Choosing the Right Shampoo & Conditioner

Right Shampoo & Conditioner

When choosing a shampoo or conditioner the possibilities and options are endless. There are shampoos for every hair type, every hair color, gender, age, scalp condition, hair length, and more. There are two-in-one, three-in-one, multi-step, and everything in between. When choosing a shampoo or conditioner for your pet, there are less options, yes, but still a huge variety to choose from. 

How do you choose the right shampoo? What are the options and how are they different? Does your dog need a conditioner? What about sensitive skin or dry skin? And what about scents? This post outlines the different types of shampoos and conditioners and how to choose the best one for your dog. 


A shampoo is designed with the intention of cleaning the scalp, or in the case of dogs, the skin. It should be tailored to fit the skin type and condition. In the case of pets, shampoo also cleans the hair or fur itself, stripping it of grease, dander, and dirt. When choosing a shampoo consider the condition of the skin (greasy, dry, patchy, irritated, dandruff) and the type of fur (thick, long, short, undercoat, curly, coarse).

Deshedding Shampoo

Shedding is entirely normal and healthy. Some breeds of dog have multiple coats. Depending on the breed, these dogs will shed seasonally, year round, or periodically. Some breeds, like Golden Retrievers or German Shepherds, shed a little bit year round, and then heavily when the seasons change. Regardless of the breed (unless your dog is hairless), your dog will shed. 

Shedding occurs when a dog loses dead or damaged fur. This can occur due to breakage or because of the natural process of shedding. The key with deshedding shampoo is to determine if your pet needs it and, if they do, using it strategically. Deshedding shampoo contains omega fatty acids and moisturizes to help hydrate the skin and hair follicles. 

This strengthens healthy fur and helps remove dead or damaged fur. Deshedding shampoo can be used on dogs with thicker fur, dogs with undercoats, or dogs that shed seasonally. Using a deshedding shampoo on a dog with dry skin or patchy skin (dry patches, commonly a result of allergies or hot spots) can help strengthen the skin and reduce shedding due to dry skin. Be careful using deshedding shampoo on dogs with double undercoats or wiry undercoats as this type of shampoo can sometimes strip natural oils which can damage the hair further.

Best Used On: Akita, Siberian Husky, Bernese Mountain Dog, Alaskan Malamute, Chow Chow, German Shepherd, Golden Retriever, American Eskimo, Corgi, Great Pyrenees, Labrador Retriever, Border Collie, Australian Shepherd, Saint Bernard, or similar breeds. 

Anti-fungal Shampoo

The primary use of this type of shampoo is for dogs who have a bacterial skin infection or yeast infection. Most likely, your veterinarian will recommend this type of shampoo to you. However, consider using this shampoo if your pet has been recently adopted from a shelter; spends a lot of time outside; swims in lakes, or bodies of water with fish; has frequent hot spots, or has skin allergies.

Many antifungal shampoos are medicated which can help to clear up active infections. However, using them regularly for dogs that may spend a lot of time outdoors or swimming in bodies of water with other wildlife can help prevent possible infections from occurring. This is true to dogs with allergies or who suffer from hot spots as well. A major concern for dogs with allergies is the possibility that their scratching can tear the skin. This can lead to infection due to the open wound.

Dandruff Shampoo

Dandruff shampoos can come both medicated and unmedicated. If your dog has dandruff, this is most likely due to dry skin caused by medication, constant scratching, diet, or environmental factors. If your dog suffers from dandruff, ask your veterinarian for a recommendation on which to use. 

Medicated dandruff shampoos often have stronger ingredients like peroxide, salicylic acid, and micronized sulfur. Medicated dandruff shampoos with pH balance can help reduce dryness and irritation. Unmedicated dandruff shampoos often contain ingredients that are both moisturizing and non irritating. These ingredients often include oatmeal, omegas, and tea tree. 

However, be careful to read the ingredients on the bottle as some Dandruff shampoos can include ingredients that irritate the skin, perpetuating the issue. Dandruff shampoo can be used on dogs who are recovering from an infection and have lots of dead skin, who have patchy skin that is peeling due to hot spots, and dogs who have allergies which cause irritation and dry skin.

Sensitive Skin, Anti-Itch, or Hypoallergenic Shampoo

A number of reason can cause sensitive skin including old age, allergies, or be caused by medications. This is true for both humans and dogs. For those with sensitive skin, many chemicals or scents can irritate the skin. These types of shampoo help to reduce irritation and soothe the skin. They contain ingredients like aloe which reduces redness, hydrates the skin, and soothes irritated skin; lavender, a natural anti-inflammatory; tea tree, an antibacterial and anti-inflammatory used to soothe skin; and oatmeal. 

Sensitive skin, anti-itch, or hypoallergenic shampoos can be used on dogs with allergies, older dogs who may be prone to irritation, dogs with hot spots, or any dog. The wonderful thing about sensitive skin shampoos is that they are gentle for both the dog and the owner because they do not contain harsh chemicals, ingredients, or odors. All of which is good for you and good for your dog. 

Keep in mind that when using one of these shampoo types, it may require more frequent bathing of your pet to maintain the level of cleanness you would normally expect from a shampoo for stronger or more potent ingredients. Be sure to read the label to determine the ingredients. Determine the types of ingredients and their purpose (degrease, anti-inflammatory, soothing, hydrating, moisturizing) as this will help determine how often you may need to bathe your dog, and if you may need a conditioner for added moisture. 

Flea & Tick Shampoo

The primary purpose of a flea & tick shampoo is to kill any fleas or ticks that are presently on your pet during the wash. Some types of flea and tick shampoos are gentler and can be used in conjunction with your regular shampoo during regular washings, while others are stronger and have harsher ingredients which will kill living fleas or ticks, larvae, and eggs. 

These shampoos can contain medication in it, similar to what might apply topically to your pet for flea and tick prevention, but in a gentler formula. They may also contain peppermint and clove which are natural treatments to kill fleas. Be sure to read the ingredients list and ensure that there are not any drying ingredients like alcohol, as this will only irritate the skin further if the dog already has fleas. 


Not all dogs need conditioner, but some do. To determine if your dog needs conditioner, consider the length of your dog’s coat, how often you wash your dog, and whether or not your dog has itchy skin. Like shampoos, there are different types of conditioners for different purposes. Some conditioners are meant to moisturize and hydrate the skin to prevent breakage to the skin and fur, while other conditioners are meant to keep the fur silky smooth to prevent tangles.

For dogs with longer coats, especially dogs with curly hair, matting and tangles are a concern. In this case, using conditioner can help prevent tangles and matted fur, which makes brushing smoother, and also reduces irritation that can be caused by fur matting. Sometimes, in serious cases, matting can harbor bacteria leading to fungal or bacterial infections. Dogs prone to tangles or matting include breeds like Afghan Hounds, Yorkshire Terriers, Golden Retrievers, Border Collies, Australian Shepherds, Poodles, Goldendoodles, Cocker Spaniels, Bishon Frisés, Shih Tzus, and dogs with silky coats or double coats. 

Consider how often you wash your dog and if they have itchy skin. Regular washing is recommended for dogs with allergies or sensitive skin. It helps reduce irritation or reactions that you wash them frequently. However, frequent bathing can dry out the skin and coat. Using a moisturizing or hydrating conditioner can help relieve that dryness from frequent washes, restoring the moisture in the hair shaft. Choose a conditioner with soothing ingredients like aloe, tea tree, or lavender for dogs with itchy skin.

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