Grooming a German Shepherd: All You Need to Know


A German Shepherd’s appearance is one of the breed’s most striking physical characteristics. They are one of those dogs that people instantly form a mental picture of upon their mention.

But they don’t have that striking look without proper grooming by their owners. Practicing proper grooming techniques can keep your Shepherd looking their best, and feeling their best as well. 

In this article, we will discuss the importance of grooming, and cover some tips and tricks to help you stay on top of your GSD’s grooming needs!

What all does at home grooming involve?

Though grooming is often categorized as brushing and cleaning of the coat only, there is much more that you can do to maintain your German Shepherds outward appearance.

A well-rounded grooming of a GSD includes maintaining their coat, trimming their nails, cleaning their ears, keeping up with their dental health, and a few other tips that we will discuss in this article.

Though this may sound tedious, it is all made easier if you follow a simple routine. By setting aside days and times for grooming, it can all begin to flow naturally throughout your day. 

If you want to make sure you are taking care of all of your dog’s grooming needs, then take a look at some of the tips below. 

Why Is It Important To Groom Your German Shepherd?

We know it can be tough to find the time to groom your dog, but there are several reasons why grooming your dog is so important. Some of these reasons include:

It functions as an overall health check: Your time spent grooming your dog can be one of the only times that you get a complete feel of their entire body. It’s during this time that you may be able to note any new lumps, weight loss, scabs, skin issues, or any other concerning symptoms that you may not have noticed otherwise. This is your chance to really look over your dog. 

It could save your dog: Though you may not care how your dog looks, it’s important to keep it looking its best for the other people who may happen upon your dog in the event that it gets loose or runs away.

When a person sees a well-kept dog on the loose, it’s immediately on their mind that the dog must have run away from its home. An unkempt dog, however, may appear to people as a stray. And typically speaking, people are much less likely to help a stray over a dog that they know has just lost its way from good home.

It keeps your house clean: A clean home is a happy home. If your dog is shedding all over your furniture, staining your carpet, or bringing with them an unpleasant odor; you and visitors alike won’t feel your best in your home. 

Dogs are more enjoyable when they are clean: We are more likely to cuddle and spend time with our beloved dogs when they are clean and fresh. Nobody wants to let a dirty dog on the couch!

It’s great for bonding: Your time spent grooming your pup can be a time of bonding. If you groom your dog often enough, they will get used to the practice and begin to relax more each time. Your time spent brushing them, giving them a bath, or any other grooming practice can be an enjoyable bonding experience for the both of you. 

Create An At Home Grooming Kit For Your German Shepherd

When grooming your Shepherd at home, you will need to assemble your own grooming kit. We will discuss each separate component in this article and its uses. Some tools that you will need include:

  • Natural shampoo that helps with shedding
  • Towel
  • An anti-shed brush
  • Nail clippers or a nail Dremel
  • Styptic powder or cornstarch
  • Dental chews
  • Toothbrush
  • Dog-friendly toothpaste
  • Ear cleaning solution
  • Cotton balls
  • Flea and tick prevention

Now that you have all of your necessary tools, we will explain each step in detail.

Bathing Your German Shepherd

There are a lot of factors to consider when it comes to bathing your German Shepherd properly. Due to the thickness of their coat, they often shed much more than the average dog.

In an effort to keep their shedding under control, there are a few things you should look for in a quality anti-shedding shampoo.

The only way to promote a healthy coat is by treating the skin with a shampoo that has beneficial ingredients. By using a shampoo that is soothing and moisturizing, you are setting your dog up to grow a healthy coat of fur. 

