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Hello German Shepherd Maniacs, today we will be looking at 7 Simple Steps For German Shepherd Grooming, an important subject for the German Shepherd owner and also the potential owner.
We will look at the GSD coat type, what to expect and how to look after it?
We will also look at other necessary areas of care such as the nails, ears and teeth. How to maintain these and what happens when they are neglected.
There are different products and tools to use that will make the grooming process more successful for you and your pet. Included at the end of this blog is a grooming kit list, with the basic tools and some options.
Maintaining a regular grooming schedule provides so many benefits to your GSD, contributing to its health and well being.
1) Correct Coat Grooming
When choosing your GSD, apart from its gender and coat colour there are three different coat lengths to decide upon. These are:
- Short – around 1 inch
- Medium ‘’ Plush’’ – 1-2 inches
- Long – longer than 2 inches
Short-haired GSD’s have a double coat of very short hair that is very smooth and sleek and around 1 inch in length. Medium haired or ‘’ Plush’’ are double-coated and around 1-2 inches.
The long-haired GSD has long silky hair which is 2 inches or longer, some do not have a double coat.
The undercoat next to the skin is soft and woolly, that sheds in clumps and the outer coat, known as the guard coat, is longer, coarser and sheds as single hairs.
The GSD will shed continuously throughout the year, accelerated also by seasonal and hormonal changes.
The purpose of the layers is to regulate body temperature, provide insulation, repel water and to provide protection against harmful UV rays and minor skin injuries.
Different coat lengths/types will determine the amount of time needed to groom and care for your dog.
The grooming requirements of long-haired breeds will need brushing more often, ideally every day as they are very prone to hair matting. Short to medium coats 3-4 times a week.
GSD Shedding and How to Deal With it
Along with being one of the first in line regarding good looks, GSDs are definitely right up there when it comes to shedding. They are capable of shedding huge volumes of hair that will keep your trash can happy.
This happens continuously 365 days a year, mainly due to the GSD being bred as an active working dog.
With this in mind and the expectations of working in various weather conditions and environments, the coat needs to be up to the job. Therefore it turns over quickly to maintain its condition.
As well as general shedding throughout the entire year, the GSD sheds more heavily during the spring and autumn. This time is known as the blowing season.
Hormonal changes as well as seasonal ones are also a cause of extra shedding.
This happens when females come out of season, when they are pregnant or nursing and also following neutering.
Puppies too begin to shed at around 4-6 months of age. At this time their thick, fluffy baby coat is replaced by an adult coat.
A poor diet is a major reason when it comes to shedding. If a GSD has a dull flaky coat and or sheds excessively then deficiencies in their nutrition will be a likely cause. Providing high quality and balanced diet is essential.
The diet needs to contain a good balance of protein and essential fatty acids to promote healthy skin and strong hair follicles. Providing this balance will result in a thick lustrous coat with reduced shedding.
Make sure to check out our blog on 11 Proven German Shepherd Diet Tips for more information on nutrition.
Parasites present can cause itching and scratching, which in turn leads to further hair loss. Specialised shampoos or insecticides can be applied to kill them.
In the case of fleas, treating your dog monthly will keep them at bay. Dog sleeping areas, beds and bedding will need to be thoroughly washed at the same time.
It’s also worth noting that professional groomers will not accept an infested dog, due to the risk of transmission.
Finally, Illness and pain contribute to hair loss.
During autumn the thinner undercoat is replaced by a thicker insulating coat which keeps them warm.
Likewise in spring, the thicker undercoat sheds to be replaced by a thinner undercoat, this helps to regulate body temperature and helps them to stay cooler in warmer weather.
You will recognise the onset of this when the undercoat starts to come out in small clumps, eventually, the entire undercoat is shed over the course of a couple of weeks. This happens more with females.
A Point To Consider
GSDs are beautiful intelligent dogs and are one of the most popular breeds in the USA, but they are high maintenance and require a lot of care.
Be prepared to live with hairs just about everywhere, on flooring, furniture and clothing. In fact on a 1-10 scale of shedding, GSD’s are around a 9. Be prepared for a lot more vacuuming and sweeping, plus lint roll clothes on a daily basis.
