There’s not much puppies love more than rolling in something that smells like it just died (usually because it has!) In these situations, or perhaps just when your pup gets a bit muddy after a walk in the park, you’re going to want to give him a bath before he starts lounging around on your cream furniture – however cute that might be. But what do you use to get him clean and smelling fresh again? Can dogs use human shampoo? No? In that case, what is the best shampoo for puppies?
Never fear, oh weary puppy owner! We’ve compiled this detailed buying guide to the 10 best puppy shampoos available today, so you can choose the perfect formula for your fur baby, and have Fido looking and smelling great again in no time!
The Best Puppy Shampoo
Our top pick of the best puppy shampoos on the market is this Ultra-Mild, All Natural Puppy Shampoo by Earthbath. As the name suggests, this earth and pup-friendly formula is made from entirely natural ingredients, including aloe, coconut-based cleansers and natural cherry essence, which gives the shampoo a pleasant, mild cherry fragrance. This top rated shampoo is naturally pH-balanced, making it a great dog shampoo for sensitive skin, or if your puppy is suffering from sores or skin allergies.
Although the manufacturer does say that a small percentage of dogs might be allergic to the formula (disclaimer alert!) it’s clear from looking at the hundreds of positive reviews that this is a very rare occurrence, with some commenting that this is in fact the best shampoo available for dogs with allergies, due to its small amount of all-natural ingredients. This impressive puppy shampoo is also 100% biodegradable, so you don’t need to worry about polluting the environment if your pup is so dirty she needs to be bathed outside!
100% natural and biodegradable ingredients
Gentle and pH-balanced
Wild cherry scent
- Weight1.2 pounds
Wahl’s Puppy Shampoo also uses natural, plant-based ingredients to create a gentle and safe shampoo for your fur baby. The formula, which includes various cleansers, emulsifiers and FDA-approved colors, as well as cornflower and aloe extracts, is intended to be ‘tear-free’, and leave your puppy happy, and looking forward to bath time (or at least, not fighting it!)
As this puppy shampoo is a concentrate, you’ll only need a small amount for every bath, so it should last through many a muddy walk in the park. There are lots of reviews from happy customers, many of whom comment that this is one of the best smelling puppy shampoos they’ve tried (the smell is described by one as being of strong rosemary), as well as being a suitable dog shampoo for sensitive skin. It’s also one of the most affordable products on our list.
Gentle, plant-derived formula
With cornflower and aloe extracts
- Weight1.66 pounds
Our next puppy shampoo is the Paw Pals 100% All Natural Pet Wash Shampoo. Specially designed for sensitive skin, this organic, vegan and paraben-free formula will gently clean, de-tangle and moisturize Fido’s skin and coat, leaving him looking as good as new. The formula is also soap-free, so it shouldn’t irritate those gorgeous, puppy-dog eyes.
Among other ingredients, the formula contains oatmeal, aloe and rosemary. Oatmeal puppy shampoo is known to soothe and moisturize dry or itchy skin, whilst aloe and rosemary will cleanse, hydrate and protect your pup’s coat. The long-lasting, fresh scent also means you won’t have to put your furry friend through the ordeal of bath time too often to maintain that just-washed smell. It should, however, be noted that despite its ‘all natural’ claim, this puppy shampoo lists Cocamide-MEA as an ingredient, which carries a risk of contamination from nitrosamines, and Sodium Laureth Sulphate, which has a high risk of contamination with dioxine, a known carcinogen – you can read more about this in our list of ‘ingredients to avoid in a puppy shampoo’ below.
All-natural, vegan ingredients
Includes oatmeal, rosemary and aloe
Tear-free, soap-less formula
- BrandPaws & Pals
- Weight15.8 ounces
PET CARE Sciences 5-in-1 Dog Shampoo & Conditioner is a simple formula again consisting of natural ingredients, including coconut and palm oil, aloe, and oatmeal. It’s free from all the nasty stuff, such as sulfate, parabens and phosphate, and is suitable for adult dogs and puppies over 12 weeks.
The ‘5-in-1’ benefits are apparently that it cleans, conditions, deodorizes, moisturizes and de-tangles. Whilst most of these are pretty standard for a good puppy shampoo, there are definitely some advantages to having a conditioner built-in, not least that you won’t have to lather and rinse your pup twice – and are likely to get much less water over your bathroom floor! Reviewers comment that it left their dog’s coat soft and smelling fresh.
