If you’ve selected a German Shepherd to be a part of your family, congratulations!
Not only are German Shepherds great family dogs, but they are also very low maintenance and easy to care for.
However, just because they are low-maintenance dogs, doesn’t mean that you can just skip the grooming.
Dogs of all breeds, no matter how low maintenance, will benefit from even some basic grooming from time to time. Your German Shepherd is no exception.
Their beautiful double coat does need brushing and some occasional extra care, to help keep your German Shepherd healthy and looking amazing.
In this detailed article, we will take you step-by-step on how to groom your German Shepherd properly. For your convenience, we have also included a visual grooming guide. We will discuss everything ranging from bathing, hair care, diet, trimming, Dematting, Deshedding, and brushing. Especially if you are a new German Shepherd dog owner, this guide will be really helpful to you. So without any further ado, let’s dig deeper into our ultimate German Shepherd Grooming guide.
If you’d like to see a graphical breakdown of the grooming guide, we got you covered:
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Hair Care for Your German Shepherd
Your German Shepherd was bred with a beautiful double coat.
This coat consists of two layers: a soft downy undercoat and a coarse, longer coat of guard hairs.
Each part of their coat provides protection for your dog against the elements and assists them with properly regulating their body temperature.
So it is important that you know how to properly care for this special coat that works so hard to protect your German Shepherd.
This isn’t part of grooming but it is an important part of keeping your German Shepherd’s hair healthy.
Make sure that your German Shepherd is eating high-quality dog food with plenty of protein, fats, and nutrients. This will ensure that their whole body is healthy.
A healthy body will keep your German Shepherd’s coat and skin healthy too, which is the most basic way to care for their beautiful coat.
Olive oil and molasses are good additions to your dog’s regular food to help with coat and skin health.
For more suggestions of the best foods for your German Shepherd, check out our Best Foods buying guide.
The double coat of your German Shepherd requires some effort to keep it looking great.
Frequent brushing will keep your German Shepherd’s coat looking great and free from mats, dirt, and debris.
In general, a good rule of thumb for brushing your German Shepherd is to make this a weekly process.
Daily would be best, but it is understandable that for most people, brushing your dog every day can be a bit challenging, especially with kids, work, and other life commitments.
Brushing can be a great way to introduce your older kids to pet care and give your children a connection to their dog.
Just make sure you keep a close eye on both your kids and your pup to make sure everyone is interacting together, safely.
Brushing your German Shepherd requires some good brushes. You may want to have a variety of brushes and combs for different parts of your German Shepherd’s coat.
Our buying guide for the best brushes for your German Shepherd is a great place to start when it comes to selecting the right brush for your dog, and the type of coat it has.
In general, your German Shepherd shouldn’t need to have its coat trimmed or clipped.
German Shepherds with long coats could benefit from some occasional trimming around their ears and on their paws.
Trimming long hair from the tops and bottom of your dog’s paws can give them some extra traction if your home has hardwood or tile floors, which can be slippery under furry feet.
Trimming or clipping your German Shepherd can also be helpful if you have pots that get matted and you have a hard time removing the mats in other ways.
Trimming and clipping is a grooming task that should be done in moderation. There should never be a time when your German Shepherd should be shaved completely.
Most veterinarians will tell you that even in the summertime, your German Shepherd needs that thick coat.
Shaving your German Shepherd changes its body’s ability to naturally regulate body temperature.
Additionally, shaving off your German Shepherd’s coat eliminates the only protection your dog has from the sun and ultra-violet rays.
In a way, your dog’s coat works as a winter coat, an air conditioner, and a bottle of sunscreen all in one.
Dematting can be a real pain, and if you are at this point, it is probably a good idea that you start a regular routine of brushing your German Shepherd.
If your German Shepherd needs to be dematted, you will want to use special dematting combs.
These combs have wavy, widely spaced, metal fingers. Each finger has a sharp blade that cuts through the mat while the wavy part of the finger “wiggles” its way through the mat, separating the hairs.
Check out the buying guide for the best dematting comb for your German Shepherd.