Also, did you know that the GSD is a magician capable of playing tricks?
They can literally still be seen on a rug, even when they’ve got up and left, Amazing! My Dad used to call them ‘’scenes of crime shapes’’ just like chalk marks.
With this in mind, before committing, are you prepared for this? Would a German Shepherd be the right choice for you and those that you live with?
Coat Grooming Benefits
Grooming your GSD regularly will keep its coat looking good and will help to cut back on wayward dead and loose hairs.
But the action of grooming goes further than that, it provides further opportunity to keep the coat healthy and to observe any areas of concern. Any problems can be noticed and dealt with sooner rather than later. The benefits include:
- Helping to stimulate blood supply
- Helps to distribute natural oils through the coat
- Gets rid of mats and tangles
- Opportunity to check for fleas, ticks and lice
- Helps with the spotting of minor abrasions and skin conditions ( including growths )
- Opportunity to discover areas of discomfort
- Spotting weight loss
How To Groom The GSD Coat
To begin, if you have a puppy, start off with gentle brushing to get them used to the procedure. It may be a good game for them at first, but it can be a bonding opportunity for the both of you.
Brush at least 3-4 times a week generally, or more often if you have a long-haired breed as they’re more prone to matting. Set time aside for this and try to keep to a regular routine.
Before the start of grooming place an old sheet on the floor and get your dog to stand on it. This helps a lot with the clear up afterwards.
There’s a variety of grooming tools available to choose from. Owners will have their own preference for what make or type they prefer.
In general, for short-haired shepherds use a bristle brush and for long hair use a pin brush.
You can also use an undercoat rake which is a metal comb designed to remove matting and lose hairs. Rakes are better than regular brushes and they can help to reduce the amount of shedding really well.
Follow this with a steel grooming comb to deal with tangles in areas such as the neck and rear end. For difficult areas of matting use a de- shedder comb and detangle sprays to help remove them.
Slicker brushes and furminators are also popular or you can try a dog vacuum cleaner if you want to go ‘’posh’’.
Depending on the length and condition of coat, grooming should take a few minutes and upwards of 15 at times. Remember to follow the growth of the coat while brushing/combing not against it.
Start to brush from the rear moving up the body to clear loose hairs and debris followed by the rake/comb to tackle the undercoat. Be careful when using a rake, as it can scrape the skin if you go in too hard.
Other things to note
As I touched on above, grooming helps in a number of ways. It’s important to remove mats as they can give rise to skin problems such as hotspots.
They also act as a very nice hang outs for fleas, lice and ticks. If a GSD isn’t groomed regularly, mats will form often in their coats.
Problems of the skin can be noted at an earlier stage, things that may cause a greater problem down the line, including lumps and tumours.
Be aware of your dog showing signs of discomfort when you touch a particular spot this may indicate an existing problem or the onset of something new.
Shaving your GSD is not recommended and doing this will ultimately ruin their coat. This is because it damages the function to regulate temperature and protection.
Double coats also take far longer to grow back compared to single ones.
Areas that may need trimming occasionally as part of the grooming process include the feet, around eyes, under the chin/ jaw and around the rear end.
GSD Foot Hair
Your dog’s foot hair if left un-trimmed can trap dirt and debris, so after bathing it’s a good time to tidy around this area. Brush up any long hairs on the top of the foot and trim with blunt-ended scissors, avoiding any trimming between the toes.
German Shepherd Grooming Tools
Here are some suggestions of tools and products that you can use while grooming your dog. When deciding to purchase take into account your dog’s coat type and suitability for the products.
German Shepherd Grooming Essential Kit
2.) Bathing a German Shepherd
GSD Bathing Benefits
- The benefits of bathing your GSD
- Keeps their hair and skin healthy, gets rid of dead and loose hair
- Removes dirt and debris
- Removes bad odours ( natural doggy smells are ok and not included )
- It allows for the addition and application of prescribed products
Where to Bath a GSD
Outdoors – As German Shepherds are a large and heavy breed, the best option if possible is to bathe outside in the backyard. This avoids having to lift a sizeable animal and also best for those dogs prone to jumping out of a bathtub.
