Homemade Dog Shampoo | How To Make Healthy, Effective Dog Shampoo At Home

You are going to be a winning dog-mom/dad with your healthy homemade dog shampoo! Bathing your dog should be a part of your dog care routine. Even if your dog does not shed a lot of hair or go outside much, it is still necessary to bathe and groom your dog on a regular basis. 

For some people, bathing their dog is as simple as calling up their favorite groomer and making an appointment. This is especially true when certain dog breeds need frequent haircuts and nail trims. 

But what if your dog rarely leaves the couch and only needs a haircut a couple times a year? What if your dog has special bathing needs such as sensitive skin?

Bathing your dog with a homemade dog shampoo is not only better for their skin but better for your wallet too. You will be surprised how easy it is to make homemade dog shampoo with only a few simple ingredients that you probably already have in your pantry. From general maintenance, to fleas and ticks, to an all-out assault on your dog’s body odor, we have a DIY recipe for you.

Not sure how often to wash your dog? Or what dog grooming entails? Keep reading to find out more about taking great care of your dog and how easy it is to make your own homemade dog shampoo.

How often should you wash your dog?

There is no set frequency for how often you should wash your dog. Your dog's breed, lifestyle and how long their hair is are all factors that affect how often you should bathe your dog.

If your dog has long hair it is possible you will need to bathe your dog more frequently than a dog with short hair. The longer hair strands can get dirty quicker and may pick up more odors resulting in frequent washings. However, pricier hairless breeds can require weekly baths as well to keep their skin free from irritants.

When determining a grooming schedule that is right for you and your dog, it is important not to wash so frequently that the dog's skin is stripped of its natural oils. Doing so can cause minor skin conditions and increased itching and scratching.

If you must bathe a dog more frequently, use a shampoo that has a built-in moisturizer or does not contain soap. This will still clean your dog without stripping away the oils needed to maintain a healthy skin and coat.

Sometimes bathing a dog more frequently is the desire of the dog owner. If the dog owner suffers from allergies pertaining to dog dander, it would benefit the owner's health to bathe the dog once a week. If you are unable to dedicate time for a weekly bath, simply use a damp cloth whenever you return from a walk or the park to remove surface dirt and allergens.

However, bathing a dog more frequently may not fix the dander problem completely. You will need to comb your dog’s hair (preferably outside) to remove excess dander. You may also need to sweep or vacuum your home frequently to cut down on shedding that falls on flooring, furniture and even clothing.

If your dog spends the majority of his time outside playing in mud puddles, grasses or with other animals, your dog will need more frequent bathing than a dog that spends his days lounging inside.

When bathing your dog, try to bathe his body first and then his head. Dogs are more likely to shake their body and get water all over the place when their head is wet. Do not put shampoo (even natural) near a dog's eyes. The eyes are a very sensitive area and should be kept rinsed during the bathing process. Some dogs require brushing and combing before any water is used to wash them. This is especially true in dogs with fur that gets tangled easily. Some dogs also require a good moisturizer to protect their skin and even a post-bath blow dry.

If you bathe your dog and they develop red, itchy skin or hives, discontinue using the shampoo. It may contain an ingredient that the dog is sensitive or allergic to. You can try using oatmeal based shampoo or simply washing your dog with warm water. Asking your veterinarian which shampoo would work best for your dog is also an option.

If you have any questions about how often to bathe your specific breed, a veterinarian should be able to give you guidance and answer any questions you may have. There are also professional groomers that know how to properly bathe your dog and can suggest treatment and frequency options. This is a great option if you are short on time to properly care for your dog in this way.

Three Recipes for Homemade Dog Shampoo

It is easy to make your own dog shampoo with a few common ingredients. You may want to consider making a shampoo for your dog for general cleaning, for pests like fleas and ticks, and for deep cleaning (when your dog is drenched in debris and odor).

However, if you are in a pinch and cannot make your own dog shampoo, you will want to stay away from the following ingredients when making your purchase. Look for the chemicals Polyethylene Glycol (PEG), Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES). All of these chemicals are known to dry out the skin and have even been linked to other health issues such as diarrhea and eye damage. You should also look out for phthalates and parabens. Both are being removed from human grade shampoo but can still be found in dog shampoo.

When you are making your own homemade dog shampoo, do not use human shampoo as a formula or ingredient for creating your own dog shampoo. The pH levels are different and using the wrong shampoo can affect your dog's skin. The pH levels of a dog shampoo should be in the seven range (human shampoo is in the five range). Luckily there are several recipes available that have tested the pH level so you do not have to worry about how to figure out the levels yourself.

