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 for delicate skin on growing bodies. 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 more than 30 years of 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 itchiness.”
Our favorite shampoo for puppies is Rocco & Roxie's Calm Sensitive Shampoo, which is hypoallergenic, with high-quality, minimal ingredients, and a concentrated formula that will keep your puppy clean across multiple bath times. We have other recommendations as well, thanks to advice and expert insight from groomers who have given hundreds of puppy paths.
Rocco & Roxie Calm Sensitive Shampoo
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 soothe, moisturize, 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.
Price at time of publish: $17
Recommended Age: Puppies and dogs | Scent: Rosemary and chamomile
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 as another great option for puppies.
Price at time of publish: $13
Recommended Age: 12 weeks-up | Scent: Lavender
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 of shampoo and conditioner so you’ll spend less time keeping your squirmy little pal from vaulting out of the tub too soon.
The shampoo has no sulfates, fragrances, or artificial colors. And like all Burt’s Bees products, it’s cruelty-free so animals are never used for testing. The shampoo is very watery and can be difficult to lather but that doesn't mean it's not giving your dog a proper cleanse. The scent is very light and reminds us of honey.
Price at time of publish: $17
Recommended Age: Puppies and dogs | Scent: Light honey
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.
Price at time of publish: $12
Recommended Age: Puppies and dogs | Scent: Lavender
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.
Price at time of publish: $16
Recommended Age: 6 weeks-up | Scent: Cherry
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.
Price at time of publish: $17
Recommended Age: All ages | Scent: None
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 multitasker—Honest Paws 5-in-1 is a USDA-certified organic 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.
Price at time of publish: $17
Recommended Age: 12 weeks and up | Scent: Fresh, coconut
Dog by Dr. Lisa Dog Wash
Reusable bottle, with refill bags sold separately
Recyclable aluminum bottle
Mild scent with lavender and citrus
Shipping directly from the manufacturer is only free if you spend $80
Dog By Dr. Lisa's Dog Wash shampoo is vegan, uses natural ingredients, comes in recyclable packaging, and is itself fully biodegradable. Ingredients include a coconut and glucose-derived cleansing agent, a legume-based thickener, lavender oil, citrus peel oil, frankincense, rose flower water, chamomile extract, aloe vera leaf juice, coconut oil, jojoba seed oil, and sweet almond oil.
While not specifically formulated for puppies, it's mild enough for puppy washes according to the manufacturer. Dog Wash contains zero parabens, phthalates, petrolatum, silicone, mineral oils, animal products, or synthetic fragrances.
Dog Wash is meant to be used as part of a minimal bathing program, with minor messes handled by specialized wipes. Dog By Dr. Lisa recommends bathing your dog no more than every 4-6 weeks, and further recommends waiting as long as possible before bathing your puppy.
Dog By Dr. Lisa also offers a leave-in conditioner.
The only downside is that this shampoo is made in Australia and can be expensive to ship to the United States, depending on where you're ordering from online.
Price at time of publish: $42
Recommended Age: Information not available | Scent: Mild notes of lavender and citrus
Rocco & Roxie Calm Sensitive Dog Shampoo is our favorite overall puppy shampoo, thanks to its gentle formulation and short list of high-quality ingredients—aloe, rosemary, and chamomile—plus a very light, pleasant scent. Another great choice is Pure and Natural Pet Puppy Shampoo. 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. She has fostered more than three dozen puppies and is always searching for the healthiest and most effective products to use on them. DiLonardo also consulted with a professional dog groomer about what to consider when shopping for puppy shampoo.