Has your dog rolled in something unsavory or taken a mud bath? Sometimes there’s just no way around a bath with shampoo, and some dog owners then reach for baby shampoo or their own shampoo, following the motto:

What’s good for babies can’t be bad for dogs.” Unfortunately, it is because dog skin is very different from human skin.

washing adorable white pomeranian, using dog shampoo

How is dog skin different from human skin?

Dog skin actually has a significantly different structure than human skin. For example, most body parts do not have sweat glands, and hair growth depends on the season. For skin and coat care using shampoos, however, the following differences are particularly important:

  • Human skin has a natural pH of 5.5, while dog skin is 7.5. As a result, dogs also have a different skin flora than humans.
  • Dog skin is thinner: the epidermis of humans is 10 to 15 cell layers thick, while dog skin has only 3 to 5 layers in this area. Active ingredients in shampoos, therefore, penetrate the skin quite differently.
  • Dog skin regenerates more quickly than human skin. For example, the dog’s epidermis renews itself within under three weeks, while the thicker human epidermis needs four weeks—good news for all dog owners who have a four-legged skin patient at home.

Which shampoo is suitable for dogs?

Shampoos for humans certainly are not because these are usually “pH skin neutral,” i.e., adjusted to the pH 5.5 of human skin so as not to disturb the skin barrier and the natural skin flora. For the protective skin flora of our dogs, they are poison, and they dry out the thin dog skin.

If there is nothing else available in an emergency, healthy dog skin will tolerate a single wash with baby shampoo, but you are not doing it any good with such a supposedly “mild” shampoo.

If your dog’s skin is healthy, a simple dog shampoo tailored to the specifics of the dog’s skin will suffice. In the interest of your four-legged friend, however, you should make sure that it does not smell too strong.

Our Tip: Many manufacturers of medical dog shampoos also have a caring “basic shampoo” or a skin-soothing shampoo for mild cleaning of the dog’s skin in their range. With such a dog shampoo, you can trust that the composition corresponds to the current findings for the optimal care of the dog’s skin.

Recommended dog shampoos for mild cleaning are, for example:

Overall Dog ShampooWAHL Dry Skin and Itch Relief Pet Shampoo
Deep Cleaning Dog ShampooIsle of Dogs Deep Cleaning Shampoo – SULFATE FREE
Dog Shampoo and ConditionerEarthbath Oatmeal & Aloe Pet Shampoo and Conditioner
2-in-1 Dog Shampoo TropiClean Dog & Cat Shampoo and Conditioner
Best Budget Dog ShampooBurt’s Bees for Dogs – Natural Oatmeal Shampoo
Best Smelling Dog ShampooHoneydew Oatmeal Dog Shampoo – Moisturizing Lavender
Dog Shampoo for Sensitive Skin4Legger Organic Dog Shampoo – Sensitive Skin

For dogs with skin diseases, you should always have a suitable shampoo in the house. Please discuss with your veterinarian which product is right for your dog.

Washing the dog with shampoo

What should I pay attention to when washing my dog?

Normally, you do not have to and should not wash healthy dog skin. However, if you have to clean a smelly, dirty four-legged friend, pay attention to the following:

  • The surface must be non-slip. In the shower or bathtub belongs, therefore, an anti-slip mat.
  • The temperature should be lukewarm. In summer, the garden hose is also sufficient for a refreshing bath. Especially for dogs that get excited, older dogs or dogs with heart disease, you provoke circulation problems with water at a temperature that is pleasant for us (38°C).
  • Do not comb the wet coat because the hair breaks off easily.
  • If possible, do not blow-dry your dog, as the blow-dry air is usually too hot. Thorough drying and then a place in the warm is enough for the four-legged friend to dry.

Get your dog used to water in all its forms (pond, garden hose, etc.) while he is still a puppy and introduce him gently to washing. It’s best to start without shampoo and only playfully, without holding on – this way; you avoid stress for both sides later on.

Do I have to bathe my dog at all?

Some dogs like to roll in the dirt or in the freshly fertilized field and stink afterward quite strongly. Whether and how exactly to wash dogs and how often you may wash dogs are many dog owners who do not agree.

