This post will show you a number of reasons why your German Shepherd might keep scratching itself and what you can do about it.

So, why won’t my German Shepherd stop scratching itself? Possible reasons are that it has fleas or allergies, it’s bored or injured, it has something stuck in its fur, it’s anxious or that it is compulsive behavior.

There are a number of nuances that you can consider when trying to figure out why your GSD does it. Once you have a good idea of the cause, it will become a lot easier to get it to stop.

Why your German Shepherd won’t stop scratching itself

Each of the different reasons that your GSD won’t stop scratching itself will likely come with some clues.

Below, are a number of possible causes and what would make them more likely.

Fleas

The cause of your GSD scratching itself could be that it has fleas.

This would be more likely if it has been scratching itself in multiple areas of its body and the scratching isn’t just confined to one area.

If fleas are causing your German Shepherd to scratch itself, it would help to talk to your vet about what you should do to get rid of the flees.

It would also help to eradicate fleas from your home by doing things such as:

  • Washing the bedding with hot soapy water
  • Vacuuming the carpets and throwing the bad
  • Applying an environmental flee control
  • Applying a spray, pellet or non-toxic treatment for the yard
  • Treating your German Shepherd with a monthly preventative

Allergies

Allergies or a rash could also be causing your German Shepherd to scratch itself. Allergies can be caused by things such as shampoo, other dogs, pollen or household chemicals (source).

It would help to consider what else happened at around the same time that your German Shepherd started to scratch itself. For example, if it started doing it when you started using a new shampoo on it then it would likely have something to do with it.

If it has been scratching itself due to a rash then it would be more likely that it would have been itching itself in one specific area. Another sign of this would be if it has been losing fur in one specific area due to scratching, biting and licking at it too much.

Boredom

It could be the case that your GSD has been doing it out of boredom. This would be more likely if it has not been getting as much exercise as it should. Generally, it is recommended for them to get an hour of exercise or more per day. If your GSD is not getting that much then it would help to make sure that it does.

Injury

An injury might be causing your GSD to scratch itself a lot. This would be more likely if it has been showing other signs of being injured such as by limping and if it started scratching itself a lot suddenly.

If it does seem like injury might be the cause then the best thing to do would be to take it to a vet.

Something stuck in its fur

It might be the case that there is something stuck in its fur that is causing it to do it. This would be more likely if it has been scratching at the same spot and if it has started doing it suddenly. If it does seem to be scratching the same spot, then it would be worth taking a look to see if there is anything stuck there.

Anxiety

It might be the case that it is doing it due to anxiety. This would be more likely if it tends to do it in situations where it might become anxious such as when you are about to leave, when there are noises such as construction works or when someone is around that it doesn’t like.

Compulsive behavior

It might be the case that it has been doing it compulsively. This is where your GSD has an irresistible urge to do it and it does it excessively. If it has been scratching itself excessively over a prolonged period then the best option would be to take it to a vet.

Things to consider

When it started doing it

It would help to consider when your GSD first started scratching itself since it could be the case that there was an event that triggered it to start doing it.

For example, if it started scratching itself a lot when you started using a certain shampoo on it then it is likely to be caused by the shampoo. Whereas, if it started scratching itself when you also found fleas around then it would be highly likely to be due to the fleas.

How much it has been doing it

It would also help to consider how much it has been scratching itself.

If it rarely does it or it just did it once then less likely to be a problem and it was probably playing or it was just scratchy at the time.

Whereas, if it does it a lot then it would make it more likely to be due to things such as a rash, fleas, compulsive behavior or an injury.

When it tends to do it more

It would also help to consider if there is a time that it tends to do it more.

If there is a certain time that it tends to do it more then it would help to consider what is different at that time.

For example, if it tends to scratch itself more after having washed it then it would be likely to be due to the shampoo.

What to do about your GSD scratching itself

There are a number of things that you can do about your German Shepherd scratching itself. The best option will depend on the cause of it doing it. Below, are some options that you have.

Take it to a vet

If you are unsure of why your GSD has been doing it, it has been doing it excessively or it has been showing signs of being injured then it would help to take it to a vet. By doing so you will be able to get expert advice tailored to your particular GSD and to rule out medical causes.

Avoid negative reinforcement

Negative reinforcement is where you inadvertently reinforce bad behaviors by giving your GSD things that it wants when it does them.

Instead of giving your GSD things that it wants when it scratches itself, try to notice when it is about to do it and to divert its attention away from scratching itself.

Consider the shampoo you use

It could be the case that the shampoo you use on your German Shepherd is causing it to be scratchy. This would be more likely if it only scratches itself when you have recently put shampoo on it. In this case, it would help to change the shampoo.

Get rid of its fleas and allergies

It would also help to eradicate fleas from your home by doing things such as:

  • Washing the bedding with hot soapy water
  • Vacuuming the carpets and throwing the bad
  • Applying an environmental flee control
  • Applying a spray, pellet or non-toxic treatment for the yard
  • Treating your German Shepherd with a monthly preventative

If you would like learn everything that you need to know about how to have a happy, healthy and well-behaved German Shepherd, take a look at the German Shepherd Handbook

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