German Shepherds are amazingly popular dogs. They are so popular that out of 195 registered purebred dog breeds, the German Shepherd is ranked number two!
But we can tell you this upfront: they are not popular because of their coat type. You are about to learn a whole lot more about the unique German Shepherd coat type in this in-depth article!
But actually, knowing this already tells you a lot about how amazing the German Shepherd dog’s personality can be. People don’t adore German Shepherds without good reason.
Even so, into every German Shepherd lover’s life, a little rain must fall. Only in the case of the GSD, that “rain” is fur – and lots of it!
Read on to learn everything you need to know about German Shepherd shedding, coat type, coat care, and grooming needs.
Do German Shepherds Shed? If So, How Much?
The short answer is yes.
The Shepherds Hope German Shepherd Rescue charity has a story of one of their rescue dogs posted right on their home page.
It is a story of a dog named Roxy. This dog sheds so much the volunteers have to take her down to a local do-it-yourself dog wash for an industrial-strength bath.
As the story continues, the fur keeps flying. At some point during the session, someone nicknames Roxy the “German Shedder.”
Now imagine this is you, and Roxy is your dog. What is happening here?
Roxy is going through a once to a twice-annual event called “coat blow.” Coat blow gets its name because it looks like a furious snowstorm, but made up of dog hair rather than snowflakes.
It can happen for up to several weeks depending on how thick the dog’s coat is (thickness can vary from one GSD to the next) and how much needs to shed out.
Generally speaking, the winter-to-spring coat blow transition is the “worst” of the year, because that is when your dog will be shedding out the intensely thick winter coat.
Why Do German Shepherd Dogs Shed So Much? Meet the GSD Coat
So now you know. German Shepherd dogs shed. And they don’t just shed just a little. The GSD sheds a lot.
German Shepherds can shed so much that their owners give up in despair and relinquish their dogs to a charity like Shepherds Hope.
You don’t want this to be you and your pup. It is heartbreaking when this happens. So it is great that you are reading this article now and are learning what to expect ahead of time.
As the American Kennel Club (AKC) explains, the German Shepherd dog, originally named Deutsche Schäferhund in German, comes from a long line of German working and herding dogs.
The breed was originally developed to serve as a livestock herding dog under highly variable weather conditions.
These dogs have coats designed to deal with cold, constant damp and rain, intense heat and everything in between. Their coats have very unique properties to protect the dog while they are working.
GSD outer coat layer
The German Shepherd coat is a double layer. This means there is an outer layer that is the first line of defense against the elements, predators, pests and the environment.
This outer layer is medium length, coarse and naturally water-resistant. It is extremely thick and dense.
GSD inner coat layer
There is also an inner layer hidden underneath that is designed to keep the German Shepherd dog warm and dry.
The inner layer is very different from the outer layer. The fur is soft and fine and incredibly dense and thick. You can think of this layer like the filling in a down coat.
Together, these two layers protect the German Shepherd dog from nearly anything the weather or environment might present.
But this coat has to be constantly replenished to ensure it works the way it should, which is where all that shedding comes into play.
Regular Shedding vs Coat Blow Shedding: What Is the Difference?
Just as people lose hair every day quite naturally, so too does the German Shepherd dog routinely shed out the hair daily.
For most of the year, this shedding is unremarkable. Sometimes hairs get old or break off and then they shed off. Getting rid of old hair helps the dog keep its coat healthy and lush.
But as you just learned in the previous section here, once to twice a year, the coat goes through a more drastic period of shedding called the coat blow.
During this coat blow shedding period, the GSD coat is preparing for a seasonal change. The major change that needs to happen is taking place in the soft, downy undercoat.
Winter to Spring
The winter to spring coat blow is generally regarded as the worst shed of the year, with “worst” meaning the most hair getting shed out.
This is because the undercoat is shedding out to a massive degree. With the winter season now nearly over, the German Shepherd needs to lose the majority of the thick insulating undercoat to avoid overheating as temperatures warm up.
