German Shepherd Grooming

The German shepherd is not considered a high maintenance dog; however, grooming does require some effort to maintain a beautiful coat, properly trimmed toenails, and white shinny teeth. The shepherd’s double coat, with coarse outer guard hair and a thick, softer undercoat, helps make it a versatile working dog, able to function in just about any climate. This coat does have a drawback though. It sheds!

German shepherd puppies have a fuzzy coat that will shed and be replaced by an adult coat around the age of four months. Additionally, you can expect that the adult shepherd will shed heavily twice a year, in the spring and again in the fall, although the exact time depends upon your climate and the German shepherd’s living conditions.


During seasons when shedding is low, shepherds with a double coat will require only a weekly brushing to maintain a clean, smooth coat. Long-haired German Shepherds should be brushed on a daily basis. The setter-like coat of the long-haired German shepherd is much more prone to matting and tangling. Mud, twigs, and other small debris can create a matted mess if not attended to quickly. Occasionally, you can pick this apart with your fingers, a standard comb, or a specialized comb called a dematting comb. Severe matting will require the attention of a professional groomer and may result in the German shepherd’s coat having to be shaved.

Puppies, regardless of coat type, should receive daily brushing, not because their coats need it, but because you want your puppy to get accustomed to being brushed and touched all over her body. She will be a bit squirmy at first, but gently proceed and reward good behavior with a small treat. Gradually increase your grooming session each time.

To brush your dog, lie him on his side and sit or kneel next to him so that you and he both can relax. Starting at his head, begin brushing in the direction the coat grows. Brush with the coat from the head down to the tip of the tail. Roll your dog over and do the same thing on the other side. The next tool you will use is a shedding blade. This looks like a flexible saw blade bent into a U shape with a handle holding both blades together. This does not go through the coat, instead, will pull out all the dead coat. With your dog still lying on his side, repeat your previous pattern, going over the dog from head to tail on each side. You will finish by going over the dog completely with a slicker brush. This will gather all the loose coat the other brushes left behind. Follow the same pattern. You may wish to introduce your dog to the canister vacuum. If he will tolerate it, this will help tremendously to get the last shedding coat off the dog. Finish your grooming session by wiping the coat with a slightly damp cloth to pick up any stray hairs and dander.

When you’re done brushing your shepherd, you should have a dog with a clean shinny coat and a garbage bag or vacuum bag full of loose hair.

In addition to daily brushing, you may consider bathing your dog once or twice during heavy shedding periods. Washing loosens up and clears away excess hair and also removes flaking skin and trapped dirt. When your Shepherd is dry, you can follow the bath with another grooming session.


The typical adult German shepherd may only need a bath three or four times a year, provided you are brushing him on a regular basis. If you have access to warm water outside your home and you live in a warm climate, you may choose to bathe your German shepherd outdoors. Otherwise, bathing your German shepherd in the bathtub usually works just fine.

Start by making sure you have all the needed supplies on hand, including shampoo, three or four old towels, and a nonslip bathmat for the floor of the bath tub (a towel also works fine if you do not have a nonslip bathmat). Shut the door to the bathroom. Invite or carry your dog into the tub and wet him down thoroughly. Use luke-warm water. Hot water will irritate the skin, resulting in your shepherd scratching or chewing himself after the bath. Apply the shampoo and rub into a lather, keeping soap out of his eyes and ears. Start shampooing at the top and neck and work down and back. Do not apply too much shampoo as it is difficult to completely rinse all that shampoo out of his coat. Left over shampoo will form an irritating dry residue on his skin, resulting in your dog scratching or chewing himself. Bathe the head last because when dogs get their heads wet, they shake. Rinse several times to prevent a dry coat and dry, flaky, or sticky skin.

As soon as the bath is done, begin drying him. In the winter, you may want to use a hand-held hair dryer set to the low setting. Using a slicker brush in the direction of hair growth will also help during the drying process. Use a chamois cloth to bring out that final shine.

You will not need to frequently bathe a small German shepherd puppy. However, as with brushing, it is wise to at least wet her in the tub every week or so that she grows accustomed to the feel of water on her body. If you aren't diligent about this, you could end up with a 70 pound ball of fur that refuses to be bathed.


When faced with a full display of different dog shampoos, consider selecting one that is designed for dogs with sensitive skin. Many German Shepherds have skin allergies or other conditions that can be worsened by a shampoo that is too harsh.

By using a shampoo that has been formulated to soothe itchy, sensitive skin, you won't accidentally exacerbate a pre-existing condition. The shampoo should also be tearless so that it does not cause any burning or serious discomfort if it should get into the eyes.

Nail Care

German shepherds who exercise frequently on sidewalks or pavement will keep their nails short naturally; however, most owners find that the German shepherd's toenails grow very quickly and will need to be trimmed every three to four weeks to keep them from clicking on hard floors.

German shepherds have black toenails, which are harder and denser than white nails. Unfortunately, the black color makes the quick (vein) that supplies the nail is almost impossible to see. Before you begin clipping, you want to examine the toes for ingrown nails, soreness, redness, swelling, or discharges. These signs can signal serious trouble and you will want to bring your German shepherd to the veterinarian as soon as possible.

