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5 Defining Moments When to Bathe a German Shepherd

Last Updated: December 10, 2023

If your German Shepherd could talk and you asked them how often they should bathe, they’d probably say: “Never!” Baths and German Shepherds might not go together, but you know your dog needs a quick shower once in a while. So, how often should you bathe a German Shepherd? 

You should bathe your German Shepherd (GSD) whenever they are soiled or have a doggie odor, which is rare in GSDs. Under normal circumstances, provided your dog has clean and healthy skin, a bath every two to three months should be good enough.

As I’ll tell you later in this article, bathing your German Shepherd too often can do more harm than good. If you want to know how often to bathe your German Shepherd and why you shouldn’t bathe them more than necessary, you’re in the right place. Let’s get started!

How Often Should You Bathe a German Shepherd? A GSD in the bath.
My German Shepherd Willow taking a bath

Should You Bathe Your German Shepherd, and Why?

A bath should be a good thing, right? After all, baths keep humans away from dirt and bad odor, so you may think the same logic applies to dogs. However, the right answer to the question of whether your German Shepherd should bathe can be summed up as, “It depends.”

You should bathe your German Shepherd when the dog’s skin is dirty or has an unpleasant odor. However, you should not bathe your German Shepherd more often than necessary.

Here’s why.

  • German Shepherds have a double coat with natural oils that keep their skin healthy. If you bathe your dog regularly, the water, scrubbing, and shampoo can strip your pet’s skin of its natural oils. This could lead to skin issues such as allergic reactions or dryness.
  • Dogs with thick double coats and heavy shedders like the German Shepherd can be bathed every 3 months. This is because when they shed, the coat naturally removes dead skin cells and harmful bacteria.

While bathing your German Shepherd is an essential part of their grooming and care, you should only do it to remove dirt and unpleasant odors. Otherwise, your GSD’s coat and natural oils should be enough to keep his skin healthy in most cases.

That said, it’s important to note that, when the situation calls for it, bathing your German Shepherd has the following benefits:

  • Remove accumulated dirt and scales
  • Get rid of foul odor
  • Eliminate loose hair
  • Maintain your GSD’s coat sheen

So, if bathing your German Shepherd should only be done once every few months, exactly how often should you bathe your German Shepherd?

German Shepherd In The Bath. Should you bathe your GSD?
“If I shut my eyes, it might not be as bad!” (My GSD Willow in the bath)

How Often Should You Bathe a German Shepherd?

You should only bathe your German Shepherd every two to three months or as necessary. They should be bathed when they have accumulated mud or dirt on their skin or coat or the dog smells unpleasant. Regular bathing is unnecessary if your German Shepherd has a clean, shiny, and healthy coat. 

There are a few other factors that can affect how often you should bathe your GSD:

1. Your German Shepherd Has a Busy Lifestyle

German Shepherds are highly active dogs that require at least 1-2 hours of exercise daily. A monthly bath may be necessary if your GSD is extra active and often gets full of dirt. Some dogs are known for rolling around in fox poop; if this is your dog, then more frequent bathing will be on your list of doggy chores.

Others like to jump in muddy puddles whenever they see one on a walk, like Willow, my German Shepherd. She likes to cool off in swampy areas or sludgy puddles, as shown in the photo below. Eek!

German Shepherd In Mud
My German Shepherd taking a mud bath!

2. Your German Shepherd Has a Skin Condition

You may need to bathe your dog regularly if they have a skin condition that requires treatment with a special shampoo. One antibiotic-controlled study found that bath therapy twice weekly with a chlorhexidine shampoo and spray was as effective as amoxicillin-clavulanic acid in treating dog pyoderma

3. It’s The Flea Season in Your State

If it’s flea and tick season in your state, bathing your dog with a medicated flea shampoo every 1 or 2 weeks should kill any fleas and their eggs and prevent them from returning. Although these pests are a threat to doggos all year round, they are most active during the warmer months.

Prevention is always the best way to defend against fleas and ticks, so don’t forget to use flea and tick preventive medication as recommended by your veterinarian. My dog has her treatment every 3 months, and luckily, she hasn’t succumbed to the little mites…yet!

