Welcome to our complete guide to homemade dog shampoo recipes. Let’s find out why you might want to make your own dog shampoo, and how to go about doing it yourself!
Pthalates. Formaldehyde. Isothiazolinone. Polyethylene glycol.
These are just a few of the many mysterious (not to mention un-pronounceable) ingredients included in many commercially available dog shampoo brands today.
What do these terms even mean?
Does it matter? You already know you wouldn’t want to use them on your own skin, let alone wash your dog in them.
More dog owners are making their own homemade shampoo for dogs for precisely this reason.
But there are many more reasons other than scary ingredients to consider making your dog’s shampoo at home.
For instance, your dog may have sensitive skin and need the most mild, non-irritating shampoo possible. Or maybe your dog has had a bout with fleas lately and you’d like to get rid of the fleas without using harsh chemicals.
Or perhaps you just love your dog so much you want everything about her life to be as pure and clean and healthy as possible.
Whatever your personal reasons may be, we hope you enjoy these suggestions for healthy, homemade dog shampoo recipes you and your dog will love!
Why Should I Use Homemade Dog Shampoo?
After reading the previous section, you might be thinking, “Why shouldn’t I?” After all, at least if you make your dog’s shampoo personally, you will be able to identify what is in it!
But there is another reason as well, and it is one that many dog owners really love.
Making your own dog shampoo homemade is often cheaper than buying it!
Why is this, exactly?
One reason is that you are not paying for the packaging (the bottle, the label, the marketing). You also aren’t paying a percentage of the manufacturer’s overhead (the shipping, the distribution, the packaging).
Finally, as you will notice in the dog shampoo recipes that follow, you are using far fewer ingredients.
(Oh, AND you can often buy those ingredients in bulk, saving even more valuable pennies.)
After all, your dog doesn’t care about the brand name, the fancy label, the eco-friendly bottle, the marketing hype or the celebrity endorsements.
He just wants the treats and the pats you are going to give him when bath time is over!
Alkaline versus acidic dog shampoos
You know how some types of soap or lotion make your skin sting or dry out, while others feel so soothing and healing?
This has to do with your skin’s natural pH balance. Every person’s skin pH is a little bit different, although typically most people will fall within a skin pH range from 4.5 to 6.5.
Dogs each have their own unique skin pH too. For dogs, however, the natural skin pH range is between 6 and 8.5.
The pH scale ranges from 1 to 14, with 7 being neutral. The lower the pH number, the higher the acidity. Conversely, the higher the pH number, the higher the alkalinity.
While using a dog shampoo (or a people shampoo, for that matter) that is highly alkaline may not necessarily produce any unpleasant side effects, using a shampoo that is too acidic usually will.
Signs to watch for that the dog shampoo you are using is too acidic may include skin itching, irritation, flaking, burning or even a skin rash.
For this reason, the first time you use any new homemade shampoo for dogs – no matter how carefully you have assembled the ingredients – always watch your dog closely afterwards to make sure the pH balance is a good fit for his natural skin pH level.
The reason you need to do this is because you probably won’t know in advance where your dog’s individual pH falls within the normal range of 6 to 8.5.
As well, in some cases you may discover that your dog’s skin is particularly sensitive and you need to make adjustments to your homemade dog shampoo blend for his individual comfort.
Choosing your dog shampoo ingredients
When you have bought commercial dog shampoo in the past, you may have noticed how the label usually indicated the pH of that shampoo.
Of course, now that you are making your own dog shampoo, you are on your own.
So, the goal when making dog shampoo homemade is to balance out alkaline and acidic ingredients so the shampoo pH will do its job without causing harm (i.e., as mentioned here in the previous section, a bit too alkaline is okay, but too acidic is not okay).
Your goal should be to arrive at a near-neutral pH to ensure there won’t be any pH “surprises” in store for you and your dog on bath day.
Here are some examples of acidic, neutral and alkaline dog shampoo ingredients:
- Lemon juice: Acidic, pH of 2.2.
- Aloe vera: Acidic, pH of 5.
- Apple cider vinegar: Acidic, pH of 2.8.
- White vinegar: Acidic, pH of 2.4.
- Oatmeal: Acidic, pH of 5.
- Baking soda: Alkaline, pH of 8.3.
- Liquid castile soap (unscented): Alkaline, pH of 8.9.
- Vegetable glycerine: Neutral, pH of 7.0.
- Plain water: Neutral, pH of 7.0.
- Corn starch: Neutral, pH of 7.0.
