Dry Shampoo for Dogs: A Step By Step Guide

By Chelsea Hunt-Rivera / May 7, 2018
dry shampoo for dogs

Oh, the joys or struggles of keeping your precious pup clean. For most, it really is one way or the other. The experience can either be a fairly easy one if you happen to have a water-obsessed dog, or it can be an absolute living nightmare.

If you experience the latter every time your dog gets near the bath tub, you may very likely be at your wit’s end. Perhaps you’ve convinced yourself that your dog doesn’t smell “that bad.” Maybe you’ve gotten so used to the stench that you don’t even notice it anymore.

It doesn’t necessarily have to be this way! With dry shampoo for dogs now on the market, pet owners have the ability to avoid water and still have a clean pup. However, we all know that if something sounds too good to be true, it generally is.

Let’s discuss this new age way of cleaning and get to the bottom of what it may ultimately cost you and your four-legged companion.

dry shampoo for dogs

What is Dry Shampoo or Waterless Shampoo

Dry shampoo, sometimes referred to as waterless shampoo, is exactly what its name implies: a shampoo that doesn’t require water.

Chances are, you’ve probably heard of this miracle hair product for humans. Dry shampoo isn’t a brand new concept. In fact, from the 15th to the 18th century, people used dry shampoo made out of clay powders known as “Fuller’s earth.”

Dry shampoos first really became popular in the 1960’s and 1970’s with women using the product for quick touch-ups. By the mid-1970’s, with the discovery of dry shampoos being linked to lung cancer, the convenient spray quickly went out of style.

Luckily, science has progressed, formulas have changed accordingly, and the waterless product has since risen again in popularity for its time and water saving qualities.

What you may not know is that there are now dry shampoo products on the market for your dog.

How Does Dry Shampoo Work?

Sebaceous glands are small glands in the skin which produce oily substances into the hair follicles. Your dog has a large number of sebaceous glands particularly near the paws, tail area, chin, rump, and back of the neck.dry shampoo for dogs skin

The oily substances that the sebaceous glands secrete (called sebum) keep the skin healthy and provide a protective barrier against bacteria. Sebum is what gives your dog their scent.

If you have a smelly dog, chances are the sebum level of their coat is quite built up. A build-up of sebum leaves the hair looking greasy and dirty and the body smelling… less than ideal.

Dry shampoo works by absorbing excess oil from the skin and hair. The use of dry shampoo gives the hair a clean, fresh look and restores shine.


Benefits of Dry Shampoo for Dogs

The waterless shampoo can be beneficial for many pet owners for a slew of reasons.

Dogs That Cannot Stand Comfortably

Older dogs, dogs with conditions such as arthritis, as well as dogs with injuries may have trouble standing up for the time it takes to bathe them.

Pet owners may opt to use dry shampoo in order to extend the period of time from bath to bath and avoid causing additional stress on the dog’s body.

post surgery dry shampoo for dogs


If your dog has ever received stitches, you know the amount of time before they can have a bath can be quite long, and more times than not, result in a smelly dog.

This is an ideal time for a dry shampoo. Of course, pet owners should consult with their vet to ensure that the stitches are in an area that will not become agitated by the product.

A Quick Touch Up for Smelly Dogs

Let’s say, for instance, you’re cooking up a feast for the company that is coming over in the next hour. You call for Fido to come inside and realize that your bumbling pup has rolled in a mysterious, horrifically smelling outdoor substance.

Using dry shampoo on your stinky dog’s coat can mask the stench when time doesn’t permit for a full bathing experience.

dry shampoo for dogs large dog

Large Dogs

If you have a large breed dog, you may have trouble physically getting your dog into the shower or bathtub, not to mention control your 200-pound giant. Most pet owners opt to have their large dogs professionally groomed and keep them clean with dry shampoo in between appointments.

Dogs with a Fear of Water

Some dogs have an extreme fear of water making bath time a massively stressful time for the pet owner and dog alike.

Dry shampoo can be a great go-to for pet owners who want to minimize the stressful experience while keeping their dogs smelling great.

Is Dry Shampoo Safe

We know what you’re thinking, dry shampoo for Fido sounds pretty great. However, with great things comes great responsibilities. (Not entirely sure if that expression works here, but stick with us)

There are some very important things that pet owners should know before buying dry shampoo for their dogs in bulk. Unfortunately, some of this information isn’t great.