Made from 96% naturally derived ingredients
Contains coconut oil, aloe and oatmeal
Suitable for puppies over 12 weeks
- BrandPET CARE Sciences
Burt’s Bees bring over 30 years’ experience in making natural health and beauty products to the pet-care industry, so it should be one you can rely on. Made from 97% natural ingredients, Burt’s Bees Puppy Shampoo is perfect for keeping your tiny fur ball clean and fluffy, whilst not irritating his sensitive skin.
The formula contains buttermilk to nourish and soothe your pup’s skin, and linseed oil to get his coat in tip-top condition. It’s pH-balanced, and doesn’t contain any nasty chemicals, parabens, colorants or synthetic fragrances. The lack of strong scent is typical of genuinely natural formula puppy shampoos, and will undoubtedly prevent skin irritation – however several reviews do comment that the shampoo doesn’t have any smell at all. Overall, a lack of artificial scent is a good thing, and this is a great choice if you need a dog shampoo for sensitive skin, but just be aware that it’s not the best smelling dog shampoo available.
Mild, pH-balanced formula especially for puppies
Contains buttermilk and linseed oil
Fragrance, sulfate and colorant-free
- BrandBurt’s Bees
- Weight1 pounds
Isle of Dogs are so confident in the tearless quality of their puppy shampoo, they even recommend it for use as a doggy face wash. One reviewer mentions using it to clean her pup’s moustache (insert ‘aww’ sound here!)
Another all-natural puppy shampoo, this one is also sulfate and paraben free, but it does contain ‘natural odor neutralizes’ – and it’s anyone’s guess as to what they are. Unlike the Burt’s Bees Puppy Shampoo, this one has a noticeable cotton and fresh orchid fragrance, which generally receives a lot of positive reviews, and might be good if your pup likes to roll in less-than-desirable substances – although it won’t be as gentle on their skin.
Sulfate and paraben free formula
Cotton and fresh orchid fragrance
Contains natural odor neutralizers
- BrandIsle of Dogs
- Weight1.2 pounds
Particular Paws Hypoallergenic Pet Shampoo is specifically designed to remove common allergens and irritants from your pup’s delicate skin, such as pollen, yeast and fleas. Natural healing ingredients including Aloe Vera, chamomile and honey extract work together to soothe itchy skin, rashes and inflammation, making this another great dog shampoo for sensitive skin.
Furthermore, this shampoo is also suitable for cats, as well as puppies, so it’s great if you have a large fur family (not that we’re suggesting you wash them together – unless you fancy turning your bathroom into a scene from Armageddon!) This puppy shampoo has a pleasant but mild scent that is described by one reviewer as like a ‘baby shampoo for dogs’.
Hypoallergenic formula removes allergens
Contains aloe, chamomile and honey extract
Suitable for puppies and kittens
- BrandParticular Paws
If you’re looking specifically for an oatmeal puppy shampoo, look no further than this Oatmeal Naturals Gentle Puppy Shampoo by Oster. This safe shampoo is made from natural, pH-balanced and biodegradable ingredients, and contains no alcohol or parabens.
The formula is made up of coconut-based cleansers, wheat protein, oatmeal, Aloe Vera and rosemary leaf extracts, as well as fragrance and preservatives (which could be bad – read more about undesirable ingredients in puppy shampoos below). However, for those worried about that wet dog smell, it has to be said that this puppy shampoo has a scrummy baby powder scent – be warned, it might just leave you unable to stop smelling the top of his head!
Oatmeal puppy shampoo
Enriched with wheat protein, oatmeal and rosemary extract
Long-lasting baby powder scent
- Weight1.35 pounds
For those still worried that the nice-smelling effects of a bath will be short-lived with their adventurous pup, this Nature’s Miracle Supreme Odor Control Puppy Shampoo
could be the solution. Containing ‘plant-derived surfactants and odor control system’ (it’s not clear what these are) as well as Aloe Vera, jojoba oil, fragrance and salt, this best smelling puppy shampoo also acts as a deodorizer, for long-term odor control.