Depending on what type of bath you are making the homemade dog shampoo for, we have included three recipes that are quick, easy and more natural for your dog.

DIY Dog Shampoo

2 cups of warm water

1/4 cup of dish soap

1/2 cup of white vinegar

2 tablespoons of aloe vera gel

Mix until combined. This mixture works best combining in a spray bottle. Once combined, wet your dog’s hair and skin with warm water. Use the spray bottle to fully coat your dog with the homemade dog shampoo, avoiding sensitive areas, especially the eyes. Rinse your dog thoroughly until the water runs clear and there are no bubbles. The dish soap will strip away excess dirt and oil from your dog’s skin and hair. The vinegar acts as a natural deodorizer and provides a healthy barrier from toxins and pests. The aloe vera gel calms the skin and counteracts any skin reactions from the dish soap and vinegar.

Natural Flea and Tick Shampoo for Dogs

1 quart water

1 cup white vinegar or apple cider vinegar

1 cup liquid Dawn dish soap (or castile soap)

Mix until combined. After placing your dog in the bath tub, rinse your dog with warm water. Apply the natural flea and tick shampoo (it should lather well from the consistency of the dish soap) and let set for at least five minutes, making sure to stay away from sensitive areas. A flea comb or brush can be used while soaking to remove any dead fleas.

Rinse off the soap. The strong scent of the vinegar will keep pests away. For best results, bathe your dog every week or so to prevent pests from invading your dog’s skin. However, Dawn can dry out your dog’s skin. If you need to use the DIY flea and tick soap frequently, try substituting dish soap with castile soap. Castile soap is gentler on the skin and a more natural alternative to commercial dish soaps.

You can also use a spray bottle with three parts water to one part vinegar. This is great for applying to your dog’s skin in between bath times or simply for extra protection against pests. This spray also works around your house to keep pests at bay.

Deep Clean Dog Shampoo

1 cup of apple cider vinegar

1 cup unscented natural dish soap

2 cups water

2 oz. vegetable glycerin (substitutes for vegetable glycerin include corn syrup or vegetable oil)

Mix until combined. You will need to shake up the bottle or container every time you use it to make sure every ingredient is mixed thoroughly.

After using, your dog should be free from dirt and odor. If dirt and foul odor are still present, you will need to repeat the above bathing steps with the deep clean dog shampoo until your dog is free of dirt and odor. After repeat bathing, allow the dog’s skin to rest by not getting the dog’s hair and skin wet or using any topical medications. Let your dog air dry as opposed to harsh blow drying if you can.

If your dog repeatedly brings excessive dirt and odor into your home, it is wise to investigate the cause. You might have a mud puddle or scent from another animal in your yard that is attracting your dog. Removing the mud or scent from your yard and using healthy discipline is a sure fire way to modify your dog’s behavior. If you do not address the problem, you will have to bathe your pet every time they seek out dirt and debris to roll in. This can cause frustration in the best of dog owners and continued bad behavior in your dog. Once you have trained your dog to be mindful while outdoors, you will have time to focus on other grooming tasks.

Additional Grooming

Giving your dog a bath is not the only grooming that is required maintaining a healthy, happy pet. Combing your dog’s hair will make bath time go faster. You will need to keep your dog’s ears clean and dry. Nail trimming is also a regular activity that should be added to your grooming routine. Brushing your dog’s teeth will not only help him keep his pearly whites longer, but may extend his life as well.


Grooming your dog with a brush or comb is essential for removing dirt and dispersing your dog's natural skin oils. With less tangles, it will be easier to bathe your dog. It is also a perfect time to check for excess dirt and any hidden fleas or pests that may have attached to your dog’s fur when playing outside.

For short hair dogs with smooth or dense fur, you can expect to comb or brush them once a week. For dogs with long hair that is silky or that tangles easily, a daily brushing may be in order.

If your dog's hair is frequently matted, take care to not pull the hair too forcefully. This will create discomfort for your dog and possibly make grooming more of a chore than it needs to be. Simply brush out tangles at the end of his hair. Brushing this way will protect the root of the hair from too much pulling and agitation.

