Top 5 Best Puppy Shampoos

Latest Update July 6, 2017

Here's the Scoop on Choosing the Best Shampoo for Puppies

You might be tempted to bathe your puppy with human baby shampoo, but even mild human baby shampoo can harm a dog's sensitive skin. Human shampoo of any type, whether for a baby or an adult, is too harsh for a dog's sensitive skin and hair, especially puppies!

There are still plenty of times where puppies will need a bath and plain water isn't going to get them clean enough. As naturally curious, playful animals, puppies explore the world through their mouths, noses and constant play.

They can and do get into the garbage, roll in the mud, and get themselves covered in all types of unpleasant substances. They can also develop skin or food allergies, or have trouble with fleas and ticks.

Commercial dog shampoo is sometimes made to satisfy owner concerns like an ultra-shiny white coat and a sweet, heavily perfumed scent. Strong artificial scents and dyes can strip the natural oils from your puppy's skin and cause an allergic reaction.

Of even more concern, manufacturers aren't required to specify every ingredient in pet products. In order to select the best puppy shampoo, you need to know the ingredients, know what to avoid, and which ingredients are the best, safest choices.

Human Shampoo vs. Puppy Shampoo

A lot of owners wonder why they can't use their own favorite shampoo and conditioner on their dogs. Cesar "The Dog Whisperer" Millan says that human scalps are less sensitive than a dog's hair and skin.

Human shampoo is designed to strip wax and oil from our hair and scalp and, usually, provide a pleasant perfumed scent. Dogs don't have the same oil glands and their coats don't get waxy, so human shampoo will leave your dog's coat dull and brittle.

Human shampoo can easily cause rashes in dogs. It can also lead to severe tangling in longer or curly coats.

Puppy Skin & Hair is Even More Sensitive

Even more than adult dogs, puppies have sensitive skin and hair. They are easily susceptible to rashes from food and environmental allergies.

Dogs usually develop food allergies at older ages, so puppies with itchy, red skin are likely suffering from a flea allergy or contact dermatitis (an allergic skin reaction).

Some dogs have similar allergic reactions to inhaled substances, like pollen, as humans. Allergic reactions can easily spread to the skin, especially in a puppy with a developing immune system.

Special Skin Problems

Few things strike more fear in pet owners' hearts than hearing the word "mange." There are two types of mange, and one, demodectic mange, comes from a type of skin mite that occurs naturally in a puppy's skin.

Puppies with still-developing immune systems can develop demodectic mange. They'll grow out of it, but in the meantime, their sensitive skill will itch and burn.

Contact allergies are another type of sensitive skin problem. Some puppies will develop rashes on their stomach or collar area because they are allergic to materials in their collar, or from carpet cleaners or the carpet itself.

Does Your Puppy Need Bathing?

Since many shampoos could contain potentially harmful or harsh ingredients, you might wonder if your puppy needs a bath at all. Under ordinary circumstances, your puppy doesn't need constant bathing.

However, puppies are curious and into everything. They can easily get into things that smell, or are, bad for them. When your puppy gets dirty, a bath is needed.

Problems and Solutions

Depending on which problem your puppy is experiencing, or that you want to avoid, the type of shampoo you choose should be oriented to your puppy's needs. A few specific problems have specific solutions in shampoo types and ingredients:

  • Sensitive skin and eyes
  • Odor-eliminating
  • Shiny, supple coat
  • Preserving white or light color
  • Fleas and ticks

Read Labels for Ingredients to Avoid

Puppies have also been known to lap at water during their bath and could swallow toxic or unhealthy chemicals. For this reason alone, you will want to be careful about reading the labels on any shampoo or soap you choose for your puppy.

Artificial scents and colors are especially harsh on a puppy's skin. They can easily get in your puppy's eyes while bathing: just like a human baby, this is painful and will cause crying and distress.

Whole Dog Journal published a list of shampoo ingredients to avoid:

  • Anise oil
  • Boric acid
  • Benzene hexacholoride
  • Benzethonium chloride
  • Chloranil
  • DDD
  • Depentene
  • Dimethyl phthalate
  • Menthols
  • Napthalene
  • Pine tar
  • Sodium arsenite
  • Sodium cresylate
  • Xylene

Some pet shampoos do not list ingredients, because they are not required to list them by law. For this reason alone, we only reviewed shampoo with listed ingredients, so you can know exactly what you using on your puppy's sensitive skin and fur.