First of all, your dog needs its essential oils on their skin and coat. While these natural oils may be a bit smelly at times, they are necessary for the overall health and wellness of the dog. By using dry shampoo too often or using too much of the product, pet owners are inadvertently stripping the skin and coat of these oils which can cause some serious issues.

Build-up of Environmental Toxins

Excessive use of dry shampoo will clog the dog’s hair follicles, stunt the hair growth, and create a build-up of environmental toxins.

Moreso, it will not only strip the fur of its necessary, natural oils, but will also destroy the dog’s inherent antibacterial barrier thus leading to skin conditions and ailments.


There are a strange amount of companies that do not disclose the ingredients in their dry shampoo for dogs. Sometimes this is to protect proprietary ingredients, however, it can lead to a wide array of issues.

How can pet owners know what is in the product they are using on their pets? What if the dog has sensitive skin or allergies? What if the product causes an allergic reaction and the dog owner doesn’t know which ingredient is the culprit, therefore, leading to additional complications when trying to alleviate the reaction? Does this now mean you’ll have to run out for an anti-itch spray?

Convenience has now become anything but convenient.

As you can see, you’ll want to stay away from any product that has a non-disclosure of ingredients.

Dry Skin

When the dog’s coat is stripped of essential oils, dry, flaky skin is often the result.

Water and soap baths are the only way to efficiently clean your pup while still maintaining a healthy balance of natural oils of the skin and coat and keeping the hair follicles clear with the ability to breathe and grow.

Dry shampoo is safe for touchups between water baths, but should never be a replacement for them.

dry shampoo for dogs fear

Links to Cancer

Science has come a long way since using asbestos in hair products. However, every day we are learning and progressing, and it’s impossible to say that any product is 100% safe.

With that in mind, steer clear of the following ingredients as they have been linked to causing cancer:

  • DMDM Hydantoin – a form of slow releasing formaldehyde
  • Preservative
  • FD&C Blue #1 (artificial colors)
  • Fragrance (artificial fragrance)

How to Use Dry Shampoo

There are essentially four types of dry shampoo for dogs:

  • Powders
  • Gels
  • Foams
  • Mists*

*Some people don’t consider the mists so much of a “shampoo” but more so of a quick way to mask a smell.

In terms of the powders, gels, and foams, pet owners should massage the shampoo down their dog’s coat, wait a couple of minutes, and then brush out the excess.

Each product will come with its own set of specific directions which the pet owner should follow, but it will commonly be along the lines of the ‘apply-wait-brush’ method.

Natural Dry Shampoo

When choosing a dry shampoo, you’ll find that not all products are created equally. Pet owners should look for safe, natural ingredients.

Here are a few brands that have received high reviews and are considered safe for touch ups:

1. Paw Choice Foaming Mousse Dog Shampoo

Most pet owners love the scent and it’s gentle enough for dogs with sensitive skin.

2. Bodhi Dog Waterless Shampoo

Made with 100% non-toxic, natural ingredients, it is great for dogs with very sensitive skin.

3. Wahl No-Rinse Waterless Shampoo

The no-rinse waterless shampoo contains oatmeal to soothe dry, itchy skin.

DIY Dry Shampoo

Pet owners may decide that they want to make their own homemade dog shampoo.

By creating your own homemade pet shampoo, you are in complete control of the ingredients, an idea that we can all wrap our heads around.

Here’s a great, basic structure for homemade dog shampoo recipes:

  • 1/2 cup of cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup of baking soda
  • 5-10 drops of essential oil* (we recommend lavender and tea tree oil)
    Simply mix together!

*Pet owners will want to research what essential oils are best for their dog. As an added bonus, lavender and tea tree oils can act as a natural flea repellent.

Dry Shampoo: Creating a Stressfree Bath Time

By and large, you want what’s best for your dog, but it’s always nice when you go to snuggle up with your precious pup and don’t question whether or not they rolled through trash.

When used appropriately, dry shampoo for dogs can be a great way to keep Fido smelling great between trips to the groomers.


Can You Use Human Shampoo on Dogs?

No! This can cause massive skin allergies and irritations. Stick with the products designed specifically for dogs.


How will dry shampoo clean my dog’s fur?

Is my dog a good candidate for dry shampoo?

What is the best dry shampoo for dogs?


Dry Shampoo For Dogs: Convenient … But Is It Safe?



Dry Shampoo for Dogs: Love It, Rub It, and Keep it Natural



About the author

Chelsea Hunt-Rivera

Chelsea Rivera is a Dedicated Pet Parent who loves to create amazing content for pet owners and is helping change pet wellness as the Head of Content for Honestpaws.com.