Ahh, the joys of giving your dog a bath.
If your dog is one of those anomalies that stands completely still as you give it a lovely bath, bully for you!
As you towel down your perfectly behaved pet, spare a thought for the rest of us.
It all starts when it hears the water running.
When you do finally find it hiding between the couches, you need to physically carry it to the bathroom.
30 minutes later, covered in soap suds, slipping around the bath in a panic and whining miserably, you lift your hands in defeat and release your half-dry dog to go drip water around the house.
Here at Superwhiskers, we don’t pretend to have a solution to this problem.
What we can help you with, is finding the best shampoo to use on your dog (and yourself), while you go through this ordeal.
Here is how we will find the best dog shampoo of 2021.
How Will We Find the Best Dog Shampoo?
There are literally hundreds of dog shampoos on the market right now.
In order to find the best one, we have chosen three criteria to compare each of the shampoos against.
The best dog shampoo will score highly in each of the following criteria: ingredients, sensitivity, and value.
Some companies will make shampoos that are little more than cheaply made chemical brews with a few natural extracts thrown in.
They package and market these in such a way that well-meaning pet owners think they are buying natural products and doing the right thing by their dog.
This practice is known in the industry as “greenwashing”.
In this category, we will score all-natural ingredients more highly than chemically refined ones, as natural ingredients don’t irritate a dogs skin and there are fewer potential side-effects.
The following are four chemicals that are most often used in dog shampoos. We will deduct points from any shampoo that includes one or more of these ingredients.
If you would like to know more about the chemicals to look out for when purchasing a dog shampoo, click here.
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate — This is a synthetic sulfur based ingredient that is derived from coconut oil.
While health organizations in Canada, the EU, and the US consider sodium lauryl sulfate to be safe, they classify it as an irritant.
Products that contain this substance can cause eye redness, dryness and itching if it gets in your dog’s eyes during a bath — and if your dog is a bath time hell-raiser like mine, this is a distinct possibility.
Often this substance will be labeled as “coconut based cleaner” or “naturally derived from coconuts” to make it sound more “natural”.
Another sign that sodium lauryl sulfate is present in your shampoo, is if the product has bubbles in it without being shaken.
Fragrance— “Wow your dog smells terrific!” While it may be nice to have people comment on how wonderful your dog smells and it might be even more wonderful to snuggle up with a dog that smells like heaven, it is not necessarily good for your dog.
If the aroma of dog shampoo isn’t derived from essential oils or plant extracts, the smell will usually be due to an artificially made chemical substance.
Artificial fragrances are often made up of thousands of different chemicals that can irritate a dog’s skin, cause allergic reactions and in rare cases can cause more serious illnesses.
The word “fragrance” on a shampoo bottle with no other explanation, often hides a multitude of sins.
Points will be deducted for shampoos that use this method.
Polysorbates — These chemicals are used as emulsifiers to bind oil and water and to dissolve fragrances in shampoos.
Polysorbates can unbalance the delicate pH levels of a dog’s skin and fur.
Companies use polysorbates because they are cheap. Their inclusion in dog shampoo will usually be indicative of a lower quality product.
Cocamidopropyl Betaine — This ingredient is derived from coconut oil but has been refined and modified to a point where it is anything but natural.
Manufacturers add this product to dog shampoo to give it a thick and foamy texture.
It can cause skin irritation and allergic reactions in your dog.
The second criteria we will use to find the best dog shampoo is how sensitive the product is on a dog’s skin.
The sensitivity of a product is an extremely important consideration to take into account when looking for the best dog shampoo because dogs have only 3–5 layers of skin (humans have 10–15).
An essential part of a dog’s skin is the “acid mantle”, a slightly acidic layer that covers the skin underneath the fur.
This serves as a barrier that protects the absorbent top layer of a dog’s skin and keeps out contaminants such as bacteria and viruses from penetrating the skin.
