How often should you bathe your German shepherd?

How often should you bathe your German shepherd? The German Shepherd wash guide

How often should you bathe your German shepherd?

In this article we are going to review all things German Shepherd bathing, including how often should you bathe a German Shepherd? A German Shepherd with healthy skin and a healthy coat only needs to be washed with dog shampoo once every 4-5 months. Yes, you’ve read that right. Those semiweekly baths should be semiannually! However, bathing your German Shepherd in water alone can happen more frequently.

German Shepherds have glands which naturally produce oils to help keep their skin clean and healthy. Over bathing with shampoo can strip away these oils. This can cause your German Shepherds skin to dry out.

German Shepherds are already prone to skin allergies and dry skin increases their chances of getting allergies and skin conditions even further.

German Shepherds have a double coat. An undercoat which helps them to maintain a comfortable temperature by keeping them warm in the winter and cool in the summer and a denser outer-coat which protects them from rain, snow and dirt.

These same oils which keep their skin clean and healthy also play an important role in making their outer coat water and dirt repellant. When these oils are stripped away it can take a very long time for your German Shepherds double coat to dry out which in cold conditions could give them a chill. It also means dirt will be more likely to get trapped close to their skin which again can cause skin conditions.

It is only recommended you bathe your German Shepherd twice a year as it helps to loosen their undercoat which gets shed entirely once in the fall and once in the spring to make way for their new winter/ summer coat.

This helps to speed up the switch process between these two coats. It is important to note that German Shepherds malt 365 day per year however, anyone who has owned a German Shepherd will know exactly what time of the year these second coat shed baths are due.

Other ways to clean your German Shepherd without shampoo:

If your German Shepherd gets dirty, there is not always a need for a full-on shampoo filled bubble bath.

Other ways to clean your German Shepherd include:

Brushing: The natural oils on your German Shepherds fur help to create a nonstick surface for dirt.

This should enable you to brush out dried mud from your pup’s fur leaving little to no evidence it was ever there.

It is important to allow the mud to dry on your German Shepherd before brushing them as wet mud will only spread thinner.

Water only rinse: If you are unable to wait for the mud to dry there is no harm popping your German Shepherd into a lukewarm shower to help remove the dirt.

The recommended temperature to wash your German Shepherd is around 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. Don’t be tempted to turn the temperature up too much though. Although lukewarm water will not strip the natural oils in your German Shepherds fur and skin, warmer water temperatures will.

Swimming: If you are lucky enough to live near a fresh water supply a quick splash and swim around can be both a fun and effective way to help clean your German Shepherd.

Damp/ wet towel: If your pup only has a small area which needs to be cleaned or a more stubborn area which needs a little scrub a wet towel can be perfect for the job.

This is especially effective for cleaning muddy paws and around their beautiful ears.

Pet cleansing wipes

When might you need to shampoo wash your German Shepherd more frequently?

More than the average dirt: Let’s face it, at one point or another your German shepherd is likely to get themselves coated in something unpleasant such as raccoon poop (or poop in general) Dogs love to roll!

When this happens you are going to require a little more than lukewarm water.

If you do need to shampoo in-between the recommended semiannual wash it is recommended you use a shampoo which is ideally both natural and moisturizing. 

Medical reasons: Some German Shepherds may have a health condition which requires them to have baths more frequently.

If this is the case a vet will often advise using a medicated dog shampoo which is designed for this purpose.

The most common medical reasons which may cause your German Shepherd to need more regular baths include:
Allergies: Canine allergies are actually more common than a lot of people think. It is estimated that around 1 in 7 dogs suffer from some form of allergy.

Most humans’ allergies manifest in itchy eyes, runny noses and coughing, whereas dog allergies mainly manifest in their skin.

Symptoms of a skin allergy in dogs include:

  • Hair loss
  • Itchiness
  • Inflamed, red skin
  • Chronic skin infections
  • Chronic ear infections
  • Excessive licking, scratching or rubbing

The three most common skin allergies in German shepherds are caused by flea bite hypersensitivity, environmental allergies and food allergies.

These allergies can cause your dog to scratch and chew at their raw, itchy and irritated skin.

If you believe your German Shepherd has an allergy it is important to seek advice from your vet. Who may perform an allergy test upon your German Shepherd to determine the triggers and prescribe a medicated shampoo to reduce the above symptoms.

