Dog conditioners have several important ingredients that are there to do a specific thing. A particular product will have more or less of these ingredients to achieve a certain result. For example, some conditioners will have a high proportion of oils and waxes and these are great for dry, frizzy hair. Others may have a higher amount of protein to give the coat extra body and bounce. There are a few other ingredients that help with other aspects of your dog’s coat and I’ll be covering them all in this article.
It’s therefore difficult to choose “the best” conditioner as it depends entirely on the result you want. Having said that, for a good all-round conditioner I give my best choice award to The Stuff For Dogs. It’s very popular amongst pet owners, is non-toxic and hypoallergenic, and gets great customer reviews. You can read an extended review in the recommendations section of this article.
In this article, I’ll explain all you need to know about what a conditioner will do, why it’s important, what the different ingredients do and give you some recommendations of products I like.
- What Does A Conditioner Do For Your Dog’s Coat?
- The Right pH Balance
- What Do The Ingredients Do?
- Leave-In Conditioner For Dogs
Can You Use Human Conditioner On Dog?
Dog conditioner is specially formulated to use on dogs. Your dog’s skin and coat are a bit different than human skin and the ingredients and proportion of ingredients used in dog conditioners are not the same as those used for human products.
The most important difference is the pH balance of the different products. Dogs have a thinner outer-layer of skin than humans meaning human skin can handle products that are more acidic and dogs need products that are slightly more alkaline. If you use a conditioner on a dog that is too acidic it could remove too many layers of the skin opening up the pores causing irritation to your dog and possibly even infection.
So the answer is no, you should not use human conditioner on your dog. I’ll provide much more information below about why this is and what you should look for to find the right conditioner for your dog.
Conditioner For Dog’s – What You Need To Know
What Does A Conditioner Do For Your Dog’s Coat?
Shampoo will remove the dirt and grime from your dog’s coat but it will also open up the hair shafts allowing oils and moisture to escape. Using a conditioner on your dog will help to close the hair cuticles, hydrate the skin and hair, moisturize and return a bounce to their coat. A conditioner will also repair the damaged caused by brushing and drying during grooming and general wear and tear.
Using a conditioner will give your dog a nice smooth, bouncy and luscious appearance and feel. These products contain different ingredients to help with different things. For example, some ingredients will help with different textures of hair, some will help with static. Most conditioners will add proteins that help to bulk up the hair shafts and silicones that produce a nice shine and help to repel dirt. Perfumes may also be added to make your dog smell nice.
Purpose of using a conditioner on your dog:
- Close the hair cuticles.
- Hydrate the hair.
- Moisturize the hair.
- Repair damaged hair.
- Help with static.
- Plump up hair using proteins.
- Encourage shine.
- Repel dirt.
- Make the coat easier to brush.
- Give your dog a nice fragrance.
Please watch the videos below for a more detailed explanation of what conditioners are and how they work.
The Right ph Balance
The pH measurement of the conditioner that you use on your dog is an important thing to consider. As you might remember from your time at school, the pH scale is a measurement of how acidic or how alkaline a particular substance is with alkaline substances being higher and acidic ones being lower on the scale.
Dog skin and human skin are not quite the same. The outer layer of a dog’s skin is thinner than our skin and this means that a conditioner that is too acidic could cause your dog irritation and scratching. A conditioner that is too acidic can open up the top layer of skin exposing the pores to infection, bacteria, fungus and general irritation.
A good quality dog conditioner should have a pH measurement of between 6 and 7. This is the most important reason to never use human conditioner on your dog. A human conditioner will have a pH range of between 4.5 to 5.5 and this is too acidic for your dog’s skin.
It’s also worth noting that inferior dog conditioners will also have a pH balance that is too acidic due to the substandard ingredients they use.
What Do The Ingredients Do?
As I mentioned above, the different ingredients in the conditioner have a specific purpose. By understanding what they do you’ll be able to make a much better choice when choosing what conditioner is best for your dog. Most conditioners contain all the ingredients I’ll talk about but it’s the proportions of each ingredient that will give different results and help with specific problems.
The basic ingredients of a dog conditioner:
- Oils & Waxes – The oils and waxes in the conditioner will help to moisturize the hair. Conditioners that are heavy in oils and waxes are sometimes labelled “Remoisturizers” or “Intensive Moisture Repair” and these are good if you need to control frizzy, flyaway hair or deal with a burnt coat. They make the coat softer but oils and waxes will attract dirt so the coat will look dull more quickly and need to be used more often. The oil ingredient will usually be a butter or labelled “oil of something” and the waxes will be something like stearic acid, cetyl alcohol or petrolatum.
