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Do German Shepherds Smell? Breed Facts & FAQs

Nicole Cosgrove Profile Picture

By Nicole Cosgrove

german shepherd sitting outdoor panting

German Shepherds are magnificent animals with their stately stance and seemingly effortless gait. They certainly get your attention. We don’t often associate the breed with having a distinct odor. However, when it comes to answering the question of whether German Shepherds smell, the answer is, it depends. Several things can cause it to occur, from genetics to behavior to health issues. Let’s go over what you need to know.


Potential Causes of German Shepherd Odor

Some dog breeds are naturally on the smelly side. Often, they are water dogs, such as Labrador Retrievers. The oil their glands produce to keep them dry often pushes the envelope. German Shepherds typically aren’t one of those breeds. If it’s an issue with your pet, the cause is most likely external instead of genetic, with few exceptions.

Dogs Being Dogs

One thing that all German Shepherd owners know about their dogs is that they are playful, active animals. They want to have fun with their human companions. It’s one reason why they are the third most popular breed with the American Kennel Club (AKC). Sometimes, play will cause them to do the darndest things, such as rolling in something stinky.

The other thing to bear in mind is that Shepherds are loyal and will protect their families. They are also courageous. That can put them in the line of fire if your pet encounters an angry skunk. A German Shepherd has no qualms about taking one for the team.

german shepherd jumps on a woman
Image Credit: cynoclub, Shutterstock

Dental Issues

Other causes of odor can signal health conditions that are worth a trip to the vet to treat. Dental issues are high on the list. This breed isn’t particularly prone to these problems. However, it’s often a consequence of age and plaque build-up over time. Bad breath is a telltale sign. Brushing your dog’s teeth regularly can help prevent it. Dental treats are another excellent preventive.

Skin Infections

The German Shepherd has a dense, double coat that can often take a long time to dry if the pup gets wet. That can explain one reason why your pet has an odor. It can also be a sign of a skin infection or seborrhea. It can have many causes, including yeast or bacterial infections. Fleas and hotspots are other possible culprits. A visit to the vet is imperative to prevent secondary skin conditions from scratching.

Ear Infections

The German Shepherd’s coat comes into play again when it comes to mites and ear infections. Excess hair can prevent circulation from keeping the ear canal dry. That sets the stage for these health problems. You’ll often notice your pet pawing at its ears or shaking its head a lot, in addition to the odor. Frequent cleaning is an effective preventive as part of the grooming routine for your pet.

vet checks the health of german shepherd dog
Image Credit: VP Photo Studio, Shutterstock

Perianal Fistula

Perianal fistula describes a health condition often seen in German Shepherds. Its primary sign is an open sore around the anal area. Excessive licking and difficulty defecating are frequent symptoms. Unfortunately, it is typically a long treatment process that requires veterinary care. It usually requires several approaches to control and keep your pet comfortable.

Other Health Issues

Other more serious health conditions can cause your German Shepherd to smell. Fortunately, most are rare in this breed.

However, it’s worth a visit to the vet if you notice other signs, such as:
  • Lumps
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Increased thirst
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite

However, more often than not, an odor problem has a simple cause with a relatively easy fix. If you have concerns, it’s usually best to start with a physical exam and complete bloodwork to rule out other possible causes for the issue.

german shepherd panting
Image Credit: MasatoTsuda, Pixabay

Managing a Smelly Problem

A regular grooming routine will help prevent problems with odors before they start. Luckily, the German Shepherd is a clean breed that doesn’t usually require frequent baths. We recommend brushing your pet a few times a week to prevent mats. It’s also an excellent time to examine its coat for any signs of external parasites or skin infections.

You should also check your pup’s ears frequently since the breed is prone to these conditions. Getting your pet used to your handling its ears and paws will make it easier to check for potential problems. Your vet will also appreciate your efforts.



Odor isn’t synonymous with owning a dog, even a German Shepherd. Regular vet care is the best way to prevent any health problems that may cause your pup to smell. It’s also essential to keep up with regular grooming to nip any issues in the bud before they become serious. Remember that pet ownership comes with the responsibility of maintaining your dog’s good health.

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