10 Best Puppy Shampoos: Our Best Smelling Pick with Answers to FAQ’s

best puppy shampoos

Does your puppy need a bath? We can tell you everything you need to know about puppy shampoos in this article, such as:

  1. Tips for bathing your puppy;
  2. What to look for in a shampoo for puppies;
  3. The best overall shampoo for puppies;
  4. And give you puppy shampoo reviews.

Whether you need a natural puppy shampoo, a puppy shampoo for dry skin, or just the best puppy shampoo you can find, we can help.

Puppies always look so cute and sweet. People like to talk about “puppy breath” and the precious scent of puppies or how they could just “eat them up” because they’re so adorable. Those things are all true – part of the time. But people tend to forget that puppies can be little hellions, too. They don’t always smell good. And sometimes they like nothing better than rolling in mud, digging in your garden, or finding something like chum on the beach to play with. There are definitely times when a puppy needs a bath with a good puppy shampoo just to be in the same room with you!

Choosing a good shampoo for your puppy isn’t always easy. Some puppy shampoos say they can be used on puppies that are over 8 weeks old or over 12 weeks. Some puppy shampoos don’t give an age, leaving you to wonder if the shampoo is safe to use on younger pups. There are other questions you might have, too, such as whether your puppy needs a tearless shampoo or not. Is a puppy shampoo safe to use with flea and tick products? Are there any ingredients you should avoid in puppy shampoos? We can help you with answers to all of these questions so you can choose the best shampoo for your puppy.

10 Tips for Bathing a Puppy

We recommend that you start giving your puppy a bath at an early age. Like grooming, training, and other things, puppies learn fast when they are young and if they have good experiences at this age, it can make things easier for the rest of their lives. Here are some tips to make your puppy’s first bath go smoothly.

  1. Make your puppy’s bath experience positive by giving him treats before and after the bath. Praise him and pet him throughout the bath process.
  2. Spend a little time brushing your puppy before the bath. This will remove any tangles in his coat, loosen any dead fur, and it should help soothe him. Be sure to reward him with treats while you’re brushing him.
  3. Make sure the water is warm so it will be comfortable or him. Cold water or hot water will both be unpleasant for your puppy.
  4. If you have a Toy puppy or another very small puppy, we suggest using your kitchen sink for the bath so you can have good control and it’s comfortable for both of you. For larger puppies, use your bathtub. If you have a kitchen nozzle or a detachable shower head, that’s even better. If not, use a bowl or a large measuring cup so you can gently pour warm water over your puppy to wet him and rinse him.
  5. If you’re using the bathtub, we recommend putting down a non-slip mat in the tub so your puppy won’t slip and slide while you’re bathing him. He’ll be more comfortable if his footing is secure.
  6. Make sure you avoid getting water or soap in your dog’s face, eyes, and ears. Try to keep his head tilted upwards so any water will run back toward the body instead of toward his head. Don’t rinse out your puppy’s ears with water. Water in the ears is a frequent cause of ear infections. Many people like to put part of a cotton ball in their puppy’s ears to keep water out during the bath.
  7. Apply the shampoo down your puppy’s back and gently rub in into his coat. Be sure to wash his stomach, legs, chest, and tail.
  8. Rinse your puppy thoroughly with warm water. Rinse some more. Any soap left behind can make your puppy feel itchy and lead to hot spots. Rinse until the water runs clear.
  9. Pat your puppy dry with an absorbent towel. You can blow dry your puppy if he has longer hair or let him air dry.
  10. Be sure to give your puppy more treats and praise him after his bath so he will be happy to get a bath the next time.

This youtube video shows a small puppy getting a bath. This groomer has a professional tub but otherwise follows the same tips we have suggested:

What to Look for in a Shampoo for Puppies

When you’re choosing a shampoo for your puppy, there are several things to look for beyond what you would normally consider for a puppy shampoo.