- Proteins – Proteins are added to enter the hair and bulk it up a bit. Proteins are molecular chains of amino acids so anything labelled with “amino” is basically a source of protein in the conditioner. They are perfect for helping a limp, thin coat look thicker and lusher.
- Antistatic Agents – This ingredient will help to reduce static build-up by absorbing moisture from the air. PEG and Cocamidopropyl Betaine are common antistatic agents used in conditioners.
- Glossers & Stain Repellents – These are the silicones. Silicone will form a thin layer over the hair shaft making the coat look and feel as if there were no damaged cuticles. They are what gives the coat it’s added shine and texture. They are a very useful ingredient as they give great results and are benign to the skin and hair.
Bellow, I’ll talk about the problems you might have with your dog’s coat and how to use this knowledge to pick the best kind of conditioner to solve the problem.
- Improve the texture and feel – Almost all conditioners will help with this and if this is the only thing that you want then you should purchase a medium conditioner and not worry about spending too much money on the product. These products will make your dog’s coat nice to touch and handle.
- Improve the gloss of the coat but without softening – If you want to avoid softening your dog’s coat then you want to avoid heavy oils and waxes and focus more on silicones and antistatic agents.
- Deshedding – If you want a conditioner that will help with deshedding then you want to go for a medium conditioner that has a good amount of silicones. Properly moisturized skin will allow for the hair follicles to fall out more easily and the silicone will help the hair to slip past each other to the surface.
- Dematting – To help with dematting you want to go for a conditioner that is heavy in silicones. This will provide maximum slip between the hairs allowing them to slide past each other rather than getting tangled together. A remoisturizer or intensive repair conditioner will help with this.
- Repairing the hair – To help with repairing a damaged coat you want to go heavy on the oils, waxes and the proteins with some silicone to help seal the end of the hair.
Leave-In Conditioners For Dogs
You may or may not be aware that as well as your traditional bathe and rinse kind of conditioner there are also leave-in conditioners you can apply to your dog’s coat. As the name suggests you don’t have to rinse them out, you just spray them on your dog, give them and brush through and they are good to go. The most common type is a spray but they also come in liquids and creams.
The main purpose of a leave-in conditioner is to give your dog’s coat extra moisture and help to keep the hair hydrated. They usually contain humectants which aid in hydration and also make the hair more elastic and stronger. They tend to be more water based than oil based and this allows them to penetrate the hair better than oils and leave the coat hydrated for longer. So if you need a conditioner that gives the benefits of oils and waxes they might not be a good choice as your sole conditioner.
As with traditional wash out conditioners, they will contain the ingredients that add slip and softness to your dog’s hair and allow you to remove mattes and tangles more easily. Below I will list a few reasons why you might want to purchase a leave-in conditioner for your dog:
- Adds extra moisture – Due to leave-in conditioners being more water based they will penetrate deeper into the coat and add extra moisture for a longer period of time.
- Continues to condition – As well as providing moisture most leave-in conditioners will have some kind of protein added. This will give bulk and bounce to the hair and because it’s left in the coat it will continue to work over the following days.
- Helps to detangle hair – As with wash out conditioners, they will contain the ingredients that give your dog’s coat slip and help with removing tangles.
- Protects the hair from damage – a leave-in conditioner is designed to coat the hair and this will protect your dog’s coat from environmental damage.
- Helps with dry, frizzy hair – If your dog’s hair dries out quickly or is extremely frizzy or wiry then a leave-in conditioner might be a good choice for you. As more moisture will be locked into the hair shafts it will take longer for your dog’s hair to dry out and keep their coat looking soft and shiny for a longer period of time.
- Refreshes hair – If you notice your dog’s coat is looking a bit dull then you can simply add some leave-in conditioner without much fuss. Although this should not be done indefinitely as your dog will still need to be bathed with shampoo when needed.
What Is the Difference Between A Wash Out & A Leave-In Conditioner?
Although they essentially serve the same purpose they are formulated in different ways and are therefore used differently. The main differences are:
- Application – A wash out conditioner will need to be left in the hair for a few minutes after shampooing and then thoroughly rinsed out. If it’s not rinsed properly it can cause the hair to be weighed down and residue to build up that can cause irritation to your dog’s skin. On the other hand, a leave-in conditioner is usually applied to dry hair and left for a few days. Generally, a leave-in conditioner will be applied in smaller amounts.
- Consistency – A wash out conditioner is thicker and heavier due to the higher oil and wax content. Leave-in products are more water based and therefore lighter.
- Ingredients – A traditional conditioner will contain oils, waxes, proteins, silicone, surfactants and fatty alcohols. To attract moisture a leave-in conditioner will contain high levels of humectants and often have glycerin to keep the hair lubricated.
