Bathing a Dog With Baby Shampoo – Is it a Good Idea?


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Yesterday, I had one of what I refer to as my “LeroyDammit” moments. Of my two Boxers, Janice has hardly ever caused me any trouble. Leroy, on the other hand… well, Leroy, as I have pointed out before (most notably in Help, My Dog Ate a Battery!)is a doofus. In his younger years, I’m sure he thought his name was LeroyDammit, since there was nothing he wouldn’t get into, nothing he wouldn’t destroy, and no amount of positive reinforcement that would motivate him to behave. I was constantly running after him shouting “LeroyDammit!” Training Leroy was an interesting process, to say the least.

Today, Leroy is generally well-behaved. In fact, he is a very good dog.But there are some things that you just can’t overcome, and one of those things is the tendency of dogs to roll in disgusting things. All dogs, even the best-behaved, love stinky stuff, and that’s something that’s never going to change.

Yesterday, I somehow left the door to the henhouse slightly ajar, and Leroy made a beeline for it. Now, he is a kind, gentle dog, so he did no harm to the chickens other than scaring the living bejabbers out of them. The “LeroyDammit” moment occurred when he rolled in chicken product, and I’m not talking about eggs.

You can’t even begin to imagine how he reeked. So, obviously, he needed a bath. Boxers being short-haired dogs, I really don’t usually have to do much in the way of grooming, and as rotten luck would have it, I was between shipments of doggie shampoo from Amazon. And my local pet supply store was closed for the evening. What to do?

Johnson’s Baby Shampoo for Dogs

I’m not crazy about the idea of bathing a dog with baby shampoo. I don’t know about you, but I’ve used Johnson’s baby shampoo, and that “no more tears” thing isn’t exactly true. Sure, it doesn’t sting when it gets in your eyes the way adult shampoos do, but you’ll still feel it. The pet supply store being closed, though, bathing my dog with baby shampoo seemed like the most reasonable option. Not perfect, but acceptable, and I made sure to keep the suds away from Leroy’s eyes.

Just because it’s the lesser of two evils (baby shampoo vs. adult shampoo), though, that doesn’t mean that you should make a habit of bathing a dog with baby shampoo. It can be very drying to the skin, and let’s face it – it’s formulated for human babies, not dog babies. There are any number of better alternatives. Use it in a pinch, but if you’re not up against a wall the way I was, consider using a shampoo that is specially formulated for dogs. There are a number on the market, and they are geared toward specific issues.

You Need to Get Your Dog Clean

This is, of course, the primary reason for needing a dog shampoo – your dog is dirty. If it’s just the ordinary, garden-variety “Wow, he doesn’t smell very good, so it must be time for a bath” scenario, but it’s not a “My dog rolled in chicken crap” type of thing, then you can forego bathing your dog with baby shampoo. Take a little time and mix up a home recipe that will get the job done without drying your dog’s skin. I have a wonderfully easy recipe that you can mix up, and it’s all based on the number 2. Here goes:

  • 2 cups of water
  • 2 teaspoons of aloe
  • 2 teaspoons of dishwashing liquid
  • 2 teaspoons of pennyroyal
  • 2 teaspoons of olive oil
  • 2 drops of eucalyptus oil

Because one of the ingredients is dish soap, make sure to keep the lather away from your dog’s eyes, the same as you would if you were bathing a dog with baby shampoo.

If you’re not inclined toward making your own dog shampoo, I can definitely recommend Duke & Daisy Pet Shampoo to get your dog nice and clean. It’s all-natural, and formulated with aloe and oatmeal, so if your dog has sensitive skin, you won’t have to worry about itching following the bath. It’s tear-free, too, and suitable for use on both adult dogs and puppies.

Your Dog has Fleas

If your dog has fleas or other parasites, you might need a medicated dog shampoo. In this case, bathing your dog with baby shampoo simply isn’t going to get the job done. Generally speaking, I think that parasites are better dealt with by means of a visit to your veterinarian, but I’m also a realist, and I know that vet visits cost a lot of money. So I understand if you’d rather try a shampoo first.

If you’re using a medicated shampoo, though, you have to be even more careful than you would if you were bathing a dog with baby shampoo. This is because most medicated shampoos contain pyrethrum – it’s very effective when it comes to controlling parasites, but it is most definitely not tear-free. It can also be very drying, so if you use a preparation containing pyrethrum, you should follow the bath with a conditioner.

Increasingly, pet owners are turning to homeopathic shampoos. One of the best is Nootie Dermatology Solutions Medicated Antifungal Shampoo. It’s highly concentrated, controls fungi and bacteria as well as pests, and you can even use it on cats and horses as well.

No-Rinse Shampoos

Okay, another story – you know how I love to digress. One year, I was holding Christmas dinner in my home for a ton of friends and relatives. Of course just before company arrived, my doofus (yes, you Leroy!) decided that it would be a really great idea to go outdoors and roll in the mud (It was a “brown Christmas”). He was an absolute mess, and there was no time for a bathing my dog with baby shampoo, or anything else for that matter. Also, since Leroy is part of my family, I wasn’t going to relegate him to the yard for the duration of the festivities.