When dogs are bathed, this acidic layer is washed away, leaving your dog vulnerable to the environment for at least 12 hours until the skin rejuvenates this layer.
While this layer is absent, your dog’s skin is vulnerable to many different microorganisms and may become dry and flaky, irritated, peel or break out in rashes.
The Most Important Ingredients for Canine Skin
The following ingredients are found in most quality dog shampoos and have moisturizing and soothing qualities.
The better dog shampoos will have most or all of these.
Aloe Vera —The gel sap from the aloe vera plant is a frequent additive in human skin products. It also makes an excellent addition to dog shampoos.
Aloe vera soothes itchy skin and can hasten the healing process due to its anti-inflammatory qualities.
Jojoba —This substance is known to calm dry, itchy skin and also moisturizes and coats skin and fur.
Jojoba is more wax than oil, so it will stay on your dog’s skin after a wash and continue to protect it between baths.
Oatmeal —Oatmeal has been historically prized for many centuries for its skin-healing properties.
It is known to balance the pH levels of a dog’s skin and is effective at controlling psoriasis and eczema.
Glycerin —Is colorless non-toxic liquid that is used in dog shampoo for its rehydrating properties.
Glycerin will keep your dog’s skin moist and non-itchy between baths, especially in warmer weather.
Pet owners know that pets aren’t cheap.
While we love our dogs and would spend any amount to make sure they are well cared for, value for money is still important.
This criteria will take into account the cost of the shampoo per bottle and also per fluid ounce as a comparison and will consider the price relative to the benefits of the product.
With all this said, you’ve probably read this article because you have a smelly dog that needs a wash and you are itching (pun intended) to get started with this top 5 list, so I won’t keep you a moment longer.
If your dog’s smell is truly unbearable scroll down to the #1 pick, you can’t go wrong there.
If you can hang on a little longer, here are our picks for the 5 best dog shampoos on offer in 2021, enjoy!
Lambert Kay — Fresh N Clean Pet Shampoo
This product from Lambert Kay is a popular chemical-based cleaner that will leave your dog’s skin shiny, tangle free and smelling wonderful for up to 2 weeks.
Ingredients — While there is no doubt this product will leave your dog’s skin looking and feeling silky-smooth, it does have a few problematic ingredients.
The first ingredient is sodium lauryl sulfate. This coconut oil based cleaner can cause redness and irritation if splashed in your dog’s eyes. Another coconut based ingredient here that may cause eye irritation is Cocamidopropyl betaine.
This product also has “fragrance” listed as an ingredient.
While we are in no way against delightful smelling dogs, we are wary of ingredients listed simply as ‘fragrance’, as this indicates the addition of artificial chemicals which can irritate the skin.
We also note that this product has artificial colors. This is added for no other reason than to look appealing to the owner.
Sensitivity — This product contains Vitamin-E and aloe vera leaf juice to moisturize and soothe your dog’s skin.
It also contains polysorbate-20, a chemical that may unbalance the acid mantle of a dog’s skin and leave it prone to yeast infections.
While the product gains points for having a sensitive ingredient, this is counterbalanced by the fact that it contains a polysorbate.
Value — This product provides good value for money at USD 6.99 for an 18 oz bottle, which works out to be USD 0.39 oz.
It is also one of the best products on the market when it comes to getting rid of “that dog smell” and will keep your dog smelling sweet for weeks.
Overall, this is a popular commercial dog shampoo. Although it contains some chemically refined ingredients that may not appeal to all dog owners, it combines a competitive price point and a strong, lasting scent.
Consider this product if you have a dog with non-sensitive skin and/or if your dog is notoriously smelly.
Ingredients: 65/100 Sensitivity: 75/100 Value: 85/100
Total Score 75/100
OxGord — Natural Oatmeal Dog Shampoo & Conditioner
This product from OxGord is an excellent soap-free shampoo that moisturizes your dog’s skin and leaves it smelling like a rose in June.