Some ingredients to look for in an anti-shedding dog shampoo for German Shepherds include:

  • Vitamin E: Vitamin E is an important ingredient that promotes shine in a dog’s coat, and helps moisturize the skin so healthy fur can continue to grow. Since Vitamin E is such a well known moisturizer, you will find it in many quality dog shampoos.
  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Omega-3 Fatty Acids work to lubricate the body in a variety of ways. You will often see this ingredient in dog shampoos, joint supplements, and other wellness products. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in many moisturizing dog shampoos, as well as found in different brands of natural dog food. 
  • Aloe vera: Aloe vera is incredibly useful for its ability to soothe the skin, and it’s anti-inflammatory properties. It’s found in many quality dog shampoos for its calming sensation on the skin. 
  • Oatmeal: Oatmeal is an anti-inflammatory that can act as an anti-inflammatory aid for the skin. Due to its soothing properties, it’s a common ingredient in natural dog shampoos.
  • Coconut: Coconut is known for its odor-fighting properties. Since coconut is so gentle on the skin, it’s often used in place of fragrances that could potentially cause any skin irritation. 

Once you find a shampoo that is filled with natural ingredients that you can trust, you can begin to find a bathing schedule that works for your Shepherd.

Ideally, a German Shepherd should be bathed once every 2-3 months, unless they get themselves into a messy situation in between. Bathing them more than this can result in a disturbance to the natural Ph of their skin, leaving them susceptible to infection and outside invaders. Over bathing can also lead to dry and flaky skin.

A frequent question asked is, “is the use of human shampoo is acceptable for use in dogs?” Human shampoo is not acceptable for dogs, as it is made with human skin in mind, not the skin of a dog.

The Ph of our skin is drastically different, therefore our shampoo will disturb the healthy environment of a dog’s skin. Using a human shampoo can strip a dog of the natural oils on its skin, leading to skin irritation. Sticking to dog products is the highly recommended option.

Brushing Your German Shepherd

Brushing your German Shepherd is extremely important for the overall health of your dog’s coat. Frequent brushing helps to rid their fur of dirt and debris, especially since they shouldn’t receive frequent baths.

By brushing them a minimum of 4-5 times a week, you cut down on the need to bathe your Shepherd. Ideally, for maximum coat health your German Shepherd should be brushed daily.

Since German Shepherds have a plush double coat, daily brushing will also help to limit the amount of fur that is shed throughout your home.

We all cherish the light that our dogs bring to our lives, but their constant shedding of fur can be quite frustrating in your home. Frequent brushing not only benefits your dog, but it’s also important for your own well-being.

It’s also important to find a quality anti-shedding brush for your GSD. This way, you can get the job done quickly, and the experience will not be uncomfortable for your dog.

If you brush your dog daily with an anti-shed brush, the process will be quick and easy each time, since you’re preventing the build-up of hair with each use.

Daily brushing is extremely important during the warmer times of the year, as your German Shepherd is shedding the most during these times. Daily brushing will be mandatory in the efforts of keeping your home clean, and keeping your dog cool by stripping any loose fur. 

Trimming Your German Shepherd’s Nails

Short nails benefit both you and your German Shepherd’s life. Long nails can complicate your dog’s life in a number of ways. 

  • They scratch: If your dog has long and untrimmed nails, each time they jump on you opens up the potential for you to unintenitionally receive scratches and bruises. Any German Shepherd owner undoubtedly have at least a story or two to share about this, and none of them are pleasant stories!
  • They are uncomfortable for your dog: Long nails can make it difficult for your dog to get around. When a dog is walking on nails that are in desperate need of a trim, they can dig into their paw pads with each step. Nails can even begin to grow into their paw pads when they get too long. This is incredibly painful when it happens, and can lead to infections.
  • They can cause injury: Long nails have the potential to dig into your dog’s skin and cause painful infections. Long nails also have a greater chance of getting caught on things, which can cause a nail to crack. Cracked nails are extremely painful, as they often crack down to the “quick.” (the nerve at the base of their nail)

When it comes to actually trimming your dog’s nails, you have a couple of options to get the job done. Most Shepherd owners either use nail clippers or a Dremel.

  • Nail Clippers: Nail clippers trim a dog’s nail in one quick motion. 
  • Dremel: A dremel acts to saw down the sharp surface of a nail. 