Puppy shampoos should be unscented or have a mild, natural scent such as lavender. That’s because scents can be chemically added to some shampoos and they can irritate your puppy’s skin. If you like a scented shampoo, choose one with a natural scent so it’s less likely to cause irritation. Keep in mind that puppies and dogs are much more sensitive to smells than we are. If you choose a scent that is very strong, it’s very likely that your puppy won’t like it.

Most puppies need a gentle, non-medicated shampoo. These shampoos are mild cleansers that are formulated for a puppy’s delicate skin. Puppies rarely start to show skin problems such as dry skin or irritation due to allergies when they are young. Allergies don’t usually manifest until a dog is at least six months old and usually closer to two years old. Keep things simple with a gentle shampoo unless you see signs that your puppy is having skin problems of some kind. This usually means a shampoo with fewer ingredients.

If your puppy is showing signs of skin problems, look for shampoos with natural ingredients such as oatmeal, honey, and vitamin E. If his skin condition doesn’t clear up or if it worsens, let your veterinarian try to identify your puppy’s problem. Talk to him or her about a medicated shampoo.

Reading shampoo labels for their ingredients can be very tricky. Shampoos are notorious for being vague about their ingredients so it’s often hard to tell what exactly is in a product. Many pet shampoos are guilty of something called greenwashing in which they try to make their products sound more environmentally-friendly than they actually are.

In general, we can recommend that you avoid shampoos that contain sulfates, phthalates, and parabens, but, honestly, with the way ingredients are glossed over in pet shampoos, it’s difficult to know exactly which shampoos do and don’t contain some of these ingredients unless the company specifically states they don’t contain these ingredients. Other ingredients to avoid include: artificial coloring such as D&C, FD&C, or Yellow 5. Try to avoid Cocomide DEA or MEA. These ingredients are made from coconut but they can still be harmful to your dog. The same is true for Cocamidopropyl Betaine. The ingredients doazolidinyl urea, imidazolidinyl urea or quarternium-15 release formaldehyde so you should avoid them. Isopropyl or rubbing alcohol turns into acetone in the body. It can also be listed as isopropanol, 2-propanol, and propyl. Another ingredient to avoid is Methylchloroisothiazolinone – a known carcinogen.

The concern with many of these ingredients is due to the fact that any residue left on your dog or puppy’s skin or coat can be licked by your pet. Many times, ingesting these ingredients is worse than simply using them for bathing.

You can read more in-depth information about 20 ingredients to avoid in this article. We warn you that there aren’t many shampoos that are free of all 20 ingredients mentioned in this article. You can look for shampoos that are certified organic but that is only a small number. More shampoos are labeled “hypoallergenic.” This term is a little squishy but these shampoos are usually free of most ingredients you should avoid. Lots of shampoos claim to be “natural” but there is no legal meaning for this term in the world of shampoos.

Shampoo for puppies under 12 weeks

Earthbath Deodorizing Rosemary Dog & Cat Shampoo

Most shampoos, even those made for puppies, will state that they shouldn’t be used on puppies that are younger than 8-12 weeks old. So, what are you supposed to do if you have a very young puppy that positively stinks from rolling around in the cat’s litter box?

If you have a litter of puppies, mother dogs usually continue to lick and wash their puppies even after they are weaned. Weaning usually occurs between 3-6 weeks, depending on the mother. Some mothers can’t wait for the kids to stop nursing; while with other mothers you have to draw the line and make them stop nursing. As long as the mother is washing and cleaning the pups, there isn’t normally a need to bathe them unless you simply want to get them used to baths and grooming. Admittedly, a six-week-old pup that stinks from rolling around in poop would be a borderline case. If you want to give this puppy a bath, we would recommend a gentle deodorizing shampoo for puppies such as Earthbath Deodorizing Rosemary Dog & Cat Shampoo. In fact, this shampoo says that it can be used on puppies over six weeks old. So, problem solved.

In most states, puppies have to be at least 8 weeks old before you can legally buy them. This is true whether you buy a puppy from a pet store or from a breeder. So, most people won’t have to worry about bathing puppies that are younger than 8 weeks.

