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You have a bouncing bundle of energy that gets into all sorts of interesting things. That means you and your puppy have a date with the bathtub. But don’t just reach for any shampoo. The best puppy shampoos are gentle and formulated just for delicate, growing skin. They’re pH balanced and tearless to create fewer problems in case you accidentally get some suds in your little one’s eyes.
“It's really important to always read the label to be sure the product you're choosing is safe for your pet,” says Starr Heger, owner of All Starr Grooming in Arnold, Missouri. Heger has had more than 30 years’ experience as a dog groomer.
"I use a shampoo with all natural ingredients and no added fragrance," she says. "It's also tearless. The shampoo is safe for dogs and cats of all ages and it's gentle enough for all skin types so dogs with skin issues won't react with itchies.”
Below, you'll find the best puppy shampoos, according to people who have given hundreds of puppy baths.
Best Overall: Rocco & Roxie Calm Sensitive Skin
No artificial chemicals or fragrances
Hypoallergenic and no-tears
Thick and hard to get out of the bottle
This gentle shampoo has an extremely light, fresh scent. It has three main ingredients: rosemary, aloe, and chamomile to help sooth, moisture, and promote healthy skin. The no-tears formula is hypoallergenic. There are no artificial colors, dyes, or fragrances and no parabens, phthalates, or formaldehyde.
The shampoo is thick so you may want to mix a little in a cup of water if you’re used to a lot of suds. Just be sure to keep adding plenty of water as you lather your puppy. This is also a good gentle option for any dog with sensitive skin.
Best Natural: Pure and Natural Pet Tearless and Calming Puppy Shampoo
No added chemicals or dyes
Many organic ingredients
Moisturizing and gentle
Doesn’t lather easily
This tearless puppy shampoo is free of parabens, dyes, sulfates, and formaldehyde and it’s Leaping Bunny certified. The gentle shampoo only has a handful of ingredients including organic lavender oil, organic calendula oil, and organic oatmeal extract. The shampoo should help moisturize young skin and ease itching.
Like other natural shampoos, it doesn’t make a lot of suds. Just use a little bit of shampoo and add lots of water as you massage to make lather. Rinse thoroughly with plenty of cool, clean water. Pure and Natural also makes several USDA-certified shampoos and conditioners. We also like the fragrance-free and organic shampoo formula from Pure and Natural Pet (view on Amazon) as another great option for puppies.
Best Budget: Burt's Bees for Puppies 2-in-1 Tearless Shampoo and Conditioner
No sulfates, fragrances, or artificial colors
Hard to lather
This very popular puppy shampoo features buttermilk and linseed oil as the key ingredients to soothe the skin and condition the coat. It’s a combination shampoo and conditioner so you’ll spend less time keeping your squirmy four-legged pal from vaulting out of the tub too soon.
The shampoo has no sulfates, fragrances, or artificial colors. Like all Burt’s Bees products, it’s cruelty-free. The shampoo is very watery and can be difficult to lather. The scent is a very light, honey smell.
Best Waterless: The Spruce Waterless Pet Wash in Oatmeal
Plant-based with no parabens, phthalates, or dyes
Three scents from natural oils
No unscented version
Won’t help if your puppy is very dirty
When you don’t have time to give your puppy a bath, but they aren’t as fresh as they could be, try a spritz or two of waterless pet wash. Our wash makes freshening up easy and quick.
The Spruce Waterless Pet Wash features a plant-based formula with no parabens, phthalates, or dyes, plus it’s Leaping Bunny certified. Just shake the bottle, spray it on your dog’s coat, and wait for one minute. Then use a soft, clean cloth to wipe down your pet. It cleans, moisturizes, and conditions, while removing dirt and any other debris that puppies like to accumulate.
The wash comes in three scents—lavender (with clary sage), oatmeal (with fresh mango), and fresh (neroli, apple, and orchid)—all made with natural essential oils.
Best Smelling: Earthbath Ultra-Mild Puppy Shampoo
No sulfates, parabens, phthalates, dyes
Organic aloe vera
Scent is too strong for some people
Puppies are adorable, but they can get into all sorts of things in the yard. If you want your pup to smell like something different than a wet dog, this Earthbath formula is a popular scented favorite. It smells like cherries and lasts for days.
It’s also very gentle, with no sulfate, parabens, phthalates, or synthetic dyes. It contains organic aloe vera and coconut-based cleansers for a clean, soft, shiny coat. Earthbath also has lots of other gentle shampoos in lots of scents and formulas.
