4 Best Puppy Shampoos for a Gentle Clean

These soothing shampoos are designed for a puppy's soft skin.

Written By: Gemma Johnstone | Last Updated:

Puppies have delicate skin and a softer coat than adult dogs, so a mild puppy-specific shampoo can be important. Here are five of the best puppy shampoos, along with tips for choosing the right option.

A guide to the best shampoos for puppies
New puppies get up to lots of mischief, so it’s common for them to be covered in all sorts of muck. This means they inevitably need a bath at some point.

Adult dog shampoos can sometimes be too harsh for a puppy’s soft skin though. Several companies now produce ultra-mild puppy shampoos, to make bathing more comfortable for your young pup.

In this guide, we’ll explain why a puppy-specific shampoo is helpful, what to look for in a high-quality product, and suggest four of the best puppy shampoos available at the moment.

Our #1 Pick

Earthbath Puppy Shampoo

Earthbath Puppy Shampoo

Gentle shampoo that soothes the skin

Our top pick for a puppy dog shampoo is the Earthbath Ultra Mild. It’s a gentle shampoo that combines coconut-based ingredients with aloe vera and various vitamins, so it’s great for kindly washing your puppy’s coat.

Do You Really Need a Special Dog Shampoo for Puppies?

In short, yes. It’s often best to use a specially-formulated puppy shampoo for young dogs. Why is this though?

Firstly, human shampoos aren’t suitable for washing your puppy.

Human shampoos are designed for skin that’s more acidic than our canine companions. By using it on your puppy, you may disrupt the more alkaline ‘acid mantle’ – the protective pH layer that covers the skin. This could cause dryness and irritation, and even make your puppy more susceptible to picking up viruses and bacteria.

Many human shampoos also contain ingredients that can be harmful or irritating to dogs. These harsh chemicals may strip a dog’s coat of natural oils.

What about regular dog shampoos?

Some adult dog shampoos may be suitable for puppies. You should always check the label to see what age they are recommended for, and stick with those that have natural and gentle ingredients.

I recommend using a puppy shampoo until your dog gets his adult coat though. These shampoos are specially formulated for a puppy’s soft skin and fur. They contain gentler ingredients that minimise the chance of causing irritation or dryness, without stripping the coat of vital oils.

Be Careful With Medicated Shampoos

Unless directed by your vet, you shouldn’t use medicated shampoos or those designed to kill parasites, like fleas, on a young puppy. 

These shampoos are often not suitable for puppies under 12 weeks old – and some require your dog to be over six months. The medical ingredients are just too strong for your pup’s sensitive skin. 

If your young dog has an issue with their skin, such as fleas, you should always seek advice from your vet for a treatment plan. 

What to Look for in a High-Quality Puppy Shampoo

There are some key things to look for when selecting a good puppy shampoo. These include:

  • A gentle formula with minimal harsh chemicals. Steer clear of chemicals like harsh sulfates and artificial colors, which can dry the skin. This is particularly important if you know your pup has sensitive skin. Soap-free shampoos are also gentler for a puppy’s coat.
  • Moisturizing ingredients. Certain ingredients in dog shampoos are known for their hydrating, soothing and moisturising properties. Natural ingredients like aloe vera, shea butter, coconut oil and vitamin E are good examples. Colloidal oatmeal shampoo may also help with irritated or itchy skin.
  • Natural fragrance or unscented. Synthetic fragrances can be harsh on your dog’s skin and are more likely to cause an adverse reaction. Selecting a shampoo with a natural and specified fragrance – or even one that’s unscented – is a much better choice than one that lists ‘fragrance’ on the ingredient list. After all, you don’t know exactly what that contains.
  • Natural Ingredients. There’s a chance that individual dogs could experience a reaction to any ingredient, even a natural one. Natural ingredients are less likely to cause irritation and dryness than synthetic chemicals though. They are also often more environmentally friendly.
  • Paraben-free. Like sulfates, parabens are a potentially dangerous ingredient in shampoos. They are used as a chemical preservative, and have been linked with skin irritation. 
  • Transparent ingredient list. Some shampoos refer to ingredients as ‘blends’ or ‘mixes’ and don’t explicitly list all ingredients. This is often because they contain controversial components or artificial colors. Even if they are safe ingredients, a lack of transparency makes it more difficult to isolate a problem ingredient if your dog has a reaction.
  • Ingredients suited to your specific dog’s coat. If you have a long-haired or curly-coated breed that’s more prone to tangles, you may want to opt for a shampoo and conditioner in one. This could make it easier to brush out their coat after a bath. If you know your dog has sensitive skin, a hypoallergenic puppy shampoo with minimal and soothing ingredients could be a good choice (click here to learn more about hypoallergenic dog shampoos).

