How Often Should I Bathe a German Shepherd? + How to Bath & Shower

how to bathe German shepherd

German Shepherds can occasionally develop skin conditions like dryness and various other skin allergies. This can be made worse by bathing as things like scented shampoos can act as an irritant, and frequent washes that serve to strip their skin of its natural oils.

With that in mind, how often is too often when it comes to bathing your German Shepherd? I spoke to our vet about this to get a professional opinion, and here’s what he said about washing regularity and how often German Shepherds need a bath.

How often should you bathe a German Shepherd? You should only bathe a German Shepherd every 2 to 6 months in order to maintain a balance between their skin health and hygiene. However, the reality is this probably isn’t practical, as German Shepherds love to run in mud and get dirty  so will need more regular baths and showers.

If you’re a dog owner, you know that bathing any dog every couple of months is almost impossible, especially if you live in a wetter climate where mud is common.

So, in practical terms, if your German Shepherd gets his coat muddy, and he starts to stink, you need to give them a bath outside of the regular bathing schedule.

There are a few things you ought to know in order for their grooming and bathing regime to be happy, healthy and effective.

How to bathe your German Shepherd in 5 simple steps

Most German Shepherds can be bathed in a standard bathtub with a shower, but if you have a small German Shepherd puppy, you can bathe them in a sink with a sink sprayer.

I would not bother filling up the tub. I would instead recommend you use the shower or sink sprayer, but if you want to fill up the tub, I would advise only filling it insofar as your dog’s ankles. This means they can still have their feet touching the floor and they’re paddling, not swimming.

This is especially important if your German Shepherd is young, anxious or not a very confident around water.

1. Gently wet your German Shepherd’s coat

The first step is to gently wet your dog’s fur with the shower orsink sprayer. When doing this, you need to keep an eye on two things: the water’s heat and intensity.

The water should be lukewarm: not too hot and not too cold, and if you’re using the shower, you don’t want to scare them off with the jets! I would only turn on the shower/sink sprayer halfway, so what you have is a gentle trickle rather than an intense spray.

It is incredibly important to get the temperature and the consistency of the water right, because not only do you risk harming your German Shepherd with burns, but you also risk scaring them and making them associate baths with unpleasant memories, feelings and sensations (like this) – making it incredibly difficult for you to give them baths in the future.

2. Use a specialist dog shampoo

Then, get a gentle, soap-free dog shampoo and use your fingers to lather and work the shampoo into the coat.

As mentioned, your German Shepherd might have extra sensitive skin, which is why a soap-free shampoo is the best option.

What is the best shampoo for a German Shepherd smell?

If you’re wondering which shampoo German Shepherd owners most often recommend, particularly to help get rid of the smell, it’s Wahl’s 4-in-1 doggy shampoo and conditioner on Amazon. You don’t need to buy a separate conditioner. It also helps to moisturise their skin, and smells great too.

3. Rinse the shampoo away

Rinse the shampoo out and repeat the process as many times as necessary to get all of the dirt out.

4. Use a specialist dog conditioner

Once you’re done with shampooing, get your conditioner specially formulated for dogs (scent-free again to avoid skin issues and allergic reactions for your German Shepherd) and apply it evenly to the coat, brushing it through with a wide-tooth comb.

Give the conditioner no more than two minutes to set and then rinse again thoroughly.

5. Dry your German Shepherd thoroughly

To avoid that nasty wet dog smell, you need to dry your German Shepherd completely. Dry your dog with either a towel or a hairdryer on the lowest setting. If you don’t dry your GSD properly, it will stink after a bath.

Additional German Shepherd bathing and washing tips

Now you know how to bathe a German Shepherd, I wanted to get into a little bit more detail about how you wash some specific parts of their body in the bath or shower.

Cleaning a German Shepherd’s face

When you’re bathing your German Shepherd, it is important to take steps to ensure they don’t get any water or shampoo in their eyes. The dog friendly shampoos are designed not to sting, but I don’t think it’s entirely comfortable.

One way of doing this is by applying protective ophthalmic ointment to your dog’s face before bath time.

To clean your German Shepherd’s face, use a flannel soaked with lukewarm water (no soap!) and gently wipe every nook and cranny of the face. This includes the outside ear flaps and the corners of the eyes to get rid of any stubborn tear stains.

I would do this instead of pouring water on their face – not many dogs like this!

Cleaning a German Shepherd’s ears

Due to the way German Shepherd’s ears stand up, they can get a lot of dirt in them, which unfortunately makes them more prone to infections. To avoid this, a German Shepherd’s ears should be cleaned weekly.

Specially made dog ear-cleaning solution contains ingredients that helps to break down and remove wax, as well as anti-bacterial agents that soothes inflammation and prevents infection.

You should apply this solution to a damp cotton ball and gentle wipe the inside of the ear (use a different cotton ball for each ear in order to prevent spreading infection) and check for any injuries, infection, inflammation or scrapes.

If you notice something unusual, apply antibiotic ointment and go to your vet in order to seek further advice.

Handy Hint: Around the same time you will also be potty training your GSD. Here’s how to do it.

Taking care of your German Shepherd’s toenails

If your German Shepherd’s nails get in the way of their movement, this is a good time to get them cut. You can either do them yourself or take them to a vet or a groomer if you don’t feel confident.

It is important to be careful when you are cutting your German Shepherd’s nails, as inside each nail is what is called the ‘quick’ – which is extremely sensitive pink flesh that holds the blood vessels and the nerves that go into the nails.

If you cut into the quick, this will cause bleeding and extreme pain for your dog. It will also make it incredibly difficult to cut their nails in the future.

To cut your German Shepherd’s nails, use a sterile pair of scissors to avoid infection and gently trim the very ends of the nails off – this might take longer, but it is better to cut off too little than too much.

After cutting the nails, give your German Shepherd a treat so that they have positive associations with the experience.

Caring for a German Shepherd’s coat

German Shepherds have what is called a ‘double coat’, which means that there are two layers of fur. The top layer is thick, waterproof and usually a brown colour, whilst the bottom layer is softer, more sensitive and yet also dense because it acts as an insulator.

It is usually white and is more likely to shed during the winter months. Luckily, despite German Shepherds being long-haired breeds, their coat, despite its complexities, is reasonably easy to care for.

  • Brushing: Brush out dirt, prevent shedding and distribute natural oils throughout your German Shepherd by brushing them at least once a week with a bristle brush, a hound grooming glove or or a finer brush if you want to remove excess dirt or hair. Brush your German Shepherd more frequently – up to three times a week – during shedding season.
  • Trimming: If you choose to trim them, it is advisable to lightly trim them with electric clippers. You should also pay attention to any fur around the feet or on the pads of the feet that you might want to trim for tidiness.
  • Freshening up: To keep your German Shepherd clean between baths, doggy dry shampoo is quick and easy to use – you just need to sprinkle it on your dog and then distribute it with a brush. You can also use a spray-on dog conditioner in order to keep the coat looking shiny.


Although you should always keep in mind the allergies and skin issues that come with owning a German Shepherd, bathing them can be a rewarding bonding experience that helps to keep them squeaky clean, happy, and free from infection!

With any dog, it is important to strike that balance between not enough grooming and too-much grooming. Whilst it is important to ensure your dog is clean, tidy and healthy, over-bathing can cause its own issues, making it ultimately more counterproductive.

You might also like…

Here are some more guides to help you care for your German Shepherd.

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Marc Aaron

I write about the things we've learned about owning dogs, the adventures we have, and any advice and tips we've picked up along the way.

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