My childhood German shepherd, Clancy, absolutely hated getting a bath. She loved going swimming in lakes, ponds, rivers, and oceans, and she loved playing with the water that comes out of a hose. But the second she caught on that you were trying to bathe her, she’d sprint back to her yard and make herself uncatchable.
By the time Clancy got old, my family had given up trying to bathe her regularly. And boy, did she smell! My dad jokes that she had “her own ecosystem”. We loved on her anyway, but anyone outside of the family could smell her from miles away.
When Bella, Clancy’s daughter, was born, I decided I’d try to get her used to baths early. I brought her in the shower with me a few times when she was a puppy, and as she grew older I transitioned her to the backyard hose—during the summers, anyway. In the snowy Montana winters, we ended up taking her to a dog-washing room adjacent to a local car wash and hand-washing her there. It was cheaper and easier than taking her to a groomer.
Bella and me during a snowy Montana winter. I can tell by the fluffiness of her fur that she’d recently had a bath! Photo credit: Anita Strawn de Ojeda.
Still, Bella seemed to get stinky really quickly. She spent a lot of time playing outside, and despite my efforts to keep her yard clean, she inevitably stepped or sat in poop sometimes and rolled around in the grassy dirt. It probably didn’t help that I was trying to save money by using shampoo meant for normal-smelling humans, not super-stinky dogs.
Bella moved to California with me a couple years later, and her lovely stench became a problem because she started spending more time indoors. So I started researching the best dog shampoos to clear out those smells.
At the time, I was on a tight budget, so I knew I had to find wallet-friendly dog shampoo for odor control options.
Wahl’s Eucalyptus-Spearmint Odor Control Shampoo
Luckily, I found this fantastic shampoo after a quick Amazon search. My bottle arrived in two days and I took Bella out by the grapefruit tree for a bath with her new soap.
Even though I don’t love the smell of spearmint, I adored the smell that wafted out of that bottle. Bella ran and nipped at the water—one of her favorite pastimes—and I sneakily rubbed the soap into every inch of her fur.
She smelled fresh and minty afterward. The next morning, she still smelled lovely. For an entire week, the shampoo’s scent lingered in her fur, and during the second week, she just smelled like nothing. After five years of smelling extremely doggy, this was a huge step in a nose-pleasing direction.
I used that bottle of shampoo up and kept buying it until Bella passed away in 2017. I still have a half bottle of it somewhere, and any time I smell it, I go right back to warm backyard baths with Bella.
Queen Bella never smelled funky again after we started using Wahl’s Odor Control Shampoo.
Mane ‘n Tail Classic Shampoo
Back in high school, my horse-loving friends swore this shampoo strengthened not only horse hair but human hair. I’d recently undergone a bad haircut and wanted my hair to grow back ASAP, so I bought this shampoo.
While I’m not sure it helped my hair grow any faster, it sure helped it smell nice. Mane ‘n Tail was originally created for show horses, but soon people discovered how well it worked for human hair, too. It has a strong, fresh scent that eliminates odors nicely.
It’s also relatively budget-friendly. If your dog has a slight stink but doesn’t suffer from excessive odor (like Bella did), Mane n’ Tail’s Classic Shampoo is a great option.
I bought a big bottle for Eira when we first got her and I used it all winter. Once it got muddy in Alaska though, I realized I needed to find something stronger to help ward off the potent smell of Breakup.
JP Pet Lavender Mint Shampoo
After doing some bottle-sniffing at a local pet store, I came home with John Paul Pet Lavender Mint Shampoo. The mint smell reminds me of that soap we used for Bella, with the added strength of lavender—a favorite scent of mine.
For Eira’s stinky Alaska-mud fur, the lavender mint soap did the trick. It cleared away all traces of mud and left behind a sweet, fresh scent that lasted over a week—and if you really buried your nose into her fur, almost two.
The difficult thing with Eira is that she hates getting bathed, whether it’s in the bathtub or with a hose outside. She actually seemed to calm down a little bit with the lavender-mint shampoo plus a drop or two of CBD oil. She also hates to be brushed, but the first time we bathed her with the lavender shampoo, she let us brush her without resisting.
Eira after a hose bath with JP Pet’s Lavender Mint Shampoo.