Some puppy shampoos are described as ‘tearless’, meaning their ingredients are less likely to cause irritation if they accidentally get into the eyes of a wiggly pup.

Of course, you want to avoid this happening, as any shampoo can cause discomfort if it goes in the eye. I recommend cleaning your puppy’s face with a damp cloth separately from bath time, to avoid getting shampoo in the eye.

If your dog has a skin condition, such as fungal infections, allergies or seborrhea, they may need a prescribed medicated shampoo. Diagnosis and treatment by a vet will be required. If you notice severe or prolonged symptoms like scratching, hot spots or dry skin, don’t delay in seeking advice. 

4 Best Puppy Shampoo Reviews

Listed below are four of our best puppy shampoo reviews, along with tips for choosing the right option for your pet.

1. Earthbath Puppy Shampoo (Our #1 Pick)

Earthbath ultra mild

This popular puppy shampoo from Earthbath is our top recommendation. It’s a gentle shampoo that’s great for bathing a puppy without causing irritation. It also contains ingredients that soothe your puppy’s coat and moisturize the skin.

The Earthbath Natural Puppy Shampoo contains coconut-based ingredients, and these can be beneficial for moisturising skin. It also contains aloe vera. Although this can be problematic for dogs if eaten, it has soothing and antibacterial properties when applied topically.

The addition of vitamins A, B, D and E has a variety of potential benefits. Vitamin E, in particular, is known for promoting healthy dog skin and coats. Studies have shown that it can also be beneficial for dogs with atopic dermatitis.

It’s also a convenient shampoo to use. The natural cherry fragrance isn’t too overpowering for your sensitive puppy, and a little goes a long way with this product.

One downside is that the ingredient list isn’t fully transparent. This could be an issue if you have a pup with allergies. An example is the ‘gentle conditioner & detangler.’ This could be great if you have a long-haired pup whose coat is prone to getting tangled, but the label doesn’t specify exactly what’s in it. 

Even so, we think the Earthbath All Natural Pet Shampoo is the best shampoo for puppies.

Note: All Earthbath’s products contain natural, biodegradable ingredients and are vegan-friendly. They are also made in the USA. 

2. Burt’s Bees for Puppies All-Natural Tearless Shampoo and Conditioner (Our #1 Combination Shampoo)

Burt's Bees for Puppis

If you have a long-haired puppy, or a breed that’s prone to getting knots and tangles, then selecting a shampoo with conditioning properties can be helpful. Conditioners can soften and moisturise the coat, making it easier to pull a brush through after bathing.

The Burt’s Bees All-Natural Tearless for Puppies is a good option in this category. It contains natural ingredients, is made in the USA, and comes in environmentally friendly bamboo and post-consumer recycled bottles. It also leaves your puppy’s coat feeling soft, shiny, and healthy.

This shampoo contains coco-betaine and coco-glucoside. Both are natural surfactants that are gentler than the chemical, sulfate-based ones commonly found in shampoo products. They help to effectively clean the hair and ensure a good lather. Coco-glucoside also has conditioning properties, hence the 2-in-1 nature of Burt’s Bees for Puppies. 

