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You might share your couch, backyard, and living space with your dog, but there’s one thing you should never share with your canine companion — your shampoo. While human-grade shampoo might keep your own locks soft and lush, most varieties of human shampoo contain chemicals that are too harsh for your pooch’s sensitive skin.

Fortunately, there are hundreds of brands of pet-friendly grooming products tailored to meet the unique needs and skin conditions of your dog. Dog shampoo can cleanse your dog’s coat of germs and insects, and add nutrients and vitamins to keep it healthy.

However, when it comes to dog shampoo, it’s not a one size fits all situation. Choose poorly, and you could end up causing more harm than good. Choose wisely, and your dog will be left with a bright, shiny coat for weeks after bath time.

To help you determine the best shampoo for your dog, consider the following factors:

Skin condition
If your dog has dry, itchy, or flaky skin, a moisturizing shampoo is the way to go. Avoid scented shampoos, which often contain chemicals that can further irritate the skin, and opt instead for shampoos with natural ingredients, such as oatmeal, honey, and vitamin E. If your dog’s skin condition worsens, continues to persist, or develops red bumps, consult with your veterinarian about medicated shampoo and additional treatment.

Fleas and ticks
There are a variety of flea and tick products on the market, designed to both fend off and kill fleas, ticks, and other parasites. Flea and tick shampoo can only offer short-term protection, however, so it’s important to use this type of shampoo only to supplement other flea and tick prevention measures.

Youth
If you’ve got a puppy, you should look for a shampoo that is specifically designed for younger dogs. Puppy shampoos are typically gentler, and made with a no-tear formula that won’t irritate if it gets in the eyes.

Odor
Dogs have a way of finding their way into garbage, food, and mystery substances. For these particularly adventurous (read: stinky) dogs, we recommend a deodorizing shampoo. These powerful types of shampoo can eliminate unpleasant odors, rather than just covering it up.

Shine
Factors such as poor diet or failing health can make your dog’s coat dull and lusterless. You can restore healthy shine with a nourishing shampoo packed with minerals, vitamins, and proteins.

Color
For dogs with white or light-colored coat, there are many specialty shampoos on the market with brightener and whiteners designed to prevent yellowing and fading while boosting luster.

Tangles
If your dog’s coat is dry or easily tangled, you may want to consider a shampoo-conditioner to restore moisture and maintainability. For particularly frizzy locks or stubborn tangles, try applying a separate conditioner after shampooing your dog’s hair to replenish natural oils and aid in detangling.

Convenience
Waterless shampoos and wipes are perfect for when you and your pooch are on the go, or if you’ve got a dog that is particularly averse to water.

Dog shampoo ingredients to avoid
Whatever your dog’s needs are, you can find a sweeping array of appropriate products on the shelves of your local pet store. However, not all dog shampoos are created equal, and there are some that contain ingredients that can irritate and harm your dog’s skin.

When shopping for a shampoo, be sure to examine the ingredients listed on the bottle before making a purchase. Avoid artificial fragrances and dyes, which can irritate your dog’s eyes and skin, but do look for natural fragrances, like chamomile, lavender, eucalyptus, and citrus.

An important thing to remember is this: never use shampoos or conditioners designed for humans. Our skin is less sensitive than a dog’s, and human shampoos are designed to wash off the natural oils and wax on our hair. That’s fine for humans, but it will leave your dog’s coat dull and brittle and can cause rashes.

How to choose dog shampoo
What kind of ingredients should you look for in a dog shampoo? A good rule of thumb is to keep it simple, opting for shampoos with natural ingredients like oatmeal, aloe vera, herbal proteins, vitamins, and citrus extracts. And, as always, ask your veterinarian to recommend the right shampoo for your dog’s specific needs.

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