Dematting takes time and patience, and if done in a rush or with the wrong tools, it can cause discomfort for your dog.
Your German Shepherd will likely avoid or become nervous if you do this process incorrectly, so if you are not comfortable with dematting your dog, you may want to consider using a professional groomer to do the work instead.
If mats are close to the skin or are covering a substantial amount of their body, you may want to consider shaving off the matted areas.
This will stop the mats from pulling on your dog’s skin and is a quick way to resolve a serious matting issue.
However, make sure you are only trimming away areas that really need it. You shouldn’t completely shave your dog.
Shedding is a fact with German Shepherds.
They will constantly shed the long, coarse guard hairs. However, twice a year, your German Shepherd will shed the soft undercoat, in preparation for the coming seasons.
Your dog will need some help getting rid of the shedding undercoat. Buying an undercoat rake, a specific type of grooming comb will allow you to easily pull out the shedding undercoat without pulling.
Deshedding your dog serves a couple of purposes: First, it helps your dog get rid of summer or winter hair that it no longer needs.
Removing this hair will allow a healthy new undercoat to grow in without being tied up with the old coat.
This is how matting occurs, and as we’ve mentioned previously, matting can be very painful for your dog and can cause a variety of skin issues.
Second, deshedding saves your carpet, furniture, and clothing from the mass of hair that your German Shepherd will be losing.
It’s not going to be a completely perfect fix, but if you make deshedding a normal routine along with frequent brushing, your home, and your clothes won’t give away that you own a German Shepherd.
Bathing Your German Shepherd
Giving your German Shepherd a bath is a job that, fortunately, you don’t have to undertake too often.
German Shepherds have a naturally clean coat, with minimal oils, so, two or three baths a year can be all you need to do.
However, bathing your German Shepherd more frequently can help with shedding.
Many German Shepherd owners like to bathe their dogs monthly, just as a way of getting rid of more hair, and to reduce the risks of matting.
Getting a reluctant or large German Shepherd into a bathtub can be challenging.
If you live in a warmer climate, and it is possible, it is usually easier to wash your German Shepherd, outdoors. Some German Shepherd owners prefer to use self-service dog washes.
These facilities provide walk-in wash stations that don’t require you to lift or use mind tricks to get your German Shepherd into a bathtub, which can be worth the small fee you pay to use these facilities.
However, if all else fails, your bathtub will work just fine, just make sure you have a good way to block the drain from any hair that may wash from your German Shepherd, to avoid clogging the drain.
Before you bathe your German Shepherd, make a trip to your local pet supply store and pick up a bottle of dog/pet shampoo.
If you have a long-haired German Shepherd you may also want to pick up a bottle of pet conditioner as well. These products are gentle on your dog’s skin, and will not cause rashes or itchy spots.
If your German Shepherd has been itchy or suffers from dry skin, look for a shampoo with oatmeal, which can soothe itchy spots and moisturize skin.
You should never use human shampoos on your German Shepherd, as they can irritate their skin and eyes, which defeats the purpose of bathing your dog.
A couple of other helpful hints
- Don’t be afraid to use lots of shampoos. Your German Shepherd’s course, thick hair can be difficult to work up a lather in. Suds grab onto dirt and debris, so it’s important to work up a good lather. This means you are likely to use a lot of shampoos.
- Rinse really well. It’s helpful if you have a hand-held sprayer to rinse your German Shepherd off with. It will allow you to rinse well in the “hard to reach” spots, like under the legs, under the tail and under the neck. These are also the spots where skin can be extra sensitive, so making sure you rinse well is important.
- Don’t forget to dry your dog. In the summer, a good towel dry is probably fine. Warm temperatures and sun will help your dog dry quickly without needing a dryer. However, when the weather is colder, it’s a good idea to take the time to dry your dog with a dryer. Yes, this will take some time, but your dog will appreciate being warm after its bath.
- Then brush. Don’t forget to brush your dog after a bath to get rid of tangles that can quickly turn to mats.
