How to Bathe a Dog without Dog Shampoo

10 - 30 Minutes
1 Month


You let your Golden Retriever out in the backyard for a few minutes, get distracted, go to let him in an hour later, and he has dug a hole in the back corner of your yard. It rained last night and now he is covered in wet mud and goodness only knows what else, but there's a problem: you're out of dog shampoo. Now what? 

Good news! You have a few options you can use from supplies you have at home. When using alternative shampoos to those specifically designed for dogs, be careful of the pH level. If you use substances that are acidic like vinegar combined with other substances, you will need to watch the resulting pH level, as substances that are too acidic can irritate your dog's skin. Using human shampoo is usually not a good option, as humans have skin with a lower pH than dogs and ingredients present in human shampoo may not be appropriate for dogs' skin.  

Dog's Perspective

You dog probably doesn't care what kind of shampoo you use, as long as you don't get it in his eyes! However, if your dog is not rinsed off well enough and he licks off residue from human shampoo or another detergent, he might get sick. Also, residual detergents not appropriate for dogs can irritate his skin. Neither of these things will make your dog a very happy camper.  Therefore, it is important to use shampoos that will not cause your dog's skin to become dry and irritated or that contains toxic substances that he may lick off. Many essential oils and ingredients found in dish detergents or human shampoo can make your dog sick or irritate his skin so be careful.

The Homemade Shampoo Method

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Mix shampoo
Mix ½ cup of vinegar, 2 cups warm water and ¼ cup Dawn dish soap in a spray bottle and shake. Dish soap should not be used often, as it can have a drying effect on dogs' skin.
Spray and lather
Spray the mixture all over your dog's body, and work in with your fingers to a lather.
Careful with the face
Keep mixture out of your dog's eyes, ears, mouth, and nose.
Rinse really well to remove all residue.
Dry with towel and air dry, or use a blow dryer on a low setting.
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The Dry shampoo Method

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Slicker Brush
Pin Brush
Brush and comb your dog thoroughly to remove loose hair, dead skin, and debris.
Apply baking soda or cornstarch
Apply baking soda or cornstarch by sprinkling all over your dog’s coat. Use ¼ to 1 cup, depending on the size of your dog.
Massage in with your fingers, and brush throughout your dog's coat to distribute evenly.
Keep away from face
Be sure to keep powder out of your dog's eyes, ears, and nose when applying.
Use wipes
Use baby wipes, a damp washcloth, or dog wipes to clean your dog's face, feet, and back end.
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Caution & Considerations

  • Watch the pH of any shampoo or cleanser you use on your dog so that you do not irritate or dry out his skin.

  • Make sure all shampoos are thoroughly rinsed out, so residue does not remain that could irritate the skin or that your dog could lick off.

  • Be careful of human shampoos and other detergents, they may contain ingredients that are toxic to dogs. Even some essential oils contain plant compounds that can make your dog sick.

  • When bathing your dog with any shampoo, always make sure he is standing on a non-slip surface to avoid injury.

  • Be careful of eyes ears and mouth when shampooing your dog. Avoid getting any shampoos or detergents in these areas, especially the eyes.

  • Watch your dog after bathing with an alternate shampoo to make sure he does not experience an allergic reaction.


Not having dog shampoo on hand does not have to be a crisis--there are alternatives for cleaning your dog. Although shampoos specifically designed for dogs are usually the best option, as they are non-toxic and designed for the pH and chemical make-up and needs of your dog's skin, temporary alternatives are available using household products. No need to keep smelling a funky dog until you have time to get to the store!

Success Stories and Grooming Questions

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