There are lots of reasons dogs might have a bad odor. Breed, health, behavior and diet can all play a part in producing foul odors, but do German Shepherds smell? German Shepherds are not a smelly breed, but there are a few situations that can cause them to be a bit stinky. Do not despair! There are some simple techniques to preventing the pong, as well as easy treatments to banish bad breath.
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Start Bath Training Early:
It is important to get your dog used to being bathed or showered from an early age. This can be done in a few simple steps and with a few basic tools.
You will need a puppy shampoo or for adult dogs, a shampoo for thick coats. You will also need a brush or wide tooth comb, treats, a towel and maybe a hairdryer.
Before you begin, put a non-slip mat down to prevent accidents and place a drain cover or strainer over the drain to catch any loose hairs. You don’t want to have to spend the rest of the afternoon unclogging.
- Your dog’s first bath should just be a quick ankle-deep paddle in warm water and no shampoo. Keep it short, no longer than 5 or 10 minutes, lots of praise and a few treats. You want your dog to feel comfortable about getting in the bath. A flailing dog does not make for relaxing bath time!
- The next bath should be ankles and hindlegs, again just with warm water. You do not need to introduce shampoo yet. You can either use a shower head to wet your dog’s feet and legs, a small jug to scoop the bath water or a handheld spray bottle.
- Once he is used to this you can slowly wet more parts of his body with each bath until he is happy getting wet. Leave the head until last as dogs don’t like getting their faces wet.
- Before introducing shampoo, you need to make sure his whole body is saturated but leave the head for last.
- If your dog has been diagnosed with a skin condition or allergy, you will need to use a shampoo for sensitive skin.
- Doggy shampoo is normally best diluted in water, but always follow the instructions on the bottle. Lather your shampoo all over the body, moving from the back end towards the head.
- Be careful not to get shampoo in the eyes or ears as this can cause irritation or infections.
- Rinse the water off, running your hands through his coat until the water runs clear. Any shampoo not rinsed out can cause skin irritation, dryness and even hair loss.
- German Shepherds have thick coats so you will need to spend a while giving his coat a good rub down with a large towel. Stand back to avoid the shakes or you’ll be part of bath time too!
- You can try using a hair dryer to speed up the drying process, but lots of encouragement and treats will be needed. Hair dryers are loud and scary!
- When your dog’s coat is almost dry, give him a quick brush through to get rid of any hairs that were loosened during the bath.
During summer, it is a good idea to do bath time outdoors using a garden hose. Not only will you have more space, but it will also give your dog relief from the heat. Do not bath your dog or allow him to air dry outdoors if the weather is cold. For more information on how often you should bathe your German Shepherd please see this article.
Simple skin conditions can cause a buildup of bacteria which produce a bad odor. Infections can also be pretty smelly, but most conditions can be easily treated. Common skin complains that can create a bad smell are:
- Infected cut/surgery wound
Your vet will be able to do a simple test to find out what type of skin condition your dog has. If the tests are unclear, your vet may ask you to stop feeding certain ingredients and slowly introduce them back in one at a time. This will show if your dog has a food intolerance, which can also have an effect on the skin.
If you have a German Shepherd with a skin condition, you may well have been given medication by your vet. You can assist the treatment by giving your dog a gentle bath using a doggy shampoo for sensitive skin. This will help to soothe the skin and leave a clean smell. You should only need to bath them once.
Bathing your German Shepherd too often can actually be the cause of the smell you are trying to eliminate. Dogs have natural oils in their skin that maintain a healthy balance of bacteria and support the waterproof undercoat. Bathing removes these oils. If you are giving frequent baths, you are not allowing enough time for these oils to return to normal levels. This can cause an odor and also lead to skin complaints, which also commonly cause a bad smell.
Unless your GSD has been somewhere dirty or smelly, they only need bathing once every 4 or 5 months. As a breed they do not have a strong dog smell, so they shouldn’t need any more bathing than this.
Most dogs suffer from ‘wet dog’ smell after they have been swimming. The smell of wet dog is produced by the bacteria in your dog’s skin. When he gets wet, the skin releases these bacteria to protect against foreign invaders. This usually persists until their coat is dry, so they shouldn’t need to be bathed at home. The natural oils in their skin will have been removed when they went swimming, so giving them a bath after a swim will only make the smell stronger.
Having a wipe-down mat or seat cover in your car means that the wet dog smell won’t seep into the upholstery. Even if you give your dog a good bath at home, he will pick up the wet dog smell the next time he travels in the car.
This is one of the more common reasons your dog may smell bad. Since dogs cannot clean their own teeth and they investigate everything with their mouths, plaque can build up quickly on teeth and gums. It only takes tartar 24-48 hours to build up on plaque, which worsens your dog’s dental health and can lead to loose teeth, gum disease and pain when eating.
To prevent dental disease and keep your dog’s mouth healthy, you can clean their teeth with a doggy toothbrush and toothpaste. The toothpaste is specially formulated to support good oral bacteria and prevent bad breath.
Toothbrushes for dogs usually slide over your finger to make brushing easier. Puppies benefit from tooth brushing early, so they get used to you poking things in their mouths! Older dogs can take a while to get used to it. The key is to be gentle and give lots of praise.
