Let’s not wrap this in cheese. Besides being loyal, highly intelligent, gentle, and overall lovable, the herding-group German shepherd dog (GSD) is a breed known to definitely shed. A lot.1
One thing we didn’t mention in our 10 German Shepherd Fun Facts is how much they shed.
When you bring home Rufus, the new family GSD, you can expect that in no time, floors, furniture, and clothing will be covered in enough follicle floaters to merit daily swiffering, vacuuming, dusting, and lint-rolling.
But he’s the cutest member of the household, so we are happy to do it, right? (Wag your tail if you agree.)
If you would like to learn a morsel or two about why German shepherd shedding happens and what you can do to lessen the onslaught of free-flying fur in your otherwise meticulous environment, tilt your head this way.
“Mane” Shedding Causes
All dogs shed to a degree. But German shepherds are a heavy shedder breed. GSDs aren’t lovingly monikered “German Shedders”2 for no reason. Like Siberian huskies and Pomeranians (and quite a few other breeds), GSDs have two coats of fur:
- Dense, straight, or slightly wavy topcoat (guard coat) that protects against the elements
- Soft, wooly, shorter undercoat that keeps the dog from getting too hot or too cold
Having a double coat protects against UV rays, helps keep skin dry, and acts as a shield from scrapes and cuts.
That said, there are perfectly natural reasons why dogs shed, as well as health-related factors that bring on excessive shedding, which can usually be curbed.
#1 Seasonal Exfoliation
The layer of fur closest to the skin “blows out” during fall and spring weather rotations, blasting wispy tufts of medium-length strands into the air to eventually settle on all surfaces.
This happens through the natural process of regulating body temperature, keeping dogs warm in winter, and cooling them down in the summer months.3
#2 Growing Fur, Baby
When GSD puppies reach four to six months of age, the finer, fluffier German shepherd puppy hair that served to keep them warm and insulated starts to slough off.
Say goodbye to the baby fur (along with puppy breath and razor-sharp teeth). New, thicker adult hair grows in, pushing the old layer out to make room.
#3 Health-Related Hair Loss
Some health issues can lead to excessive shedding, and if suspected, immediate consultation with a veterinarian is warranted. Here are a few culprits to sniff out:
- Stress – If you notice obsessive licking- or chewing-induced bald patches, your GSD may be experiencing a stress-related reaction from one of these triggers:
- Separation anxiety
- Loud noises
- Upset stomach
- New people or animals
- Pain or illness
- Lack of exercise
These factors (among others) could mean your GSD has acral lick dermatitis,4 which is a condition that is bad enough when it occurs, but the act itself can make a dog become even more stressed—creating a cycle.
- Fleas or Ticks – Dogs hate itches as much as people do! When your dog scratches and bites at parasitic attacks, the loose hair can break off, causing undue dog shedding. This can also leave skin vulnerable to open sores, leading to infection.
- Allergies – Scratching and chewing can sometimes be a result of food or seasonal allergies. Besides overabundant shedding, look out for other symptoms, such as:
- Red, watery, or crusty eyes
- Excessive sneezing
- Sensitive ears
- Dehydration – Skin elasticity is directly related to the support of hair follicles; lack of moisture in the skin can cause the fur to become more susceptible to falling out. Healthy skin tissue and organs depend on good hydration to function properly. Water that dawg!
- Poor Diet – Good nutrition should be a top priority for your GSD. More dog shedding than usual, a dull outer coat, flaky skin, and low energy can all be symptoms of protein and vitamin deficiencies. (Did you know that up to 30% of your dog’s daily protein can be used for skin and hair follicle renewal?)3
How to Handle the Hair
If we’ve struck a nerve about why your GSD is shedding like crazy, don’t tuck your tail and whimper just yet. There are a few things you can do to lessen the onslaught of fuzzies.
#1 Groom regularly
A German shepherd dog could conceivably be in your home for an average of 9–13 years5 and grow to a height of up to 26 inches. At 75 to 95 pounds, that equals a lot of hair over a long period of time!
A consistent grooming schedule (at least bathing every 6–10 weeks) utilizing de-shedding shampoos, specialty brushes, and high-velocity dryers can greatly mitigate the German Shepherd shedding in your home and allow you to enjoy every moment with your wonderful GSD.
#2 Invest in a Good Brush
Using a reputable pet brush every couple of days when the shedding is less and daily during periods of heavier shedding should do the trick. There are even de-shedding brushes made specifically for thick undercoats.
When brushing your furry pal, keep the following in mind:
- Brushing should be done all the way down to the skin – This stimulates blood circulation and removes dandruff flakes. Also, be sure to watch out for matted fur and skin abrasions.6
- Shaving is not recommended – The hair is necessary for regulating body temperature and protecting the skin from the elements, as previously mentioned. (And to add insult to injury, the hair won’t grow back as silky as before!)