Best Unscented: 4-Legger Organic Dog Shampoo
No harmful additives
There are nine USDA-certified organic shampoos offered by 4-Legger, with formulas that are all gentle enough for puppies. They include oatmeal and lavender for dry and itchy skin, peppermint and eucalyptus for conditioning, and aloe vera, lemongrass, and coconut oil for moisturizing. But if you don’t want any smell at all, this unscented version features aloe vera and organic coconut oil. Although it is very watery, it foams well and leaves hair soft.
All 4-Legger products are free of parabens, sulfates, phthalates, artificial colors and fragrances, or harmful preservatives. Shampoos are made in the United States and are vegan and cruelty-free.
Best Shampoo and Conditioner: Honest Paws 5-in-1 Dog Wash
No phosphates, sulfates, or parabens
Aloe extract and oatmeal for skin health
Can be difficult to lather
Talk about a multi-tasker. This USDA-certified organic dog wash is a shampoo and conditioner, but it also deodorizes, detangles, and moisturizes. Honest Paws derives most of its ingredients from natural sources like coconut and palm. There’s added oatmeal and aloe extract to help with moisturizing and skin and coat health.
The wash leaves fur soft, shiny, and easy to brush. The scent is fresh and not overpowering but lingers for several days so it smells as if your dog has recently been to the spa.
Rocco & Roxie Calm Sensitive Dog Shampoo (view at Amazon) is the best overall pick. It’s a gentle shampoo that has aloe, rosemary, and chamomile and a very light scent. Another great choice is Pure and Natural Pet Puppy Shampoo (view at Amazon). It’s chemical-free and has lots of organic ingredients.
What to Look for in Puppy Shampoos
Make sure you choose a shampoo that is formulated for a puppy. That means the ingredients are gentle enough for delicate, growing skin. Often shampoos will say they are fine for all ages. Check with your vet if you have a very young puppy; the American Kennel Club (AKC) recommends waiting for that first bath until a puppy is at least three months old. Other veterinarians say eight weeks is OK.
Most puppy shampoos will say that they are tearless or tear-free. That means it’s less likely to cause as much irritation if it gets into your puppy’s eyes but it can still cause problems.
“Tearless shampoo doesn't mean it's safe to pour over your pet's head,” says Starr Heger, owner of All Starr Grooming. “It means if you get it in your pet's eyes you have time to rinse the eyes with lots of water without it stinging your pet's eyes. However, if not rinsed it can cause chemical burns to the eyes like any shampoo.”
The best dog shampoos for any puppy or adult dog are formulated for a dog’s skin. Dogs and people have very different pH balances, which is the balance of acidity and alkalinity on the skin. According to the AKC, a normal pH balance for humans is around 5.5 to 5.6, which is a little acidic. Normal for dogs is between 6.2 and 7.4, which is more on the neutral side. If you use a shampoo that isn’t pH-balanced for dogs, it can lead to dryness and flakiness, and make your dog’s skin vulnerable to bacteria and parasites.
Human skin has a normal pH balance of 5.5-5.6, which is on the acidic side. Dogs, on the other hand, have a normal pH balance of 6.2-7.4, which is more neutral.
Can you use baby shampoo on puppies?
It’s generally not a good idea to use human shampoo on pets, but baby shampoo is one exception because it’s made with gentle ingredients to be safe for a baby’s sensitive skin. “Baby shampoo is a great option to use at home because it's so gentle,” says Heger. “Just be sure to rinse really well. You can even dilute it to make it more rinseable.”
How often should you bathe a puppy?
Dogs shouldn’t get a bath more often than about every two weeks because it can dry out their skin and coat, says Heger. You can always use dog-specific wet wipes in between for muddy paws or check out the Norwex Pet Mitt (view on Amazon), she suggests. We like also like these fragrance-free hypoallergenic grooming wipes from Earthbath (view on Amazon).
Can you give a puppy a bath without shampoo?
You can wash your puppy with loads of warm water to rinse out anything in their fur and wash away dirt and grime, but shampoo really helps get them clean. An added bonus is that lightly scented shampoos make them smell fresh instead of like wet dog. “If you bathe a puppy without shampoo is it still considered a bath?” Heger jokes.
Can you use puppy shampoo on kittens or cats?
Always read the label to make sure. There are some ingredients that are safe for dogs—such as pyrethin that is used to kill fleas and ticks—that can be deadly for cats. If you’re unsure, ask your vet for a product recommendation.
Why Trust The Spruce Pets?
To find the best puppy 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. She also consulted with a professional dog groomer about what to consider when shopping for puppy shampoo.