Skip to Content
The Puppy Mag is an Amazon associate and earns a commission for qualifying purchases. Affiliate Disclosure

German Shepherd Bathing: How Often, Why, & Which Shampoo?

Knowing how often to bathe your German Shepherd can be the difference between a perfect coat and a dull, greasy, smelly coat!

This article explains when to bathe your German shepherd, what to avoid, which shampoo to use, and much more…

This is crucial for many reasons. All explained below.

when to bathe german shepherds

How Often Should You Bathe a German Shepherd?

It’s recommended to bathe your German Shepherd once every 3-4 months (3 or 4 times per year).

This frequency is more than enough to keep your GSD clean and some owners even reduce this down to only twice per year.

There isn’t a magical number, but the fewer the times, the better. This was certainly the case with my German Shepherd, and I’ve only heard the same from other owners too.

If your GSD gets dirty all the time (depending on where take them for walks) you can use water to rinse her off as many times as needed. It’s the shampoo that needs limited use.

Why It’s Important To Avoid Overbathing

The main issue with bathing and using shampoo is that it removes a certain amount of the natural essential oils from the skin and coat each and every time.

If bathing is done too frequently, owners run the risk of removing most (if not all) natural oils.

When there’s a lack of oils in the coat and skin, the following issues happen:

Dry and flaky skin (Officially the No.1 reason dogs go to the vets)
Sensitivity skin
Raw skin through itching
Dull-looking coat
Greasy coat (shortly after)
Smelly coat

You may wonder how their coat becomes greasy if it’s supposed to be dried out?

Well, when the body realizes that the natural oils are no longer present, it rushes to produce more oil. The downside to this is that through this “emergency reaction” to produce oil quickly, it nearly always produces too much!

This results in a dry coat, quickly going to a very greasy, overly oily coat. Shortly after this, the coat will start to smell. This will lead you to think you need to bathe her again… repeating the unhealthy process all over again

Recommended Read: The Complete Breed Compatibility Guide For German Shepherds

Which Shampoo To Use/Avoid For German Shepherds

There are many different shampoos on the market, but there’s only one type you should be using…

The best shampoo for a German shepherd, or in fact any dog, is a natural ingredient dog shampoo.

  • Even regular pet shampoo (which is widely promoted as “healthy”) contains a wide range of harsh chemicals, detergents, soap, alcohol, parabens, and other nasty stuff your GSD’s coat and skin really doesn’t need!

It’s these harsh ingredients that strip away too many of the natural oils found on the skin and coat… causing dry skin and other issues in no time at all.

By sticking to natural-ingredient pet shampoo, you avoid ALL of the nasty chemicals and ingredients that are simply too strong for her skin and coat.

➡️ Fortunately, there are many great options out there. Our recommendation is from 4LeggerBuddy’s Best, and Honeydew These are all awesome products, completely natural, and have amazing reviews.

What to avoid

Regular pet shampoo
Human shampoo (it’s too strong and acidic for dog skin)
Dawn washing up liquid (can’t believe I need to say this but it’s actually a thing, and it’s terrible)

What about baby shampoo?

Baby shampoo CAN be used but it should be your second option. If a natural ingredient dog shampoo isn’t available to you, baby shampoo will be ok.

Recommended Read: When Can German Shepherds Get Pregnant? Everything To Know

Advice For Bathing German Shepherd Puppies

So far the advice has been specifically for adult German Shepherds, but what about puppies? When and how often can you bathe a German Shepherd puppy…

Best Practice

German Shepherd puppies should not be bathed until necessary. Most owners report not giving their first bath until around 6 or even 7 months of age. This allows their skin and coat to develop with their natural oils before that first shampoo session interrupts it.

Absolute Minimum

The absolute minimum age your GSD puppy should take a bath is 16-18 weeks old. OR until 2 weeks after having completed her vaccinations (which is usually around 16-18 weeks). Before this time, your puppy’s immune system is too fragile for her body to be getting wet.

Once your German Shepherd has their first bath, providing it’s around 6 or 7 months, stick to the frequency outlined above, a few times per year, or as little as possible.

