Why Does My German Shepherd Smell Bad?

German Shepherds aren’t especially smelly dogs, at least no more smelly than any other dog.

But your house can “smell like a dog” if you don’t do regular housekeeping. And your German Shepherd can “smell like a dog” without regular grooming.

Good housekeeping and good grooming are essential for keeping your German Shepherd mostly odor-free.

Let’s start with the issue of dog odor in your house.

Dog Odor in Your Home

Dogs don’t become odoriferous the same way as humans.

Dogs don’t have sweat glands in pores on their skin. Dogs do perspire from their paws and from hair follicles, but these glands are primarily there to produce oils similar to human sebum that lubricate the skin.

Most dog odor originates in two places. Dog ears produce a variety of odors due to yeast infections, bacterial infections, and earwax buildup.

It’s not unusual for a dog’s ears to produce a musty odor. And, as you have probably noticed, dogs have anal glands that produce odors dogs use to identify each other.

All these odors and scents add up to a unique “bouquet” of smells that are unique to your German Shepherd.

From a dog’s point of view, they are a kind of calling card. Dogs recognize each other by their odors.

The problem is that a dog’s odor accumulates in carpet, upholstery, blankets, bedding, and even your clothes without regular housekeeping measures.

What do you need to avoid the situation where someone can walk into your home, take one whiff, and know you have a dog?

How can you keep your home from smelling like a kennel?

Start by keeping your dog’s bed clean, but not too clean

Dog beds are ground zero for German Shepherd odor.

They accumulate saliva, droplets of urine, tiny particles of feces, and anal gland secretions that visitors can smell throughout your house or apartment.

Clean your dog’s bedding before it gets stinky. Spray bedding with stain repellent to prevent future odors.

But don’t wash everything in your dog’s sleeping area.

Dogs need odors to feel secure. Leave some toys or a blanket unwashed so your dog will have a sense of comfort.

It is especially important to keep objects that carry the scent of missing companion dogs or human family members.

Go full Scooby-Doo and break out your blacklight.

Use a blacklight to identify old urine stains. They will glow yellow or green. Neutralize German Shepherd odors with baking soda or vinegar.

You may even need to paint over badly stained baseboards.

Vacuum every surface in your house two or three times a week all year round

Make sure you vacuum at least three times a week. And after you vacuum your floors, mop.

The first step in getting rid of German Shepherd odors in your house is getting rid of hair, dander, and dirt.

Because you will tend to go nose-blind to your German Shepherd’s odor, you probably need to do this more often than you otherwise would think necessary.

Go for three times a week, not three times a year.

Your German Shepherd probably hates your vacuum cleaner. (It’s a good idea to expose German Shepherds to vacuum cleaners when they are puppies, between the ages of seven and eleven weeks, so they won’t be afraid of the noise later in life.)

But you still need to vacuum carpets, curtains, upholstery, floors, rugs, and every other surface in your home thoroughly and often.

You may need to do this every day those two times a year your German Shepherd is shedding her undercoat.

Use a duster on your floors every day when your German Shepherd is shedding

You can’t really keep up with your German Shepherd’s hair during the spring and fall shedding seasons, but going over your floors with something like a Swiffer Duster will help.

Dog hair sticks to the disposable cloths. Just toss the clothes in the trash when you are done.

Better yet, use mopping cloths (like those made by Swifter) to pick up the dead skin and dander your duster misses every time you dust.

Neutralize furniture odors

Neutralize furniture odors by running washable covers through the washer and dryer at least once a month. 

Remove any unidentified upholstery stains and the odors that cling to them with baking soda and water. 

Fill your house with things that smell fresh and use air freshener to counteract dog smell.

Now that you know how to make your home smell better, let’s consider how to make your German Shepherd smell better.

The first step in deodorizing your German Shepherd is ear care

German Shepherds are prone to smelly ears. There are several common causes.

Ear Wax Buildup

Ear wax buildup can cause a mild ear odor. This problem may bother you more than it bothers your dog.

Don’t try to remove ear wax with a Q-tip. Your dog’s ear canals are not shaped like human ear canals.

Using a Q-tip can cause injuries that invite infection and make the odor problem worse. Let your vet clean your German Shepherd’s ears.

Canine yeast infections

Canine yeast infections result in a more pronounced odor in a German Shepherd’s ears.

Your dog’s ears may smell musty or sweet or something like bread in the rising stage. There may be a red discharge.