Different Ingredients for Different Needs

It's true that dogs in the wild don't take baths and somehow, they manage to get by and survive. But they also aren't exposed to the chemicals in human homes, and they aren't expected to share a home with a human owner or children.

Baths are important to keep your puppy clean both for you, and the puppy's well-being. Depending on your puppy's skin and fur type, as well as other special needs such as allergic or sensitive skin, some ingredients like oatmeal might be a good choice, while other puppies won't need them.

Soothing Ingredients

Aloe, chamomile, rosemary and oatmeal are soothing ingredients that calm the skin. Natural herbal scents like chamomile and rosemary seldom irritate puppy skin or eyes.

Safe Cleansing Ingredients

Many people notice that safe, non-toxic shampoo for their pets and even their own hair often makes less suds than less-safe toxic cleansers.

Shea butter, Aloe Vera, coconut oil, olive oil, argan oil, and non-sulfate cleansing ingredients are safe.

Anti-Flea and Tick Ingredients

Most commercial anti-flea shampoos or sprays are full of toxic ingredients and if they are advertised as "pesticides," that is exactly what they contain. Gentle herbal shampoos are the safest option, according to PETA.

While you are bathing your puppy, fleas can jump around to avoid the water. You can make a ring of shampoo around your puppy's neck to prevent the pests from jumping onto his or her face and eyes.

Main Qualities to Look For

The best shampoo for your puppy will be one that is right for his or her unique skin and fur, but you shouldn't compromise by guessing at ingredients. If you are considering a shampoo that doesn't list its ingredients, chances are there could be some chemicals that could hurt your puppy.

The number-one criteria on any puppy shampoo you choose is clearly-identified ingredients. After that, make sure there are no toxic pesticides, additives, artificial colors or dyes, or environmentally harsh sulfates or other toxic ingredients.

Natural and gentle ingredients are always best. Don't expect a lot of suds or bubbles. Gentle, safe shampoos don't produce much lather.

Lather in and of itself doesn't mean your puppy is getting clean. You could just be stripping natural oils from his or her skin.

You should avoid shampoos with ingredients like sulfates, or propylene glycol (anti-freeze). These ingredients may have temporary softening effects on your puppy's coat but are highly allergenic and environmentally unsafe. Propylene glycol is anti-freeze, and it is poisonous if swallowed by animals or humans.

Our Top 5 Picks for the Best Puppy Shampoos

1. Particular Paws Hypoallergenic Dog and Cat Shampoo

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It's hard to imagine a shampoo being liked by both puppies and kittens, but Particular Paws' hypoallergenic shampoo seems to work for both. This shampoo is formulated with a fairly short list of ingredients with only a few items that might cause problem reactions.

Soothing ingredients include aloe vera, chamomile, rosemary and honey. Some owners say the shampoo has a light coconut scent, while others pick up more on the chamomile and rosemary floral and herb scents.

Particular Paws shampoo does have some "anonymous" ingredients, including "mild surfactant blend," which is a commonly-used shampoo ingredient for human and pet products. The shampoo also includes unidentified "fragrance," which could lead to allergic reactions.

Owners praised the shampoo's odor and sudsing ability, and few noted any allergic problems. Particular Paws advertises its product for both cats and dogs, but most people who use it have puppies, not kittens.

Things We Liked
  • Simple, short list of ingredients
  • Good scent
  • Good cleaning ability
  • Few problems with allergies or sensitivities noticed by owners
Things We Didn't Like
  • "Mystery" fragrance and other ingredients
  • Synthetic beeswax, which could clog pores
  • Product designed for cats and dogs alike

2. OxGord Natural Oatmeal Dog Shampoo and Conditioner

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Another product that is advertised as being suitable for both cats and dogs, OxGord's oatmeal-formula shampoo is design to clean, deodorize, detangle and moisturize. The shampoo contains colloidal oatmeal which is known to be soothing to the skin, and extracts of aloe, rosemary, borage and chamomile, all of which are fragrant, gentle herbs.

OxGord advertises its shampoo as vegan, but it is not organic. There are several ingredients which are often used as preservatives or industrial surfactants (sudsing), including Polysorbate 20, Methylchloroisothiazolinone and Methylisothiazolinone.

OxGord advertises the shampoo as medicated and a "clinical vet formula." Colloidal oatmeal is often prescribed for puppy and other pet skin conditions. But many of the herbal ingredients aren't "medication," they are natural cleansing and soothing herbs.

Few owners mentioned any problems with the shampoo, and most said their puppies got clean and had softer, shinier fur. The shampoo didn't seem to cause any allergic reactions, but it also didn't relieve itching puppies right away.

