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 dog 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.
Our favorite dog shampoo is Earthbath Oatmeal and Aloe, which is fragrance-free, lathers easily, and combines finely ground oatmeal with organic aloe vera for nutrient-rich skin treatment.
Earthbath Oatmeal & Aloe Pet Shampoo
No parabens, sulfates, phthalates
Lots of different shampoo formulas in the line
Some people prefer scented
Our top pick, the Oatmeal and Aloe formula, is a good place to start. It’s fragrance-free with colloidal oatmeal and organic aloe vera—a combo that’s particularly effective for dry, itchy, and flaky skin. Like all Earthbath products, it’s made without parabens, sulfates, phthalates, gluten, and synthetic dyes. All items are cruelty-free and made in the United States.
Earthbath is an excellent brand for trying out different formulas, since they offer a wide range of shampoos, 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 have a satisfaction guarantee too, so if you aren’t happy with the bath time results you can get a refund.
Price at time of publish: $16
Size: 16 ounces | Scent: Unscented | Usage: For puppies and dogs 6 weeks and up
4-Legger Organic Dog Shampoo
Leaves hair soft
Some users did not like smell
“Looking for natural and organic is always the best way to go,” Dana Youngker, a groomer at Petworking & Co in Cumming, Georgia, told The Spruce Pets. “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.
Price at time of publish: $17
Size: 16 ounces | Scent: Lemongrass and rosemary | Usage: Puppies and adults
Best for Dry Skin
Vermont Soap Pet Magic Shampoo
No artificial fragrances, colors, sulfates, or detergents
Easy to rinse
Have to work to get a lather
Vermont Soap’s Pet Magic shampoo was the first pet shampoo in the country that was certified to USDA organic standards, the company says. There are no artificial fragrances, colors, sulfates, or detergents and main ingredients include organic coconut, olive, and jojoba oils, as well as rosemary and lemongrass essential oils. The shampoo is made in the United States, is cruelty free, and has no petroleum or animal byproducts.
It can be hard to get natural shampoos like this to lather well. Dilute the shampoo with a little water in a cup to help make suds so it spreads easily throughout your dog’s coat.
Price at time of publish: $18
Size: 16 ounces | Scent: Lemongrass and rosemary | Usage: Puppies and dogs
Best for Odor
Arm & Hammer Super Deodorizing Dog Shampoo
Uses baking soda
Leaves coat shiny and soft
Odor control lasts for a long time
Somewhat heavy floral scent
Baking soda is a natural way to clean and neutralize smells. This gentle shampoo is made by Arm & Hammer, known for versatile baking soda. It does a deep clean, removing odors for days. The formula is paraben and phthalate-free with no potentially harmful chemicals.
Ingredients include rose, white tea, and kiwi fruit extracts which help with odor control, limit shedding, and leave a floral scent on your dog’s coat. The smell is much better than wet dog, but a little heavy. This shampoo is much more cost-effective than many and comes in a larger bottle (20 ounces) than most other brands.
Price at time of publish: $5
Size: 20 ounces | Scent: Kiwi blossom | Usage: Dogs and puppies 8 weeks and up
Best for Shedding
Furminator deShedding Ultra Premium Dog Shampoo
No parabens or chemical dyes
Contains omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids
Added fragrance that may be too strong
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,” Youngker says.
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. There should be clumps of hair in the tub and then even more when you finish up with a brush or Furminator rake.
Price at time of publish: $13
Size: 16 ounces | Scent: Papaya | Usage: Dogs and puppies over 6 weeks old
Best for Fleas
Adams Plus Flea & Tick Shampoo with Precor
Kills adult fleas, eggs, and larvae
Also kills ticks and lice
Contains aloe vera, lanolin, and oatmeal to soothe skin
Lasts for up to 28 days
Thick lather can take a while to rinse
This lightly scented flea and tick shampoo kills adult fleas and their eggs and larvae, while also tackling ticks and lice. The active ingredient is pyrethrins, which are natural pesticides found in chrysanthemums. It also has aloe vera, lanolin, and oatmeal to help moisturize and soothe irritated, dry skin. They also help keep your dog’s coat soft and manageable.
The shampoo lasts for nearly a month and typically only has to be reapplied about every 28 days. The lather can be thick and it can take some effort to totally rinse it out. It has a coconut scent and is safe to use on dogs and puppies that are at least 12 weeks old. Products with pyrethrins are not safe to use on cats.