Yeast infections are another reason to take your German Shepherd to the vet.

Don’t clean your dog’s ears within 24 hours of the appointment, or the vet may not be able to confirm that the problem is the yeast for lack of a sample.

Bacterial Ear Infection

Bacterial ear infections cause the worst odor and the most severe symptoms.

A German Shepherd that has a bacterial infection of the ear may not be able to keep her balance.

She may not be able to hear commands. Your vet has to identify the exact kind of bacteria to prescribe the right antibiotic to cure the infection.

This isn’t something you should try to treat on your own.

Routine Grooming also Keeps Your German Shepherd (relatively) Odor Free

If you keep up with housekeeping chores, and you make sure your veterinarian treats ear infections, then you should have relatively minor problems with German Shepherd odor.

There is still a certain amount of work involved in keeping dog odor in check.

Let’s take a look at specific canine care concerns to reduce dog odor, starting with the obvious.

Wet German Shepherds smell

German Shepherds are active, playful, adventurous dogs, always on the go.

German Shepherds love playing in the water and drying off by rolling in the grass. Or in the dirt. Or in manure.

You shouldn’t bathe your German Shepherd more than three or four times a year. You definitely should not try to blow out their undercoat.

Nature will do this for you twice a year, and in the meantime, it will keep your dog warm in the winter and cool in the summer.

But if you just let your dog dry out after a swim in a lake, pond, or river, especially with a roll-around to dry off, you will have a smelly dog.

Outdoor swims are a good reason for a bath, shampoo, and rinse.

It’s OK to bathe your German Shepherd’s paws and underbelly when they have just been out for a walk or a run in the summer heat.

Poor diet causes dog odor, too

German Shepherds love to play, but they also love to eat. The wrong foods, of course, can give them gas.

German Shepherds that are fed low-protein, grain-based kibble can develop chronic flatulence along with other digestive issues.

Maybe you can’t afford to feed your dog a human-grade diet, but at least some real meat, raw (never cooked) bones and occasional vegetables help keep your dog’s digestive tract more odor-free,

Many German Shepherds are lactose-intolerant, so they will be less gaseous and more comfortable on a dairy-free diet.

Excessively varied diet can result in flatulence

It’s not often talked about, but dogs have probiotic bacteria in their digestive tracts like humans do.

They even benefit from the same kinds of Lactobacillus bacteria that people do. Your dog’s diet has to support both your dog and your dog’s probiotic bacteria.

When you give your German Shepherd too many different kinds of foods, the probiotic bacteria in his intestine can’t keep up.

It can be a struggle for German Shepherds to digest more than two kinds of food in a single meal.

Don’t give your German Shepherd too much variety. Treats are fine, but limit them to one kind of treat per day.

Highly-spiced and seasoned table scraps can give your German Shepherd gas.

Bathe seldom, brush regularly

We have already mentioned that German Shepherds don’t need baths very often. Bathing your German Shepherd may be something you only do when they get exceptionally dirty.

However, brushing your German Shepherd is something you need to do once or twice a week.

Brushing removes the dirt and dander that can make German Shepherd odors linger around your house.

It gives you a chance to check for fleas and mites so you can treat them before they become a serious problem. And it gives you a chance to bond with your dog.

Use a damp cloth instead of a comb to groom hair around your German Shepherd’s face.

Brush your German Shepherd’s teeth several times a week

Brushing your German Shepherd’s teeth several times a week can eliminate “dog breath.”

And beyond controlling canine halitosis, brushing your German Shepherd’s teeth can stop cavities, gum disease, and tooth decay.

Use a special canine toothbrush you get from your vet or from a pet supply store to brush your dog’s teeth.

Never use toothpaste intended for humans on your dog’s teeth.

The sudsing agents and detergents in toothpaste for people can cause severe irritation in a dog’s mouth. Toothpaste for dogs has flavors dogs enjoy, like chicken and liver.

When you are brushing your dog’s teeth, be sure to brush both sides.

Use the canine to reach the teeth in the back of your German Shepherd’s mouth, which catch the most odor-causing food particles.

Blocked, impacted, infected, or swollen anal glands can also cause intense dog odor.

This is a problem you should let your veterinarian resolve.

The things you do to keep your German Shepherd create opportunities to bond with your dog.

Do them regularly and they will become a beloved part of your dog’s weekly routine.

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