Ingredients — Although this is a quality product, it contains a few problematic ingredients.
As with the product above, this shampoo contains irritants such as sodium lauryl sulfate and Cocamidopropyl betaine which may cause irritation to your dog’s eyes.
The product contains polysorbate-20, a chemical that can cause issues with the pH balance of your dog’s skin.
It also contains small amounts of PEG (also known as polyethylene glycol), which has been linked to problems with the absorption of iron.
Finally, this product contains a chemical based fragrance.
Sensitivity — OxGord’s Natural Oatmeal dog shampoo contains several ingredients that make it sensitive, with a combination of oatmeal, aloe vera extract, and shea butter.
Oatmeal balances pH levels and moisturizes your dog’s skin while removing dead skin cells. Aloe vera is a renowned moisturizer that soothes itchy and sunburned skin.
This product also contains shea butter, a nourishing nut-based butter that can heal skin that is raw or has been bitten by insects.
This product gains significant marks for it focuses on being sensitive to your dog’s skin, but loses a few marks due to some of its ingredients.
Value — This is an excellent value product, currently on sale at USD 11.95 for a generous 20 oz bottle. It costs USD 0.60 oz.
The shampoo also lathers nicely and has a lovely clean scent, leaving your dog with a shiny and soft coat every time.
Overall, this is a stellar product if you are looking for something at a good price point that is also quite sensitive on the skin.
Consider this product if you want something sensitive yet affordable and you are not too worried about using a chemically based shampoo.
Ingredients: 65/100 Sensitivity: 85/100 Value: 85/100
Total Score 78/100
Earthbath — All Natural Pet Shampoo (Oatmeal and Aloe)
Earthbath has been in the dog shampoo game for over 20 years and make some of the best dog shampoos we could find.
Their range comes in many different varieties including mango tango, oatmeal and aloe, orange peel oil, fragrance-free and cherry.
Ingredients — Earthbath are focused on safe and natural dog shampoo and for the most part their ingredient list confirms this.
We suspect, however, that this product contains sodium lauryl sulfate as it lists “coconut-based cleaners” as one of its ingredients.
This is often another word for “chemicals we would rather not disclose”.
Apart from this, the product contains a variety of natural ingredients and does not contain any synthetic dyes or perfumes.
Sensitivity — This dog shampoo scores very highly in this category and it’s 3% oatmeal content makes this product great for flaking skin and eczema.
It contains an excellent mix of natural moisturizers such as aloe vera along with vitamins A, B, D,& E and glycerin.
This product also contains allantoin, a natural substance with renowned wound-healing properties.
Value — This product features a number of quality, (mostly) natural ingredients and is the “go to” dog shampoo for dogs with dry skin or eczema.
It also contains food-grade almond and vanilla extract, giving it a pleasant and refreshing aroma.
At USD 9.49 for a 16 oz bottle (or USD 0.59 oz), this product provides excellent value for money.
One thing that slightly detracts from this assessment, is the fact that several users have noted that the liquid is “thinner” than other brands and so more product must be used per wash.
Overall,while we can’t say it is absolutely the best dog shampoo out there, it is a strong contender.
Consider this product if your dog suffers from chronically dry skin or eczema and you want to try something new at a low-risk price.
Ingredients: 83/100 Sensitivity: 88/100 Value: 84/100
Total Score 85/100
Aroma Paws — Dog Shampoo & Conditioner (Coconut Hawaiian Papaya with Vanilla Bean)
Aroma Paw is the maker of premium all-natural dog shampoos and all of their products are packed full of fruit and nut oils.
They offer a huge range of dog shampoos including pomegranate cucumber, lavender, mandarin green tea, and honeysuckle jasmine — just to name a few.
Ingredients — This product contains a ton of high quality, natural ingredients.
Aroma Paws do not use any synthetic dyes, fragrances or parabens (chemicals added to shampoo to extend its shelf life and make it foam).
