Is Human Shampoo Safe for Dogs

Expert's Guide: The Proper Way to Wash Your Dog

Ever wondered whether you can use your own shampoo to wash your furry friend?

You're not the only one. After all, human shampoo is readily available and often cheaper than dog shampoo. But can you safely use human shampoo on dogs?

The short answer is no. Using human shampoo on dogs is not a good idea and can cause more harm than good.

Vet John Buckowski explains how dog skin is far thinner and more sensitive to a human's, has different pH levels and functions differently - for example, the pores are different and dogs don't sweat which causes issues with permeation.

That is why it is SO important to choose the right products for your dog’s bathing needs, and follow the proper steps for cleaning them. 

In this article, we've teamed with the experts at We Want Dogs to dive into why human shampoo is not suitable for dogs, the risks associated with using it, and how to properly bathe your dog with the right products.


Understanding Canine Skin and Fur

Before we dive into the reasons why human shampoo is bad for dogs, we need to understand some basic differences between canine and human skin and fur.

Can you use human shampoo on dogs? The answer is no, and here's why.

The pH Level 

Dogs have a different skin structure and pH level than humans. The pH level measures how acidic or alkaline something is on a scale from 0 to 14, where 7 is neutral. Human skin has a pH level of around 5.5, which means it is slightly acidic. Dog skin, on the other hand, has a pH level of around 6.5 to 7.5, which means it is more neutral or slightly alkaline.

Why does this matter? Because the pH level affects the skin’s natural barrier function, which protects it from bacteria, fungi, parasites, and other environmental factors. 

Using a shampoo that is too acidic or too alkaline can disrupt this barrier and make the skin more prone to infections and irritations. Human shampoos are designed to match the human skin’s pH level, but they are too harsh for dogs’ skin. Therefore, using human shampoo on dogs can damage their skin and coat.

Hair Follicles

Another difference between canine and human skin and fur is the number and type of hair follicles. Humans have one hair per follicle, while dogs have multiple hairs per follicle. 

This means that dogs have a thicker and denser coat than humans. Dogs also have different types of hair, such as guard hairs, undercoat hairs, whiskers, and tactile hairs.

Each type of hair has a specific function and requires different care. Human shampoos are not formulated to address these differences and can strip away the natural oils and moisture that keep the dog’s coat healthy and shiny.


Risks with Using Human Shampoo on Dogs

Now that we know how different canine and human skin and fur are, let’s look at some of the risks of using human shampoo on dogs. Some of the most common problems that can arise from using human shampoo on dogs are:

  • Skin irritation: Human shampoos can cause redness, itching, flaking, and inflammation of the dog’s skin. This can make the dog uncomfortable and scratchy, which can lead to further damage and infections.
  • Dryness: Human shampoos can remove too much of the natural oils and moisture from the dog’s skin and coat. This can make the skin dry and brittle, and the coat dull and lifeless.
  • Allergies: Human shampoos often contain fragrances, colors, preservatives, sulfates, parabens, and other chemicals that can trigger allergic reactions in dogs. Some dogs may be more sensitive than others and develop rashes, hives, swelling, or breathing difficulties after exposure to these substances.
  • Eye damage: Human shampoos are not tear-free like most dog shampoos. This means that they can sting and irritate the dog’s eyes if they get in contact with them. This can cause eye infections or even blindness in severe cases.

As you can see, using human shampoo on dogs is not worth the risk. It can cause a lot of discomfort and health issues for your canine companion. It is better to invest in a quality dog shampoo that is specially formulated for your dog’s skin and coat type.


How-To: Bath Your Dog Properly

Now that we have established that you should never use human shampoo on dogs, let’s talk about how to properly bathe your dog with the right products. Here are some steps to follow for a stress-free and safe bathing experience for both you and your dog:

1. Choose a suitable place

Depending on the size and temperament of your dog, you can choose to bathe them in a bathtub, a shower stall, a sink, or even outdoors with a hose. Make sure that the place is comfortable for your dog and has enough space for you to move around.

2. Prepare the supplies

Gather everything you need before you start bathing your dog. You will need a dog shampoo (gentle, vet-approved and pH balanced like our Conditioning Shampoo), a conditioner (optional), a towel (or two), a brush or comb (depending on your dog’s coat length), a rubber mat (to prevent slipping), and some treats (to reward your dog).

3. Brush your dog

Before you wet your dog, it is a good idea to brush them thoroughly to remove any dirt, mats, or tangles from their coat. This will make the bathing process easier and more effective.

4. Wet your dog

Use lukewarm water to wet your dog’s coat. Avoid getting water in their ears, eyes, nose, or mouth. You can use a shower head, a hose, or a cup to gently pour water over your dog. Start from the neck and work your way down to the tail.

5. Apply shampoo

Squeeze a small amount of shampoo onto your palm and rub it between your hands. Then, massage it into your dog’s coat, starting from the neck and working your way down to the tail. 

💡Pro-Tip: Avoid the face area. You can use a soft cloth or a sponge to gently clean the face. Make sure to lather well and reach all the areas of your dog’s body, including the legs, belly, chest, and tail.

6. Rinse thoroughly

Use clean water to rinse off all the shampoo from your dog’s coat. Make sure that there is no residue left behind, as this can cause irritation and dryness. You can use your fingers to check for any bubbles or suds in the coat. Rinse from the neck down to the tail, avoiding the face area. 

7. Apply conditioner

If you want to use a conditioner on your dog, you can apply it after rinsing off the shampoo. Follow the same steps as for applying shampoo, but leave the conditioner on for a few minutes before rinsing it off. Conditioner can help moisturize and soften your dog’s coat, as well as prevent tangles and mats. To save time, try our 2-in-1 conditioning shampoo!

8. Dry your dog

Use a towel to gently pat your dog dry. Do not rub or scrub, as this can damage the hair and cause frizz. You can also use a hair dryer on a low setting to speed up the drying process, but be careful not to burn or scare your dog. Keep the dryer at a safe distance and move it around constantly. Avoid blowing hot air directly on your dog’s face or ears.

💡 Pro-Tip: For a salon finish, brush your dog again. After your dog is dry, you can brush them again to remove any loose hairs and make their coat shiny and smooth. You can also trim their nails, clean their ears, and brush their teeth if needed.


Special Considerations

While bathing your dog is generally a simple and straightforward process, there are some special cases that may require extra attention or care. Here are some of them:


Puppies have more delicate skin and coat than adult dogs, so they need gentle and mild products that are suitable for their age. You should also avoid bathing them too often, as this can strip away their natural oils and make them more susceptible to infections. The ideal frequency of bathing puppies is once every four weeks. You should also make sure that they are completely dry before letting them outside or exposing them to cold temperatures.

Dogs with skin conditions

Dogs with skin conditions such as allergies, dermatitis, eczema, or infections may need special shampoos that are prescribed by a veterinarian. 

These shampoos may contain ingredients such as oatmeal, aloe vera, tea tree oil, or medicated agents that can help soothe and heal the skin. You should follow the instructions of your vet on how often and how long to use these shampoos.

Senior dogs

Senior dogs may have more sensitive skin and coat than younger dogs, so they need gentle and moisturizing products that can prevent dryness and irritation. You should also avoid bathing them too often, as this can cause stress and discomfort for them. 

The ideal frequency of bathing senior dogs is once every six weeks. You should also check for any signs of arthritis or joint pain in your senior dog and make sure that they are comfortable during and after the bath.

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