Brushing your German Shepherd’s Teeth
There was a time when brushing your dog’s teeth was unheard of. Today, dental care for your dog is as diverse and as important as dental care for your own teeth.
For a long time, when the family dog was given the scraps and bones from the meats we ate, brushing their teeth was not necessary.
They naturally scraped plaque buildup off of their teeth, just by chewing on a bone. Today our dogs see fewer and fewer bones, so we need to help them clean their teeth.
Dogs are prone to the same dental conditions we are, like cavities, gum disease, and bad breath. Brushing your dog’s teeth will help them avoid these uncomfortable issues.
If you can, and if your German Shepherd is a puppy, you should start now, brushing their teeth.
The younger they are when you start this process, the more comfortable they will become, over time with this task, which can be awkward.
This isn’t to say that your dog will “love” having their teeth brushed, but they will learn to tolerate the activity.
In an ideal world, we would brush our German Shepherd’s teeth daily. However, this is likely a reality for most dog owners. So brushing weekly is usually sufficient for keeping your dog’s teeth clean.
Brushing your German Shepherd’s teeth will require a toothbrush and if you want, toothpaste.
Make sure that you use dog/pet toothpaste, not people’s toothpaste since human toothpaste has ingredients that can be bad for dogs.
You can use a human toothbrush for your dog, and for larger breed dogs, like German Shepherds, it’s not a bad idea, since the long handle will allow you to easily reach back teeth.
Make sure you use a soft or extra soft-bristled toothbrush, so you don’t hurt your dog’s teeth. You can also buy toothbrushes at the pet supply store.
Since you aren’t likely to want or have time to brush your dog’s teeth every day, you may want to invest in a chew toy for your German Shepherd that also works to clean their teeth.
These toys can be filled with treats or peanut butter, and function to clean your dog’s teeth, while at the same time entertaining them.
This is a good alternative to brushing if you can’t brush your dog’s teeth every day.
Trimming your German Shepherd’s Nails
This is a task that many dog owners avoid. It can be a challenging task, and if done incorrectly can cause your German Shepherd pain and discomfort.
However, it is an incredibly important grooming task and one that shouldn’t be avoided.
When your dog runs and plays, especially on hard ground, concrete or asphalt, they will naturally wear down their nails.
However, if your dog is only on soft surfaces like grass or sand, this is harder to do, so trimming your German Shepherd’s nails becomes a necessary grooming task.
Nail trimming also becomes important for older dogs who may not be as active as they once were.
Why is nail trimming so important?
Well, if your German Shepherd’s nails grow too long, it can impact the way he walks. This can cause injury to joints and a gait that is unnatural and unhealthy for your dog.
Long nails are also prone to catching on things, which can injure your dog.
Finally, if you have slick flooring in your home, nails that are too long can cause your dog to be unstable walking through your home and can damage the flooring.
If you are trimming your dog’s nails at home, make sure that you have a high-quality nail trimmer. There are a variety of trimmer styles on the market, select the one that is easiest for you to handle.
Also make sure that the trimmer is made for larger breed dogs, ensuring that their nail will fit properly in the trimmer. Trimmers that are too small can hurt your dog.
A trimmer that has a trimming guide is also a good idea since it will help you avoid cutting your German Shepherd’s nails too short.
With all of that said, if you aren’t comfortable trimming your German Shepherd’s nails, it is a service that most vet offices provide, for a reasonable cost. Nail trimming is also an ala carte item for many groomers.
Paying a professional to do this task will ensure that it is done correctly and won’t cause your pup any discomfort.
Wrapping it Up
Grooming is an important part of having a healthy German Shepherd.
However, it’s a task that many people aren’t willing or have the time to take on.
Professional groomers are a great option if you would rather not take on the big stuff like bathing, dematting, or nail trimming for your German Shepherd.
Just make sure you do your research and pick a groomer that is insured, has good references, and has been properly educated on handling dogs, and appropriate grooming techniques.
However, using a groomer doesn’t mean you can skip the basics. Don’t forget to brush your German Shepherd frequently to avoid matting and a constant mess of hair on you and around your home.