Why and How to Bathe a German Shepherd Who Hates Bath Time

Categorized as Grooming
german shepherd hates bath

Bathing a German shepherd dog can be a steep and uphill battle for many owners, even with dogs who don’t have a problem with bathing, let alone for those who hate baths. The rather good news is, if your shepherd hates baths, you’re not alone in this battle. It’s quite common actually for most dogs, even those who love swimming, to hate bath time. Why?

If your German shepherd hates the bath, it might be because they don’t like being confined and not being able to control their actionsslipping in the shower or bathtub is no laughing matter.  

Some dogs may have also had a distressing experience being hosed by their owners as a means of disciplining their negative behaviors, causing the dogs to fear the action of shower-spraying water and mistakenly associate the bath with a punishment.

How to Bathe a German Shepherd who Hates Bath

Here’s what you can do to put your German shepherd at ease.

  1. Prepare at least three clean towels before starting bathing your shepherd.
  2. Put a non-skid mat or spread out a towel in the bottom of the tub to prevent your shepherd from falling.
  3. Use a soft voice and gentle touch during bathing time. Your soft voice and gentle touch help your dog’s self-confidence and alleviate any anxiety that they may have.
  4. Avoid using the showerhead. Instead, use a bucket and a pre-soaked towel, or pre-fill the tub with warm water. This is especially important for dogs who have encountered traumatic “hosing” experiences.
  5. Use a cup, then slowly pour over your shepherd’s head. Don’t rush things, or you could panic him.
  6. Gently rub dog-friendly shampoo or soap into his fur until he’s all soaped up and scrubbed. Be careful not to use too much shampoo no matter which dog shampoo you’re using because it’s hard to rinse the shampoo all the way out of the shepherd’s undercoat.
  7. Then thoroughly rinse all the shampoo out of his coat before drying him with towels and a hairdryer. 
  8. Once he feels only damp, let him dry himself in a warm, draft-free area.
  9. If your dog shows aggression or distress during the bathing time, you might want to consider enlisting the help of a professional groomer.
  10. If your dog’s fear of bathing continues or gets worse, then I recommend consulting with a professional dog trainer or behaviorist. 

Choosing the best shampoo for your German Shepherd

You will literally find a full display of hundreds of dog shampoos. You will find shampoos for every type of skin and coat: black coats, white coats, short coats, long cats, single coats, double coats, just name it. 

You will find shampoos filled with every imaginable scent: vanilla, lemongrass, coconut, lavender, jasmine, and so on. There are dog shampoos with and without conditioners. You can find medicated shampoos for all types of skin problems (itchy skin, dry skin, infected skin, etc.). 

When faced with a huge selection of dog shampoos, you want to find one that has several qualities. 

The first being that you pick a shampoo that is formulated for dogs. I know it may sound obvious, but I still find some people that use human shampoos on their dogs. Dogs have different pH balances than humans; using human shampoo on your shepherd can actually damage his skin and cause it to be dry and irritated.

The second quality is it should be tearless. Tearless shampoos will not burn or irritate your shepherd’s eyes if it gets in his eyes. Although it will still be uncomfortable, it will make the overall bathing process much more manageable.

The third and equally important quality is that the shampoo should be designed for dogs with sensitive skin. Many German shepherds have skin problems that can be exacerbated by using a pet shampoo that is too harsh. Even if your shepherd’s skin is in good condition, using a gentle, soothing shampoo will only benefit your dog.

Other Niceties and Necessities

  • Antiseptic liquid such as Nolvasan is a must-have for dogs who are prone to ear infections like German shepherds.
  • Corn starch is good for working out mats and tangles.
  • Cotton balls are useful for small details such as cleaning the inside of the dog’s ear flap, wiping tear stains, and eye gunk. Putting a pinch of cotton inside the dog’s ears is useful as well to keep the soap out.
  • Don’t throw old towels away. Your worn and torn towel is still useful for drying off your dog or wiping off his muddy paws. Also, you can use it to secure his footing in the bathtub.
  • A spray bottle makes brushing a dog’s hair easy.
  • A tweezer is excellent for removing ticks.

How Often Should You Bathe Your German Shepherd

Like most dogs, if your shepherd has a choice, he would like to live his life in a dog-smell heaver, a place where he will never ever have to get into a bathtub. Too bad they live with us humans, and dog smell is not quite so pleasant for us. Bathing not only can make a dog more pleasant for everybody but also make a living with him easier for many allergy sufferers.

Whether your shepherd loves his monthly wash or starts burrowing his way to the deepest, darkest, most hidden corner of the room whenever he hears you whisper, “I think my dog needs a bath,” he needs to be bather at some point. The question is the when and how often?

The frequency with which you should bathe your German shepherd depends on two factors: how healthy your dog’s skin is and just how dirty your dog gets. For most German shepherds who are not being shown, a bath two to three times a year is enough. More often if he has skin problems, and less often if he stays indoors most of the time.

Maybe you have heard that frequent bathing strips the dog’s coat of natural oils and dried out the skin. To some extent, that’s true, although as an owner who lives with German shepherds, I can tell you that they have plenty of reserve oil to spare. If you need to, you can always put back some oil into their coats by getting shampoo with a conditioner, balancing your dog’s meals, and providing good nutrition.

1. How soon can you bathe a German shepherd puppy? You will likely not need to frequently wash a small German shepherd puppy. Still, it is recommended to start early to make your puppy accustomed to the feeling of water on his body. I would usually wait until my shepherd puppies are at least 3 to 4 months old before attempting to wet them in the tub.

2. How often should you bathe your German shepherd puppy? “Young puppies in particular really don’t need to be bathed often,” says German Shepherd Dog expert Dr. Carmen Battaglia. “ Because the puppy coat is softer and a little thinner, they don’t need to be bathed often. Your German shepherd puppy can get away with bathing only two times a year unless he is really dirty.

Thank you for reading this article. I hope you found it helpful and useful as you raise and train your German Shepherd.

Here are some of my favorite reviews for German Shepherd supplies that I personally use and recommend. If you do decide to purchase them, please remember that I’ll earn a small commission which helps me maintain this website.

By Andrew Garf

Andrew Garf has loved dogs, especially German Shepherds, since he was 10 years old. Though he also loves burgers, training dogs is his real passion. That's why he created the website TrainYourGSD.com - to help dog owners learn how to properly train, care for, and bond with their German Shepherd dogs.