Puppies! You’ve got to love ’em, right? They’re eager to stick their noses into everything – even the things we really wish they wouldn’t. And of course, where the nose goes, the rest of them follows… right into the stink.
Of course, puppies don’t care. Their world is much more defined by smell than ours is, and most of them don’t seem to mind smelling bad, so long as they’d Had An Adventure.
But sometimes even the cutest of puppy eyes can’t make up for the smell, and that’s where puppy shampoo comes in.
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The Best Puppy Shampoo Options
There are any number of puppy shampoos on the market, ranging from all-natural to anti-flea, from scentless to super-scented, and everything in between. We’ve got you covered with the our top 5 picks, plus plenty of helpful pointers at the end of this post.
Sure, there are shampoos that are all about sweetening the scent of your favorite pup, but there’s also a responsibility on your shoulders as an owner.
Whatever they’ve rolled in, bounced through, or investigated a little too close for comfort, there’s a chance they may have picked up a tick or two, or even a whole flea circus.
A stinky dog is one thing, but a dog with fleas and ticks could scratch themselves till they bleed, get infected, or just be permanently uncomfortable.
With any luck, you won’t need Adams Plus Flea & Tick Shampoo with Precor too regularly, but it’s worth having in the house, just in case AdventurePup meets Critters and brings them home to meet the family.
Now, we’re not stupid, and neither are you. If your puppy has a flea or tick infestation, it’s probably going to take more than a shampoo to get them free and clear again.
But the Adams Plus will kill the passengers on contact, which will mean if you give the pup a thorough treatment with the shampoo, they’ll have some immediate relief and at least be clear of live fleas or ticks for as long as it takes to get them any further treatment they need.
The Adams Plus formula doesn’t just kill the fleas your puppy has right now, though. It goes on working for a full 28 days, so if any new hitch-hikers hop on board, it’s their last hop before the big one.
And it’s not just about killing the infestation, either. Part of the hell of a flea or tick infestation is the scratching, the itch your puppy can never seem to scratch enough. The itch that bites and jumps.
To help give them relief from that sensation, the Adams Plus shampoo contains some cooling, soothing ingredients like aloe and lanolin to ease the pain and the itching.
It will help give your poor puppy their mind back. It’ll soften their fur too, which is another way of giving them some ease after flea bites.
It’s easy to apply the Adams Plus shampoo – just get your puppy thoroughly wet, pump the shampoo onto their fur and rub in. Rinse off with warm water and towel gently dry.
Importantly, the Adams Plus shampoo is only suitable for pups of 12 weeks and older, and because of the medicated nature of the Adams Plus, you will need to take extra care to keep it away from their eyes while you apply it. If your dog is of the wiggly variety, it might be better to use a “tearless” shampoo instead.
The Adams Plus shampoo is half spa treatment (with a fresh coconut scent), half flea treatment, and it will help give your puppy relief from a potentially confusing and painful infestation.
That’s why it makes it to the top of our list when it comes to the best puppy shampoos.
- Kills fleas and ticks on contact, to give immediate relief
- Keeps killing fleas for 28 days, even if they’re unrelated to the original infestation
- Contains soothing elements to help calm inflamed skin
- Softens your puppy’s fur to help give them ease
- Only suitable for puppies over 12 weeks of age
We mentioned that the Adams Plus shampoo had to be kept out of your puppy’s eyes, because – well, anything that kills fleas on contact probably shouldn’t be anywhere near your eyes.
Burt’s Bees For Dogs Natural Tearless Puppy Shampoo is a gentle formula – so much so that it calls itself “tearless.”
Now, no one who loves puppies is going to go out of their way to test Burt’s Bees claim that their shampoo is safe if it gets into your puppy’s eyes. But with a soft and non-irritating formula that includes skin-softening buttermilk, but more importantly doesn’t include potentially harmful ingredients like sulfates and colorants, if the foam from the Burt’s Bees shampoo happens to get into their eyes, you can be reassured that it won’t do them any lasting damage.