Medicated flea shampoos such as Adams Plus Flea & Tick Shampoo from Amazon help deal with an immediate infestation but are best when followed with a flea prevention treatment to prevent re-infestation.

However, remember to double-check with your vet on how often you should use your particular flea shampoo, as it may not work as well on your dog as you’d like, as shown in this study on the effectiveness of flea prevention medication vs. weekly hygiene shampoos in a mock flea-infested environment.

4. Your GSD Regularly Comes Into Contact with Water

Your German Shepherd may be involved in activities that require him to come into regular contact with water. In such cases, he may need even fewer baths than the recommended once every 2-3 months. 

It’s unusual for a German Shepherd to enjoy swimming as they were bred to herd sheep and not retrieve waterfowl like the Labrador or Poodle. Nonetheless, many enjoy a paddle in a river or shallow lake or other water activities.

Willow is not keen on swimming – I think her heavy double coat weighs her down. But she loves being in the river and finds it fun sticking her head in the water to find pebbles. It’s great for me, though, as it means fewer baths.

German Shepherd Cooling Down In The River
My German Shepherd hunting for river pebbles!

5. Your GSD Has a Skin Allergy

German Shepherds with skin allergies typically have issues with their skin barrier (epidermis), meaning their skin dries up more easily. Regularly bathing a dog with skin allergies using harsh shampoos can worsen the already compromised layer of skin, further aggravating the allergy.

How To Bathe Your German Shepherd

In general, unless your GSD gets dirty often or has an unpleasant odor, you don’t need to bathe them too often.

If you do need to keep your German Shepherd clean and spiffy, here are a few tips to keep in mind. 

  • Brush your GSD twice or thrice every week. This will reduce fur mats and the chances of dirt accumulating on your dog’s coat. Removing loose fur also takes away old skin oils and prevents dog odor. Do you want to know the grooming tools I swear by? Check out this article to find out which makes the cut, Best Grooming Tools for German Shepherds.
  • Get your German Shepherd tired. For a more peaceful bathing session, it’s a fantastic idea to totally exhaust your dog by taking him for a long run or playing an extended game of fetch before you give him a bath.
  • Follow your vet’s instructions on administering tick and flea preventative medication. That way, you won’t need to bathe your GSD too often with flea shampoos. If you use the treatment that you rub between the shoulders, you should wait 48 hours before bathing.
  • Don’t apply itch relief medication before bathing. If you use a topical anti-itch cream for your dog, you should wait until it is nearly time to reapply before bathing so that you don’t waste the medication or cause an interaction with the shampoo that you are using.
  • Always work with your GSD’s vet for decisions on your dog’s well-being. For example, you can consult your vet on how often you should bathe your dog. After all, your vet is likely knowledgeable about dog skin types and any skin issues your dog may have. 

If you’re looking for a shampoo specially made for German Shepherds, look no further than Healthy Breeds German Shepherd Oatmeal Shampoo with Aloe (from Amazon). The oatmeal and aloe mixture works well with sensitive skin.

Additionally, the shampoo is manufactured in U.S. based facilities that comply with federal regulations, ensuring that you don’t end up with a product that’ll give you nasty surprises in the form of toxic chemicals.  

FAQs on German Shepherd Bathing

Final Thoughts

How often you should bathe your German Shepherd depends on a few factors. 

In general, you should bathe your GSD whenever they get dirty or smelly. If you must have a regular bathing routine for your dog and they have healthy skin, you can bathe them once every two to three months. 

If you doubt how often you should bathe your GSD, ask your veterinarian. Your vet may recommend that you bathe your dog more or less than the recommended once every two to three months.

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Sharon Waddington
Sharon Waddington is the founder of World of Dogz. With over 30 years of experience working with dogs, this former Police Officer has seen it all. But it’s her trusty German Shepherd, Willow, who steals the show as the inspiration behind this website. As Sharon’s constant companion Willow has played a pivotal role in shaping her passion for dogs. Recently, Sharon has become deeply passionate about the plight of rescue dogs and is an active advocate for dog rescue, striving to make a difference in the lives of dogs in need.

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