Best Puppy Shampoo: Top 4 Safe, Effective Picks in 2022
By Ashley Turner Last Updated June 14, 2022
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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.
Our Top Picks for the Best Shampoo for Your Puppy
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 of Pet Shampoo
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
- Shiny, supple coat
- Preserving white or light color
- Fleas and ticks
Related: Best Whitening Shampoo for Dogs
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
- Dimethyl phthalate
- Pine tar
- Sodium arsenite
- Sodium cresylate
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 coat.
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, itchy skin, some ingredients like oatmeal might be a good choice, while other puppies won't need them.
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 harsh chemicals.
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 4 Picks for the Best Puppy Shampoos
1. Particular Paws Hypoallergenic Dog and Cat Shampoo
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 essential oil 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
Things We Didn't Like
2. Pet Care Sciences Tearless Puppy Shampoo and Conditioner
Pet Care Sciences Puppy Shampoo is another great option as it is safe and effective for your puppy. It uses a high quality professional grade all-natural formula to be gentle on your puppy's skin along with smelling great. It is designed to be used for puppies over 12 weeks old and can also be used for adult dogs that have sensitive skin.
The ingredients include plant-based surfactants derived from coconut, oatmeal and aloe extract. It does not have Sulfate, Parabens, Phosphate, MEA or DEA. The smell of the shampoo is a lovely, subtle coconut scent due to the coconut oil in the ingredients. The company is USA based and make several different types of shampoos, not just puppy shampoo.
Many customers liked the smell of the shampoo along with keeping dog fur super soft. There are a few customer complaints about the smell but far fewer than people who liked it. Also have seen a few complaints about showing 3 bottles in the picture but only getting one. They have seemed to fix this issue by showing only one bottle in the picture now. (The reasoning for showing the 3 bottles is so you can see the entire label. Many different products do this.)
Things We Liked
Things We Didn't Like
3. Burt's Bees Puppy 2 in 1 Tearless Shampoo
Burt's Bees is a trusted manufacturer of natural, environmentally-sustainable cosmetics, soaps and shampoos for humans. Can the company make a good natural 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
Things We Didn't Like
4. Isle of Dogs Tearless Puppy Shampoo
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
Things We Didn't Like
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.