German Shepherds are strong, active, and have almost boundless energy, which they like to channel into daily workouts and play. With so much exercise and playing, it is fair to assume that bathing German Shepherds frequently is a good practice, but this isn’t the case.
Do not wash German Shepherds more often than once in six to eight weeks, as their skin contains natural oils that will get stripped off with more frequent baths. Nutritious food and grooming are better for German Shepherds (and dogs in general) than numerous washes.
This article explains the nature of a German Shepherd’s coat and why frequent washes aren’t appropriate.
It further discusses the right way to wash a German Shepherd and measures you can take to keep your German Shepherd’s skin and coat looking healthy.
What Happens When You Wash Your German Shepherd Too Often?
The American Kennel Club recommends washing German Shepherds once in four to five months. Still, wash the dog at most once in a month, as you risk stripping the skin of its natural oils if you bathe the dog more often.
The oil on a German Shepherd’s skin is called sebum, and the sebaceous glands produce it. Sebum is a mixture of fatty acids and is present in most mammals, humans inclusive.
Sebum is crucial in maintaining healthy skin, especially in German Shepherds, which are susceptible to several skin diseases. The paws, back of the neck, rump, chin, and tail area have higher amounts of sebum.
The Dangers of Frequent Washing
The absence of skin oils arising from frequent washing can cause dandruff and itching, dull coats, and hair loss.
Sebum has antimicrobial properties. Frequent washing strips the sebum and this protection away, thus exposing the German Shepherd to diseases like ringworm, a fungal infection that causes hair loss.
Frictional hair loss will also arise as the German Shepherd continues to scratch its itching skin. The lack of sebum also causes the hairs to be more brittle. Accordingly, they will break off easily.
Dandruff and Itching
Another function of sebum is to keep the skin moist and pliable. Sebum acts as a barrier to prevent water from leaving the skin; in its absence, the dog’s skin becomes dehydrated.
In extreme cases, seborrhea may set in. Seborrhea is the condition where the dog’s skin produces too much sebum; the condition is characterized by the infamous wet-dog smell.
Seborrhea may be triggered by an overcompensation of the skin in its bid to replenish its lost oils. It may also be due to yeast infection stemming from the absence of the protective microbial barrier.
Sebum is a mixture of fatty acids that lend sheen to the German Shepherd’s coat. In the absence of sebum, the coat will lose some of its shine.
Why Your German Shepherd Doesn’t Need Frequent Washing
To a lesser extent than cats, Germans Shepherds and other dogs have specialized anatomy and behaviors that keep them clean. Their dirt repelling coat, coupled with such habits as licking, nibbling, and shaking, significantly reduces the need to bathe dogs frequently.
The Dirt Repelling Coat
German Shepherds have double coats; this means that there are two layers of hair over their bodies. The top layer, or the guard coat, is made of long straight hairs with a slightly abrasive texture. Beneath the guard coat lies the undercoat, which is thicker and softer with shorter hairs.
While the undercoat’s job is to protect the dog from heat and cold, the guard hairs repel moisture and dirt and protect against sunburn. Whatever dirt the guard hairs don’t repel, they trap, so that it does not get to the undercoat or skin. Regular brushing will handle any debris trapped in the hairs.
A Body Shake Stronger Than Gravity
The full-body shake of a dog is ten to 70 times greater than the earth’s gravity. Such a force is great enough to shed up to 70% of water or any dirt trapped in the fur in seconds. The force is also great enough to dislodge a German Shepherd’s eye, that is why dogs close their eyes when they shake.
Cats are the most famous lickers, but German Shepherds lick too. In both animals, licking is an act of grooming, although dogs pay more attention to their paws and private areas when they lick.
Washing a German Shepherd
A simple rinse down will work well most times, as the dog will quickly shake off the water and be dry in no time, after which you can brush its coat.
Still, there are times when you are left with no choice but to wash your dog, especially if it sleeps in the house, and has rolled in something foul-smelling or foul-looking.
You will need the following items to wash your German Shepherd:
- Lukewarm water
- Dog shampoo
- Two or three towels
- Cotton wool
- Mineral oil
- Non-slip rubber mat
It is important that you use a shampoo made specifically for dogs, as human skin has a different PH from a dog’s, as such products for humans will destroy the acid mantle on the dog’s skin and leave it vulnerable to infections.
Use the cotton wools to block your dog’s ears, as water in the ear can lead to infections. The mineral oil is to protect the eyes in case some shampoo gets there. Apply some oil to the eye before you wash the dog.
Non-slip mats are only required when you wash the dog in a bathtub, where there is a risk of slipping, as dogs can get jittery during bath time.
If you wash in the backyard, you will not need the mat, but you’ll need to bring the lukewarm water to the site somehow.
Dogs rarely like baths, so you have to cajole and reassure your German Shepherd throughout the exercise. The steps to wash your German Shepherd are as follows:
- Slowly wet the German Shepherd until the coat is entirely soaked.
- Squirt some shampoo on the body, and work it into a lather, starting from the neck and moving down.
- Bathe the head last, as dogs will almost always shake their bodies when their head is wet.
- Rub the lather gently over its muzzle and face, be especially careful around the eyes and ears so that water doesn’t get in.
- Rinse several times to ensure that all the shampoo is gone. Pay attention to the armpits and under the jaw as these areas get overlooked often.
- Run your hands over your dog’s entire body, feeling for any shampoo residue.
- If there is no shampoo left, start to dry the body with the towels.
- In the winter, you may want to use a hairdryer, as your German Shepherd detests the cold just as much as you do.
- Brushing the coat in the direction of growth will further increase the drying process and loosen the hairs.
Ways to Improve your German Shepherd’s Skin and Coat
Here are ways to keep your German Shepherd’s skin and cost looking healthy and attractive.
Needless to say that a healthy diet has a great impact on the overall outlook of your dog. Remember that quality trumps quantity.
Regularly brushing your German Shepherd’s coat will help to distribute the natural oils, thus improving the coat’s dirt repelling ability.
Prevent Fleas and Ticks
Biting and scratching at fleas and ticks can cause irritation, dryness, and hair loss to the skin. Visit the vet when you observe your German Shepherd biting and scratching excessively.
Avoid the Sun
The sun’s ultraviolet rays affect dogs, although not as much as humans. Use pet sunscreen when spending long hours in the sun.
Healthy German Shepherds do not require frequent baths, as their coats are self-cleaning. Good food and regular brushing will keep the coat looking beautiful and healthy.
The few occasions when you wash your German Shepherd, ensure that you use a shampoo made specifically for dogs, as human shampoo may cause problems for your German Shepherd.