Use a hose in warm weather or buckets of water at a comfortable temperature. Portable dog baths or paddling pools can also be used if you want the dog contained.
Indoors – Supervised at all times in the bathtub containing a non-slip mat. Ideally with a shower hose or a container for wetting the coat. Make sure the temperature is comfortable.
Your GSD will need occasional bathing. If you feed/supplement your dog with a good quality diet and brush out regularly, the need for baths can be reduced to a couple of times a year. Generally, every 4-5 months will be enough.
At certain times other factors may come in to play that require additional bathing, for example, the use of skin treatments.
It is important to remember that over bathing will strip away natural oils, causing dryness, also your GSD will have its own natural doggy smell that doesn’t necessitate it.
How to Bath a GSD
Some dogs are fine with being bathed and others just plain hate it.
Somehow they just kind of know what’s on the cards? And may disappear from sight…another magic trick!
A tip that may help relax them pre-bath is to give them a long walk first or a run out earlier in the day.
This will help to tire them taking the edge off any anxiety, and hopefully, they will accept the inevitable a bit better.
Make sure you have all supplies to hand before you start, I will include a bathing kit at the end of the blog. Add extra mats or old towels around the bath to cope with splashes/spray. An extra pair of hands would also be very helpful if possible.
Begin by placing cotton wool balls/ pads inside the ear, not too far. This stops water from entering the ear canal which could cause an infection.
Some dogs may not like this but it’s worth attempting. Start at the neck and work down the body with water, leaving the head for now.
The use of a spray head is preferable or one designed for dog use, as you can get into all the nooks and crannies, and they are better for rinsing with.
Apply enough shampoo to work into a good lather, some owners like to use a sponge. Return to the head and use a cloth to carefully wipe over, be sure to use a mild tear-free shampoo and try to avoid water entering the eyes and ears.
A quick word on shampoo, choose a make designed for dog’s, don’t be tempted to use human shampoo. Their skin has a different pH and is more sensitive. Choose a mild/ tear-free formula for the head and preferably a hypoallergenic shampoo/ conditioner generally.
Last Steps on Bathing
Finally, rinse down thoroughly with clean water to remove any residue. After rinsing drape a towel over the dog’s body as soon as you can to limit the effects of that Big Shake and towel dry all over.
If your dog tolerates a hairdryer you can use this set on a low temperature. A high heat setting will be too hot and will burn your dog.
Or you can use a high-velocity dryer designed for dogs, they’re not as powerful as the ones used by professional groomers, but better at the job compared to regular dryers.
For puppies when introducing them to bathing for the first time, offer them plenty of praise in a calm manner. Give them a few small treats and they will soon learn to associate bathing with a good experience.
German Shepherd Grooming Essential Bathing Kit:
- Dog Shampoo & Conditioner
- Cotton Balls/Pads
- Non-Slip Bath Mat –
- Faucet Spray –
- Water Jug/buckets/hose
- Towels – 3 for drying
- Floor mat / additional old towelling
- Portable dog baths / Paddling Pool
3.) Nail Care is Another Part of German Shepherd Grooming
The nails of the German Shepherd are black and hard, they tend to grow shorter than some other breeds, but they still require regular trimming.
Because the nails are so dark it’s impossible to see the quick, a tiny blood vessel further down inside the nail. If cut this will cause pain to your dog and it will bleed.
This can be daunting to tackle and again it’s always best to start the routine early when your pet is young, even if you barely remove anything at this stage. If nails are left to overgrow they can split and break and cause discomfort.
Use a commercial nail trimmer for dogs and aim to cut away small sections at a time on each nail. Don’t try to cut off bigger pieces or you may hit the quick. Leave for a couple of weeks then repeat again.
So it’s really just a case of little and often. Alternatively, try a Dremel as it sands down the nail rather than cutting through it. Dremels are more reassuring to use but some dogs don’t like them.
If you do cut the nail causing a bleed (and we’ve all been there at some time or another) apply styptic powder or corn starch to the tip as this will help to stem it. Alternatively, have your pet’s nails trimmed professionally if you feel apprehensive about tackling them.
