Grooming a German Shepherd Dog

Grooming a German Shepherd Dog

The German Shepherd is an easy dog to care for if you keep up with the brushing of their double coats. Learn how to groom your Shepherd here.

German Shepherds are not high-maintenance dogs, but they definitely benefit from regular care and grooming. While their double coats don’t need clipping or trimming, they can develop mats and skin problems if you don’t brush them regularly to remove dead hair and debris.

Always make grooming a pleasant experience for your dog by giving plenty of petting and praise. Dogs who look forward to grooming are much easier to manage than those who hate or fear it. The best time to start grooming your pet is when they are puppies. You can also teach older dogs to enjoy grooming time, but it may take a bit of patience on your part if they are resistant.


German Shepherds don’t need frequent baths, as they are naturally clean and odor-free. A bath once every three months should be plenty since washing dogs too frequently strips the natural oils from their coats, often causing skin problems. Make sure you choose a dog shampoo since many human shampoos can irritate a dog's skin; lastly, avoid getting shampoo in your pet's eyes.

It can be hard to build up a good lather on a German shepherd’s coat, so be prepared to use plenty of shampoos to get enough suds. A hand-held sprayer is helpful when it’s time to rinse; be especially careful to rinse all the soap from under the dog’s legs, around the neck, and around the tail because these areas can be particularly hard to rinse well. Run your hand through the dog’s coat to ensure you haven’t left any soap residue; soap on the skin will cause dogs to scratch and chew the area.


Because the German Shepherd dog has a double coat, the best tool for general brush-outs is the rake, which looks like its name and actually is more of a comb than a brush. This tool has long teeth set perpendicularly to a sturdy handle, and you pull the rake through the coat to loosen and remove dead hair.

To be effective, the teeth of the rake must reach all the way down to the dog’s skin. The best way to accomplish this is to work the coat in small sections, making sure you’ve combed completely through the hair in each section before moving on. A pin brush or a slicker brush is helpful for removing the loose guard hairs that constantly are shed from German Shepherd coats, and many times even a quick surface brushing will bring away a handful of loose hair.

Shedding Control

People sometimes make the mistake of thinking that German Shepherds won’t shed much because they don’t have long, flowing coats. In fact, their top coats shed stiff, wiry guard hairs almost constantly, and the entire undercoat comes loose about twice a year. Brush dogs thoroughly several times a week to minimize the amount of hair your German Shepherd leaves in your home and on you. When your dog is shedding their undercoat, daily brushing is essential to make sure your German Shepherd doesn’t end up with mats or tangles of hair that can lead to skin problems such as hot spots and rashes.

Teeth and Nails

Part of grooming your German Shepherd involves proper care of their teeth and nails. If you are not an expert in clipping nails, it may be best to have a groomer do it or show you how. If you are doing it yourself, always use a proper dog nail trimmer that comes with overcutting protection. A dog's nails contain a quick that is easy to sever by accident, causing pain and bleeding for your pet. Brush the teeth of your German Shepherd with a pet toothbrush and a small amount of pet toothpaste on it. Brush the teeth as you would your own.

For a dog who is not accustomed to having its feet and teeth handled, you may need to start gradually. Gently touch and handle your pet's feet and mouth until your German Shepherd becomes comfortable with this. Then begin to clip your dog's nails and brush their teeth.

Could Your German Shepherd Be a Show Dog?

The German Shepherd is one of the most popular dog breeds in the United States, which is no wonder, given that the Shepherd is both a dependable working dog and a loyal, affectionate family dog. German Shepherd show dogs are also perennial favorites at the Westminster Dog Show.

Could your sweet Shepherd make the show? Does he or she have what it takes? Is yours the pooch that just can’t lose?

The Shepherd Attitude

Your German Shepherd might be the kindest, cutest dog on the block; affectionate, even slobbery, with both your family and the neighbors alike. But you may be surprised to hear that this might not score the biggest points with the Westminster judges.

According to the American Kennel Club, the ideal show Shepherd is regal in temperament, a dog with a noble bearing, fearless, and self-confident. But the Shepherd that will take home the prize will also be a bit standoffish, even aloof. In other words, can your Shepherd be a snob?

