The German shepherd ranks as one of America’s most popular breeds, and there are plenty of reasons why.
Both female and male dogs are known for being courageous, confident, intelligent, and loyal above all. They possess a fearless stance and a noble bearing.
They are muscular and agile, and their bodies are outlined with smooth, graceful curves.
Since they are one of the most intelligent dog breeds, they can be trained to do almost anything, making them leaders of the pack when it comes to all sorts of service work.
From police and military work, search and rescue, drug detection, protection, and being a guide dog, they fulfill every role to perfection.
Now, when it comes to their coats, they can be long or short, but they are almost always double-coated.
This might give you a hint in figuring out whether German shepherds shed or not, but if you own one of these majestic dogs, you already know the answer.
How much do German shepherds shed?
If you are thinking about getting a dog of this breed, the question you should be asking is how much they shed, rather than if they shed.
The answer? They shed a lot.
In the dog world, you can’t find a breed that doesn’t shed. But, you will find very few of them who shed more than a German shepherd.
Even breeds that are considered hypoallergenic shed to a certain degree. So you can forget about keeping your home hair-free.
However, on a scale of 1 to 10, a German shepherd ranks at a solid 9, meaning you can expect a dominating fur presence. This is the reason they are sometimes referred to as German shedders.
The reasons behind German shepherd shedding
Unlike some breeds that shed seasonally, German shepherds shed all year long. Sometimes, all of a sudden, they can become shedding furballs for no apparent reason.
But there are some reasons behind it, closely tied to health issues or other factors which we will get into a little bit down the road.
First, let’s establish what the purpose of your German shepherd’s coat is:
• To regulate its body temperature.
• To help with sensory perception.
• To protect its body’s largest organ (the skin).
The fur of a German shepherd can be divided into three types:
1. Undercoat – this is a layer of thick but soft hair that provides insulation.
2. Outer coat – this layer is thick and long, and its purpose is to protect the undercoat and skin from extreme temperatures and water.
3. The whiskers – these are solid hairs that grow around the dog’s face and grant sensory stimulation.
A German shepherd’s hair follicles grow several hairs each. In comparison, human hair follicles contain only one strand of hair.
A GSD’s hair follicles contain oil that keeps its fur and skin in healthy condition. When the hairs in hair follicles stop growing, they are shed to make space for the growth of new hairs.
How frequently shedding takes place and when depends on your dog’s overall health, genetics, and other factors.
Now let’s see how the shedding season affects this breed, and then we will proceed to health issues that can provoke additional shedding.
A dog’s coat naturally responds to daylight. This means that as winter approaches and days get shorter, your pup will naturally begin to grow a winter coat.
During this time, the dog’s old summer hairs are pushed out to make space for new hair. This is why you might notice a big increase in shedding for a couple of weeks during the fall season.
You can expect a similar thing to happen when winter comes to an end and spring rolls around. As the days get longer, your dog’s coat will respond by blowing out its winter coat since it no longer needs it.
This is the time of the year when your doggie gifts you with another big increase in shedding for a few weeks.
Health problems that may lead to shedding
Although these dogs shed all year long, the intensity may increase in some periods of their life. This can be attributed to some health issues, which we will list out below.
Food can be a major factor when it comes to excessive shedding. A poor or unhealthy diet is usually to blame.
You should carefully pick a high-quality balanced dog food as a dog’s skin and coat are very sensitive to any nutritional deficiencies.
Stronger hair follicles and skin elasticity are ensured by providing your pup with high-quality foods. These foods contain protein and essential fatty acids necessary to reduce shedding and keep your dog’s coat healthy.
If you notice a dull coat or flaky skin on your dog’s body, this can be a result of omega 3 and omega 6 deficiency. In that case, foods such as tuna, or even fish sticks can help you battle the Omega-fatty acids deficiency.
Moreover, some studies show that up to 30% of a dog’s daily protein is used for the renewal of its hair and skin.
Allergies can be the cause of inflamed and itchy skin, leading to scratching and more shedding. The most common symptoms of allergies are:
• Constant scratching
• Red, itchy skin
• Red, watery eyes
• Red, inflamed ears
• Infected ears
• Patches of fur missing
• Scabs from scratching
Allergies in dogs can be food-based or environmental. Consult your vet to determine the exact cause of allergies in your pup.
Excessive shedding can be caused by something deeper that your dog might be going through. Even if it is not immediately apparent, your doggie might be suffering from a disease or physical pain in general.
Signs to look out for are:
• Lethargic behavior
• Lack of energy
If you notice any of these signs, consult your vet immediately.
Dogs are better at hiding stress than humans, but that doesn’t mean they cannot experience it. You can compare this to when you are so stressed out you swear you are losing your hair.