Alternatives to tooth brushing are water bowl drops. These come in a small bottle and contain a combination of herbal infusions like mint, along with other ingredients to combat unwanted bacteria. Simply add 2 or 3 drops to your dog’s water bowl and he will drink it without even knowing.
Dental treats are another good alternative. They a designed to be chewed between the teeth which helps to remove trapped food. The surface of these treats are abrasive, so they scrape plaque from the surface of the teeth when your dog chews. Dental treats are normally infused with mint to produce a nicer breath odor.
These are small sacs either side of a dog’s rear end. The odor they produce is passed to the feces, which is why dogs like to sniff the poop of other dogs. It is also the reason dogs greet each other by sniffing butts.
Sometimes anal glands can get blocked and this stinks to high heaven! If you have never experienced this before, it is best to make an appointment with your veterinarian. Your dog will need some help relieving the pressure. A clear indication of blocked anal glands is seeing your dog scooting.
Occasionally, the anal glands can develop abscesses, which will be very painful and make going to the toilet quite uncomfortable. The abscess will need to be drained and the anal glands cleaned by a vet.
It is possible for you to express your dog’s anal glands at home, once you have been taught how to do it. The best time is in the bath or shower after they have lathered up. The smell of anal glands is tricky to get out, so you should wear a pair of thick rubber gloves and use a cotton ball or pad.
Gas or Gastrointestinal Upset:
Flatulence is funny and when a dog does it, its comedy gold, but the smell is not something anyone wants to experience. Gas can be caused by a whole host of things and the occasionally fart is completely normal. On the other hand, frequent crop dusting can be a sign of other issues. The most common is an improper diet or a recent change in diet. Certain foods like soya and bread or the lactose in milk can cause gas to build up in the intestines.
If you have recently changed your dog’s food, this can also cause changes in the digestive system. In this situation, gas should ease off once your dog is used to his new food.
Speedy eaters are they own worst enemy. Eating food too quickly means your dog will be swallow air as well as his dinner. This excess air gets trapped within the intestines causing flatulence. You can remedy this by placing a small bowl face down inside a larger bowl and put your dog’s food around the edge. The narrower gap means he cannot open his mouth as wide and will be forced to slow down. You can also try slow-feed bowls. These are design with ridges inside, meaning your dog has to work to get his food rather than just grabbing huge mouthfuls.
Serious Medical Conditions:
Although they are not very common, there are a few more serious health issues that can cause nasty odors. Unfortunately, until treatment starts working, there isn’t much you can do to combat these bad smells.
- Kidney Disease– poor kidney function can result in sores or ulcers in the mouth, which will produce a foul breath. This is caused by toxin build up in the body.
- Eye conditions/infections– most eye problems result in discharge. This can often cause a strange or pungent smell. Thankfully, they are easily treated and do not take long to clear up.
- Skin conditions– certain skin conditions produce sores or wounds. This open skin can have an unpleasant odor. Your vet may have prescribed you a cream to treat the cause of the skin condition. Ask if it is safe to use a sensitive shampoo. Most vets will sell medically approved shampoos and creams.
If you are familiar with German Shepherds, you will know that they like to get into stuff they probably shouldn’t. If this is your first experience owning a German Shepherd, be warned! They are attracted to stinky things like moths to a flame!
It doesn’t matter if it is dead wildlife, fox feces or stagnant water. The more repulsive the smell, the more they seem to enjoy it. One moment of distraction on your part and they will roll themselves all over it and end up smelling like a bog. Muddy puddles are also a big thrill, so beware of wet weather. You can expect to be bathing after these walks.
Rolling in bad smelling things in a natural instinct passed down from their wild ancestors. A researcher at Wolf Park in Indiana did some research with wolves and found that it is most likely that they roll, not to cover their own scent, but to take the new scent back to their pack. It’s like saying “hey, look what I just found!”
Our poor dogs do not understand that we have no desire to share their disgusting discovery, so working on recall and having a strong distraction can help to keep your dog away from the stinky stuff. If you are walking in areas that are common fox habitat or places your dog has found smelly things before, it is best to keep them on a leash.
As we have seen, there are many reasons that dogs can produce a bad smell. German Shepherds do not have a strong-smelling odor, so a healthy German Shepherd should not smell.
If you do notice a pungent pong, it is important to get to the bottom of the cause as soon as possible. Most causes will be easily treatable.
German Shepherds love to investigate things so work hard on recall and try introducing some games you can play during a walk. This will keep you dog distracted and he will be less likely to follow strange scents. If in doubt, get them on a leash. Better safe than smelly!
Try giving a mint infused dental treat twice a week. Not only will your dog enjoy the variety, it will help to keep his teeth and gums clean, preventing bad doggy breath.
We hope this article has helped answer your question: Do German Shepherds smell? If you have any more questions, or if there is something you think we may have missed please leave a comment at the bottom of this page or fill in a contact us form here.
Amy Morford (2014), The German Shepherd Big Book: All About The German Shepherd Breed, 1st Edition, Speedy Publishing LLC, Newark, DE
Clarke, A. and Brown, L., 2016. German Shepherds: A Practical Guide for Owners and Breeders. Crowood.
Caroline Coile, PHD (2019), German Shepherds For Dummies, John Wiley & Sons, Inc.