We can’t promise they’ll like it very much, but then probably, neither would we! If it happens, be a good human and rinse the shampoo out with fresh water immediately,
The Burt’s Bees shampoo is pH-balanced, which means it won’t leave your puppy’s skin feeling overly dry. And because there’s honey in the mixture – you knew there would be, it’s Burt’s Bees – the shampoo will help the hair follicles in their coat retain moisture and grow healthily.
So – is your puppy going to smell like Cleopatra, all buttermilk and honey?
Only very faintly. It’s a very subtle scent, but with a nod to the nose of the pup and its incredible sensitivity, it’s not especially perfumed, so much as just deodorizing. They’ll smell like… well, mostly like clean dog, ready for the next adventure or the next cuddle.
- Very mild formula means it’s safe for your puppy’s eyes
- It’s a pH-balanced shampoo that won’t over-dry your puppy’s skin
- The scent is not overpowering, just the smell of clean dog
- Calling it a “tearless” shampoo goes too far – you should still avoid contact with your puppy’s eyes
A 5-in-1 shampoo for dogs? Who knew there was so much to do when shampooing a dog?
The point of the 5-in-1 from Pet Care Sciences is that it separates out a lot of the things you normally do when shampooing your puppy, like lifting the dirt out of their coat, detangling knots in their fur, and so on.
For all that’s a little underwhelming, it’s true that the 5-in-1 is the puppy equivalent of the human shampoos with conditioner and scalp moisturizer built in.
The shampoo gets your puppy clean. It also deodorizes them from whatever their latest cute but unspeakable adventure was. But then, rather than having to go through a complex bathing routine, the fact that the shampoo contains a conditioner and some ingredients that are kind to their skin does cut down the time you spend playing “Come here, you adorable monster!” with a frothy, excited puppy.
Yes, your puppy’s coat will be glossier and much less tangled when you use the 5-in-1 than when you use some other separate shampoos and conditioners – and you’re done in half the time.
As much as the pleasingly quick deodorizing session, Pet Care Sciences’ 5-in-1 shampoo is worth trying because it has a relatively natural list of ingredients. No sulfates, no parabens, no phosphates, just mostly coconut oil, oatmeal and aloe, for a shampoo that contains 96% natural ingredients.
If you want your puppy to have a mostly natural shampooing experience – or if you just want them to have a quick shampooing experience so they can smell like a fluffy, shiny coconut, rather than a matted, sticky, whatever-they-just-rolled-in, Pet Care Sciences’ 5-in-1 shampoo could be one to keep in the cabinet of puppy-scrubbing.
- It claims to perform five cleansing and skin-soothing actions in a single shampoo
- It conditions your puppy’s coat while it cleans
- It’s made of 96% all natural ingredients (no sulfates, parabens, or phosphates)
- The coconut scent can be a little strong
Sometimes, you need a clean puppy without all the hassle and water-spray and potential for YouTube video stardom that shampooing an enthusiastic puppy can leave you open to.
The Spruce Waterless Pet Wash is a different approach. Well, you probably already guessed that. Waterless is different, right?
Like some of the other shampoos on our list, this is completely pH-balanced, and free of harsh chemicals, parabens and dyes.
Instead of these chemicals, it uses plant-based enzymes to break down all the messes your curious puppy is carrying in their coat. You name it, there’s an enzyme in the Spruce Waterless Pet Wash to break it down. Feces, urine, eau de dead bird, it all falls away when the plant enzymes in the Waterless Pet Wash get to work.
Using the wash is easy – apply the wash to your pup’s coat. Distract them as they look at you sideways, wondering what the smell of the pet-safe essential oils in the wash is all about. Wait a minute, then wipe off the wash with a fresh cloth.
Job done. Depending on which wash you have with you, you no longer have a puppy smelling of poop and dead things – now you have a puppy smelling of lavender, oatmeal or simply freshness.
If all this feels a bit like you’re phoning in your puppy care, imagine situations where you’re traveling or otherwise on the go. If they roll in something smelly, you can Waterless Pet Wash them right there and then. Or hey, maybe you’re on a camping trip and you don’t have the space or the spare water to get the puppy clean again. Apply, wait, wipe – job done.
