Fido not looking so fresh and so clean? Or maybe it's the smell that tipped you off. Whatever's up with your pup, it sounds like it's time for a bath. Unless you have one of those rare unicorn dogs who love a good scrub-a-dub, just getting your dog in the tub can be a challenge. But the products you use once they're in deserve equal attention.
Like us humans, a dog's skin will absorb whatever is put on it. And since rules around labelling and listing of ingredients aren't as strict for pet products as they are for people products, it's really up to you to do the research and keep your dog out of harm's way.
What you want to look out for isn't too different than what you avoid when buying products for yourself. Artificial fragrance and colors are known irritants for humans and animals alike. Preservatives like parabens are thought to be stored in the body, posing health risks like estrogen disruption, cancer, and reproductive issues. They may be listed on the bottle as Butylparaben, Methylparaben, or Propylparaben. Then there's Isothiazolinone preservatives like Methylisothiazolinone and Methylchloroisothiazolinone—say that even one time fast—which are known skin irritants. Bath time has never sounded scarier, right?
Some dog shampoos contain surfactants you're likely familiar with: SLS, SLES, and Ammonium Laureth Sulfate. Then there's Polyethylene glycol (PEG), a humectant used to help skin retain moisture. It's a skin irritant, but what's worse is that it is a “penetration enhancer”–meaning it carries other chemicals, helping them cross through the skin and into the bloodstream.
It's clear that a natural dog shampoo is a safer bet for bath time, but there's a downside to natural dog shampoos as well: too often, they're not as natural as they claim. If you Google "natural dog shampoo" and find ingredient lists longer than your dog's leash, for example, run. Run away.
Certified organic dog shampoos, on the other paw, are a safer bet. They're put through a higher level of testing and must jump through a lot of hoops to obtain certification. And it's not just the final product that's reviewed, it's how the ingredients are grown, processed, and transported. You can also trust that there will be no GMO ingredients, pesticides, herbicides, artificial colors or fragrance in certified organic dog shampoos. All of this comes at a price though, of course.
Good news is, you can skip the label reading and investigative work at the pet store, and the expense of a certified organic shampoo, by making non-toxic cleaning products for pets yourself.
Our favorite DIY dog shampoo recipe uses gentle, natural ingredients that will leave your pup pal with moisturized skin and a shiny, healthy coat that smells great. Plus, it won't strip the natural oils from their fur.
With an ingredient list shorter than a 2-week old Chiweenie—just Castile soap, water and baking soda—this recipe is nothing to shake your tail at. Castile soap is gentle, all-natural, biodegradable, and non-toxic, making it great for pets, especially those with sensitive or itch-prone skin. Cove Castile soap in particular is made from certified organic coconut, argan, jojoba, hemp and olive oils. Yep. 10 out of 10 pets approve.
Here's the recipe:
Cove All-Natural Shampooch!
Makes 1 quart (2-4 washes depending on your dog's size and hair type)
- 4 cups water
- 3 tablespoons baking soda
- 1/2 cup Cove Unscented Castile liquid soap
- Fill a large bottle or jar with 4 cups water.
- Add 3 tablespoons baking soda.
- Pour in 1/2 cup Cove Unscented Castile soap (the solution will turn milky white right away).
- Put a lid on it and shake gently to combine ingredients.
How to use it:
Wet your pup with warm water. Working in sections, massage the shampoo gently through the fur and down to the skin. Work into a lather, taking special care to avoid your dog's eyes, obviously. Rinse well, making sure to remove any residue or traces of shampoo. Shake shake shake until dry! (Your dog, too.) Style that 'do.
About essential oils:
We've suggested Cove Unscented, as a Castile soap without added essential oils will be the gentlest and safest for most dogs.
Tea tree oil is toxic to pets, so tea tree-scented products should be avoided here. That said, other essential oils can leave your pup beautifully-scented post-bath. Tea Rose and Lavender—both of which contain certified organic essential oils—would work great in this castile soap dog shampoo recipe.
Keep bath time simple, friends.
Have you mastered the art of giving your dog a bath? Share your tips below and teach the Cove community some new tricks!