Other beneficial ingredients include honey, linseed oil and buttermilk powder. Linseed oil is believed to promote healthy and strong hair. Honey is a natural moisturiser and conditioner, and the buttermilk helps soften and nourish your dog’s coat.

It does have considerably more ingredients than the Earthbath shampoo though. So, if your pup has sensitive skin or allergies, you may want to choose a puppy shampoo with fewer ingredients.

3. TropiClean Hypoallergenic Gentle Puppy Shampoo (Great for Puppies With Allergies)

Tropiclean Gentle Coconut

If your pup has sensitive skin, it’s sensible to stick with a shampoo that doesn’t use harsh chemicals and has a minimal ingredient list. This reduces the chance of an allergic reaction and makes it easier to identify problematic ingredients.

The Tropiclean puppy shampoo has just five mild and natural ingredients, so it’s great for puppies with sensitive skin.

It’s made with a combination of coconut cleanser, aloe vera and vitamin E, to soothe and nourish skin. It also contains Avena Sativa Oatmeal. This may reduce skin inflammation, itchiness and other dermal conditions.

It doesn’t have a strong scent, which means your dog won’t be overpowered. But, if you want your pup to smell super fresh, this may not be your preferred choice.

4. Sofee & Co. Natural Oatmeal Puppy Shampoo (Great for Dry or Flaky Skin)

The Sofee & Co puppy shampoo is an all-natural and cruelty-free option that’s made in the USA. It contains oatmeal for its ability to soothe dry or flaky skin, plus the shampoo may help reduce tangles.

Along with the moisturising properties of oatmeal, the Sofee & Co contains a host of other beneficial ingredients. These include:

  • Argan oil. This is used in many human shampoos for its moisturising, conditioning and anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Hemp seed oil. This may help strengthen a delicate puppy coat.
  • Willow bark extract. This extract is thought to have soothing, conditioning and anti-inflammatory properties.

A downside is that the Sofee & Co Natural Puppy Shampoo has the most ingredients of all those on our list, so it may not be a great choice if your pooch has sensitive skin. It also lists ‘parfum’ as one of the ingredients, but doesn’t specify exactly what this is made from.

If you’re looking for an oatmeal dog shampoo that’s suitable for puppies, however, it’s an option to consider.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I Use Baby Shampoo on a Puppy?

While baby shampoos often contain gentler ingredients than those designed for adult humans, they still aren’t formulated for dogs.

It’s important to remember that human shampoos are formulated for much more frequent use and could also contain ingredients that are safe for humans, but toxic for dogs. They may also affect the pH levels of your puppy’s skin.

What About Puppy Conditioners?

While using a puppy conditioner isn’t essential for most dog breeds, it can be helpful if you have a pup with a long coat that’s prone to tangling. Conditioners moisturise and soften the hair, which makes brushing out tangles easier. They can also soothe dry skin.

As with shampoos, look for a conditioner without harsh chemicals and overpowering fragrances. It’s also possible to get 2-in-1 shampoos for puppies. These can be helpful if your pup isn’t keen on being bathed and you don’t want to prolong the experience.

The Earthbath Oatmeal and Aloe Conditioner is our top recommendation for a separate conditioner. It’s one of the best dog conditioners and is suitable for use on puppies over six weeks old. It also contains safe and natural ingredients.

Earthbath contains meadowfoam seed oil, a great natural moisturiser, along with oatmeal and aloe vera. The almond extract also acts as a softener and detangler.

How Old Should a Puppy be Before Bathing?

Unless there’s an emergency, it’s best to avoid bathing until a puppy is at least eight to twelve weeks old

Puppies struggle to regulate their body temperature. They don’t have as much body fat, and their coats tend to be thinner and less water-resistant. This makes it much easier for them to get dangerously cold.

For cleanup jobs before this age, using a damp cloth is a better alternative. When you do introduce a bath, you should dry your puppy as thoroughly as possible. Keep them inside in a warm location until fully dry.