A sudden increase in shedding accompanies stress, but there are other symptoms you can keep an eye out for:
• Tail tucked between legs
• Ears pinned back
• Destructive behavior in general
If your dog is feeling stressed out, you need to find out what is causing it and remove it from its life. This will make your dog feel comfortable again.
Many different events are related to stress, such as:
• Loud noises
• Unfamiliar places
• Introducing new pets into their life
• Introducing new people into their life
• Pain or illness
• Upset stomach
• Sprained bone
These are some of the most common reasons, but every dog has its own weaknesses, and you should find out what disturbs your dog and how it affects it.
Neutering or pregnancy
Hormones like testosterone and others can be somewhat responsible for keeping hair follicles healthy and strong.
However, any major changes in hormones like neutering or entering pregnancy can cause big changes in skin elasticity and hair follicles. This results in significant shedding for several months, but coats usually return to their normal state after some time.
Losing the puppy coat
A normal part of a German shepherd puppy’s life is growing up. They are born with a fluffy, thick coat to keep them warm and protected, but at about four to six months of age, they will begin to develop their adult coat.
When this happens, all of their puppy hair has to go, and in the next several weeks, you can expect an increase in shedding. But there is no need for alarm, as this is completely normal.
Ticks, fleas, or parasites
Fleas, ticks, and other parasites may cause your dog to become uncomfortable and itchy. This only leads to more scratching and further hair loss. If you notice any behavior like this, you should do a proper inspection of its fur.
Flea shampoos or insecticides are your best friends in this type of situation. You can easily get them by visiting a vet or pet store.
In these cases, you will need to do a thorough sweep of your home as well. Anywhere your dog sleeps or spends time on, like bedding, furniture covers, and blankets must go through proper cleaning.
Taking your dog to a groomer when it has fleas or ticks is not an option. Most if not all groomers will just send you home, as there is the possibility of your dog spreading the parasites to other dogs.
Dealing with your dog’s shedding
There are some tips and tricks to reduce your dog’s shedding, which we will get into later, but for now, you need to know that there is no way to stop shedding completely.
It may seem to you that longhaired German shepherds shed less, but their undercoat is actually getting stuck in their dense outercoat.
Even though this leads to less visible hair around the house, it also means that your dog is more prone to matting.
Regardless of your dog’s coat length, they will need regular grooming.
Regular grooming of your pet means that you will deal with a ton of hair, so we recommend that you invest in a good vacuum cleaner.
Vacuum cleaners with strong suction and a HEPA filter are the best as they will trap any airborne allergens along with fallen hair.
Also, make sure to keep a regular vacuuming schedule. This is the best way to tackle all of the unwanted dog hair and prevent tumbleweeds of fur from rolling around in your house.
Reducing the shedding of your German shepherd
There are two main ways to reduce the shedding of your German pup:
1. Through nutrition
2. Through grooming
Even though you cannot stop shedding completely, these two ways will help you immensely in battling your pooch’s loose hair.
Reducing the shedding through nutrition
1. Feed your dog a high-quality diet
Providing your dog with a balanced and healthy diet is one of the most effective ways of reducing shedding. Cheap dog food is often made of ingredients such as corn or grains. German shepherds and other dogs, in general, have a hard time digesting these ingredients.
You should instead opt for dog food that has meat as one of the main ingredients. Of course, it will cost more, but it will help your dog in all sorts of different ways.
Dog foods that are based on meat as the main ingredient are much easier to digest and absorb by your pup. This helps their overall health, plus assists with dry skin and reduces shedding.
If buying quality dog food is a bit expensive for you, you can choose to make your own dog food. However, you must understand that whatever you decide to feed your dog, the shedding will never go away. You can only influence the amount.
2. Add flaxseed oil or olive oil to your dog’s diet
You should start by giving only one teaspoon per ten pounds of body weight. These oils are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which help decrease dandruff, calm inflamed skin, and improve the coat texture of your canine friend.
Introducing omega-3 to your dog’s diet should not be a difficult challenge. There are two ways you can do this:
• Most pet stores sell omega-3 supplements in either powder form or capsules. Consult your vet to learn which one is better for your German shepherd.
• If you want to skip on buying or feeding supplements to your pup, don’t worry. Another great way of increasing the omega-3 intake of your pup is by feeding it fish. Fish like tuna and salmon are great sources of omega-3 fatty acids.
3. Give your dog human food from time to time
To keep your GSD’s coat smooth and shiny, you can give it some human foods occasionally.
On top of that, all of them are super healthy for dogs and will help them reduce shedding. Just be sure not to feed your pooch anything that is toxic or poisonous to dogs.