4.) Ear Hygiene & Health are essential for German Shepherd Grooming
Before attempting to clean your dog’s ears make sure that they don’t have any existing problems causing concern. Watch out for some common signs, these include
- Head shaking
- Tilting the head
- Scratching ears
- Redness, swelling or discharge
- Bad odour
Ear mites present may be a possible cause, these are contagious and can be seen inside the ear as tiny white specks. Also check the outside of the ear for signs of fleas, mites ticks or anything else causing irritation. Consult a vet for treatment if necessary.
For regular care, you will need to remove any wax/ debris that builds up every 4 weeks or so. GSD’s do get oily ears, so you will need to pay attention to them, but only clean if they require it.
Put a few drops of dog ear cleaning solution inside the ear, following instruction. Gently wipe the excess away using a cotton pad.
5.) Teeth Care is a Huge Part of German Shepherd Grooming
Dogs will benefit greatly if you keep up a regular routine of brushing their teeth, every other day. Again getting them used to this early will be a good idea, even if they try to chew the brush!
If you don’t keep up with dental hygiene, over time your GSD will suffer from the same ailments that humans can develop. This includes
- Tartar build-up.
- Gum disease/bleeding
- Bad breath
- Discoloured teeth
- Blood on toys and in the water bowl
- Problems with eating
- Tooth loss
In severe cases, the bad bacteria in a dog’s mouth can travel into the bloodstream and affect other areas of its body. Consult a vet if you are concerned.
How to Clean Teeth
Use a brush designed for dogs, they often have a long handle that makes it easier to access inside their mouths.
Baking soda and water can be used to clean the teeth, but a proprietary cleaner is more effective for example an enzymatic paste, which helps to convert dangerous bacteria into more harmless ones.
With the moistened brush and paste, gently start off at the gum line and work down and along the teeth.
Hard kibble included in the diet will be beneficial with helping to keep your dog’s teeth clean. Dog chews and toys are also helpful.
If you want more information on teeth, check out our blog on 5 Simple Tricks For Healthy German Shepherd Teeth.
6.) Eye Care
Apart from the occasional trim around the eyes. long muzzled dogs such as the GSD do not require eye cleaning generally. If there are any crusts or debris present you can use a clean cloth and water to lightly wipe over them.
If unusual discharge/ crusting occurs this may a sign of infection, and a vet will need to be consulted.
7.) Anal Gland Care is Often Forgotten in German Shepherd Grooming
Worth including here is the subject of anal glands, they are responsible for causing a pungent odour at the rear end. These glands lie within the muscle, just beneath the dog’s tail.
When they work correctly, small amounts of fluid within the gland gets excreted with every bowel movement. This is used to mark territory and the reason why dogs greet each other in the way that they do.
When the sacs get backed up, it produces a foul odour that can be left in the house if they are ‘’scooting ‘’ dragging their butts along the floor. If they become obstructed over time this will cause pain and an abscess may develop.
These complications occur more often in small breeds but will occasionally affect a GSD. A vet will be able to express the glands if you suspect a problem, signs and symptoms include the following :
- Floor scooting
- Licking the area
- Discomfort when passing a stool
- Blood in the stool or signs around the house
- Strong fishy odour
On another note, as an owner are you worried about German Shepherd joint & hip problems? If so, get our FREE guide called ‘The Experts Guide to Avoiding Joint Problems in German Shepherds’ here.
Conclusion for German Shepherd Grooming
So we have looked at the German Shepherd from top to toe and discussed all the areas related to grooming, and why it is important to maintain it on a regular basis. Today more than ever, there is a large choice of tools and products available designed to assist you and your GSD.
The choice of what you decide to use depends on different factors such as coat length, where you decide to bathe indoors or out, and products designed for specifics such as tear-free shampoos/ de-tanglers.
Investing in good tools and equipment will help to make the grooming process easier, quicker and happier, for you and your pet.
We can see that what you choose to feed your dog with also has a big impact on its health, and this is reflected in coat condition. Therefore remember to buy the best quality food/supplementation you can afford to keep your German Shepherd looking its best.
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Thank you for reading.