Nature’s Miracle Tough Dirt and Odor Shampoo
If your dog gets into something really nasty—as in, rolls in a carcass by the side of the road—try this shampoo by Nature’s Miracle (whose potty-training spray is a must-have!). This shampoo is specially manufactured to remove all the nasties your dog encounters during a romp in the fields: sticky cottonwood seedlings, feces, mud, and more.
I’m going to get a bottle to have on hand for emergency cleanup needs with Eira!
Well & Good De-Skunk Shampoo
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So far, Eira has managed to stay away from skunks. Bella, on the other hand, got sprayed multiple times—and who wants to deal with a vat of tomato juice in order to supposedly get the stench out? This shampoo from Well & Good does the trick without a big, juicy disaster. It’s almost miraculous when, after the entire house reeks of skunk and your dog does too, shampoo from such a pretty bottle handles the smell like a champ.
This is NOT something you want to see around your dog, but if you do, never fear as long as you’ve got Well & Good’s De-Skunk Shampoo around.
Earthbath Dirty Dog Shampoo
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If you live in an area that requires you to apply flea & tick medication, or if your dog regularly needs other topical medications or has sensitive skin, look no further than Earthbath’s stellar Dirty Dog Shampoo. This shampoo is gentle on your dog’s skin and safe to use with flea & tick medication. Its secret to smell-eliminating success? Orange oil. The potent oil deodorizes your dog’s fur and cuts through any greasy, smelly build-ups.
If your dog is light-colored or white, this shampoo is especially useful because it’s also labelled as a stain-removing shampoo. That orange oil really does work wonders.
WashBar Original Bar Soap for Dogs
If your dog has extremely sensitive skin, try this bar soap from WashBar. It’s free of any harsh chemicals and is made from all-natural ingredients—plus it’s packaged in non-plastic recyclable material. Because it has no harsh chemicals or added scents, the bar doesn’t make your dog smell like something, but it does help your dog smell like nothing. In other words, it effectively removes odors.
Plus, it’s simple to use—just rub the bar all over your dog’s coat and work up a rich lather. You don’t have to worry about washcloths with this soap!
Burt’s Bees 2-in-1 Puppy Shampoo and Conditioner
I’m a devoted superfan of Burt’s Bees lip balm, and this puppy shampoo and conditioner is excellent, too. It’s gentler on puppy eyes and skin than other shampoos, and its mostly-all-natural ingredients leave your puppy’s fur smelling clean and feeling soft. Like the WashBar soap, it doesn’t have a strong scent, but it deodorizes that stinky puppy smell effectively.
Pet Pleasant Natural Pet Spray – Lavender Aromatherapy
If your dog gets into something icky and you don’t have time to wash him right away, try rubbing him down with whatever’s on hand (paper towels, a dishcloth, and some water) and then spraying him with Pet Pleasant Lavender Aromatherapy Spray. This spray not only smells amazing and gets rid of bad smells, it also helps to calm dogs.
The deodorizing spray isn’t a substitute for a thorough bath, but it’s a nice spray to put on your dog in a pinch or even after the bath is over for extra deodorizing protection.
No Smell Can Get You Down Now!
Now that you know the best pet shampoos and deodorizers on the market, you can let your dog explore and play without worrying about what she’ll get into. With these shampoos and sprays, you’re ready to tackle whatever smells she brings home.
Eira, freshly cleaned and already getting into yucky things again. But that’s okay because we’ve got an army of awesome shampoos and sprays to tackle any smell.
Laura Ojeda Melchor grew up with two beloved German shepherd dogs—Clancy and her daughter, Bella. From the time her family brought Clancy home, Laura took on the duty of pooper-scooper and potty trainer. As a teenager Laura helped her mother care for Clancy during her pregnancy. She still remembers fondly the exciting, frigid winter night when the seven special puppies were born. Laura kept the youngest puppy—Bella—and potty trained her, too. She taught Bella important commands, took her for long walks, and spent hours throwing tennis balls for her.
In November, Laura brought home a sweet new puppy, Eira Violet. Eira is half Alaskan malamute and half German shepherd, and Laura loves her deeply. She chose not to use a crate to potty train Eira and was pleasantly surprised at the results. She now has a sweet, energetic dog who always uses the potty outside, plays well with Laura’s toddler, and enjoys long family walks in beautiful Alaska. If you were to meet Eira, she’d bound up to you with a wagging tail and get you running around the yard with her in no time.