Is it possible to shampoo a dog without using water? It definitely is, and there are several ways of using a waterless dog shampoo. But why would you want to, since the results are probably not going to be as good as if you used the traditional soap and water method?
There are Good Reasons to Use Waterless Dog Shampoo
There are probably going to be a few times in your dog’s life when a waterless dog shampoo is preferable to an actual bath. Perhaps your dog is recovering from surgery – if this is the case, he’s not going to be feeling well, and a full-on bath could stress him. Or maybe you’ve taken your dog wilderness camping, and have limited access to water. If he gets into something stinky, you might be very glad of having waterless dog shampoo as part of your camping supplies!
You might also find waterless dog shampoo, which typically comes in the form of a foam or a spray, to be useful if your dog isn’t terribly dirty. It’s great for spot cleaning! (Note: I debated using the sub-head, “Spot Cleaning Spot,” but since nobody with any creativity at all would name a dog “Spot” in this day and age, I reconsidered). If doggo isn’t all that filthy, a bit of waterless shampoo will get the job done. All you need to do is spray it onto your dog’s coat and rub it in – there’s no need to rinse. You could also just rub some cornstarch or baking soda into his fur, and then brush it out, or clean him using a handful of baby wipes.
But It’s Not Always the Best Way
Of course, there are circumstances in which waterless shampoo simply isn’t going to get the job done. Even the best waterless dog shampoos are not going to be effective if your dog loses an argument with a skunk. In that situation, you’ll have no choice but to lather, rinse and repeat until you’ve conquered the stench.
I would also suggest that waterless dog shampoo should not be considered the default option if your dog is resistant to being bathed. This is because, as I’ve just stated, it’s not always equal to the task. If your dog hates being bathed, make a game out of it. Settle him in the tub, without water to start, and give him some treats and/or toys. Gradually introduce the water, distracting him with calm words along with the toys and treats. This way, he’ll learn that when he’s in the bathtub, good things are going to happen. For more on this topic, see my post, 7 Ways to Conquer Bath Time With Your Dog.
Some dogs can actually be so resistant to being bathed that attempting it could be dangerous. If you’re afraid to bathe your dog, you should probably use a waterless dog shampoo. You should also get your dog to an animal behaviorist without delay. Aggression is a serious problem, and should never be ignored.
Waterless dog shampoos should not be used if your dog has excessively dry skin or a yeast condition. Also, if your dog has an odor problem caused by poor nutrition, a hormonal imbalance, or allergies, dry shampoo will not be effective. All you’re doing is masking the odor; you’re not treating the problem. And if the condition is caused by allergens, those allergens will remain on the dog’s skin, since waterless dog shampoos are not washed off.
Making Your Own Waterless Dog Shampoo
I actually don’t really like the term “waterless dog shampoo,” because it’s not really a shampoo at all, in the sense that shampoo requires the addition of water and a good lathering up. However, terms like “dry dog cleaner” or “soapless cleanser” aren’t likely to catch on anytime soon, so I guess we’ll stick with “waterless dog shampoo.”
I’m also a little leery of some brands of dry dog shampoo. If you’re going to use a waterless dog shampoo, I’d suggest going with whatever brand your vet recommends. At the very least, read the label carefully, and buy only from reputable pet supply stores. Your dry dog shampoo should not be a dollar store purchase – many of the brands available in dollar stores come from questionable sources, and might contain ingredients that could be harmful to your dog if ingested. Also, be wary of brands that contain alcohol – not only is alcohol drying to a dog’s skin, it’s toxic, and if your dog licks it off, he could become seriously ill.
Sometimes, though, dry dog shampoo is a practical solution. I would hesitate, for instance, to give a long-haired dog a bath in the dead of winter. Unless you have a blow dryer, he’ll be a long time getting fully dry if you just use towels, and you don’t want to send a damp dog outside to do his business in the bitter cold!
Here are a few easy-to-make recipes for waterless dog shampoo.
1. Perfect Puppy Powder
This is a grain-free recipe, so if you’re worried about your dog licking up things like cornstarch in his waterless dog shampoo, give it a try.
- ¼ cup baking soda
- ¼ cup powdered arrowroot
- 4-5 drops of essential oils (optional)
Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl, and then add the essential oils if desired. Make sure that the oils you’re using are appropriate for dogs, though – if in doubt as to which oils are safe to use, ask your vet. Now, whirl it all together in a blender or food processor to get rid of any lumps.
Now, give your dog a good brushing, and apply a bit of the mixture. You can use a shaker can – a leftover parmesan cheese container will work well – or a small makeup brush for tiny dogs. Don’t use too much of the mixture – all you need is enough to absorb any excess oils in your dog’s fur, and too much can dry out your dog’s skin. Now, use your hands to rub the powder throughout the dog’s coat, and remove any excess by using a towel.
