recommended by experts

The Best Dog Shampoos, According to Veterinarians and Groomers

Photo-Illustration: retailers

When you choose your own shampoo, it’s not — or shouldn’t be — without considering factors like hair type and skin sensitivity. The same is true when shopping for a dog shampoo, according to the experts we spoke with. From delicate skin to high-shed coats, every dog has unique needs that, along with the purpose of any bath, should inform your search for a shampoo, explains veterinarian Dr. Liz Bales. “Is your goal to wash off the mud they just rolled in? Do they have a bacterial infection you need to control? Are they itchy? Do they have fleas? Do they smell bad? All these problems require different shampoos,” Bales says. In speaking to her and four other vets and groomers, we heard from many that it’s hard to name one shampoo as the best for all dogs in all situations. But depending on the needs of your dog and what you’re hoping to get from bath time — whether a healthier coat, a better smell, or less itching — they do have recommendations for everyday shampoos and stronger, medicated options to treat more serious conditions.

As a general rule, Dr. Jamie Richardson, the medical chief of staff at Small Door Veterinary, says you should look for shampoos with ingredients known to be sensitive on skin to minimize any unwanted irritation. According to her, such ingredients include aloe vera, colloidal oatmeal, avocado oil, marshmallow root, and coconut oil. Richardson warns to steer clear of shampoos that are too heavily scented because “dogs have much more sensitive noses than humans.” Bales adds that the effectiveness of any shampoo hinges on using proper bathing techniques, reminding dog owners not to just squirt a product onto a dog’s hair or fur. “Would you just dump shampoo right onto your scalp? No, you put it in your hands first. The same consideration should be used for your dog,” she says, because most shampoos, especially medicated ones, also tend to be highly concentrated. The experts note to rinse off all shampoo thoroughly after a bath, ensuring there are no leftover suds, before drying a dog off all over — including “the ears and any skin folds to avoid infections,” says Richardson. Read on for the nine shampoos our experts recommend, which include formulas for everyday cleansing, freshening up coats, treating itchy skin, and more. While none of the shampoos require a prescription, it’s always a good idea to consult with your vet before trying a new one to ensure it won’t lead to any unwanted surprises.

Best dog shampoo for regular cleansing

If you’re looking for an effective shampoo to clean the dirt and grime of daily life from a dog, Richardson likes the products from Pride and Groom. As she explains, the brand’s philosophy is that “the quality of dog shampoo should be held to the same standards as products used for humans,” telling us its products are “all-natural and made with ingredients such as avocado oil for hydration and itchiness relief, and marshmallow root for killing bacteria and healing hot spots.” While the experts say all of the shampoos on this list work on coats of fur or hair, Richardson notes that Pride and Groom has distinct formulations for each type, a choice she appreciates. The Shedder Shampoo is made for dogs with thicker fur that can fall out and develop dander, while the Non-Shedder Shampoo is for dogs with finer hair. (There’s also an option for sensitive-skinned dogs of any coat type.) This writer (Chloe Anello) is another fan of the brand. She started using The Non-Shedder on her miniature schnauzer mix, Rudy, after consulting with her vet, who told her that the product is a good first step for any dog that also needs to use a stronger medicated shampoo because this will remove dirt and cleanse skin, allowing a medicated shampoo’s ingredients to be more effective.

Best dog shampoo for sensitive skin

Veterinarian Dr. Alex Schechter of Pure Paws Veterinary Care calls this shampoo a “fantastic, safe, natural product that is also cost-effective.” The colloidal-oatmeal-and-aloe formula will not only relieve dry, itchy skin, but also helps to balance pH levels, resulting in coats (of hair or fur) looking extra-fresh, he says. Strategist audience development director Stephanie Downes uses this on her Yorkshire terrier, Oak: It’s “nothing special or fancy” but “gets the job done,” she says. Strategist contributor Chantel Tattoli also uses it on her (human) mane, writing that the shampoo never “leaves a film on or strips my hair” and, because of its minimal ingredients (that include no fragrances), helps relieve itching and dry skin “better than dozens of other hypoallergenic shampoos I’ve tried