Fungal infections: Fungal infections are not as common as allergies in dogs, however when a dog has a skin fungal infection one of the treatments a vet may recommend is an anti-fungal shampoo.

Symptoms of a fungal infection will depend upon where the fungus sets in and reproduces. There are many fungal infections which can cause both internal and external symptoms.

Some of the more common symptoms which suggest your German Shepherd may having a skin fungal infection may include:

  • Hair loss
  • Itching
  • Flakey or crusty skin
  • Brittle or misshapen nails

Often when people think of funguses they think about one of the most well-known type of fungi, mushrooms. However, there are actually millions of different types of fungi species.

Most fungi’s are harmless to both dogs and humans although some types will require veterinary treatment.

Skin fungal infections are unpleasant, however if the fungal infection gets into the deeper structures the consequences can be a lot more severe.

The two most common fungal skin infections in canines include ringworm and yeast infections. For more information on these fungal infections and others please see this article

If your German Shepherd show any signs of allergies or fungal infections consult a vet before treating them with medicated shampoo.

If you do need to bathe your German Shepherd more frequently rubbing coconut oil into their fur every now and again could help to reduce drying out their skin. It has also been known to help reduce odours on German Shepherds.

How often should you bathe your German shepherd?

How to bathe a German Shepherd:

Ok, so it’s that time of the year and your German Shepherd is due their semi-annual bath, where do you start?

First of all, you need to decide where you are going to bathe your German Shepherd are you going to undertake the task yourself or pay someone else to do it? Here are some pros and cons of using different methods:

Self-service / DIY dog wash
Outsourcing (Groomers)

If you have decided to take the task on yourself here’s what to do:

Brush your German Shepherd before their bath. Your GSD may have a lot of loose matted hair when they are shedding their undercoat even with regular grooming. This extra fur will hold water which will increase the drying time and potentially cause skin irritation.

Use lukewarm water to wet their coat. Avoid where possible wetting their head and ears. As we mentioned earlier the recommended temperature for washing your GSD is around 98.6 degrees Farenheit.

Dog like most humans don’t enjoy being too cold and water which is too warm temperatures over 100 degrees can increase your dog’s heart rate which can put too much strain on it. Especially in young, old and unwell German Shepherds. Also, larger bread dogs are more susceptible to overheating.

Make sure when washing your GSD you don’t get too much water in their ears. German Shepherds can suffer from chronic ear infections and irritation after getting too much water in their ears.

It’s important to keep wash time positive. praising your German Shepherd and keeping calm will help them to relax more. They may even start to actually enjoy bath time, which will make it a lot easier in the long run for you both.

Shampoo time, as mentioned earlier it is important to only use dog shampoos and not human products on your German Shepherd. Work the shampoo into a lather and gently massage it into your pups coat. No higher than their neckline.

Make sure you rinse the shampoo out thoroughly as any shampoo left in their fur could irritate their skin. This may require a lot of rinsing to remove all the shampoo from both layers of your German Shepherds coat. You will need to keep rinsing them until the water runs clear free of both dirt and foam.

Drying, if it is a cold day you must keep your German Shepherd indoors until they dry off to prevent them from getting a chill.

Before using a towel use your hands to rinse out as much of the water as possible, run your hands in a downwards movement to help push excessive water down and off your German Shepherd.

Ideally you should use a large highly absorbent towel and pat them to remove at much water as possible. It’s highly likely your German Shepherd will attempt to “help you” by giving a good shake. So be prepared to get wet.

If using a hair dryer on your GSD ensure you are using it on the lowest temperature to avoid over heating them or drying their skin out. When drying them it is a good idea to get the brush out again as the water would have helped to work some of the shedding hair loose.

Article recap:
  • On average Germans Shepherds should only need to be bathed once every 4-5 months.
  • The best times to bathe your German Shepherd is when they are shedding their undercoat.
  • The oils in a German Shepherds coat help to repel dirt, grime and water naturally.
  • There are other ways to keep your German Shepherd clean in between washes.
  • There may be times when you need to wash your GSD more frequently.
  • German Shepherds should be bathed in lukewarm water around 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit

How often do you wash your German Shepherd? Do you bathe them in line with the recommended timescales? Anything we’ve missed from the article? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below or fill in a contact us form here.

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