No matter which method you choose, it’s important to understand the anatomy of the dog nail. Below is a photo showing the anatomy of the dog nail, and which areas you should avoid.

The main thing you need to always be aware of when trimming a dog’s nails is the quick. The quick is a live tissue nerve that runs through their nail, which is rich in blood vessels.

If you accidentally clip the quick, it will often bleed, and cause your dog to experience some pain. This is what causes dogs to cry out or yelp during nail trims.

If you ever do accidentally trim the quick and it begins to bleed, you can try to dip the nail in cornstarch or styptic powder and create a seal on the nail. If this method does not work to stop the bleeding, you will need to visit your local vet. 

Trimming your GSD’s nails can seem tricky at first, so make sure to take it slow. If you understand the anatomy of the nail, and you are careful with each trim, you won’t cause any serious damage.

If you are too nervous to trim your dog’s nails at home, you can always visit your local groomer or veterinarian.

Dental Care For Your German Shepherd

Dental care is not only important for your German Shepherd’s fresh breath but for its overall health in general. Just like in humans, dental issues can be excruciating for dogs and can lead to more serious health complications.

By keeping their your dog’s teeth as healthy as possible, you are helping to prevent:

  • Mouth pain
  • Build-up of plaque
  • Foul breath
  • Tooth abscesses
  • Gum disease
  • Difficulty eating
  • Tooth loss
  • Infections in the mouth
  • Any other complications associated with dental disease and mouth pain.

When it comes to maintaining your Shepherd’s dental health, there are a few things that you can do for your dog to assure it stays healthy:

  • Dental chews: Dental chews can help to clean your dog’s teeth, and also break off built up tartar. Some of these chews can even help with your dog’s bad breath. They serve as a healthy treat that works undercover to keep their teeth healthy. 
  • Hard kibble: Feeding your dog hard kibble can serve as a daily “workout” for their teeth. The daily crunch of the kibble will help to keep their teeth and gums strong, and will help prevent buildup of plaque. 
  • Annual dental cleanings: Just like in humans, German Shepherds benefit from annual cleanings at the veterinarian. During these procedures, your vet will clean their teeth, remove built up plaque, and assess any damage to the teeth and gums. By doing this frequently, you can significantly reduce dental disease and the complications that come along with it. 
  • Teeth brushing: Dogs benefit from daily teeth brushing with a dog friendly toothpaste as well. By brushing their teeth each day, you can help to prevent the buildup of plaque on their teeth. If you start this process early, your dog will get used to the activity. 

Cleaning Your German Shepherd’s Ears

Keeping your Shepherd’s ears clean is an important part of their care. Though German Shepherds have ears that aren’t as prone as some other breeds to chronic infection, ear infections can still happen from time to time.

Keeping your dog’s ears clean can help to prevent the occurrence of infection, and also  prevent your dog from experiencing any unnecessary pain. 

In order to clean your dog’s ears, you have to know if they are even in need of an ear cleaning in the first place. Be aware that cleaning your dog’s ears when it’s not needed can also cause infection, so it can be a tricky process. 

A clean ear will be odorless, flesh-colored, free of irritation, no swelling, no obvious debris, and no pain will be experienced when it is touched. 

An ear in need of basic cleaning may have a slight odor, obvious debris in the ear, the hair around or in the ear may appear waxy. Your dog may also shy away from ear and head rubs.

If you see inflammation in the ear at any point during your ear examination, see your veterinarian before doing any cleaning on your own at home.

Cleaning the ear when an infection is present can be excruciating for your pet, and can further irritate the ear. 

The only tools that you need to perform an ear cleaning at home are some cotton balls and a veterinary-approved ear cleanser of your choice. Make sure to avoid the use of Q-Tips, as they can cause injury to the inner canal of the ear.

