A responsible and legitimate question that you should ask yourself before you bring any new dog into your home is, “does this breed shed a lot?” This question is especially important to ask if you are considering owning a German Shepherd. So, what’s the answer?
Do German Shepherds shed a lot?
Yes, German Shepherds are well-known for shedding a lot. They shed all year round, though they shed, or “blow” their undercoat twice per year. GSDs shed their thick undercoat in the spring and then again in the fall.
In this article, we will take a closer look at German Shepherd shedding, and bust a few myths related to allergies and shedding along the way!
Shedding and Allergies – Are There Any Hypoallergenic Dog Breeds?
You may have heard of certain “hypoallergenic” breeds of dog. The reality is that there is no such thing as a hypoallergenic breed of dog.
Though it is true that some breeds, and individual dogs within that breed, may be the cause of fewer allergy symptoms than others.
Another myth that is tied into this is that a dog’s fur is the cause of pet allergies. The reality here is that the real source of allergies is caused from a protein contained within a dog’s saliva and urine.
This protein adheres to tiny, sometimes microscopic, flecks of skin shed by dogs. These tiny flecks are otherwise known as “dander.” It is these tiny flecks of skin that sometimes cause people who are specifically allergic to them to react.
Some dogs are branded as hypoallergenic simply because they shed very little fur. Less shedding, in turn, leads to less dander sticking to the fur.
As as a result less dander is released into the air or onto the floor than from a dog that sheds a lot of fur.
In sum, there is no such thing as a hypoallergenic dog breed, although some individual dogs may cause fewer allergy symptoms than others.
This is simply because they shed less hair than other breeds – but all dogs shed, and no breed is hypoallergenic.
As we’ve just discussed – all dogs shed. Any information to the contrary is simply a myth. However, the extent to which dogs shed can vary greatly.
How to Deal With a German Shepherd’s Shedding
German Shepherds hold the distinction of being a breed that sheds an incredible amount of hair. As any GSD owner can attest, there is a lot of truth to this assertion.
GSDs not only shed – they shed a lot! If you are planning on acquiring a GSD, then you should very realistically plan on having dog hair just about everywhere and on just about everything.
This is not an exaggeration! No matter how much you brush your German Shepherd and clean up after him, you will not be able to catch all of the hair that your GSD sheds.
We mention this so emphatically because we do not want you to fall into the unfortunate situation that all too many first-time GSD owners find themselves in.
Many times people will acquire a GSD because they have heard all about the breed’s esteemed reputation, and overlook the reality of owning one.
The reality is that there is a lot of cleaning that is involved due to the amount that GSD’s shed. There is a very good reason why they are aptly nicknamed “German Shedders”!
Realistically speaking, you can likely expect your cleaning schedule around your home to double.
This means that if you clean up on your own, you will spend much more time doing so. If you hire outside help to clean, then you can expect your cleaning bills to sharply increase.
There are a few, nonnegotiable items that you will need to have on hand if you plan to acquire a GSD. If you don’t believe us, just ask any GSD owner – we guarantee you that they will be very familiar with the following products!
Sticky hair rollers. These are simply a must. While you may have one of these lying around and use it to grab up lint or the odd hair on your clothes before you go out – you will want a few of them on hand at all times if you live with a German Shepherd.
Sticky hair rollers are great to have around, especially in your car. It is also useful to have a reusable roller for daily maintenance around the home.
Our pick for a reusable hair removing roller is the ChomChom Dog Hair Remover.
We find a few things about this roller particularly appealing. First off, it’s one of the only reusable rollers we’ve tested that actually does the job that it claims to do – and it does it well.
The ChomChom hair roller does not rely on washing to clean it. In our experience, the types of hair rollers that require washing off simply do not last more than a few days. After that they lose all of their stickiness.
Instead, the ChomChom hair roller has a flip down receptacle. This makes it very simple and easy to clean hair off of a couch, bed, or comforter and then just simply dump it into a wastebasket. We give this one five stars for sure!
The Reasons Why German Shepherds Shed So Much
German Shepherds do not shed so much hair just because they can. There are actually good reasons for this. They range from a GSDs DNA to allergies and other medical conditions.
Let’s now take a closer look at the reasons why GSDs shed so much.