They also use chemical free cleansers as opposed to sodium lauryl sulfate.
The product contains various natural based ingredients such as almond, coconut and macadamia oils, as well as honey, dandelion, and cucumber.
Sounds good enough to eat!
Sensitivity — Aroma Paws Coconut Hawaiian Papaya shampoo is tailored to dogs with sensitive skin and scores especially high in this category.
It includes a number of ingredients that soothe, moisturize and protect your dog’s skin including oatmeal, aloe vera, glycerin, and tea leaf extract.
Value — While this is the most expensive shampoo on the list, it is clearly of very high quality and is more concentrated than other shampoos.
It is one of the best-smelling shampoos out there, with a nice vanilla smell with hints of almond and papaya and it is also pH balanced, so it won’t mess up the skin’s acid mantle.
At USD 13.99 for a 13.5oz bottle (USD 1.04oz), we find it to provide excellent value for money when its quality ingredients are taken into account.
Overallthis is an excellent product with a ton of natural ingredients. It is also one of the most sensitive products on this list.
Consider this product if you want a sensitive, beautiful smelling shampoo and want to treat you dog to a spot of luxury.
Ingredients: 95/100 Sensitivity: 95/100 Value: 90/100
Total Score 93/100
4-Legger — Certified Organic Dog Shampoo
This shampoo from 4-Legger is our top pick for the best dog shampoo, because it scores extremely well in all categories.
Not only does it use the best natural and certified organic ingredients, it is also created to be as sensitive as possible to your dog’s skin, while providing outstanding value for money.
Ingredients — The best dog shampoo is a winner because of what it DOESN’T contain.
There is absolutely nothing synthetic here such as sodium lauryl sulfate, cocamide-MEA, polysorbate-20, or artificial fragrances, colors or preservatives.
It contains olive oil which is rich in vitamins for your dog’s skin and lemon grass and rosemary extract, to give your dog a fresh, natural smell instead of an artificial one.
Lemongrass is also a natural cleanser that helps to stimulate blood circulation and tone up skin, while also providing antibacterial and anti-fungal properties.
Rosemary is a herb with anti-inflammatory properties that improves circulation, treats dry skin and increases the natural shine of fur without stripping the skin of natural oils.
Sensitivity—This product is by far the most sensitive one on this list and is the only product here to contain all 4 important skin nourishing chemicals.
It contains aloe vera, oatmeal, and glycerin, all of which moisturize, hydrate and protect the skin.
It also contains jojoba oil — an excellent cleanser and moisturizer, rich in fatty acids that rejuvenate and restore dry skin.
If finally contains coconut oil — a mild oil that hydrates and retains moisture in the skin.
Value — This product provides outstanding value for money with the shampoo being a thick liquid that produces a luscious lather.
The lemongrass and rosemary oils are also natural pest deterrents.
At USD 15.98 for a 16oz bottle, this product comes in at a modest (USD 1.00 fl/oz), an absolute steal when you consider it is the only USDA certified organic product on this list.
Overall this product is the full package. It uses only the best natural ingredients, contains all four major skincare ingredients and is very reasonably priced.
Consider this product if you want an all natural product that ticks all of the boxes.
It is undoubtedly the best dog shampoo on the market today.
Ingredients: 95/100 Sensitivity: 95/100 Value: 95/100
Total Score 95/100
Where is the Best Place to Buy Dog Shampoo From?
So you’ve soaked in all of the above information and have decided on the perfect dog shampoo for your dog. Now what?
Instead of taking the time and effort to find a physical store, simply go to Amazon.com.
Here you can find your product in seconds, read honest user reviews and immediately confirm the availability of the product.
You can also subscribe for straight-to-your-door recurring shipments at your desired frequency.
At Amazon, you can compare seller prices and get the best price possible.
The product will then be shipped straight to your door in a matter of days, or even quicker if you choose express postage, or are an Amazon Prime subscriber.