Fall to Winter
As the temperatures cool down and winter approaches, it is time for the German Shepherd to bulk up the thick insulating downy undercoat for extra protection.
So the existing undercoat will start to shed out and replenish itself with extra dense growth.
This coat blow is usually not as overwhelming as the winter to spring shed, but it is still substantial as compared with the regular ongoing shedding that GSDs always do.
German Shepherd Coat Grooming Needs: How to Care for All That Fur
What often surprises new German Shepherd owners the most is that the weekly coat maintenance these dogs require is quite manageable during most of the year.
It is the dogs that do not shed visibly – dogs like Poodles, Maltese and Bichon Frise – that typically require a ton more coat maintenance. The reason being, these dog breeds do shed just like every other dog.
But the shed hair gets caught in the coat and never falls out. So all that shed hair then stays stuck in the coat and causes tangles, mats and, eventually, skin irritation.
For this reason, non-shedding dog breeds often require daily brushing and professional grooming. Here is a list of best grooming tools for a German Shepherd.
Regular year-round coat care and grooming
But the German Shepherd dog doesn’t need that type of intense coat care. In most cases, you can easily get by with one to two brushing sessions per week. Here is a list of Best Dog Brushes For German Shepherds.
One session is fine as long as you don’t mind some regular shed hair that you have to sweep or vacuum up.
German Shepherd dogs are also quite clean and most owners will give a bath every couple of weeks or as needed.
So for much of the year, your only real grooming and coat care duties will be to do a weekly brushing and a bath as needed. This sounds like a pretty good deal, doesn’t it!
“Coat blow” season coat care and grooming
But then the coat blow season arrives again. During this time, it can feel like even daily brushing doesn’t come close to keeping the shedding hair manageable.
As you read earlier, some owners even use special “dog vacuum” attachments to vacuum the shedding undercoat right off the dog! And still, it can seem like there is even more hair that is constantly falling, falling, falling.
During the coat blow season, you may want to bathe your dog weekly and brush daily or even twice daily. Your only other option is to watch everything you own and then you get slowly covered over by shed dog hair.
For this reason, it probably won’t surprise you to learn that most German Shepherd owners somehow manage to find the time for the brushing and bathing.
During these times, you may find yourself consoling yourself with thoughts of the other much lower maintenance periods of coat care. This might even help.
How to Groom a German Shepherd Dog: Learn the Basics
There are several steps to giving a German Shepherd dog a complete grooming session.
The basic steps are typically done in this order:
1. Preparatory brushing
This removes as much shed, dead dog hair as possible. It is also done to look for any tangles or mats. GSD coats don’t tangle and mat as much as do many other dog breeds, but it can still happen.
It is important to find and work out (or cut out) the tangles and mats very gently to avoid hurting your dog. It is also vital to find and deal with them before you do the bath step.
Because German Shepherds don’t typically get bathed very often, your dog might not be as used to the bathing process. But this is an important step to remove more shed, dead hair. You can read more about the best way to bathe your German shepherd dog.
3. Nail trimming
The German Shepherd’s long, strong nails can become overgrown if they are not trimmed or filed monthly. This is often done after the bath to give your dog’s coat a chance to dry out a bit naturally. Read more about the best ways to cut german shepherd nails.
A thick, double-layer coat like the German Shepherd can take hours to dry naturally. Many owners and groomers will use a vacuum attachment to dry the undercoat more fully before the post-bath brush-out.
It is important to make sure the vacuum air isn’t too hot. Always test it at a distance on your inner wrist before using it on your dog.
The post-bath brush-out gives you yet another chance to remove more dead, shed hair that was dislodged during the bathing and drying stages.
6. Trim and clip
Finally, this is a nice time to grim the longer hair on your dog’s paw pads, around the private areas and inside the ears. Trimming the longer hair inside the ears can also help reduce the risk of ear infections.