I have included a couple of leave-in conditioner sprays in the recommendations sections so if you feel they might be a good choice for you please check out the reviews section here.
So you now know what the ingredients in a conditioner do and what kind of conditioner you’ll need to achieve a particular result. In the next section, I’ll provide a list of recommendations and reviews of different conditioners that can help with these different problems. I’ll also provide links to customer reviews so you can read for yourself what other dog owners think of them. I’ll also include products that have 100% natural ingredients.
Recommended Conditioners For Your Dog
The Stuff Dog Conditioner
The Stuff is a very popular conditioner amongst pet owner and gets my best choice award. This conditioner will help to prevent as well as remove tangles and matted hair. It does a good job repelling dirt and grime and due to its high silicone content and also works great for preventing urine stains due to the protective coating. This conditioner is non-toxic, hypoallergenic and has the correct pH balance for dogs. It’s therefore a good choice if your dog suffers from allergies or has sensitive skin. Also, it’s a highly concentrated conditioner meaning you won’t go through the bottle as quickly as some other products. It comes in 2 sizes – 4 ounces and 12 ounces.
The Stuff has a 4.3 out of 5 star rating on Amazon and you can see what other dog owners think of this product by reading the reviews here.
Best For – Detangling, Dematting, Dogs With Sensitive Skin. Hypoallergenic.
Chris Christensen Spectrum Ten Conditioner
The Chris Christensen Spectrum Ten Conditioner is designed to help with dry, frizzy hair. It will help to add extra moisture to coarse, unruly coats leaving a soft and sleek finish. It contains a therapeutic cream and is enhanced with emulsifiers adding extra slip to the coat that can greatly help with brushing out tangles and matted hair. It can be used of both dogs and cats. This conditioner is slightly more heavy on the oils and waxes. It’s available in a 16 Ounce bottle and also comes in a larger 128 Ounce bottle if you have several dogs or like to buy in bulk.
This product has a 4.4 out of 5 star rating on Amazon and you can read the reviews to see what other pet owners make of this conditioner here.
Best For – Dry, Damaged, Frizzy Hair
Best Shot Ultra Plenish Conditioner
The Best Shot Ultra Plenish Conditioner is great for helping with dematting, detangling and deshedding. It is specially formulated for extra slip and is branded as “Coat Release Technology”. It also has a high protein content enriched with silk amino acids that will give your dog’s coat a bit of extra body and bounce. This conditioner is suitable for puppies, adult dogs, cats and kittens. You can purchase this conditioner in a 12 Ounce bottle or a gallon bottle if you prefer to buy in bulk and save money in the long run.
It has a 4.2 out of 5 star rating on Amazon and you can read the reviews for yourself here.
Best For – Dematting, detangling & Deshedding.
Cowboy Magic Detangler Shine
Cowboy Magic is another excellent conditioner for dealing with tangles and deshedding. As well as giving the coat extra slip it will help to restore moisture, strengthen the hair and leave the coat shiny and soft. It is a concentrated conditioner and contains no water or alcohol and doesn’t dry out the coat. It also contains silk proteins to add a bit of extra body to your dog’s coat. It’s available in 3 size – 4 Ounce, 16 Ounce and 32 Ounce.
This conditioner has a 4.4 our of 5 star rating on Amazon with over 700 reviews and you can read them for yourself here.
Best For – Dematting, detangling & Deshedding.
Warren London Hydrating Butter (Leave-in Conditioner)
The Warren London Hydrating Butter gets my best choice award for a leave-in conditioner. It is an all natural product containing guava and mangosteen extract that acts as a natural humectant adding extra moisture to the hair. It’s a non-oily product and will also help to give your dog a soft, shiny coat. It comes in an 8-ounce bottle and is also available with a Pomegranate & Acai formula.
One of the reasons I included this leave-in conditioner in my recommendations is due to the excellent customer reviews it receives. It has a 4.5 out of 5 star rating on Amazon from over 450 reviews and you can read them for yourself here.
Best For – Natural ingredients, retaining moisture.
Chris Christensen Ice On Ice (Leave-in Conditioner)
This Chris Christensen Leave-in Spray is a well-respected product within the dog owning community. It works well as a detangler and helps to fortify and protect your dog’s coat. It helps to add elasticity and strength and creates a protective barrier to lock in moisture. As I mentioned above a leave-in conditioner is more water based and this will allow deeper penetration of the coat and keep the hair moisturized for longer. It also has added sunscreen that could be important to you if your dog spends a lot of time in the sun.
It has a 4.3 out of 5 star rating on Amazon and you read what other dog owners have to say about using this product here.
Best For – Retaining moisture.