German Shepherd Dogs aren’t hypoallergenic.
In fact, experts consistently rank them in the top 10 allergy-provoking breeds of dogs.
But if you love German Shepherds and you are allergic, that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy many happy years with your canine best friend.
In this article, we’ll tell you about the things you can do to keep your German Shepherd groomed and keep your allergies to a minimum.
The “German Shedder” Dog
Millions of people love German Shepherds for good reasons. They are extremely intelligent. They love to please their humans.
They are good with children and affectionate when they are with the family. They display legendary loyalty and courage.
But German Shepherds have also earned their nickname “German Shedder.”
The amount of shedding differs from dog to dog, but it’s fair to say no German Shepherd is a low-maintenance dog.
That’s especially true of German Shepherds with long hair.
Types of Coats in German Shepherds
Most German Shepherds have two-colored coats. The most common colors in a German Shepherd’s coat are black and tan, black and silver, black and red, and black cream.
There are German Shepherds, however, that have coats of pure black, pure blue, pure gray, liver, sable, and white.
Not quite all German Shepherds have double coats.
In most German Shepherd Dogs, there is a top coat, also known as a guard coat, that is wiry and abrasive.
There is also a softer and lighter-colored layer below known as the undercoat.
Together, these two coats keep the German Shepherd warm in the winter and cool in the summer.
They also keep the dog’s skin from getting damp and protect against harmful UV rays in sunlight.
Some German Shepherds have a “single coat.” They actually have two coats, but the undercoat is very thin.
Breeders have focused for many years on making sure that all registered German Shepherd Dogs have a thick undercoat, so single coats are rare in purebreds.
They sometimes occur in mostly-German Shepherd mixed-breed, unregistered dogs.
German Shepherds can have long, short, or medium-length outer coats.
A German Shepherd has to inherit a gene for long hair from both of its parents, so most (but not all) long-haired puppies have long-haired parents.
German Shepherd owners in the United States prefer their dogs to have long hair, even though the American Kennel Club tells them they are wrong.
Paraphrasing: – “The ideal German Shepherd Dog has a double coat of medium length. The hair of the outer coat should be as dense as possible. It should be coarse, and lie flat on the dog’s body. A slightly wavy outer coat of wiry hair is permitted at shows. Faults in the German Shepherd coat include a soft, silky, and guard coat.”
In other words, the kind of dog people like to have around the house isn’t the kind of dog that will win prizes at dog shows.
But if you are looking for a great companion dog, you won’t care. However, you will have to deal with shedding.
How Much Will Your German Shepherd Shed?
The longer-haired German Shepherd Dogs that so many families love will shed a lot more than the pampered pooches that win at dog shows.
Most German Shepherds that live with families shed a lot. But exactly how much a German Shepherd sheds depends on a number of factors:
German shepherds shed less or more depending on their heritage. German Shepherds have been bred in the US to win shows. For winning best in the show, hair length is important. These dogs shed less.
Every German Shepherd bred in Germany has to be certified as a “Schutzhund,” protector dog.
These breeders don’t really care about hair length. But German Shepherds from German bloodlines shed more.
German Shepherds that get fleas, mites, or other skin parasites develop dry, itchy skin. They scratch to relieve the itch and shed more hair as a result.
Keeping fleas under control helps keep shedding under control.
Eczema from food allergies has a similar result. Sometimes treating food allergies—your dog’s, not your own—helps reduce shedding.
To control shedding, what you don’t feed your German Shepherd is as important as what you do. Many brands of dry dog food have grains as their first-listed ingredient.
Grains are a rich source of omega-6 essential fatty acids. These nutrients are essential in the sense that a dog’s body requires them, and they have to be obtained from food.
These fatty acids become the building blocks for the hormones a dog’s body uses to generate inflammation.
Inflammation isn’t always a bad thing. It gives the immune system a way to destroy germs.
But the problem with dry dog foods made with corn, wheat, gluten, and barley (not so much with rice) is they contain too much omega-6 fat.
The dog’s immune system causes too much inflammation, resulting in dry, itchy skin, scratching, and shedding.
Excessive estrogen production is associated with excessive shedding.
This condition can occur in females and in males with testicular tumors. But shedding won’t be as heavy if your dogs are spayed or neutered.
German Shepherd puppies shed profusely at the age of four to six months.
This is when they lose their puppy coat. Shedding their puppy coat allows adult hair to grow in its place.
Lives in Home or in a Kennel
German Shepherds that lead their lives as pets in houses and apartments will shed more and shed longer because they are kept in warmer temperatures.
Working German Shepherds that live in kennels “get it over with” because they are exposed to colder temperatures in the winter and hotter temperatures in the summer.
Some of these factors are partially under your control. Most of them aren’t. But the thing to look for in your German Shepherd’s coat is whether it is double or single.
If your German Shepherd has a double coat, its outer coat will be stiff and wiry. If your German Shepherd has a single coat, it will be smooth and soft.
Grooming a German Shepherd with a double coat requires frequent attention with vigorous grooming.