In the U.S., it’s common to bathe a dog regularly, and sometimes many dogs are shampooed weekly. But is this really necessary? Does it harm the dog to bathe him regularly? Or does it harm not to bathe the four-legged friend regularly?

Basically, a regular bath with dog shampoo is not harmful to healthy dogs, but it is also not absolutely necessary. Unless your beloved dog belongs to a breed that requires special coat care, and you can’t manage to keep his coat clean and un-felted without regular bathing. Otherwise, bathing “as needed” is enough when your dog is really dirty.

Our Tip: Get your dog used to being bathed or showered as a puppy, so the procedure is stress-free for everyone. A systematic skin and coat check from head to paws should be part of a daily routine. It can be done incidentally while cuddling.

For skin problems such as itching, dry or oily skin and allergies, regular bathing with veterinary specialty shampoos is an important part of treatment. Special skin care products for dogs with very sensitive skin can be used regularly to support the shampoo treatment in a sensible way.

And the right diet with special diets also makes an important contribution to optimizing the skin metabolism in the case of skin diseases.

Bathing Dog with Shampoo

Some Useful Information on Bathing your Dog

  • Using human toiletries on dogs can burn the skin and cause skin irritations, scratching and dry skin. Our shampoo harms the protective layer of a dog’s skin and leaves it open for bacteria, viruses, parasites and infections.
  • When it comes to regularity, people often wonder how often they should bathe their dogs.  There is no specific timetable which you have to follow.  As a rule of thumb it is recommended that you bathe them when they are dirty.
  • From experience, roughly once a month is more than sufficient.  If you have little accidents along the way, like having a field day in the coal bucket or rolling in animal dung whilst out walking, of course bath away.
  • Read the labels on the shampoo and make sure the ingredients are as natural and organic as possible.  A good shampoo range will include shampoos for different breeds and coats.  There are usually shampoos specifically for puppies, white coats, curly coats, silky coats and black coats. 
  • There are also shampoos that take sensitive skin in consideration and others that are parasite repellent or made for skin that are oily or dry.  A good example is oatmeal shampoo for dogs.
  • After a good wash, do make sure that you have rinsed properly to ensure all the suds have been removed.  Any leftover will dry on your dog’s skin and can cause severe burning and itchiness.
  • After you have rinsed the soap out, you may follow up with a conditioner.  Again, there are a large variety of conditioners available out there.  As with your shampoo, you should invest in as good a shampoo as you can afford.
  • Not all canine coats need a conditioner. Coats that need to retain their coarse texture should not get conditioner.  These include breeds such as West Highland Terrier and Bichon Frise for example.  Examples of dogs that benefit from conditioner are smooth coated Yorkshire Terriers and Shih-Tzus.
  • We all know that bad doggy odour smell when the coat gets wet.  If your dog is not dirty but just a bit smelly, invest in a good doggy perfume.  There are great perfumes out there that can be bought from any reputable pet store or animal care provider. 
  • Look for one that has added ingredients like camomile that does not only make the coat smell nice, but adds to soothe and maintain the coat.  These perfumes can be sprayed on as often as you want without causing any skin problems or adverse effects.

Tip: The bigger quantity you buy the cheaper it is. If you have visited your pet store and are overwhelmed by the variety on offer and still not sure, a good idea is to drop into your local groomer. 

Profesional Dog groomers wash dogs for a living and will have an expert experience with shampoos.  Ask what they are using, some groomers might even stock the shampoo, conditioner and perfume that they use on their clients in their shops.

A top-of-the-range shampoo that is pricey but very well worth it, is Pet Head by Tigi that also makes shampoos for human salons.  Not only do they have a good wide range, but every product also smells heavenly and the bottles are ornaments on their own.

Categories: BlogsDogs


Marco Heitner

Hello, my Name is Marco. My family has had pets since I can remember. Today we have a large aquarium and, since recently, a four-month old Labrador. I am the owner of this website, and it is my great pleasure to provide helpful knowledge about pets. Our team is constantly working hard to publish well-researched reports here.


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