Best Overall Puppy Shampoo

4-Legger Organic, Hypo-Allergenic, Lemongrass & Aloe

There are not many certified organic shampoos for dogs but 4-Legger Organic, Hypoallergenic Lemongrass & Aloe Puppy Shampoo is one and it’s safe for puppies. We can’t swear that this shampoo is completely free of all 20 ingredients that you don’t want to see in your dog’s shampoo, but it is certified organic. It contains these ingredients: Saponified organic oils of coconut, olive, and jojoba, natural essential oil blend of rosemary and lemongrass, organic aloe vera, and rosemary extract. It’s hypoallergenic with no synthetic ingredients and nothing artificial. It has no sulfates, detergents, or parabens, and it’s vegan, so it has no animal ingredients. And it’s biodegradable. Made in the USA.

Best Puppy Shampoo with Oatmeal

Oster Oatmeal Naturals Gentle Puppy Shampoo

Oster Oatmeal Naturals Gentle Puppy Shampoo contains 100 percent natural oatmeal extract to soothe and protect your puppy’s skin. It moisturizes using natural wheat protein and gentle humectants. Contains more cleansing ingredients so it can lift more dirt and keep your puppy clean. The formula is pH balance and it has no dyes, parabens, phthalates, or alcohol so it’s gentle on a puppy’s skin. Has a long-lasting baby powder scent. Safe to use with topical flea treatments. Made in the USA.

Best Smelling Puppy Shampoo

Earthbath Ultra-Mild Wild Cherry Puppy Shampoo

Favorite scents are always subjective but we think Earthbath Ultra-Mild Wild Cherry Puppy Shampoo might qualify as the best smelling puppy shampoo. It’s also tearless, soap-free, and pH balanced for a puppy’s sensitive skin. It uses natural cleansers and aloe vera to soothe the skin and relieve itching. Can be used on puppies over 6 weeks old. Safe to use with topical flea treatments. It’s 100 percent biodegradable and it’s paraben and phosphate-free. Plus it has a lovely cherry scent. If you’re not fond of cherries, Earthbath makes several other shampoos that are suitable for puppies. Many people like the scent of Earthbath 2-in-1 Mango Tango Conditioning Dog & Cat Shampoo which can also be used on puppies over 6 weeks old.

Best Puppy Shampoo for Fleas and Ticks

Richard’s Organics Flea & Tick Shampoo

Richard’s Organics Flea & Tick Shampoo is a topseller on Chewy.com. It’s formulated to kill fleas and ticks and repel mosquitoes. It’s free of sulfate and parbens but it doesn’t contain harsh chemicals. Can be used on puppies 12 weeks and older. (Do not use on cats.) Contains cedarwood oil. According to the company, the ingredients are 100 percent naturally-derived with no artificial colors or fragrances. Includes five all-natural essential oils.

5 More Top Rated Shampoos for Puppies

Here are five more shampoos that we really like for puppies:

TropiClean Hypo-Allergenic Gentle Coconut Puppy & Kitten Shampoo

TropiClean Hypoallergenic Gentle Coconut Puppy & Kitten Shampoo is an extra-mild, soap-free formula that won’t irritate your puppy’s skin. It’s tear-free and made for puppies with allergies and sensitive skin. Washes away pet dander. It won’t interfere with spot-on flea or tick treatments. Can be used on older dogs and senior pets, too. It’s paraben-free. Has a coconut scent.

Isle of Dogs Tearless Puppy Shampoo

Isle of Dogs Tearless Puppy Shampoo is sulfate and paraben-free. It’s formulated for a puppy’s sensitive skin but keeps his coat fresh and clean. It’s tearless and won’t irritate your puppy’s eyes or skin. It has the Isle of Dogs signature cotton and fresh orchid scent. It won’t wash off topical flea and tick treatments. Isle of Dogs also has a complete line of shampoos, conditioners, and grooming products for adult dogs.