A video overview of the whole German Shepherd grooming process
If you are more of a visual learner or just want to see how a professional groomer approaches all of these steps, you may enjoy this helpful YouTube video.
Tips to Reduce How Much a German Shepherd Dog Sheds
At this point, you are probably wondering if there are any “secret” tips that dog owners in the know use to reduce the amount of dead, shed dog hair coming off your dog.
Using the right brushing and grooming tools can go a long way towards controlling the volume of shedding your dog does daily.
If you are not sure which brushes, combs and de-shedding accessories to choose, talk with your canine veterinarian or a professional dog groomer that works specifically with German Shepherds or any double-coated dog breeds.
In particular, you may want to consider adding these grooming accessories to your at-home German Shepherd grooming toolkit:
- Undercoat rake.
- De-shedding tool.
- Stainless steel grooming comb with long round-tip tines.
- High-velocity home canine dryer.
- Dog coat conditioner and detangled.
You may also want to book a session with a professional groomer just so you can observe how they work and what they do. This can be helpful to improve how much hair you can capture during your at-home grooming sessions.
The hands-down best way to control shed dog hair is to brush daily. This may sound like a lot of time and effort.
But if you just do it at night while you are watching television or at some other time when your mind is occupied but your hands are free, you will find it doesn’t take that long and the results are worth it.
Can You Shave a German Shepherd Coat? Whatever You Do, DON’T Do This!
It sure can feel tempting – and even intuitive – to simply shave your German Shepherd. No hair means no shedding, right?
This is one of the worst things you can do to your dog for several reasons, the most important of which is this one: your dog has no protection from the elements and the environment.
That thick, double-layer coat may look very hot and heavy. But your dog needs it to self-regulate body temperature, guard against pests and skin damage and keep from getting sunburned.
Dogs don’t sweat like people sweat. They can only sweat through their paw pads and by panting. So the coat acts to wick away moisture and keep your dog’s body cool.
Dogs can get sunburned just like people do. The thick coat keeps the sun from burning your dog’s sensitive skin underneath.
Pests like fleas, flies, ticks, mosquitoes and other biting, stinging insects can do real harm to your dog. But those tiny pests have trouble making it through the thick double-layer coat, which protects your GSD from them.
So please don’t shave your German Shepherd. On top of all the potential suffering, this can cause your dog, it may also cause the coat to not grow back in properly.
Once damaged in this way, it may never grow back with its former biological protective properties fully intact.
Can Health Issues Cause More Shedding in a German Shepherd?
One additional topic of extreme importance is the known link between increased shedding and certain health conditions.
Shedding out hair is one way that German Shepherds can let their people know they aren’t feeling well. However, this only works if you, the owner, understand what you are seeing and why it is occurring.
Here are some of the most common health reasons that may cause a German Shepherd to shed more than usual (or to shed a lot outside of the normal coat blow shedding period):
– Puppy to adulthood.
There is one coat blow season nearly every dog breed goes through, and that is the puppy to adulthood coat transition.
During this time, your German Shepherd will be shedding out the puppy coat in stages as the adult coat grows in.
– Allergies, parasites, pests.
Allergies can cause skin itching and that can lead to broken, damaged, dead hair that sheds out.
– Improper diet.
Improper nutrition can lead to unusual shedding. Dogs need certain nutrients to maintain their coat and if a GSD isn’t getting these nutrients, the hair may start falling out.
– Stress and pain.
Dogs can shed hair in response to stress or pain.
– Hormonal imbalance.
Getting “fixed” (spay/neuter) or pregnancy may cause shedding, as can hormone-related health issues like autoimmune thyroiditis.
Yes, German Shepherds Shed a Lot But Now You Know How to Handle It
So now you have the inside scoop on how much German Shepherd dogs shed, when the shedding is likely to be at its, well, hairiest and what to do.