#3 Shampoos and Conditioners
If your GSD has fleas or ticks, you will want to use a shampoo made for that purpose. If the problem is dry skin or dandruff, you can speak to your vet or groomer about what medicated shampoos are available, and be sure to follow guidelines for bathing your particular breed in regards to:
- Frequency – German shepherds shouldn’t be bathed more than once a month because their fur has natural oils that will become stripped if washed too often.7
- Ingredients – Some effective, soothing pet shampoos have ingredients like oatmeal or coconut oil that can ease itchy skin. Mmmmm.
#4 Give Your Pup Proper Nutrition
Talk to your vet about what kind of dog food and supplements might benefit your dog best. Choosing the most suitable dog food requires research and knowing what works for your GSD with regard to age, activity level, and of course, preference.
A highly recommended brand is BARK food for German shepherds. It’s one of the best choices you can make for your dog’s nutritional health since it’s packed full of omegas and glucosamine to support your GSD’s health. Get 25% off with code 25FOOD, plus free shipping!
#5 Vitamin Supplements
Some supplements can go a long way toward returning that shiny coat to its former glory. Ask your vet for recommendations, but they will most likely concur that Omega 3 fatty acid supplements like fish oil and olive oil should be high on the list.
#6 Rule Out Skin Allergies
If you notice a lot of scratching and licking but there are no visible fleas, stress factors, or other obvious causes—you should schedule a vet consultation to find out if your GSD is suffering from an allergy known to bring about skin irritation and hair loss.
A round of antibiotics and some topical medication might be in order if tests show that your GSD is allergic to grass, pollen, a food ingredient, or another unseen factor.
#7 Regularly Change Bedding and Blankets
Changing out dog bedding can help prevent parasites, dead skin cells, and loose hair from further irritating your GSD. Chances are, with a clean place to curl up and take naps, the stress factor (as well as environmental nuisances) will be reduced.
Dog lovers know that cleaning up fur (and other organic materials) comes with the territory of being a pup parent, and GSD moms and dads know it twice as much. Before em*bark*ing further, here is some ruff data that shows why these Goo-Boiz are so worth it.
A Few Kibbles About GSDs
German shepherds are genuine treasures, as anyone who has lived with one can tell you. Even if they aren’t primarily employed for herding livestock anymore (although some probably still do…), you can’t go wrong with the third most popular dog in the U.S. as your very own poochie.
If you are lucky enough to have a GSD in your family, you are already at the front of the pack in protection, affection, and loyalty:
- Due to temperament, intelligence, and ideal training response, German shepherds are frequently top selections for military, police, guard, and service dogs.
- These active, athletic dogs are often trained in search and rescue, disease detection, and K-9 programs.
- German shepherds are third on the “most intelligent dog breed” list (behind poodles and border collies)8
- GSDs were among the most famous stars in the silent film era (Rin Tin Tin and Strongheart).
- Courageous, active, loyal, and confident, GSDs make ideal family pets.
Keep Your GSD Healthy and Happy with BARK
So, now that you know why GSDs shed so much and what you can do to control it, you can understand and connect with your furbaby all the more.
BARK food is a great place to start your pointy-eared, long-snouted, brown-eyed best friend on the road to a long, active life. With a proper, balanced diet high in nutritional quality, a good grooming routine, consistent exercise, and regular visits to the vet, your GSD will keep you company for many years.
And who knows? The GSD in your life could already be poised for the next Schutzhund match (extra points if you know what this is…🐾). Now please let Rufus back on the couch. He’s earned it.
- American Kennel Club (AKC). What To Expect When Caring For a German Shepherd Dog. https://www.akc.org/dog-breeds/german-shepherd-dog/
- ASPCA Pet Insurance. German Shepherds: What to Know Before Adopting One. https://www.aspcapetinsurance.com/resources/facts-about-german-shepherds/
- PlayBarkRun. German Shepherd Shedding – The Full Guide to Control Dog Shedding. https://www.playbarkrun.com/german-shepherd-shedding/
- World of Dogz. German Shepherd Shedding: Causes, Season and Solutions. https://worldofdogz.com/german-shepherd-shedding/
- Vetericyn. How Long Do German Shepherds Live? https://vetericyn.com/blog/how-long-do-german-shepherds-live/
- American Kennel Club (AKC). How to Groom a Dog at Home. https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/how-to-groom-a-dog/
- German Shepherd Dog HQ. How Often Should You Bathe a German Shepherd? https://germanshepherddoghq.com/how-often-should-you-bathe-a-german-shepherd/
- PetPedia. 22 Facts About German Shepherds (2022 UPDATE). https://petpedia.co/facts-about-german-shepherds/