So you have a German Shepherd, and their fuzzy coat has claimed your entire home. If you've come desperately in search for hair shedding solutions then you've come to the right place...
I'm a full time dog groomer and I've owned my fair share of double-coated breeds. I handle German Shepherds daily and I've heard all the shedding stories. Don't worry, there are some great little tricks we use to maintain sanity when it comes to excessive shedding - so let's take a look.
How Much Do German Shepherds Shed?
- On a scale from 1 to 10, German Shepherd shedding will rank a solid 9. Meaning total fur domination.
You'll be sweeping and vacuuming at least twice a week, lint rolling your clothes everyday, and finding tumble-weeds of hair blowing through your home like the old west.
Thankfully, I've dealt with my fair share of shedding (owning heavy shedders and being a dog groomer), so I have a few tips to help you get control of your home again.
CC Image courtesy of Dave Brookes on Flickr
Why They Shed (And When They Shed The Most)
German shepherds will shed all year long, but there are certain times when they suddenly explode into shedding furballs. Sometimes these are health related and require a visit to your vet for further investigation.
Your dog's coat naturally responds to daylight - so as the days get shorter and winter approaches your dog will naturally begin to grow in their winter coat. During that time their old summer hairs are being pushed out to make room for new hair, and you may notice a big increase in shedding for a few weeks during the Fall season.
Similarly, as the days get longer your dog will no longer find a need for all that coat. So when spring rolls around you'll find your German Shepherd has gifted you with yet another huge increase in shedding. This is called "blowing out" their coat, and it happens every Spring season.
Food is a major culprit when it comes to excessive shedding, and a poor diet is usually to blame. Dog's skin and coat is especially sensitive to deficiencies in their nutrition, so you must carefully select a high-quality and balanced dog food.
High quality foods contain a balance of Protein and Essential Fatty Acids that promote stronger hair follicles and skin elasticity - which keeps the coat healthy and reduces shedding.
A dull coat, flaky skin, and excessive shedding can be be the result of being omega 3 and 6 deficient. Furthermore, up to 30% of your dogs daily protein can be used for the renewal of skin and hair.
Allergies can cause inflamed and itchy skin, which leads to scratching and more shedding. Look for other signs and symptoms such as:
- Red, watery eyes
- Constant scratching
- Itchy, red skin
- Patches of fur missing, or scabs from scratching
- Red, inflamed, or infected ears
Dog allergies can be environmental or food based, and you'll need to consult with a vet to determine the exact cause.
Excessive shedding may be the symptom of something deeper, and your dog may be suffering from physical pain for disease, even if it's not immediately apparent. Look for signs of stress or avoidance, a lack of energy, or lethargic behavior. If you suspect something is wrong then seek the advice of a veterinarian immediately.
Ever feel so stressed you swear you're losing your hair? Dogs can feel the same way - but sometimes dogs are just better at hiding their stress. A sudden surge in shedding is the first sign something is wrong, but you'll need to look for other symptoms:
- Drooling or panting
- Ears pinned back
- Tail between legs
- Destructive Behavior
You'll have to find the source of their stress and remove it or help them feel comfortable again. Stress can be related to many different events: loud noises, overstimulation, unfamiliar places, introducing new pets or people into your home. It could also be pain or illness, perhaps a sprained bone, upset stomach, or disease.
Neutered or Pregnancy
Testosterone and other hormones can be partly responsible for keeping hair follicles strong and healthy. But major changes in hormones (such as being neutered or pregnancy) can cause changes in skin elasticity and hair follicles, resulting in major shedding for several months. However, coats generally return to their normal state over time.
Losing the Puppy Coat
When your Shepherd was born they began life with a thick, fluffy coat to keep them warm and protected. At about 4 to 6 months of age they'll begin to grow in their new adult coat, and so all that puppy hair has to go. For several weeks you'll notice a sudden increase in shedding, but not to worry, it's a normal part of growing up.
Fleas, Ticks, or Parasites
Fleas, ticks, and other parasites can cause your dog to become very itchy and unconformable, which generally leads to more scratching and hair loss. If you suspect your dog has fleas then first do a proper inspection.
Fleas and ticks can be treated with specialized flea shampoos or insecticides from your vet or pet store. Your home will need to be treated as well, anywhere your dog sleeps (bedding, furniture, blankets) must be go through the laundry or properly cleaned.
It's also worth noting that you cannot take a dog with fleas to a dog groomer. They will send you home, but there's also the possibility it spreads to other dogs.
Get Control of Shedding
So we know why German Shepherds shed, but how do we control it? Well, as it turns out this is my specialty (and what I do for a living). And while there is no way to completely stop shedding, there is ways to massively reduce it.
Seems simple enough, but it's a daily routine that will have the biggest impact.
The problem is most owners aren't brushing deep enough to loosen up all that undercoat - for that we'll need some brushes or combs to get down deep.
Here's a quick explanation and how to get the most hair out...