2. Classic Cornstarch Canine Cleaner
- 1 cup cornstarch
- ½ cup baking soda
- 6-8 drops each of tea tree and lavender oil
The method is the same as for Perfect Puppy Powder.
3. Delightful Doggie Deodorizer
Okay, this one isn’t really a waterless dog shampoo – it does require a small amount of water. But it dries quickly, so I think it warrants a mention here.
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- ¼ cup water
- 3-4 drops essential oil
To make this deodorizing spray, you’ll need a spray bottle and a small funnel. Use the funnel to pour the ingredients into the spray bottle, and then shake it up. Spray your dog – not a lot, just enough to dampen the surface of the coat. Then rub the mixture in using your hands. It’s easy to make, and very affordable.
You can see that the ingredients for each of these recipes are pretty basic, and you can feel free to experiment a bit. If your dog is getting a bit smelly, you might want to go heavy on the baking soda, which is a natural deodorizer. If the problem is excessively oily skin, cornstarch does a great job of soaking it up. A bit of trial and error, and you’ll likely come up with a combination that’s just right for your dog.
Commercial Waterless Dog Shampoos
The above recipes for waterless dog shampoo are inexpensive and easy to make, but if you have zero inclination toward DIY projects, you might want to consider a commercial brand of waterless dog shampoo. All of my favorite waterless dog shampoos contain moisturizing ingredients, and there are several good ones on the market. Here are my personal picks, in alphabetical order.
1. Ark Naturals Don’t Worry Don’t Rinse Me Waterless Dog & Cat Shampoo
One of the things I like best about Ark Naturals waterless shampoo is that it smells fabulous! The formula features natural botanical ingredients, including cedarwood, balsam, orange and rosemary oils. And if you’re one of those people who has a “multi-species” household, you’ll appreciate the fact that it’s safe to use on your cat as well – and much easier than trying to coax a cat into a traditional bath!
2. BioSilk Therapy Deep Moisture Waterless Dog Shampoo Spray
BioSilk is a manufacturer of quality products for humans, and they bring the same level of quality to their products for dogs. This spray shampoo for dogs from BioSilk is another moisturizing formula that’s very good for your dog’s skin, cleaning while hydrating. There are no harsh ingredients in this waterless shampoo for dogs, and it’s specifically pH balanced for your dog’s skin. The ingredients are 100% natural, so you can feel confident in using this product.
3. Four Paws Magic Coat Gentle Tearless No-Rinse with Aloe Vera Puppy Shampoo
Here’s one for the little guys. Puppies are adventurous, and can get into some pretty horrible stuff! One time my big sweet doofus, Leroy, when he was just a little doofus, came upon something disgusting while we were walking through the woods at the back of my place. Apparently, another human had previously walked there, and nature had called, and… well, suffice it to say that Leroy rolled in human poop.
I probably don’t need to tell you that there is no such thing as a waterless dog shampoo that’s going to work on that kind of nastiness. But for quick cleanups on a wriggly puppy, this puppy shampoo from Four Paws will get the job done. It’s gentle on the eyes and contains no alcohol or parabens. I’m also very partial to the baby powder scent! For grown-up dogs, Four paws also offers a similar formula for adult dogs and cats.
4. Paw Choice Naturals Waterless Foaming Mousse Dog Shampoo
This product from Paw Choice is an outstanding waterless dog shampoo. It’s easy to use – all you need to do is massage a bit of foam into your dog’s fur, and leave it. This dry shampoo comes in two pleasing scents – lavender and chamomile, or mango and pomegranate. Personally, I’m not crazy about dogs smelling like food, so I didn’t much care for the mango and pomegranate version, but that’s just my personal preference, and I don’t use fruit-scented products on myself, either. However, you might love the mango and pomegranate every bit as much as I love the lavender and chamomile – to each their own!
5. Vet’s Best Waterless Dog Bath
I suppose I could be a language purist, and complain about the fact that if there is no water, there is, by definition, no bath, but I like this product so much I’m going to refrain from doing so. Made by Hero Pet Brands, Vet’s Best cleans and moisturizes using natural ingredients like neem oil and aloe. I love the fragrance, too – it’s fresh, and not at all overpowering.
These are my personal favorites when it comes to waterless dog shampoo. Perhaps you have a favorite already, but if you don’t, you won’t go far wrong with any of the ones I’ve suggested.
The Final Word
You can make your own waterless dog shampoo, or go with a commercial product. Don’t think, though, that if your dog is exceptionally dirty, dry shampoo is going to get the job done. Waterless dog shampoos are great for quick cleanups, and an okay alternative if it’s too cold to give your dog a proper bath. If you’ve never tried a waterless dog shampoo for quick cleaning and deodorizing, why not give one a try? Unless your dog has a skin condition, it won’t do any harm, and you might find that it’s a really good way to effect a cleanup without all the hard work and mess that go hand-in-hand with a traditional bath. Give it a shot.