Everything you need to know about dog shampoo

He doesn't want to shower

Make sure you choose the right dog shampoo for your dog! (Photo credit: sestovic/Getty Images)

Even dogs that find a bath cruel and unusual should get one every now and then. While some dogs with short coats get away with just a rinse of water, most dogs require shampoo.

Why do dogs need their own kind of shampoo? Why can’t they just use whatever you use on yourself?

Well, human shampoos can damage dogs’ fur. Dog shampoo manufacturers say their products are gentle enough to not strip the natural oils in a dog’s coat, but strong enough to get the dirt out.

And here’s one item that might not make you feel very good about your own beauty regimen: Some shampoos designed for human hair can irritate your dog’s skin because they can contain more harsh cleansers.

So use shampoos labeled specifically for dogs, or a gentle baby shampoo for humans that your vet recommends. Here’s what you need to know about dog shampoo.

The best shampoo is the one that suits you

There are many different kinds of dog shampoos, just like there are different kinds of shampoos for humans. The best way to find out which one your dog needs is to: ask your vet or professional groomer for advise.

Some dog shampoos are designed for certain coat types and some are specific to puppies. There are many things to consider!

Here are a few of the types of dog shampoo you may need to look for:

  • No more tears: Just like we have baby shampoos, there are very gentle puppy shampoos available.
  • Brightening/bleaching: These are for dogs that should be sparkling white after a bath as opposed to the beige mess they were before.
  • Waterless or flush-free: Using a dry shampoo or powder will minimally clear up the grime, but they’re only for quick fixes. Your dog won’t get super clean and a few days later the coat may feel even dirtier or stickier than before you used it.
  • Deodorize: These shampoos are an excellent idea for a dog that has just rolled in a dead rodent or fresh poop. Keep in mind that deodorizing shampoos are not always powerful enough to relieve “eau de skunk”.
  • Stamping Skunk: Technically, this isn’t a shampoo, but it’s more effective against stinky skunks than deodorizing shampoo or that useless tomato-based mixture. Mix 1 quart of 3 percent hydrogen peroxide, 1/4 cup of baking soda, and 1 teaspoon of liquid soap. Mix and apply immediately, then rinse thoroughly.

Medicated shampoos for special circumstances


Medicated shampoos can help you deal with certain problems, such as keeping fleas away, relieving itching, and healing scabies. However, they are much more difficult to use due to the simple fact that in order to be effective, most will need to be left on your dog for ten minutes before rinsing.

That’s ten solid minutes on a soaked, smelly, irritated dog who finds 30 seconds long — so cover the bathroom floor with plenty of towels before you start the process.

Here are a few types of medicated shampoos for dogs:

  • Fleas and ticks: These shampoos help keep the parasites at bay. Some are also effective against lice.
  • Hypoallergenic: Look for one of these shampoos if you have dogs with allergies or sensitivity to fragrances or other ingredients in regular shampoos.
  • Anti-itch: These shampoos contain anti-itching and anti-inflammatory properties, such as hydrocortisone or lidocaine. You can buy most of them over the counter.
  • Recipe: For some conditions, such as mange, your vet may prescribe medicated shampoo as part of the treatment.

What shampoo do you use for your dog? Does your dog hate or love baths? Let us know in the comments below!

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