Price at time of publish: $15
Size: 12 ounces | Scent: Coconut | Usage: Dogs and puppies over 12 weeks
Best for Puppies
Pure and Natural Pet Tearless and Calming Puppy Shampoo
No parabens, sulfates, dyes, or soaps
Light lavender scent
Can be calming
More expensive (per ounce) than man
Takes work to lather
Puppies are wiggly and the whole bathtime thing can be quite an adventure. When you’re lathering and rinsing and trying to keep your puppy in the tub, it helps to have a gentle, no-tears shampoo in case the suds go everywhere. Pure and Natural’s puppy formula contains no soaps, parabens, sulfates, or dyes. It has several USDA-certified organic oils including organic lavender oil which has proven soothing properties. It also has a fresh, not-too-heavy floral scent.
The shampoo is gentle and moisturizing. It’s made in the U.S. and is cruelty-free. Apply just a little bit, massage well and add water as needed to work up a lather, then rinse thoroughly.
Price at time of publish: $13
Size: 8 ounces | Scent: Lavender | Usage: Puppies 12 weeks and up
Best Waterless or Dry Shampoo
The Spruce Waterless Pet Wash in Oatmeal
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.
Price at time of publish: $12
Size: 17 ounces | Scent: Oatmeal | Usage: Adult dogs
Best for Skunks
Skunk-off Pet Shampoo
Can be used on pets, carpeting, cars, clothes
Doesn’t mask skunk smell; it removes it
Has to sit for several minutes
Hopefully, your dog will never get sprayed by a skunk, but you’ll be happy to have this shampoo on hand if you need it. Some skunk treatments just try to cover up the smell. This one is made by Thornell, a company that provides odor-control products to veterinarians. It’s a blend of essential oils that work to erase the smell.
The shampoo is watery, so you’ll need to massage deeply to work up a lather. Be sure to get often-overlooked spots like between the toes and the face and focus on the spot where your pup was sprayed. Let sit for 3-5 minutes. It’s safe enough to use on puppies over 8 weeks old, but be sure to rinse thoroughly and then air dry.
Price at time of publish: $12
Size: 8 ounces, 32 ounces, 1 gallon | Usage: Puppies and dogs over 8 weeks old
Rocco & Roxie Calm Sensitive Shampoo
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.
This formula is 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. Natural shampoos like this can be hard to lather. This formula is particularly thick and can be hard to squeeze out of the bottle. It works great by mixing some shampoo and water in a cup and using that to create suds.
Price at time of publish: $16
Size: 16 or 32 ounces | Scent: Coconut and honey scent | Usage: Puppies and adult dogs
Bark 2 Basics Oatmeal Dog Shampoo
Concentrated, so bottle lasts a long time
Made in the United States in small batches
No parabens or soap
Coconut scent can be strong
Have to dilute before using
Some shampoos have ingredients that cause them to linger in the environment. Biodegradable products are made with natural ingredients that are designed to break down quickly. They can be a great option anytime, but particularly a healthy choice if you’re bathing your pup directly outdoors.
This shampoo contains colloidal oatmeal to soothe itchy, sensitive skin. It moisturizes and conditions, leaving a pup’s coat smooth and soft. The shampoo is concentrated so you can mix one part shampoo to up to about 16 parts water. The formula contains no parabens or soap and is cruelty-free. It’s made in the U.S. in small batches.
Price at time of publish: $15
Size: 16 ounces | Scent: Coconut | Usage: Puppies and adults
Earthbath Oatmeal and Aloe is the best overall pick. 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. It's USDA-certified organic, lathers well, rinses easily, and leaves fur soft and silky.
What to Look for in Dog Shampoos
Groomer Dana Youngker 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.
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.”
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.
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, try 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.
Can I wash my dog with human shampoo?
When your pup needs a bath, you might be tempted to grab the human shampoo right out of your shower. But your dog’s skin is more sensitive than yours and it has a completely different pH balance. Human skin is more acidic, while dog skin is more neutral. Human shampoo can irritate the protective layer that keeps skin safe from bacteria and viruses and keeps it moisturized. Dog shampoo is made particularly for sensitive dog skin.
But in case of emergency—if your dog rolled in something awful and you have no dog-specific shampoo handy—opt for baby shampoo.
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 60 dogs and puppies and has given so many baths! She is always searching for the healthiest and most effective products to use on them.