Recommended Read: Are German Shepherds Prone To Hip Dysplasia? Veterinarian advice

7 Great Bathing Tips For German Shepherds

Let’s run through some helpful bathing tips to make every bath time stress-free, enjoyable, and productive.

1. Talk to her throughout bathing

Researchers have now shown that dogs really do understand human speech and tone much better than we realized. This means that talking to your GSD in a happy, reassuring tone, has a big impact on their feelings and current state.

Use this to your advantage by using your voice to keep her calm and relaxed throughout bathing. The more relaxed she is, the more she’ll stay still, allowing you to get to work without issues.

Plus, you’re giving her a better bathing experience, and she’ll enjoy the attention!

2. Use room temperature water only

It’s tempting to use warm or even slightly hot water I know… But it’s important to stick to room temperature water only. Throughout winter, use lukewarm water.

Using water that’s too hot or even just warm, increases the chance of drying out her skin when the bathing stops.

It also increases the chance of her suddenly becoming too cold when the bathing stops, especially if the outside temperature is lower or there is a breeze.

Cold water is just unpleasant and may even shock her, so always stick to room temperature water.

3. Brush her before bathing

To get the most out of your bathing session, you want to avoid dealing with huge clumps of dead matted fur. So it’s a great idea to give her a 15-20 minute brush before you start bathing.

Probably the best brushing routine for double-coated breeds remains to be 10 minutes with a simple undercoat rake, followed by 10 minutes using a slicker brush for the topcoat.

These brushes do the best job at removing dead undercoat fur and cleaning out the topcoat, respectively.

4. Get that lather going!

Some shampoos create more of a lather than others, and some “concentrated shampoos” are designed so you only need to use a little, for a lot. And that’s important.

Before you even think about rinsing, you should have a thick lather going that you’re massaging deep into her coat, all the way to her skin.

Thick lathers are where the magic happens and it’s how you’ll get the best out of every bathing session. Remember, natural shampoos don’t contain harsh cleaning chemicals, so it requires a little more work and time for the natural ingredients to do their cleansing.

5. Use peanut butter to keep her still!

Most German Shepherds don’t mind bath times, but there are still some that try to wiggle away. This can make each bathing session really stressful and difficult.

Let peanut butter do the hard work for you. If you have tile walls (washable), you can smear the peanut butter directly onto the wall at head height. This will keep your GSD glued to the same spot for a good 10 minutes.

This will give you precious time to really massage her coat while she remains still. I’ve tried this tip myself and it works wonders.

Just be sure to use peanut butter that does NOT contain Xylitol or high salt. Check out our other article about peanut butter and German Shepherds.

6. Triple check your rinsing

I know it’s an obvious one, but rinsing is so critical. Let me explain…

You can do everything right, like sticking to the correct frequency and using natural shampoos, but if you fail to rinse her properly, dry, sensitive, and itchy skin is right around the corner!

Once you are super confident that all the shampoo suds are out of her coat… rinse her again!

7. Dry her thoroughly

Use a clean dry towel to pat her down until she’s almost dry to touch.

Even breeds with thick double coats are at risk of becoming too cold when wet. Even a slight breeze could be enough to give her the chills. So unless it’s a super hot summer day, be sure to dry her thoroughly.

If there’s a breeze outside, keep her inside until she’s properly dry throughout.

German Shepherd Articles:
Does My German Shepherd Love Me?
My German Shepherd Won’t Eat? Here’s Why

Final Thoughts

German Shepherds should only be bathed once every three to four months. This frequency is enough to keep her coat clean, without running the risk of removing her natural oils from the skin and coat.

Those natural oils are so essential for keeping her skin moisturized and her coat healthy, the moment they are removed, it can be very problematic and may even result in veterinary attention.

Always stick to natural ingredient shampoos that do not contain harsh chemicals, parabens, soap, detergent, alcohol, or artificial fragrances.


Before making any decisions that could affect the health and/or safety of your dog, you should always consult a trained veterinarian in your local area. Even though this content may have been written/reviewed by a trained veterinarian, our advice to you is to always consult your own local veterinarian in person. Please read our full dislcaimer if you have any questions.