- Coconut oil: Neutral, pH of 7.0.
Using essential oils in homemade dog shampoo
Essential oils are fast replacing commercial scents among chemical-conscious consumers.
Unlike most perfumes, which are often created with potent concoctions of unknown chemicals, essential oils are simple and pure.
However, essential oils can have potent properties in their own right, and may cause allergy or skin irritation for people and dogs alike.
You can absolutely add some essential oil into your homemade dog shampoo if you would like, but just be sure to research that oil first to be sure it is safe for use with dogs.
Here is a starter list of safe essential oils you can try out in your homemade dog shampoo:
- Lemongrass essential oil. This oil is a natural anti-septic that repels insects!
- Lavender essential oil. This oil is naturally calming and repels fleas!
- Rosemary essential oil. This oil repels fleas and moisturizes!
- Chamomile essential oil. This oil soothes allergies and skin irritation!
- Sweet marjoram essential oil. This oil is a natural anti-bacterial skin healer!
- Peppermint essential oil. This oil is a natural skin healer and cooler and repels insects!
- Eucalyptus essential oil. This oil is a natural skin soother and odor fighter!
This essential oils dog shampoo recipe from Dogs Naturally will give you an idea of how to combine essential oils with a neutral base (water) and alkaline soap (liquid castile, unscented) to meet your pooch’s specific needs.
You will also need some jars to store your recipe in.
Kilner jars are a great choice as the seal at the top, are easy to open and look pretty too!
Homemade dog shampoo recipe
This basic, no-frills dog shampoo recipe from PetCareRX will give you a pH-neutral base to work with.
All you will need for this recipe is unscented liquid soap, hot water, vinegar (white or apple cider – you choose) and an empty bottle to store it in!
NOTE: Use caution when shampooing your dog to avoid contact with his eyes – the vinegar can sting!
Homemade dry dog shampoo
Dry shampoo for people has become very popular among the time-crunched set these days. If you wake up late one morning, you can skip the shower, sprinkle on some dry shampoo, fluff your locks and head out the door with none the wiser.
Wouldn’t it be great if there was such a thing as dry shampoo for dogs?
As luck would have it, you can make your own homemade dry dog shampoo so you don’t have to try to find an extra hour to wash, dry and brush your pooch before your dinner guests arrive!
This easy recipe from Modern Dog Magazine requires only two main ingredients – and you can use any one of your new dog-safe essential oils for a touch of safe fragrance.
You know what works great for storing and using dry dog shampoo? A clean, empty salt or pepper shaker! Store the dry dog shampoo there, and when you need to use it, just sprinkle some on your dog’s coat, rub it in, and voila – you now have a fresh, clean, sweet-smelling pooch!
Homemade dog shampoo with coconut oil
Coconut oil is incredibly soothing to the skin. It is also a natural moisturizer, conditioner and healer with a neutral pH that combines well with most other dog shampoo ingredients.
Best of all, coconut oil smells great – which makes it a slam-dunk choice for when your pooch walks by and you know it without even having to look up.
Thanks to the Bark Post for this easy homemade dog shampoo recipe with coconut oil.
Homemade dog oatmeal shampoo
Oatmeal is a natural healer. It is so healing, in fact, that it is one of the few foods the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) regulates for use in non-food items.
When added to shampoos and skin lotions, oatmeal can act as a pH buffer to balance out overly acidic skin (this in spite of the fact that it is moderately acidic itself in its raw form).
The reason for this buffer effect is due to how oatmeal interacts with water. When finely ground and suspended in water, oatmeal is called “colloidal oatmeal.” It is this type of oatmeal that is most frequently found in products designed for sensitive scalp and skin.
Many shampoos and lotions for people contain colloidal oatmeal for these reasons and others. Once your pup has experienced his first oatmeal shampoo, he will likely be a convert as well.
You can make your own colloidal oatmeal by grinding regular oats very finely until they are like a powder. Store them in an airtight container in a cool, dry place until you are ready to add them to water to make your dog shampoo recipe.
Many thanks to Life Made Full for this great homemade dog oatmeal shampoo recipe that only requires three ingredients and soothes dry, itchy canine skin like a charm.
Homemade antifungal dog shampoo
If your dog seems to regularly struggle with itchy skin or a persistent odor, it may be due to an organism that goes by the scientific name of Malassezia pachydermatis (otherwise known as yeast).
It is easy to think of a yeast infection as something only people get, but the truth is, dogs frequently suffer from yeast infections too, mostly in their ears, on their feet, near their tail and on their skin.
