You probably only bathe your dog at most once every other week. More frequent baths strip the coat of oils needed for it to remain healthy with continual exposure to the weather. If a shampoo and conditioner are only going to touch your dog’s coat every few weeks, you want to make it count. Maximize coat health by choosing shampoos and conditioners that don’t include harsh chemicals and detergents. Some available shampoos have special features like colloidal oatmeal to soothe itchy skin or natural whitening ingredients to remove stains from light-colored dogs.
Choosing a Shampoo
The best dog shampoos use all-natural ingredients and either no fragrance or a very mild fragrance. Strongly perfumed shampoos may smell great to you, but your dog’s highly sensitive nose will be burning for days. It’s debatable whether or not any sulfates should be used in dog shampoos. On the one hand, shampoos that contain sodium laureth sulfate rinse away more completely, preventing itching. On the other hand, sulfate-free shampoos are gentler on the skin and coat.
If your dog has skin allergies, look for a hypoallergenic shampoo. Your vet can sell you a medicated shampoo to reduce allergy symptoms. Alternately, try a commercially available shampoo that contains colloidal oatmeal. Tea tree oil is also good for dogs with allergies, provided they’re not allergic to the tea tree oil itself. Just make sure the fragrance isn’t too strong and keep it away from cats. Essential oil products should never be used on cats.
For seriously itchy dogs, a coal tar shampoo may provide some relief. Again, never use this type of shampoo on or near a cat. It could be fatal. Coal tar may cause health problems if exposure is prolonged and/or repeated, so try to limit its use to dogs that really need immediate help, then treat the itching in the long term with a gentler remedy.
Choosing a Conditioner
A good conditioner should both detangle the coat and keep it soft and manageable between baths. As the last thing that goes on a dog’s coat before the end of a bath, it will be the dominant fragrance after the dog has dried. Again, look for a mild scent or a fragrance-free conditioner for your dog’s comfort.
Like shampoos, conditioners are most effective and safest when all-natural formulas are chosen. A creme conditioner that is left on for several minutes before rinsing away will have the greatest impact in terms of a soft coat that stays soft for several days. For a less dramatic effect or for breeds where a somewhat coarse coat is desired, choose a thinner conditioner and leave it on only long enough to comb out any tangles.