The fact is, the Shepherd is still prized for the qualities that make it a good guard and police dog. As such, confidence, independence, and a touch of calm wariness will make a Westminster judge sit up and take notice.

The Shepherd Look

When it comes to the ideal look of the German Shepherd, the dog’s past is a big factor. As a dog that was originally bred to be put to work, both on the farm and while out on the hunt, Shepherds needed to be strong and muscular.

As guard dogs, they need to be tall, broad of chest, and imposing. In other words, German Shepherds have to be a bit scary, at least to strangers.

In consideration of all this, the Westminster judge will be looking for a dog that’s got some heft and a well-formed physique. The dog should be well balanced too so that the chest and the hind quarters have developed in harmony.

Your Shepherd’s head should be cleanly chiseled and well-formed, in good proportion to its body. What’s more, the face and features should reveal the dog’s sex, with male dogs looking distinctly male and females looking, well, female.

A Couple Shepherd No-Nos

Since we’re talking about what a show Shepherd should be in terms of temperament and appearance, we might as well list the few things that would take a German Shepherd out of contention.

To start with, a show dog will have neither cropped nor hanging ears nor a docked tail. White-colored Shepherds are not allowed, and neither are dogs whose noses aren’t predominantly black.

Needless to say, Shepherds who wiggle, wag, and lick the judge’s faces probably won’t get far either. Remember, poise counts. Finally, as if it weren’t obvious, a Shepherd that bites a judge will be immediately dismissed! Attitude is great, but too bad a ‘tude won't win any prizes.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do German shepherds need haircuts?

German Shepherds typically have a double coat, which consists of a thick, dense undercoat and a coarse, straight outer coat. These types of coats typically do not require regular haircuts, as the shedding process helps keep the coat in good condition. However, it is still a good idea to groom your German Shepherd regularly to remove loose hair, dirt, and debris and to check for any issues with their skin or coat. Additionally, if you want to keep your German Shepherd's coat trimmed for a certain look or for shows, then regular grooming and haircuts will be necessary.

How often should a German Shepherd be groomed?

German Shepherds have a thick double coat that requires regular grooming to maintain their health and appearance. It's recommended to groom them at least once a week to remove loose hair, dirt, and debris. This can be done with a slicker brush or a shedding tool, which will help to remove the undercoat. During shedding seasons, which usually happens twice a year, the dog will shed more, so during this time, more frequent grooming may be necessary to control the amount of shedding. Additionally, it's important to check their ears and paws for any signs of infection or irritation and to trim their nails if needed. Overall, the exact grooming schedule will depend on the individual dog and its coat type, but regular grooming is an important part of keeping German Shepherds healthy and well-groomed.

How do I groom my German Shepherd at home?

Grooming your German Shepherd at home involves several steps to keep your dog clean, healthy, and looking its best. Brush your dog's coat regularly to remove loose fur and prevent matting. Use a slicker brush or a shedding blade for this. Bathe your dog as needed using a dog-specific shampoo. German Shepherds have a double coat, which means they shed a lot, so bathing them can help to remove loose hair. Trim your dog's nails to prevent them from getting too long and causing discomfort. Use a sharp clipper made specifically for dogs. Clean your dog's ears to prevent ear infections. Use a cotton ball or a soft cloth and a solution made specifically for cleaning dog ears. Also, brush your dog's teeth regularly to prevent dental problems. Use a toothbrush and toothpaste made specifically for dogs.

What months do German shepherds shed the most?

German Shepherds, like many other breeds with a double coat, typically shed the most twice a year during the shedding season. These shedding seasons are usually in the spring and fall, when the weather starts to change, and the dog's coat adjusts to the new temperature. During these shedding seasons, German Shepherds will shed a significant amount of their undercoat, and it's important to brush them frequently to remove the loose hair and prevent matting. Some German Shepherds may shed more than others, and some may shed year-round. Also, certain environmental factors, such as humidity, can affect shedding as well.

References & Resources

Total German Shepherd: Grooming The GSD - "The German Shedder"
ASPCA: Grooming FAQ

More on Grooming

This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian. Always seek the advice of your veterinarian or other qualified professional with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard or delay seeking professional advice due to what you may have read on our website.

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