German Shepherds Have a Double Coat
All dogs have either a singe or double coat. Single coated dogs have only one top coat, and they lack an undercoat. Their hair undergoes a longer growth cycle, and this often leads to the mistaken impression that they do not shed.
But they do indeed shed, it is just not as noticeable.
In contrast, a double coated dog means that the dog has two layers of coats – a short undercoat, and an outer coat consisting of longer hair.
The length of a dog’s hair alone does not dictate whether a dog has a single or a double coat. Any length of coat or any texture of hair can be either a single or a double coat.
All German Shepherds have a double coat. Their outer coat consists of slick, somewhat oily, longer protective hairs. The undercoat of a GSD is composed of a fuzzy, wooly, and insulating undercoat.
This double coat serves as a natural defense against the elements and also protects a GSD from injury. Therefore, it is important that you never shave a GSDs hair, no matter how unnecessary it may seem, even in the hottest of weather.
Keep in mind that German Shepherds require more time and attention devoted to grooming than many other double coated dogs.
If you neglect to put forth the effort required, GSDs will often develop mats in their undercoat that are very difficult to brush out. Mats of hair are also very uncomfortable for your GSD to have brushed out of him.
German Shepherds, since they have a double coat, will “blow” their undercoats two times per year.
What this essentially means is that German Shepherds shed their undercoat twice per year – once in the spring and once in the fall.
A GSD’s undercoat will shed off in large tufts. What this means for you is that you must be prepared to deal with your GSD losing a large amounts of hair in a very short time.
Understand that blowing their undercoat is a natural way for a GSD to expel all of the contents of their hair follicles in preparation for new hair growth.
This is very important for a GSD, as they need a thinner undercoat for spring and a thicker undercoat for winter.
Blowing their coats and regrowing new ones as the seasons change help GSDs to maintain homeostasis all year round.
While seasonal coat blowing is a natural cause of GSD shedding, it is also possible that your GSD will shed it’s fur due to a medical condition.
Certain medical conditions can cause abnormal and excessive shedding. However, while there are numerous medical conditions that may cause this issue, there are usually a few main culprits.
One of the most common causes for a GSD to unnaturally shed its fur is allergies.
Your German Shepherd may be allergic to anything from a common household cleaning product, to perhaps the shampoo that you use on him, to a bite from some small insect that he may encounter on a walk or while out playing in your yard.
It is also a fairly common occurrence for a GSD to be allergic to something contained within the food that he is being fed.
Sometimes it may be just one specific ingredient contained in his kibble, or it could be something that you add to his food like eggs or fish oil.
The good news if your dog is unnaturally shedding due to an allergy, there is most often something that you can do to alleviate or eliminate this altogether.
If you suspect that your GSD is allergic to something in his food, then you will need to single out exactly what that is. Rather than trying to guess, it is best to speak with your veterinarian about a food elimination trial.
A food elimination trial requires that you methodically remove each suspect ingredient one at a time.
After adequate time has passed, through close observation, you will be able to determine whether or not there is a difference in your GSD’s shedding.
While they may seem tedious, food elimination trials are the most effective way to figure out exactly what food or food ingredient that your German Shepherd is allergic to.
Once you have successfully identified the food culprit that your GSD is allergic to, simply remove it from his diet, and your dog’s shedding issues should be resolved.
If you are interested in undertaking a food elimination trial on your own, here is a step-by-step guide: Food Trial Instructions
Even if you choose to conduct a food elimination trial on your own, we still urge you to speak with your veterinarian before you begin, just to make sure that your GSD is a good candidate for one.
You can also be preempt unnecessary shedding by making sure that you are feeding your German Shepherd a well-rounded, high-quality diet in the first place.
For adult German Shepherds, we highly recommend Royal Canin Adult German Shepherd food.
It’s formulated specifically for GSDs 15 months and older, and designed to support a healthy skin and coat with EPA and DHA from fish oil. It also contains other essential nutrients to reinforce the skin barrier.
For German Shepherd puppies, our recommendation is Royal Canin German Shepherd puppy dry dog food.
This food is designed with GSD puppies 8-15 weeks old in mind. It is formulated to help your GSD pup to develop a strong immune system.
Highly digestible proteins also support digestive health and promote strong joints and bones as well as a healthy coat.