Some veterinarians describe the distinctive scent of an emerging yeast infection as similar to molding bread or old corn chips. Other signs and symptoms that your dog has a yeast infection can include red or inflamed skin patches, oily coat or hair falling out.
Thanks to First Home Love Life for this rosemary antifungal dog shampoo that they use with great success on their own black labs!
Mercola also recommends using this antifungal post-bath rinse for further relief from fungal and yeast issues. The recipe is a simple blend of either lemon juice, vinegar or essential oil of your choice diluted in water. All you need to do is pour it over your dog’s coat after bathing.
Homemade dog shampoo for allergies
Dog allergies can be as varied – and just as uncomfortable – as people allergies. Some dogs have naturally sensitive skin that reacts to the slightest allergen.
Other dogs are allergic to certain foods, seasonal pollen or particular pests (fleas are a common culprit here).
If your dog suffers from allergies, these easy homemade dog allergy shampoo recipes from All About Dog Shampoo can offer quick relief. There are several recipe options that address different types of allergies, including recipes using oatmeal, essential oils and even honey.
Talk to your vet before trying the recipe that uses Neem oil, which must be diluted properly or it can cause skin irritation. If your dog is pregnant or you are planning to breed her, it is especially important to talk with your vet before using any recipe that requires Neem oil.
Homemade dog shampoo for dry skin or itchy skin
Sometimes simply bathing your dog too frequently can also give rise to dry or itchy skin. For this reason, unless your veterinarian specifically advises otherwise, it is typically best to limit baths to once per week or less frequently.
The oatmeal homemade dog shampoo recipe described here (see the sectin called “Homemade dog oatmeal shampoo”) is effective for easing both dry skin and itching skin.
Another helpful homemade dog shampoo recipe offered by Dogster incorporates soothing glycerin and aloe vera to heal your dog’s skin while treating itching and dryness.
Homemade flea shampoo for dogs
With people medicine, sometimes the cure can actually seem worse than the disease.
For many dog owners, the same often holds true, especially when your beloved pet gets fleas and you realize how toxic and dangerous many of the commercial flea treatments can be.
The good news is, you can make your own homemade dog flea shampoo that has none of the terrifying side effects and all of the potency.
Vet Info recommends a simple three-ingredient flea shampoo recipe you can mix up right away, plus several other homemade anti-flea dog shampoo recipes that can ease itching and repel future flea invasions.
Homemade dog conditioner
At this point, it probably won’t surprise you to learn that many of the same treatments that nourish and condition human hair can have the same beneficial results with dogs.
For instance, the natural antiseptic and antiparasitic properties of lemon juice can add shine and body to your dog’s coat while repelling pests naturally.
A rosemary rinse is not only a natural antifungal (so it is great for dogs with yeast issues) but send fleas packing and leave your dog smelling as good as dinner!
Apple cider vinegar is another well-known antibacterial and antifungal agent that will strip your dog’s coat of any toxins, dander, pollen and other irritants while leaving her coat smooth and soft. Best of all, fleas and other insects hate the scent!
The recipes for each of these homemade dog conditioner rinses can be found at Pets (The Nest). All you need to do is shampoo your dog and then pour the rinse of your choice over her coat.
Homemade Dog Shampoo Recipes
After reading through all of these different homemade dog shampoo recipes, you are probably chomping at the bit to get to your kitchen and try them out.
Before you just start mixing, however, stop and take a few minutes to review your dog’s skin and coat history.
In particular, if your pup has had any past or ongoing skin issues, it can be wise to talk with your vet before changing her existing bath and skin care routine.
This may indicate which of these recipes might be the best choice to start with. As with anything new, doing a skin patch test first (by shampooing and rinsing just a small patch of your dog’s skin and coat with the new shampoo recipe) can rule out any special sensitivities you may not yet know about.
Once your vet has signed off on your new shampoo recipe and your patch test has come back clean, you will be in safe in proceeding to switch from commercial shampoos to homemade all-natural dog shampoo!
- Kurtz, E.S., et al, “Colloidal oatmeal: history, chemistry and clinical properties,” National Institutes of Health (NIH), 2007.
- Becker, K., DVM, “Is Your Dog Chronically Itchy or Smelly? Could Be This,” Mercola’s Healthy Pets, 2017.
- Guerrini, V.H and Kriticos, C.M. 1998. Effects of azadirachtin on Ctenocephalides felis in the dog and the cat. Veterinary Paracitology