Some of the foods you should never give to your German Shepherd are the following:
4. Provide your dog with access to clean, fresh drinking water
Dehydration is one of the worst things for dogs, as you probably already know. But, not many dog owners know that dehydration can lead to dry skin, which is one of the causes of shedding or even some illnesses.
This is why you should ensure that your GSD always has access to as much clean water it can drink.
If you doubt that your German shepherd dog is getting enough water in its system, you can introduce moist foods into its diet. There are wet types of dog food that contain up to 78% moisture compared to the 10% in dry dog food.
Reducing shedding through grooming
1. Never skip brush day
You should brush your German shepherd at least three times a week or more during the shedding season.
Grooming your German shepherd’s coat regularly ensures that excess and loose fur is removed while the skin oils are distributed throughout its fur, making it stay put.
It is recommended that you use a rake for brushing your GSD as rakes are made for a longhaired dog breed with thick undercoats.
Rakes come in different sizes, so be sure to choose the one with pins about the same length as your German shepherd’s fur.
2. Use de-shedding tools just prior to shedding season
Remember to de-shed your canine friend just before spring, when its winter coat falls off. Repeat this process in the fall when the winter coat starts growing again.
This is not mandatory in any way, but if you do not do it, you can expect vacuuming sessions every hour.
During the shedding season, the best way to tackle shedding is by acquiring an undercoat rake. An undercoat rake or shedding rake, as it is often called, in combination with a slick brush, will do wonders for your dog’s coat.
3. Give your doggie regular baths
Regular bathing will help you a lot in your battle against loose hair. It doesn’t really matter if the dead hair falls off in the tub or your backyard, as long as it doesn’t fall over your furniture.
There are all sorts of conditioners for long, medium, or short coats designed to minimize the amount of hair your dog sheds.
That being said, you should know that the typical adult German shepherd only needs a bath three to four times a year. This goes if you brush it on a regular basis.
When it comes to bathing, you should never overdo it as it can have the opposite impact of what you hoped for. If you bathe your dog more often than you should, it will cause dry skin, leading to more shedding.
4. Get rid of fleas
Fleas and other parasites will cause your German shepherd to scratch more often, which will cause hair to fall off.
Keep an eye out for excessive scratching or other symptoms of fleas and parasites we mentioned earlier.
Many shampoos and conditioners are designed to help your dog fight off fleas, dandruff, and irritated skin, which can all be contributing factors to your dog’s shedding.
5. Blowing out their coat using a high-velocity dryer
We presume that not many German shepherd owners have a high-velocity dryer in their home, but it can come in handy.
If you noticed that your dog sheds less when it comes home from a professional groomer, but you couldn’t figure out why this is the reason.
Professional dog groomers use this secret tool to de-shed and dry your dog quickly. You can think of it as a leaf-blower designed to get rid of all the unwanted hair on a dog’s coat.
The results are stunning. After this treatment, dogs will shed up to 80% less for about two to three weeks. Amazed? We certainly are.
The best thing is that you can get your own high-velocity dryer and use it on your pup as much as you like.
Nine tips for cleaning up piles of dog hair
1. You can use a dampened mop to sweep up the loose dog hair from hardwood or vinyl floors.
2. To pick up loose dog hair that is attached to upholstered furniture, you can use a dampened rubber glove or damp sponge.
3. A sticky roller can go a long way in removing dog hair from upholstery and fabrics.
4. Use a window squeegee to gather and pick up hair from your carpet.
5. You can try to opt for furniture made from smooth fabrics such as leather or faux leather. Any other materials that prevent hair from sticking to them are also recommended.
6. Curtains made from smoother fabrics won’t attract as much hair as heavy textured ones. So, if you own a German shepherd, think about this next time you go shopping for new window furnishings.
7. A feather duster can be of great assistance when it comes to cleaning between the slats of mini-blinds and other hard to reach places.
8. This one is a bit more work, but it is worth it. Consider adding wall-to-wall carpets in your house, or at least the parts your dog is allowed in. Carpets hold down loose hair more than vinyl or hard-wood floors, so adding carpets can be a neat trick to prevent hair from flying around in your house.
9. Change the filters in the air conditioner and furnace more often during shedding season.
Let’s shed everything but the important stuff
If we’ve learned anything in this article, it is that German shepherds shed a copious amount of hair, and it cannot be stopped.
However, the shedding can be reduced with some tips and tricks which can make your life a bit easier.
Grooming and vacuuming are important when you live with a GSD and will leave both parties in the relationship happy.
Try to feed your dog high-quality food and maybe even human food from time to time that isn’t toxic to dogs.
If any of this discouraged you from owning a German shepherd, remember that every dog is a shedder, no matter the breed and size.
So, hair-proof your house and furniture, get some quality food in your home, and prepare to live with one of the most intelligent and loyal canine breeds out there!