Burt’s Bees Care Plus+ Hydrating Coconut Oil Puppy Shampoo

Burt’s Bees has been popular for years with their line of human personal care products. Now they have ventured into shampoos and conditioners for dogs and many people like the results. Burt’s Bees Care Plus+ Hydrating Coconut Oil Puppy Shampoo is a good choice for any puppy that’s having problems with a dry, dehydrated coat. The shampoo is made to gently cleanse dirt and debris while the coconut oil moisturizes the coat. The coat is left feeling silky and healthier. It is pH-balanced for puppies. This formula is made with 98.2 percent natural ingredients. Made without sulfates, colorants, or added fragrances.

Nature’s Miracle Supreme Odor Control Natural Puppy Shampoo & Conditioner

Nature’s Miracle Supreme Odor Control Natural Puppy Shampoo & Conditioner is a soap-free formula that’s safe to use with spot-on flea and tick products. It contains no dyes, perfumes, or parabens. The gentle, tearless formula is suitable for sensitive puppy skin. This formula neutralizes odors, deodorizes, cleans the skin and coat, and conditions. It’s a natural cocoa surfactant shampoo so it can provide good cleaning, soft hair, reduced static, and keep your puppy clean for a long time. It contains no dyes or perfumes. Made in the USA.

TropiClean Opti Neem Flea & Tick Shampoo For Dogs

TropiClean Opti Neem Flea & Tick Shampoo For Dogs not only gets rid o the dirty dog smell from your puppy, it also relieves itchy skin from flea and tick bites. This formula is enriched with oatmeal to help soothe dry, itchy skin. It also uses neem oil and citrus to deter fleas and other pests. Deep-lathering and de-greasing that leaves your puppy with a clean, fresh citrus scent. Contains no soap and it’s made with 70 percent organic ingredients.

Answers to FAQ regarding bathing a Puppy

FAQ Regarding Bathing a Puppy

  • Can you use Baby Shampoo on a Puppy? – According to some online sources, veterinary dermatologists say that you can use Johnson & Johnson Baby Shampoo in a pinch, if you don’t have a puppy shampoo to use and it’s an emergency. However, if you repeatedly use a human baby shampoo on your puppy or dog, he will have skin problems. Humans and dogs have skin pH that is very different. Our skin pH is normally between 5.4 and 5.9 – very acidic. A dog’s skin has a pH between 6.2 and 7.4 which is in the neutral range. Using products that are made for acidic skin on a regular basis will irritate and dry out your puppy or dog’s skin. So, you may use a baby shampoo on your puppy once without any harm, but don’t make a habit of it.
  • Can I use Baby Wipes on a Puppy? – Again, you can get away with using baby wipes on a puppy a few times but if you make it a habit, you will run into the same problems with using baby shampoo on a puppy. Baby wipes are formulated for humans with an acidic pH and not puppies/dogs with a neutral pH. They can also contain ingredients that you might not want to use on your puppy. Instead of using baby wipes on your puppy, we recommend using wipes that are made for puppies and dogs. Earthbath, TropiClean, and many other pet companies make popular grooming wipes for puppies and dogs.
  • Is it OK to wash a dog with human shampoos? – In an emergency you can use a human shampoo to bathe your dog but it’s not recommended on a regular basis. Using a human shampoo on your dog’s skin and coat will dry them out, strip out the coat’s natural oils, and can lead to skin irritation and other skin problems. If you have to use a human shampoo to bathe your dog, we suggest finding a good puppy shampoo and conditioner to use in the future.

Conclusion

Puppies younger than 8 weeks don’t usually need a bath but if you have a litter of pups you can find some shampoos that are safe to use on puppies as young as six week of age. Most young puppies only need a simple, gentle puppy shampoo. There’s no need to bathe your puppy too often. Most puppies only need to be bathed when they get dirty or once every month or two. If your puppy has any skin issues, you can find some good shampoos for various problems such as oatmeal shampoos, flea and tick shampoos, and deodorizing shampoos. In an emergency, you can use a human baby shampoo to bathe your puppy but if you use a baby shampoo on your puppy repeatedly, your puppy will likely have dry, irritated skin. Look for a good, gentle puppy shampoo instead.

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