Grooming a German Shepherd with a single coat requires less frequent grooming and a gentle touch to keep from removing too much protective body hair.
It’s often said (the original quote is attributed to Josh Billings) that a dog is the only thing in the world that loves you more than you love yourself.
That’s doubly true of a German Shepherd. Your German Shepherd will shed, but if you love your dog the way your dog loves you, you can find ways to deal with the challenge.
How to Keep Your German Shepherd Well Groomed
German Shepherds aren’t the dog for fussy housekeepers. They are big, athletic dogs that love constant, boisterous activity, and twice a year they “blow” their coats.
Double-coated German Shepherds shed their undercoats twice a year. Their endocrine systems are in sync with the length of visible daylight.
When days are about 12 hours long and getting longer in the spring and then again when they are 12 hours long and getting short in the fall, their undercoats come loose.
This thins out hair for the summer heat or lets more hair come in for winter cold.
During these times, German Shepherds shed enormous amounts of hair. You will need to groom your German Shepherd every day to keep up with it.
The best tool for grooming during “blow out” season is not a comb, but a rake. And if you don’t want to disappear in a giant ball of hair, it’s best to groom your German Shepherd outdoors.
Apply a detangling spray before you start grooming your dog. Trying to rake tangled hair can pull out hairs that aren’t ready to be shed, and cause your dog pain.
If your dog complains about your rake, use a more flexible brush. You can also use a bristle brush or a pin brush and a comb.
Don’t use a rake on a German Shepherd with a single coat. But make sure you groom long-haired German Shepherds throughout their shedding season.
If German Shepherds are not groomed at least several times a week while they are blowing their coats, their fur becomes matted.
The mats of hair can become impossible to remove without shaving, which leaves your dog vulnerable to dampness and cold.
A Quick Note on Shaving Your German Shepherd
A German Shepherd should never be shaved except on a veterinarian’s advice. or when the coat is so matted it is impossible to brush.
It is much healthier for your dog, and much less allergenic for the humans in your family if you keep up with grooming throughout your dog’s shedding season.
Bathing Your German Shepherd
German Shepherds can lose the natural lubricating oils on the shafts of their hairs if they are bathed too often.
Most German Shepherd Dog breeders only recommend bathing your dog after she has rolled in something unmentionable or is particularly dirty or smelly.
If your German Shepherd rolls in mud, hose him down before you let him back into the house or his kennel.
A German Shepherd’s coat can stand up to water.
But don’t use shampoos on a regular basis unless they are recommended by the vet. Your German Shepherd’s coat is naturally oily.
The oils protect the skin. Any shampoo made for people that contains sodium lauryl sulfate or sodium laureth sulfate (SLS) can cause severe skin irritation for your German Shepherd.
If you have to use shampoo, consider a natural product made with the soothing Ayurvedic herb neem.
Good Grooming Is All About Getting the Balance Right
Leaving a German Shepherd in a dirty condition can lead not just to excessive shedding.
It can also lead to serious infections and eczema that can cause your dog a lot of discomforts. Too much grooming or bathing can cause similar problems.
It’s all about getting the balance right. No two German Shepherds need exactly the same grooming schedule.
It depends on whether you keep your German Shepherd indoors or in a kennel, how much time your dog spends exercising outdoors, where you let your dog roam around and explore, and how often he swims.
The time you spend grooming your dog keeps her healthier, but it’s also time you spend bonding with your dog.
You aren’t just giving your dog a quick tickle with a brush once or twice a week.
You are talking with your dog. You are negotiating with your dog to keep still while you do what you need to do for their health.
You and taking time to observe your dog’s skin, eyes, ears, and nose carefully to head off other health problems.
You are also paying attention to the health of your dog’s teeth and nails.
German Shepherd puppies don’t need a lot of grooming, but it’s a good idea to get them used to be groomed as early in their lives as possible.
Adult German Shepherds are easier to groom if they get used to it as puppies.
Other benefits of regular grooming of your German Shepherd include:
- Removing dead skin, so less dander falls off your dog later.
- Stimulating your dog’s blood circulation.
- Keeping allergy causes like dander and mites outside, where you do your grooming.
Remember, your dog considers the floor to be his domain.
If you want to dominate your dog so they stay more docile and compliant during their grooming session, place them on a table.
Grooming your dog at your level, not theirs, reminds them who is in charge of the grooming session.
If All This Doesn’t Help Reduce Your Allergies
Before you get rid of your German Shepherd because you have allergies, at least get your (human) allergy specialist to confirm that your dog is the problem.
Your doctor may be able to prescribe a non-drowsy antihistamine that helps.
So do air filters, and keep your dog in his own part of your house, giving you at least a little respite from dog dander.
But be forewarned that you can even have a problem with allergies to dogs when the German Shepherd lives in someone else’s house.
Dander carried in with human visitors can also trigger allergies.
Is all the trouble for reducing dog allergies worth it? We think so. It’s often said that a German Shepherd is one of the few things in life that will love you more than you love yourself.
Years of loyal companionship are worth the extra effort.
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