Although it’s designed for use on puppies, there seems to be a lot of owners using this on older dogs, thanks to its superior odor control. Great if you’ve got a dog who smells like a dog!
Natural cocoa surfactant shampoo
Gentle, soap-free formula
Provides long-term odor control
- BrandNature’s Miracle
- Weight1 pounds
The final entrant on our list of the best puppy shampoos is this Synergy Labs Veterinary Formula Solutions Puppy Love Extra Gentle & Tearless Shampoo. This one also has a strong ‘baby powder’ smell (seems to be a popular scent!) and many happy customers comment on how soft their pup’s fur is after use, with some even claiming it’s better than after they come back from the groomer.
Suitable for use on puppies over 6 weeks, this safe shampoo is pH-balanced and DEA and sulfate-free, and claims that it won’t irritate your pup’s eyes or wash away any topical flea and tick treatments – ideal if your pup has picked up some unwelcome guests along their way!
pH-balanced and sulfate-free formula
Suitable for puppies over 6 weeks
Won’t wash away flea and tick treatments
- Weight1.25 pounds
Best Puppy Shampoos Buying Guide & FAQ
Still not sure which of these scent-sational puppy shampoos is the best choice for your mucky mutt? Read on for our full buying guide and FAQ to help clear up that confusion and have your pup looking his best again in no time.
What to Look for When Choosing the Best Puppy Shampoo
- Natural ingredients
The best puppy shampoos are made up of all natural ingredients, which offer numerous cleansing and conditioning benefits, but are still gentle on your pup’s sensitive skin. Good ingredients to look out for include: Aloe Vera, which naturally moisturizes and soothes, and has unique restorative properties; Oatmeal, which also moisturizes, reduces inflammation and heals dry, itchy skin; Honey, another natural moisturizer; Wheat germ, to soften and boost collagen; Essential oils, such as eucalyptus, tea tree, linseed or lemongrass, to provide a natural fragrance and help deter fleas and ticks.
- pH-balanced, gentle and tear-free
Look for a puppy shampoo that is ‘pH-balanced’ especially for dogs’ slightly alkaline skin, as well as one which is ‘soap-free’ or ‘tear-free’, as this generally means the formula is gentler and doesn’t contain soap or irritants. Your pup will thank you when they accidentally get some in their eye after splashing around in the tub! Try to also avoid shampoos with sulfates, parabens and alcohol, as these are likely to irritate your puppy’s eyes and skin (see more on this below).
If your dog has allergies or particularly dry, itchy skin (Labradors can be particularly prone to this), you should choose a hypoallergenic puppy shampoo. This type of shampoo will be made up of all-natural ingredients, with no irritants, and is the best type of dog shampoo for sensitive skin.
This is particularly important if you’re going to be bathing your puppy outside, as you don’t want to be polluting the environment with harsh chemicals and toxins. The good news is that, because they are made of primarily natural ingredients, many puppy shampoos are naturally biodegradable, and safe to be used in all environments.
As well as cleaning your pup’s coat, soothing dry skin and removing allergens, one of the main reasons for bathing is to control odor. Let’s face it, as much as we love them, dogs can be pretty stinky to a human nose, and we all want our pups to smell nice after going through the ordeal of giving them a bath! Ideally, you should avoid puppy shampoos with artificial fragrances, as these can irritate your furry friend’s skin. Instead, look for one which has a natural fragrance, such as our top pick, the Earthbath All Natural Puppy Shampoo, which has a natural cherry essence. Check out reviews from previous customers to find out how the scent holds up in practice, and help you choose the best smelling dog shampoo for your pongy pup!
Ingredients to Avoid in a Puppy Shampoo
There are quite a few ingredients you should try to avoid in a puppy shampoo, if possible. We’ve listed some of the main ones below, but this is by no means an exhaustive list, and you should always do your own research prior to purchasing a puppy shampoo for your dog.
Try to avoid puppy shampoos that include sulfate compounds such as Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate and Ammonium Laureth Sulfate. These surfactants are either known to cause skin irritation in some forms, and/or have a high risk of contamination during the manufacturing process with toxins, allergens and known carcinogens. Not all sulfates will be contaminated, but since there’s no way of knowing how they were manufactured from the ingredient list on the bottle, it’s best to avoid all puppy shampoos with these as listed ingredients if you can. Sodium Laureth Sulfate is derived from coconut oil, and therefore manufacturers can get away with marketing it as an ‘all natural’ and ‘vegan’ ingredient, despite the potential risks.