When you begin to clean the ear, squeeze enough of the veterinarian-approved cleanser into the ear to fill the canal. Once you’ve done this, squish the ear at the base in an effort to dislodge any debris or buildup in the ear. You will hear a swooshing sound.

Once you have finished this step, you can rub the inside of your dog’s ear with a cotton ball to remove any loose dirt. Your dog will most likely shake their head after each step, so make sure to stay back!

Two important things to keep in mind when cleaning your dog’s ears are:

  1. Avoid the use of Q-Tips
  2. Never use hydrogen peroxide

These are both methods that you will often see online, but they can be incredibly harmful to the sensitive tissues of a dog’s ear.

Professional Grooming For Your German Shepherd

If you are feeling overwhelmed with the options you have for at-home grooming, you can always put your Shepherd’s grooming in the hands of a professional. 

There are plenty of professional grooming options for dog bathing, nail trims, ear cleanings, and brushing. Groomers can provide a high-quality spa experience for your dog! 

Veterinary Care For Your German Shepherd

Routine preventative care plays a huge role in your dog’s grooming process. If you don’t have the proper preventative measures in place to fight off disease or parasites, your at home care will fail to work. Some preventative care that is important for your dog’s routine maintenance includes:

  • Flea and tick prevention: Fleas and ticks can wreak havoc on your German Shepherd’s skin. They can lead to skin itching, irritation, redness, bald spots, and self-mutilation from the pain they cause. Getting your dog on a monthly flea and tick prevention will prevent them from any complications that result in a skin parasite infection. 
  • Physical exams: Routine physical exams are essential in catching diseases and complications at an early stage. For example, demodex is a type of mange that German Shepherds can suffer from, and it can spread to different parts of their body fairly quickly. Vets know the signs to look for, and can easily test a section of the skin that causes a concern. When catching this condition early, it can be treated before it affects a dog’s entire coat. This is true of many other conditions as well. 
  • Anal gland expression: Anal glands are the tiny sacs that hide under the base of the tail in a dog’s rectum. When anal glands are full, they can begin to excrete a foul odor. By keeping up with your dog’s anal gland expressions at your veterinarian’s office, you can help to keep this foul smell out of your home. 

Dog Grooming Checklist

Before we finish, let’s go over a quick checklist to make sure you have covered each area in our recommended grooming process. 

  • Have you found a dog shampoo that is rich in beneficial ingredients?
  • Have you set aside a proper bathing routine? (no more than once a month, no less than every 6 months?)
  • Have you found an anti-shed brush that your pet enjoys?
  • Did you check your GSD for any lumps, skin irritation, or any other concerning signs during your hands-on grooming?
  • Have you set aside 4-5 days each week to brush your dog?
  • Have you reviewed the diagram of the anatomy in a dog nail?
  • Have you decided upon the use of a dremel or nail trimmer?
  • Does your dog have a dental chew that your dog can enjoy every few days?
  • Have you made an appointment for yearly dental cleanings?
  • Have you checked your dog’s ears for any odor, debris, or irritation?
  • Have you found an ear cleanser that your veterinarian approves of?
  • Is your Shepherd on monthly flea and tick prevention?
  • Does your pup go to their recommended routine exams at your veterinarian?

If you can say yes to all of the questions above, then you have an incredible grooming procedure in place for your German Shepherd!

Final thoughts

The routine that you employ to groom your German Shepherd truly does affect its daily life. By helping your dog to look its best, you are giving it everything it needs to experience daily comfort. If you make sure to educate yourself on proper grooming habits, and put them into regular practice, your Shepherd will be glowing in every way. Happy dogs make for happy owners!

Hunter Reed

I've owned and trained German Shepherds for over 18 years now. I'm originally from Indiana, though I've lived in many different states and traveled extensively. The places change, my dogs don't. German Shepherds have been my constant companions. I love every aspect of training them and simply just having them around. I also enjoy sharing my knowledge about German Shepherds with the world, and I encourage all future dog owners to consider one as a companion as well. Read my story here.

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