Some shampoos are listed as only being suitable for puppies that are over 12 weeks. You should always check the label before bathing.

How Often Should Dogs Be Bathed?

This depends on the breed and lifestyle of your dog.

Pups who love to explore the undergrowth or roll in dirt are going to need more frequent bathing.  Breeds with lots skin folds, like a Bulldog, may also need more regular bathing to remove odors and bacteria.

Certain medical conditions also require regular medicated baths to keep the problem under control.

Ideally, you don’t want to be washing your dog more than once a month. Overly frequent bathing can strip the natural oils from your dog’s coat and cause dry or irritated skin. This is even more true for puppies, as they have naturally more sensitive skin and delicate coats. If you’re not sure whether your dog is being bathed too frequently, consult a vet or experienced groomer.

How Should I Bathe a Puppy?

It’s vital that bathing is a positive and fun experience for your puppy. A few stressful baths could turn into a lifelong fear of being washed. Here are a few tips:

  • Take it slowly. Don’t pick up your pup, stick them in the tub, blast the shower and force them to stay in place. This will only make your puppy scared of bathing and more uncooperative the next time around. Start by introducing a wet rag over their body before you go any further. Playing in the tub without any bathing can also be helpful.
  • Make it a positive experience. Make sure you’re armed with your pup’s favorite treats, so they’ll associate bath time with good things. If they need a lot of distractions, you could even invest in a lick mat. This can be attached to the tiles in the bathroom to keep them distracted with tasty peanut butter or another spreadable treat.
  • Get the water temperature right. Lukewarm water is ideal for a dog bath. Too hot and you could risk scalding your pup. Cold water is unpleasant and increases the chances of getting a chill.
  • Have a non-slip surface. Your pup could get stressed if they are slipping around on the shower or bathtub floor. Use a bath mat or towel to provide extra grip.
  • Involve other family members. It can be helpful to make bathing a two-person job – especially in the beginning. One of you can do the washing, while the other feeds treats, provides reassurance, and helps keep the puppy in the right place.
  • Don’t use shampoo at first. Start by rinsing your puppy with water only. This means the sessions can be short and more frequent, without worrying about the oil-stripping effects of shampoos.
  • Be careful around the face and ears. Pay special attention to ensure you don’t get shampoo in your puppy’s eyes – even if the shampoo is tearless. You don’t want lots of water going down the ear canal either. This can be difficult to dry out, and it can even lead to problems with ear infections.
  • A really good drying off is important. Make sure you thoroughly towel your dog off after a bath. If their coat is too wet, it can increase the chance of them developing a chill, especially during the winter. Don’t use a hair dryer though – these can be scary and too hot for your pet.

Tip: Looking for a comfortable bed for your puppy? Check out our guide to the best puppy beds. We’ve also written a complete guide to choosing toys for puppies.

Summary

A gentle and puppy-specific shampoo can be a worthwhile investment when washing a young dog. Look for one that contains minimal, natural and mild ingredients, and make sure you spend time getting your pup happy to be bathed with lots of positive reinforcement.

Our top pick is the Earthbath Puppy Shampoo. The natural ingredients make it gentle on a puppy’s soft skin, while the aloe vera helps to soothe any irritation. It also contains a combination of vitamins, such as Vitamin E, which are beneficial to your puppy’s coat.

I hope this article has helped you choose the best puppy shampoo for your dog. If you have any questions, let me know in the comments section.

Image of Gemma Johnstone

About The Author: Gemma Johnstone

Gemma is a freelance writer and official dog nut. With 15 years of experience in the pet industry, she is a passionate animal welfare advocate. She has worked for the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, ran her own specialist dog shop for ten years, has volunteered for her local rescue shelter, and is studying towards completing an Advanced Diploma in Canine Behaviour. Gemma is currently travelling around Europe with her wonderful rescue dog, Annie.