Paraben preservatives are known to build up your dog’s body, and have been linked to reproductive health issues and diseases such as cancer. Choose a puppy shampoo that is listed as ‘paraben-free’ to avoid Fido absorbing these nasties through his skin when you bathe him.
You should always try to use a puppy shampoo that is free from alcohol - anyone who’s ever got alcohol in their eye will understand why! As well as causing your pup discomfort if they should get it in their eyes, alcohol is also very drying to their skin and hair oils, increasing the chance of your beloved fur baby suffering from dry, itchy skin after their bath – which is the last thing either of you want!
Cocamide-MEA is a surfactant that is a cause for concern to the high risk of contamination with nitrosamines during its manufacturing process. Nitrosamines are thought to be carcinogenic, and can have negative effects on development and the reproductive and organ systems. Again, there’s no way for the average consumer to know whether nitrosamines are also present in the puppy shampoo they’re buying, but it’s certainly possible, so it’s best to just avoid Cocamide-MEA as an ingredient if you can.
- Artificial colors
Artificial colors are usually made from petroleum and often contaminated with byproducts. They have been linked to organ damage, cancer and allergic reactions, amongst other things. Try to choose a puppy shampoo with no artificial colors at all. After all, your puppy doesn’t care if their shampoo is bright purple, or the color of sludge – in fact, they’d probably prefer that!
- Artificial fragrance
This one is a little harder to avoid – in fact, several of the puppy shampoos on this list have ‘fragrance’ listed as an ingredient, which is probably some kind of synthetic fragrance. Artificial fragrances are more likely to irritate your pup’s skin than natural fragrance derived from a pure ingredient (such as chamomile and eucalyptus) and in extreme cases, some synthetic fragrances have been linked to cancer and developmental problems. It’s also more likely that phthalates will be present, which are used to bond the fragrance to other ingredients, and these can disrupt your dog’s hormones, leading to endocrine system issues. The reason artificial fragrance is still in many puppy shampoos, despite these concerns, is that natural fragrance is not usually as strong, and your dog may not end up smelling as fresh and clean as you would like after his bath. However, if your pup has very sensitive skin, you should avoid artificial fragrances, and even if he doesn’t, it’s still preferable to choose one with only natural fragrance, if at all possible – a lack of strong scent is a small price to pay for your gorgeous puppy’s healthy skin, after all!
Human Shampoo vs. Puppy Shampoo
Generally speaking, the answer to the question, ‘Can dogs use human shampoo?’ is a big, fat, ‘No!’. Human shampoo is too harsh to use on your puppy’s skin. This is because dogs’ skin has fewer layers than human skin, and so is more sensitive – using human shampoo on your pup can cause dryness and, in extreme cases, abrasions. Dog skin also has a higher pH level than human skin, meaning it is more alkaline. Using a shampoo that is formulated for more acidic human skin on your pup can break down their acid mantle (the protective layer which covers the skin), and leave them vulnerable to all kinds of bacteria and parasites. In contrast, specialized puppy shampoos have a neutral pH, or are pH-balanced to suit dogs’ alkaline skin. You should always try to use a specific puppy shampoo for your mucky mutt if possible.
Puppy Skin Problems
- Dry, itchy skin
Dry, itchy skin, also called pruritus, is one of the most common puppy skin problems, and, if it persists, can lead to further issues, such as lesions, sores and infections. If your puppy has dry skin, or any other skin problem, you should consult your veterinarian for advice on treatment, whether or not bathing will help, and which shampoo to use. Most likely, they will recommend a very gentle shampoo, with natural moisturizers, such as Aloe Vera, and to definitely avoid any drying ingredients, such as alcohol. Supplements or foods containing high levels of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids may also be prescribed to help combat dry skin in your furry friend.
If your pup has itchy skin that they consistently scratch, it could lead to sores and moist dermatitis. These can also be a result of parasites, such as ticks or fleas, particularly if you haven’t treated your puppy for these lately. Look out for sore-looking, sticky red patches on your dog’s skin, and if you notice anything, consult your vet immediately for treatment advice.