Ear Cleaning

Dogs have very sensitive ears so cleaning them is an activity that will take some practice. Your dog might not like getting his ears cleaned and try to squirm away or shake his head making the process more difficult than it needs to be. Having some reward treats ready before you start the ear cleaning process is an easy way to make the process go smoothly. You might also consider recruiting a second person to help you restrain your dog while you clean his ears if your dog is nervous about getting his ears cleaned.

Choose a natural ear cleanser that is safe for your dog. It should not contain unnecessary ingredients including antibiotics, alcohol or steroids. Using a clean cotton ball or your finger wrapped in medical grade gauze, start cleaning on the outside of the ear. Move to the inside slowly so you do not damage the ear. Wet a cotton ball with cleaner for the outer ear and then repeat for the inner ear.

It is recommended to do this process once a week to keep your dog's ears healthy and free from bacteria. If the cotton ball is a dark color or contains a lot of debris after cleaning the ear, your dog might have an ear infection and need medication to clear up the bacteria.

Consult your veterinarian if you think you dog's ears need attention. Your vet can inspect your dog's ears and offer options to clear up any long-standing ear issues your dog may have.

Nail Trim

Your dog's nails will need trimming on a regular basis. The frequency is determined greatly on the lifestyle your dog leads. If your dog mainly lives outside, he may be able to grind down his nails naturally on concrete or stone. This is also true for dogs that are frequently taken on walks outdoors.

For older dogs or dogs that spend the majority of their life indoors, a nail trim will need to be addressed more frequently. If you notice your dog's nails making tapping sounds on a hard surface floor or getting snagged in the carpet, it is time for a trim.

If your dog is sensitive about his feet or fidgety when touched, you may have to have his nails trimmed by a professional groomer. The groomer will determine what restraints are needed to properly trim your dog's nails. The groomer will also take proper care in filing the nails so they do not scratch or harm your skin while playing with the dog.

The cost to cut a dog's nails is generally reasonable. Sometimes a groomer will provide package deals, so you can also get your dog washed and his hair cut when getting his nails trimmed. If you can schedule all of the necessary grooming at one time, it is a huge time saver and you may save money for bundling the services as well.

You can also trim the nails yourself. There are many tools available that make it easy to do a quick trim from the convenience of your own home.

Brushing Your Dog’s Teeth

It is important to regularly brush your dog's teeth. Just like humans, keeping a dog's teeth healthy can aid in everyday physical health. There are several dog toothbrushes and toothpaste options available that make it easier to add brushing to your dog care routine. If you are brushing your dog's teeth and still have plaque issues with plaque or bleeding gums, you may want to look at your pet's diet.

In order to maintain healthy teeth, you must give your dog the best nutritional dog food you can afford. The healthier the dog food, the easier it will be to take care of his teeth. Mass produced and cheap dog food contain fillers and processed sugars that can degrade your pup's teeth, just like humans can get cavities by eating and drinking too much processed sugar.

After you have purchased a nutritional dog food, consider getting your dog different chew toys and digestible bones. These toys and bones will help gently scrape the teeth of plaque and excess food particles. The cost of these products will save you in the long run. If excess tartar or gingivitis appears in your dog, the procedures to help your dog keep his teeth can be costly.

When brushing your dog's teeth for the first time, you do not need to use any toothpaste. You will want to first get your dog used to a brushing motion on their lips and then move to their gums and teeth. You can use a clean finger or a finger toothbrush to accomplish this task.

Once your pet is comfortable with the brushing, put specially formulated dog toothpaste on the dog's lips. Repeat the process of using the toothpaste on the gums and teeth. It is recommended to use a circular motion to clean your dog's teeth. In most cases, plaque forms on the outer part of the tooth or the part of the tooth that touches the inside cheek area.

If your dog is fighting you when you try to clean the inside parts of his teeth, do not worry about this area. Very little plaque accumulates on the inside of the teeth. Incorporate teeth brushing in your dog's grooming routine a couple of times a week for optimum teeth health.


Making your own homemade dog shampoo can save you money. It is also a more natural solution for your pet’s health. Commercial dog shampoos contain unnecessary chemicals and are marketed at a higher cost due to their specialty.

Homemade dog shampoo recipes depend on how often you need to bathe your dog and what you are bathing your dog for. It is important to follow the recipe closely to achieve a pH that is safe for dogs. Human shampoo should not be used for dogs due to its lower pH. The human grade shampoo can negatively affect your dog’s skin and hair. The ingredients in homemade dog shampoo are fairly easy to find at your local supermarket and very affordable. They are also very simple to make in small quantities for puppies and large quantities for larger breeds.

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