dog more, not bathe your dog more,” says Youngker.
But this FURminator DeShedding shampoo from a company that makes the popular deshedding tools may be able to help at bath time. It has a mix of natural ingredients to promote healthy skin, including omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids from cranberry, sunflower, and safflower seed oils, as well as aloe vera and vitamin E.
The key is to wet your dog’s skin well, leave it on for 5 or 10 minutes, and then ideally follow up with the brand’s conditioner (view on PetSmart). There should be clumps of hair in the tub and then even more when you finish up with a brush or Furminator rake (view on PetSmart).
Best Waterless: The Spruce Waterless Pet Wash in Lavender
Size: 17 ounces| Scent: Fresh fruity scent | Usage: Adult dogs
Plant-based with no parabens, phthalates, or dyes
Three scents from natural oils
No unscented option
Won’t help with very dirty dogs
Sometimes you don’t have time to give your dog the full spa experience or your pup just needs a little freshening up. Our waterless pet wash makes the whole experience so much easier on you and your pup.
Featuring a plant-based, pH-balanced formula, The Spruce Waterless Pet Wash has no parabens, phthalates, or dyes, and it’s Leaping Bunny certified. To use, shake the bottle, spray your dog’s coat well, wait for one minute, and then use a soft, clean cloth to wipe them down. It cleans, conditions, and moisturizes, while removing dirt and other debris.
It comes in three scents—lavender (with clary sage), oatmeal (with fresh mango), and fresh (neroli, apple, and orchid)—made with natural essential oils.
Best Flea Shampoo: Richard's Organics Flea & Tick Shampoo
Size: 12 ounces | Scent: Cinnamon, clove, peppermint scent | Usage: For puppies and dogs at least 12 weeks
Paraben, dye, and soap free
Has vitamin E, lecithin, and lanolin to soothe itchy skin
Strong Christmas-y smell
Flea shampoos often have harsh chemicals that can irritate your pet’s skin and trigger a reaction. Even those with safer, natural essential oils only kill the fleas that are on your pet. Because your house and yard still have the pests, your dog will quickly get reinfected, so it’s important to have another effective means of flea control like monthly chewables or spot-on treatments prescribed by your vet.
That said, this is a good way to rid your pup of resident fleas. It doesn’t have parabens, dyes, or soap, and it’s gentle so it won’t wash away topical flea and tick treatments. It has vitamin E, lanolin, and other moisturizers to help soothe irritated skin. Instead of added fragrance, the scent comes from cinnamon, clove, cedar wood, peppermint, and rosemary oils.
Best for Puppies: Pure and Natural Pet Fragrance Free Hypoallergenic Organic Shampoo
Size: 16 ounces | Scent: Unscented | Usage: Puppies and adult dogs
Left coat very silky
Doesn’t lather easily
Some people prefer scent
Pure and Natural makes several USDA-certified organic pet shampoos and conditioners that have no parabens, sulfates, chemicals, formaldehyde, or other harmful chemicals. The company makes a specific puppy shampoo that is all natural, but we like this gentle hypoallergenic formula. It has no artificial fragrances or dyes, no preservatives or additives and the simple ingredients include organic aloe water, organic castile soap, and organic calendula and jojoba oils.
Because it’s pH-balanced for a dog’s coat, it won’t strip your puppy of necessary oils. It moisturizes and soothes itchiness, while leaving fur shiny and soft.
Earthbath Oatmeal and Aloe is the best overall pick (view at Amazon). It has no parabens, phthalates, sulfates, or other additives and comes in unscented or a vanilla and almond version if you want a mild scent. Another great choice is 4-Legger Aloe Vera, Lemongrass & Organic Coconut Dog Shampoo (view at Amazon). It's USDA-certified organic, lathers well, rinses easily, and leaves fur soft and silky.
What to Consider When Shopping for Dog Shampoos
It’s not enough to look for a product that is “natural.” If you want a product that is truly gentle and won’t cause health problems, look at the ingredients. “A lot of dog shampoos have parabens, mineral oils, sulfates, phthalates and those can cause skin issues and other health issues and be extremely harmful to dogs,” Youngker says.
Also, be sure to look for essential oils instead of artificial fragrances. Avoid added dyes and artificial coloring of any sort.
Your dog’s breed and coat type might influence the type of shampoo you use and how often you wash your pet. Some dogs, like Labrador retrievers, for example, have more naturally greasy coats to help them repel water. Groomers advise skipping shampoos with built-in conditioners for those dogs. Washing them too often can also cause them to make too much natural oil in their skin.
Brushing before a bath can be even more important than the type of shampoo you choose, says Flatley. It helps remove and loosen mats for long hair dogs or loose hair for shedding dogs. “Then for bathing, really scrub and scrub some more then rinse and when you think you're done rinse again to not leave any shampoo behind,” she suggests.
A lot of brands might say puppy safe or puppy gentle, but the key is to check the ingredients, says Youngker. “Always read the labels. Make sure there are no damaging ingredients. Stick to something gentle and natural.”
Most shampoos are safe for puppies over eight weeks old and all adult dogs, although you might notice that medicated shampoos and those targeted toward fleas aren’t recommended until puppies are a little older. When in doubt, always ask your vet before using a product.
Why Trust The Spruce Pets?
To find the best dog shampoos, we tested a range of products on our own pets and also consulted with professional groomers about what to look for when shopping, and interviewed dog owners about their favorite products.
This article was researched and written by Mary Jo DiLonardo who has covered animals and pets for several decades. Mary Jo has fostered more than three dozen puppies and is always searching for the healthiest and most effective products to use on them.