Does a German Shepherd Need a Haircut?
Animal file: German Shepherd
The German Shepherd is a beautiful medium to large-sized dog which has two coat variations. While all dogs of this breed will have a double-layered coat, this can be either medium or long in length. There are different types of German Shepherds according to their coat color, but not all are recognized by official breed standard organizations. Perhaps it is the fact some German Shepherds have medium-length hair and others long hair which leads to dog guardians asking does a German Shepherd need a haircut?
At AnimalWised, we will show you that all dogs will need to be groomed whether they have long, medium-length or no hair. However, for the German Shepherd, this should not include cutting their hair. There are some circumstances where it may be necessary, but in most cases other German Shepherd grooming practices should be sufficient.
Do German Shepherds need haircuts?
In most cases, a German Shepherd will not need their hair cut. Even with the long-haired variety of the breed, the German Shepherd's coat should not cause the dog any mobility, visibility or hygiene issues. Other breeds have vast amounts of hair and clipping their coat is beneficial to make their day-to-day lives easier. If not, the fur can get in their eyes or make it very easy for their coat to get dirty. This is not the case with German Shepherds.
Another reason a German Shepherd doesn't need a haircut is because their coat provides important protection. Since German Shepherd's have a double-layer coat, shaving them to the skin removes both the outer-coat and undercoat. This is problematic for different reasons:
- Cold: in winter, the dog's coat will help them to keep warm. Shaving the coat or cutting their hair short will stop them from being protected from the cold.
- Heat: German Shepherd dogs are able to well-tolerate hot climates, even with the longer coat variety. Giving them a close haircut means they lose important protection from the sun and they cannot regulate their body temperature properly.
- Injury: removing the dog's protective coat means they are more prone to scratching and other injuries. Infection is a greater risk. If they fight with another dog, they are also at a disadvantage if they have to protect themselves.
When you shave a German Shepherd's coat, you will remove its undercoat. When this happens, it will not grow back properly. While it may rectify itself over time with more shedding, it leaves the dog vulnerable and prevents them from properly regulating their body temperature. It also can cause ingrown hairs and other skin problems which could have been avoided without unnecessary hair cutting.
When is it OK to cut a German Shepherd's hair?
As we said, shaving a German Shepherd is dangerous as it removes their undercoat. When this happens, they are unable to grow it back properly. However, there are a very few circumstances when there may be a need to cut a German Shepherd's hair.
- Parasite infestation: in some cases, a severe infestation of external parasites will require the dog to have some of their hair removed. In most cases, washing the dog with parasiticidal shampoo or topical medication will be sufficient. Shaving the animal will be a drastic measure and only a qualified veterinarian can decide if it is an appropriate treatment.
- Surgery: a German Shepherd may need to have parts of their coat shaved to make an incision for surgery. Since GSDs (German Shepherd Dogs) are prone to hip and bone issues, surgery may be required to alleviate symptoms. Spaying and neutering will also require shaving of their hair, but only in localized places.
Even in these cases, it is unlikely that more than a localized area will need to be cut completely. You may notice that ‘because I want to style my German Shepherd's hair’ is not a valid reason. In long hair varieties, it may be possible that the dog may receive some benefit from having part of their coat trimmed. If so, we will need to speak to a professional groomer. This should be carried out with scissors and not clippers.
Although we should never shave or give our German Shepherd a haircut, this doesn't mean they don't need to be groomed at all.
How often do you groom a German Shepherd?
Whether medium or longhair, a German Shepherd will need a moderate amount of grooming. Some dogs are very prone to tangling and have fine hair which required daily brushing. A German Shepherd should be brushed about 3 times a week. There are different reasons we need to brush a German Shepherd's coat:
- One of the main reasons for brushing their coat is because they will drop dead hair. If this is not brushed, it will collect in their coat and threaten their hygiene. It will also lead to hair accumulation on furnishings and floors in the home. Dogs will molt much more hair during shedding seasons.
- Brushing also helps us to distribute the natural oils of a dog's coat to protect them from the elements and other threats to its condition.
- When we brush a German Shepherd's coat we can check for injury and parasites. We may not be able to spot a small wound, skin condition or parasites such as fleas from looking at them. Once we get in close by brushing we can monitor for issues which threaten their well-being.
- Brushing a dog's coat helps to remove tangles and knots. This is something which will affect long haired dogs more.
- When we brush our German Shepherd's hair we also encourage our bond. If they are sheepish about brushing, we need to get them used to the practice. In doing so, we foster a sense of security with them.
If you want more advice, you can take a look at our article on how to brush a dog's hair properly.
What type of brush do I need for a German Shepherd?
While it is possible to use one type of brush for a German Shepherd dog, it is better to use a variety. Slicker brushes have little balls on the end of their bristles. These are ideal for the top coat and guard hair. It helps to keep the hair in condition and the dog will often enjoy being brushed with them as they feel therapeutic.
Undercoat brushes have finer teeth and are best at ensuring the undercoat is kept in best condition. These can be most useful during shedding season as they will be best at removing dead hair. Long hair dogs may need a different brush to medium dogs.
Dematting combs are special brushes which have metal teeth to help us work out tangles and knots. They will only need to be used when necessary. If we brush our German Shepherd regularly, the dog will not likely need a dematting comb.
Nail and teeth care for German Shepherds
Now that we know how to care for a German Shepherd's coat, there are other aspects of their hygiene we need to consider. Brushing a dog's teeth is an often overlooked aspect of grooming. We need to use a specialized dog toothbrush and toothpaste. We must never use the ones designed for humans. We should brush a dog's teeth an average of twice a week. However, we need to check with a veterinarian in case they have any dental diseases or issues which may require us to do it more.
Clipping a dog's nails is something we should do whenever they are too long. We can tell if a German Shepherd's nails are too long if they grow past the paw pad. We may notice this if they walk over a hard surface and we hear the nails knocking against the ground.
When the dog's nails are too long, we need to use a canine nail clipper. We need to be very careful not to cut too short as they may cut the ‘quick’ which is very painful. To know how to cut a dog's nails, check out our article on clipping a dog's nails properly or check out the video below. If you are at all unsure, take them to a groomer to have it performed professionally.
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