To keep your German shepherd's nails to the appropriate length, you need to trim the nails almost to the quick. To approximate where the quick ends in a nail, look carefully at the underside of the nail. You will see a differentiation between the nail closest to the toe and a tip of the nail. The point at which the nail becomes smooth consists of only nail and no quick. Clip the nail a little bit before the nail becomes rougher. If you are looking at your German shepherd's nails and just can not tell where the quick is, clip off the very tip and then file the nail. Your German shepherd will let you know when you approach the quick. If you hit the quick while filing, the dog will yelp before you are able to draw blood. If you make a mistake and clip the nail too short, use some styptic powder, flour, or cornstarch to staunch the bleeding. Hold with moderate pressure. After a minute or so, wipe away the excess powder and check the nail. After clipping, file each nail so that it is smooth.

The German shepherd is also known to have a foot thing. If you don't condition your shepherd to being handled all over, including his feet, you are not going to be able to hold his paws to cut the nails. To prevent problems, work with your puppy daily, handling his feet and cutting the tiny nips of his nails.

Even if he has had his nails trimmed without any problems many times, and an adolescent German shepherd may decide to challenge you. Don't buy this bluff! Cut those toenails anyway. Once you've gotten through a challenging toenail trimming, be prepared for a few more similar sessions. Continue to ignore your German shepherd's challenges. Do not reprimand the dog verbally or physically, as this will only escalate the confrontation. However, you should reward your German shepherd with a treat each time he allows you to trim his nails without fussing.

Special Cases

If you adopt a rescued German shepherd, it is very likely he has had very little experience with toenail trimming. Introducing him to this grooming task will require a lot of time and patience. In fact, before you can even begin, you will need to work on building your German shepherd's trust before he will let you touch his feet.

You can begin by showing him the clippers and rewarding him for no reaction. Next, hold the clippers their his paw without touching the nail. If the first two steps are successful, touch each of his nails gently with the clippers. Remember to reward good behavior and ignore any fussiness.

Once you've gotten your German shepherd to accept the touch of the clippers to the nail, quickly clip a tiny nubbin off the end. If he doesn't respond, reward him for allowing you to do this. Take tiny clips from just a few toenails each day, being careful not to quick him. Gradually work up to trimming one paw a day, two paws a day, and then all of his toenails at once.

Eye Care

While the eyes do not have to be groomed the way ears and teeth do, you should still inspect them during the grooming process.

With that said, it is possible for foreign bodies to injure your dog's eyes. Signs that indicate there might be something in her eye other than what belongs there include pawing at the eyes, rubbing eyes on the floor, squinting the eyes closed, or scratching. If your German shepherd’s eyes are red, cloudy, or have a green or yellow discharge, you should contact your veterinarian immediately.

Ear Care

German shepherd puppies begin with folded ears. As they grow, the cartilage in their ears grows and stiffens. For several months, Shepherd puppies go through a phase in which their ears flop over. Eventually, the puppy matures into an adult German shepherd with erect, open ears.

German Shepherds have L-shaped ears in which all kinds of debris tend to collect in the corner of the L. Ear infections can occur when a foreign object invades the air canal, when impure water gets trapped in the dog's ear canal, or as a result of allergies. Some waxy material may be present in normal ears, but if there is too much, it invites trouble. If you sniff your German shepherd’s ears on a regular basis, you will be able to tell if an infection is brewing. The smell is strong and distinct. Additionally, an infected ear will produce large amounts of foul-smelling wax and the area immediately surrounding the air canal will appear red and inflamed. You might also see a discharge or blood in the ear.

To clean your German shepherd’s ears, use a good commercial ear cleaner that does not contain alcohol. Fill your dog’s ear canal with the cleaner. Massage the base of the ear for 20 to 30 seconds to soften, loosen, and release the gunk trapped in the ear. Wipe out the loose debris and excess fluid with a cotton ball or soft cloth. Do not use a cotton swab, because you might pack the debris further down the ear canal. Repeat until you see no more debris. If the ears are really gunky, you may have to do this twice a day until everything is under control. After the ear is clean, let your dog shake his head and allow some time for the ears to dry.

You should inspect and clean your German shepherd’s ears twice a week, especially if he swims or does a lot of rough work.

Do not put off seeing the veterinarian if there is a problem. Ear infections can move from the outer ear to the inner ear, where they are difficult to treat and can cause permanent damage.

Dental Care

If you want your Shepherd's teeth and gums to remain healthy and pain-free throughout his life, you should be brushing your dog’s teeth at least three times a week. There are several things you can do to help. Feeding your dog dry dog food helps to scrape away plaque from the teeth and around the gums. Some dog foods are made specifically for dogs that suffer from gingivitis or for dogs whose owners don't want their dogs to suffer from tooth or gum disease. Hard rubber toys, knuckle bones, and other chew items provide another opportunity for the German shepherd to rid his teeth of plaque and keep his gums clean. Tied or twisted rope toys also help to remove plaque while the dog is playing.

When you have your puppy spayed or neutered, ask your veterinarian if she can give your German shepherd a fluoride treatment while they are anesthetized. If you have an older German shepherd, your veterinarian may want to anesthetize him so that he can clean his teeth thoroughly before giving him a fluoride treatment.

To brush your dog’s teeth, start by touching the muzzle and lifting the lips. Gently insert a finger brush (a rubber cap with small rubber knobs on it that fits over your finger) to touch and stroke the teeth and gums. Then, introduce the toothpaste. Use only toothpaste that is specifically designed for dogs. Put a bit of the toothpaste on your finger and let the dog sample the taste. Begin to apply it to the teeth and gums. When your dog allows you to touch all of his teeth with your finger, he is ready for a canine toothbrush. When using a toothbrush, you can use either a circular motion or a sawing stroke. Angle the brush at a 45 degree angle toward the gumline and brush away.

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