- It’s an extremely convenient alternative to shampooing if you’re out and about
- This pet wash is also a great alternative to a full shampooing on camping trips
- It’s made of lots of natural, plant-based ingredients, rather than harsh chemicals
- Some puppy-owners will feel this is just a masking option, rather than a true shampoo
Pet Pleasant’s Colloidal Oatmeal Dog Shampoo is quite the mouthful, but if you need a shampoo to use on a particularly stinky puppy, it might well have a place in your cabinet of puppy-scrubbing.
It’s hypoallergenic, so, suitable for pups with sensitive skin. The combination of oatmeal and lavender essential oil can help calm a jittery pup (or a jittery owner) while replacing not only the original stinky smell but avoiding the “wet dog smell” that can follow a bath.
Sulfate-free, paraben-free and gently formulated, the colloidal oatmeal is great for nourishing your puppy’s skin, while the lavender blisses them out and softens their coat. If you want a more relaxing puppy-shampooing experience, you might be surprised how effective Pet Pleasant’s Colloidal Oatmeal Dog Shampoo can be.
- Natural ingredients and essential oil are good for even extremely stinky puppies
- The lavender oil can help calm the pup for their shampooing
- The oatmeal nourishes their skin while they get shampooed
- There’s no post-shampoo “wet dog smell”
- The lavender scent can linger for days, which feels like overkill
The Puppy Shampoo Buyer’s Guide
So as you prepare to buy your puppy shampoo, what should you keep in mind? Let’s see.
Nobody dies if you have a puppy-scrubbing cabinet with all five puppy shampoos in it, and the Adams Plus goes beyond cosmetic cleaning – it’s curious-puppy health care as much as it is a shampoo.
The Spruce Waterless Pet Wash too has a more specific use in mind than your standard puppy shampoo, so there’s a good reason to pick it up if you regularly take walks in the woods with your puppy, or are planning to take them on a camping trip.
If you can, and if you feel strongly about it, using a puppy shampoo with natural ingredients like aloe, oatmeal and so on can get your puppy clean without introducing their skin to harsh chemicals.
Choose Your Fragrance Comfort Point
Some puppy-owners want their pet to smell like lavender, or coconut, and as long as the pup themselves isn’t bothered by these natural scents, that’s fine. Other puppy-owners want their pet to smell like dog. But… you know… clean dog. In which case, there are unscented or barely scented shampoos that may also be kinder to the pup, as they navigate their world in the first instance by smell.
Scents like lavender can linger for even our human noses. Imagine having a dog’s nose and trying to identify other dogs, or trees, or scent-messages, or even your dinner, through an intensified haze of lavender.
Choose the fragrance level you’re most comfortable with, and that you puppy is most comfortable with, and remember, a comfortable puppy is a happy puppy – and that’s the main thing, right?
Frequently Asked Questions
What does “tearless” mean in a puppy shampoo?
Not as much as you might imagine. Usually, it means that the shampoo is more gently formulated than some of the more medicated or chemical shampoos, so your puppy’s eyes won’t be damaged if the shampoo goes into them.
That being said, try to never get even “tearless” shampoos in your puppy’s eyes, and if it does happen, rinse them thoroughly with clean water immediately, because even some “tearless” shampoos can cause your pup real discomfort.
How often should you bathe a puppy?
That very much depends on the puppy. As a rule of thumb, maybe once a month. As a rule of necessity, whenever they roll in something horrible. Watch out for dry skin on your puppy, because bathing them too frequently can make that dryness worse.
If you do see dry patches, make sure you choose a shampoo with some skin-calming and skin-nourishing ingredients, like aloe or oatmeal.
Why does my puppy smell bad, even after shampooing?
One of two things is happening there. Either you’re using the wrong shampoo, or not washing them thoroughly enough, which is always possible – especially with the more wriggly, higher-energy breeds.
Or alternatively, they may have a food allergy.
Yes, really. Food allergies in puppies can cause skin irritations, and lead to a permanent musty smell that will have nothing to do with how often or how thoroughly you shampoo them. Check their diet, as eating the wrong foods might be at the heart of a puppy’s permanent odor.
If you’re not sure what’s happening to cause the smell, consult your veterinarian, because far from being a simple surface odor, it may be a symptom of something that could be giving your puppy some unnecessary pain or discomfort. They can help you determine what your pup is allergic to, through testing and elimination diets.