One of the main causes of dry, itchy skin in your puppy is an allergic reaction. This could be due to either fleas and ticks, food, or their environment. Flea bites are always itchy, but it is possible for your pup to also be allergic to them, making them scratch incessantly after just one bite – we know, life just isn’t fair sometimes! You’ll need to treat your puppy, as well as any other pets, with a flea treatment to solve the problem. Food allergies are rare in puppies, but it’s something you may need to rule out if there’s no other obvious cause for your dog’s itchy skin – ask your vet for advice. To diagnose a food allergy, you’ll have to isolate and eliminate individual foods from your pup’s diet, and monitor their skin closely for any change. Environmental factors your dog may be allergic to include pollen, spores and grass. These are harder to avoid, and your puppy may need shots from the vet to help them manage it.
Your pup can also get psoriasis, sometimes as a result of their allergies, but it can also be due to a compromised immune system or an excess production of cells. As well as itchy, flaky skin, you should look out for silvery or red scaly patches on your dog’s skin, that can indicate psoriasis. As always, consult your veterinarian if you suspect psoriasis, who will likely prescribe a special, medicated shampoo or cream to treat it, as well as supplements such as omega fatty acids, Vitamin C and Vitamin D.
Best Puppy Shampoos FAQ:
Q: Does my puppy need bathing?
A: Whilst most dogs don’t require frequent bathing, it is likely that your puppy will benefit from the occasional bath. Bathing can help remove dirt, fleas and ticks, keeping your dog’s skin and coat healthy, as well as remove allergens, such as pollen – not to mention eliminate odor! If your puppy has allergies or a particular skin condition, regular bathing may even be essential to their health – but only if advised by your veterinarian. In addition to the occasional bath, you should also make sure to brush your pup’s coat regularly, to help remove unwanted debris and allergens - as well as keep them looking extra adorable!
Q: How often should I need to bathe my puppy?
A: This really depends on the type of puppy you have, their health and their lifestyle. A long-haired, country dog who runs through muddy fields and puddles on a daily basis will likely need bathing more regularly than a short-haired pup who resides in the city. As a general rule, most healthy dogs don’t need to be bathed too often – aim to bathe your puppy once every 2 months, and more if they need it. However, you should be very careful not to bathe your pup too often, as this can dry out their skin, causing irritation, as well as damage hair follicles and strip their coat of its natural oils, leaving it feeling rough and brittle. In extreme cases, over-bathing can even lead to bacterial and fungal infections for your furry friend.
Q: Are puppy shampoos safe?
A: Yes, puppy shampoos are generally safe, providing you choose one that is made from natural ingredients, especially designed for dogs and free from any harsh chemicals or irritants (see list above). Even with a 100% natural puppy shampoo though, there is a small chance your pup could be allergic, or that it could dry out his skin or irritate his eyes. To avoid an allergic reaction, perform a skin test on a small patch of your puppy’s skin 48 hours prior to bathing him, and monitor the area for any signs of inflammation. During a bath, if your pup gets shampoo in his eyes, rinse it out immediately with warm water. After bathing, check your pup’s skin to make sure it doesn’t appear dry or itchy.
Q: Can I use baby shampoo on a dog?
A: You may be wondering, ‘Can you you use baby shampoo on dogs?’, as surely it’s specially formulated for sensitive skin, and to be as gentle and tear-free as possible, right? Well, not exactly - even though baby shampoo is less harsh than adult shampoo, it is still not formulated for dogs’ skin, and so is not the ideal choice for a puppy. However, if you really need to give your dog a bath, and you don’t have any specialized puppy shampoo on-hand, a baby shampoo such as Johnson & Johnson Baby Shampoo can be used as a suitable alternative, on occasion.
Our Top Pick
Ultimately, although there are some truly great puppy shampoos in this list, our top pick has to be the Earthbath All Natural Puppy Shampoo. It’s a top rated shampoo with all the right ingredients, including aloe, coconut-based cleansers and cherry essence, all of which make the shampoo pH-balanced, safe and non-irritating to your dog – as well as 100% biodegradable. So, what are you waiting for? Get that bath running, wrestle your squirmy pup into the tub and prepare for him to come up smelling of… cherries!