How To Get a TON of Dog Hair Out
German Shepherds are a double-coated breed. Meaning there is two layers of coat: the surface coat (or guard coat), and a thicker under-layer called the undercoat - and it's the undercoat that is responsible for most of the hair around your home or car.
As a groomer I use a few different techniques for deshedding your dog:
The best bang for your buck is the amazing Undercoat Rake - it's simply a soft-pinned comb that effectively loosens up all that undercoat hair (hence the name).
We'll also use deshedding shampoos and treatments.
And finally, a high velocity dryer to literally blow the remaining coat off. This usually leaves your dog shed-free for at least a few weeks.
Bathing with Deshedding Treatment
Ideally, bathe your dog once every 6 - 10 weeks. Again, this process helps remove a lot of loose and dead hair, along with keeping their coat smelling great.
But we can take it one step further by applying deshedding shampoos and conditioners that slick hair down and allow for easier removal. Simply bathe your dog like you normally would, but apply a deshedding treatment and allow it work it's magic for 5 minutes before rinsing.
Pro Tip: While still slightly damp, gently brush your dog with the undercoat rake to remove all that newly loosened hair. Or, use a high velocity dryer to blow all the loose hair out while drying them.
Blowing Out Their Coat with a High Velocity Dryer
Many professional dog groomers have a secret weapon to completely deshed and dry your dog quickly. It's the high velocity dryer, and it's amazing.
Think of a Leaf-blower designed to blow dog hair out. It's perfectly safe and extremely effective!
The result: your dog will shed 80% less for about 2 or 3 weeks. And during peak shedding season it's absolutely worth it!
Great example I found on YouTube, skip to 1:20 to see how much hair this gets off!
Please ensure you receive proper instruction on how to properly use a high velocity dryer on a dog to avoid any possible injuries.
If you want one for yourself - Check out which dryer I recommend you try out.
Healthy Dogs = Less Shedding
Finally, their diet can be a huge culprit when it comes to excessive shedding. Do your homework and choose a high quality dog food which is best suited for your German Shepherd based on age, activity level, and any health concerns such as allergies. Talk to your vet about supplementing their food with omega fats or selecting the right dog food.
Besides food, German Shepherds are active dogs that require daily exercise and mental stimulation, along with a stress-free environment.
The Best Brush (and Deshedding Tools) For German Shepherds
Running a grooming business I've dealt with my fair share of double-coated breeds, so here's a few of my favorite tools to deshed those fluffy dogs.
Best Brushes and Combs
Coastal Pet - Safari Longtooth Undercoat Rake
To get into that thick undercoat you’ll need an undercoat rake, which is a soft-edged metal comb that rakes deep into their coat to remove loose hair and mats. It's a very simple tool that massively reduces shedding, and is much more effective than your typical brush. Also, dogs absolutely love the feeling!
This particular one is amazing, and I have been using the same one for nearly 6 years. Cheap and super effective.
Andis Pet Steel Grooming Comb
Think of this as your second layer of attack. After using an undercoat rake I like to use this comb for it's long, soft edged pins. It gets deep into their coat, often loosening up more tangles and hair. It's perfect for clearing out the deeper parts of their coat (around their butt, neck, and mane)
FURminator deShedding Conditioner
DeShedding conditioner is an additional tool to reduce shedding, and works great if you use it along with regular brushing. This will take care of that final 20% of shedding that never seems to go away - and you'll notice a difference for about 10 days afterwards.
Quick note: You might notice an increase in shedding for 24 hours after use. Since you've loosened up so much hair it will continue to fall out for a short time, but then they'll be shed free for a week or two.
High Velocity Dryer
SHELANDY 3.2HP Pet Dryer
While not quite as powerful as your professional commercial-grade pet dryer, this is a really great personal dryer that can most certainly get the job done (and is quite a bit more affordable).
By blowing out your dog's coat you'll release a shocking amount of loose hair, and you can live a shed-free life for weeks afterwards. Not to mention it'll save you from making constant trips to your groomer.
Please Note: Use this outside if possible, or else you'll have hair or water stuck to every part of your room.
Can I Just Shave my German Shepherd?
Some owners mistakenly believe that shaving their dog will not only help them feel more comfortable in heat, but will also help with shedding and human allergies. The truth is shaving a German Shepherd can be detrimental to their health and overall comfort.
Double-coated breeds use their coat to regulate their body temperature as it keeps them warm in the winter, but also cool in the summer. It also protects your dogs skin from moisture, abrasions, and harmful UV rays. By removing their natural barrier you're exposing them to many potential health problems.
Also, some allergy sufferers believe shaving your dog will reduce allergic reactions. Also not true. Allergies are triggered from pet dander, which are particles of skin that shed all year. In fact, shaving them will make it worse, as you expose their skin even further.
And as a final warning, once you shave a double-coated dog, their hair never grows back the same. So that beautiful, silky coat will be gone forever.