Things We Liked
  • Soothing ingredients, especially oatmeal
  • Good cleaning ability
  • Many owners said their puppy's fur was softer and easier to manage
Things We Didn't Like
  • Some potentially harsh chemical ingredients
  • Non-medicinal ingredients advertised as "medicated"
  • Some owners noticed variations in product color and scent

3. Burts Bees Puppy Tearless 2 in 1 Shampoo

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Burts Bees is a trusted manufacturer of natural, environmentally-sustainable cosmetics, soaps and shampoos for humans. Can the company make a good puppy shampoo as gentle on the puppy's skin as it is good for the environment?

The first sign the product could be good for puppies is the simple ingredient list. Coconut derivatives highlight the list, along with honey, colloidal oatmeal, linseed oil, and buttermilk powder.

The shampoo does contain beeswax, which is a common ingredient in products that are supposed to clean and condition at the same time. Most dogs have no trouble with beeswax but it can clog pores. Owners loved the product's scent, and it caused few, if any, allergic reactions.

Things We Liked
  • Short, simple ingredient list
  • No problems with allergies or problem reactions
  • Gentle 'no tears' formula
Things We Didn't Like
  • A combined shampoo and conditioner formula can make some puppy fur feel greasy
  • May foam too little to get dirty puppies clean
  • Lacks some popular herbal ingredients known to soothe irritated skin

4. Isle of Dogs Tearless Puppy Shampoo

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This puppy shampoo is used by some groomers and salons and it will impart a fresh, sweet scent to your puppy after his or her bath. Owners say their puppies have lapped up the water during their bath with no ill effects, so the formula isn't highly toxic. The shampoo does contain artificial colors and several chemicals used in salon-based commercial formulas. It is sulfate and paraben free.

Most owners love the scent, which is artificial but appealing. This shampoo will clean your puppy has lots of faithful users. We noticed that some owners with puppies with light or white fur and a problem with tear-staining were able to painlessly wash the darkened areas. Isle of Dogs is particularly good for small, tear-stained faces.

Things We Liked
  • Sulfate-free, 'no tears' formula
  • Few problems with skin reactions
  • Good for tear stain removal and white fur
Things We Didn't Like
  • Artificial colors and fragrances
  • Other potentially harsh chemical ingredients
  • Strong scent is too much for some owners

5. Omega Pet Oatmeal Dog Shampoo for Itchy Skin

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With no sulfates and harsh cleansers, this shampoo does contain oat extract, aloe extract, shea butter and gentle fragrance. Owners say the shampoo has helped pets with some serious skin problems, including large crusty, itchy areas.

A lot of small dog owners have used the shampoo successfully, and it has been helpful with dry, flaking skin. It is 'tear-free' and has been successfully used on pug puppies and others with large eyes.

The biggest drawback to the shampoo is that it contains lanolin, an ingredient that causes skin reactions for some humans and pets. The shampoo's base price is also not as good a value than some other choices.

Things We Liked
  • Many positive owner reviews covering many breeds
  • Dogs enjoy the scent and lather
  • Helps serious skin problems
Things We Didn't Like
  • Contains lanolin, which can cause reactions
  • Doesn't list fragrance ingredients
  • Didn't rid some dogs of dander

Our Top Pick

Product labeling is changing with puppy grooming products. You may soon have an easier time determining which shampoo is best for your pet because manufacturers are providing better labeling and ingredients. We only reviewed shampoos with listed ingredients, and even among these better-labeled products, several didn't say what kind of fragrance or preservatives were included.

You want your puppy to be clean and enjoy bathtime, and you want their skin and fur to stay healthy and soft. Our choice for best puppy shampoo is Particular Paws Hypoallergenic Dog and Cat Shampoo. It contains the greatest amount of clearly-identified natural ingredients that are good for your puppy's skin and fur, including aloe vera, chamomile and rosemary.

Although it does have a light conditioning formula that can weigh down long coats or be too greasy for some dogs, overall, the ingredients are the simplest and most natural and the results are good. Some owners may want to have their puppy smell like human after-shave after a bath, and others are looking for products that will make their puppy's white coat gleam in the sun.

Particular Paws is overall, a safe, natural cleansing shampoo that won't hurt your puppy's sensitive eyes or skin but will get the cleaning job done.

Buyer's Guide to the Best Puppy Shampoo
Buyer's Guide to the Best Puppy Shampoo
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We cover the top 5 best puppy shampoos that can help with dry, itchy skin and are safe, effective and some are hypoallergenic.