Fortunately, I always keep a can of “no rinse” shampoo for just such emergencies. Note that these are not preparations that will work for horrible issues like chicken crap, and they’re not intended to be used as a substitute for an ordinary bath from time to time. They are, however, great for quick clean-ups. I like Paw Choice Naturals No Rinse Dog Shampoo. You basically just rub it in, comb it out, and you’re good to go.

Related Content:

6 Homemade Dog Shampoo Recipes
8 Waterless Dog Shampoo: Thinking of Trying? Read This First!
5 of the Best Smelling Dog Shampoos

Specialty Shampoos

I don’t show my dogs. If I have  free weekend, I’d far rather just spend it going for walks or playing with Janice and Leroy instead of hanging around a show ring obsessing over whether a judge is going to find them perfect, adequate, or wanting on some level. That said, I know that a lot of people take a great deal of pleasure in showing, and consider it a way of bonding with their dogs.

Show people often use whitening shampoos that erase food, urine and grass stains from a dog’s coat, and leave it shining. Since I don’t show, I’ve never used one, but my research suggests that one of the best whitening shampoos is the Petpost Dog Whitening Shampoo. In addition to whitening the coats of pure white dogs, it also enhances darker areas of multi-colored dogs. It’s also fine for show, since it’s not a dye (which would be prohibited). It also has a very nice watermelon scent.

Specialty Shampoos

Deodorizing Shampoos

Probably the only thing worse than chicken crap for a dog to get into would be if he came up close and personal with a skunk. Thank God neither of my dogs have ever done such a thing. If your dog ever does end up on the wrong end of a skunk, though, you can forget that time-honored dictum to bathe him in tomato juice. A tomato juice bath is even less effective than bathing a dog with baby shampoo when it comes to skunk odor.

You could be bathing your dog with baby shampoo or tomato juice over and over until the cows come home, and never get rid of the stench. The baby shampoo might help a bit, but the tomato juice? Well, basically what you’re going to end up with is a dog that smells like a skunk lasagna. Your better option would be to get in touch with your vet and find out what he or she recommends.

You could also try a homemade recipe. I haven’t tried it out, since I’ve never had the dog/skunk issue, but I have heard from a number of people that it is effective. It consists of a quart of peroxide, a quarter cup of baking soda, 2 teaspoons of either Ivory dish soap or Softsoap and 2 teaspoons of Febreze mixed up in a quart of lukewarm water. Shake it up into a container to work it into a lather, apply it to your dog, and try to keep it on your dog’s coat for 5 minutes at least. You may have to repeat this two or three times. Make sure you wear old clothes while bathing your dog, too, because believe me, you’ll never be able to wash skunk stench out of your clothing – anything that you’re wearing will simply have to be thrown away or burned.

If you live in an area where skunks are a common problem, it’s best to be prepared. The last thing you really want to have to do if your dog has come into conflict with a skunk is spend a lot of time mixing up shampoo. My dog care kit contains a bottle of FURminatordeOdorizingUltra Premium Shampoo, just in case one of my two (probably Leroy, dammit!) ever does decide that it might be fun to play with a skunk. It contains baking soda and other deodorizers, and if the label is to be believed, it will eliminate virtually any strong odor. I’ve never had to put it to the test, so don’t take this as a hard and fast recommendation – it’s just what I’m keeping on hand, in case. It’s not recommended for puppies under 6 weeks, so if you have a puppy that decides to mix it up with a skunk, it’s probably vet time.

Related Content:

6 Homemade Dog Shampoo Recipes
8 Waterless Dog Shampoo: Thinking of Trying? Read This First!
5 of the Best Smelling Dog Shampoos

The Final Word

So, is bathing a dog with baby shampoo a good idea? Johnson & Johnson would have you believe that it is. However, given that a dog’s skin has a very different pH level than that of a human, and given that baby shampoo is known to be drying, I would avoid it unless there is no alternative. With all the shampoos that are on the market that are specifically geared to dogs, it’s not like you don’t have a ton of choices. And, as I pointed out above, there are shampoos that you can make at home.

Companies that make dog shampoos are in it to make money, and they’re going to try to convince you that you need their products to keep your dog clean and odor-free. For that matter, so is Johnson & Johnson. So don’t assume that you’re better off bathing your dog with Johnson’s, or that one dog shampoo is necessarily better for your dog than another. Consider the purpose of the shampoo, and ask yourself whether you can make something better and safer at home. If it’s at all possible, avoid bathing a dog with baby shampoo, and never, ever use adult human shampoos – they’re way too harsh. Of course, if you have a “LeroyDammit” moment, and you don’t have a proper dog shampoo on hand, then just haul out the baby shampoo and do what you have to do.