Also, remember to make sure that your GSD always has enough clean and fresh drinking water available to him.
This will prevent skin dehydration, which leads to dry, flaky skin that does not hold on to hair as firmly as well hydrated and properly nourished skin.
Another reason that may be causing a German Shepherd to shed abnormally is a hormone imbalance – specifically a thyroid hormone imbalance.
Imbalanced thyroid hormones can cause skin inflammation, which then leads to your GSD’s hair becoming brittle to the touch.
This will most often show itself by appearing as dandruff, but this can then progress to excessive shedding in short order.
If you notice this and suspect it as a cause of excessive shedding in your GSD, you may want to try supplementing your GSD’s diet with flaxseed oil, salmon oil or olive oil.
There is no need to supplement with a combination of these oils, as they all contain the same essential omega-3 fatty acids needed to resolve the issue.
The omega-3 fatty acids contained in and flaxseed, salmon, and olive oils, when included as a part of your GSD’s diet, are excellent at combating inflamed skin,
Just add 1 to 2 tablespoons to your GSD’s food every other day, and you will begin to see a difference after just a few weeks!
These oils can also greatly improve the texture and strength of your GSD’s hair and reduce unnatural shedding in the process.
Importantly, these omega-3 rich oils have also been shown in studies to help combat thyroid gland issues. Take a look at this article from Veterinary Practice News to learn more about this.
Other Medical Causes of Shedding
In addition to the medical conditions that we have just discussed above, there are others that may be the cause of your German Shepherd abnormally and excessively shedding his hair.
- Fungal or bacterial infections
- Immune disease
- Parasites such as lice, mites, or fleas
- Kidney, liver, thyroid, or adrenal disease
- Cushing’s Disease
- Excessive sun exposure leading to sunburn
If you suspect that any of potential causes listed above may be the reason behind excessive shedding with your German Shepherd, it is important that you reach out to your veterinarian sooner than later.
While excessive shedding can most often be resolved through taking a few simple steps, if a serious underlying medical condition is the cause, early treatment will provide your GSD with the best chances for a full and speedy recovery.
Proper grooming is essential for your German Shepherd to have healthy skin, an undercoat that lays nicely beneath a shiny and healthy overcoat.
Many owners neglect grooming at home and opt to take their dog to a groomer. However, even if you take your GSD to a groomer, you still need to brush him at home.
A trip to the groomer, even if it’s as often as once per week, is simply not enough.
Part of GSD ownership is responsible grooming habits by you, the owner. Follow the basic steps set forth below to ensure that your GSD is maintaining healthy skin and a healthy coat.
Supplement With Salmon oil, Flaxseed oil, or Olive oil
As we mentioned above, make sure to supplement some type of omega-3 rich oil in your GSD’s diet (salmon, flaxseed, olive).
Rake your GSD with an undercoat brush
A good undercoat brush will glide smoothly over your GSD’s top coat and rake out excess hair from the undercoat.
The best undercoat brush that we have come across and use regularly is the Patyourpet Undercoat Rake.
It has a dual head that makes short work of mats and tangles. We also love the money back guarantee if you’re not completely satisfied.
Shampoo your German Shepherd
While there are many suitable shampoos for your GSD on the market, make sure that you use one that will not strip your dog’s natural oils out from underneath his skin.
The most important thing here is not necessarily the shampooing itself, but the motion that you use when doing so.
Use nice, circular motions that will massage all of the dingy undercoat out and reveal the natural, shiny top coat.
One shampoo that we regularly use is Burt’s Bees Natural Itch Soothing Shampoo. This shampoo is free of fragrances, sulfates, harsh chemicals, and colorants.
It’s relatively inexpensive, and can be used on any dog.
Again, any suitable shampoo will do, we just prefer Burt’s Bees because we have used it for years with great results.
Just make sure that whatever shampoo that you choose for your GSD is chemical free and contains no fragrances or sulfates.
These will dry out your dog’s skin and result in an unhealthy and brittle overcoat.
Blow-dry your German Shepherd
Right after you shampoo your GSD, you will want to blow-dry him thoroughly until he is completely dry.
Just like with shampooing your GSD, the motion that you use here is really the key for a good looking overcoat.
Make sure to use circular motions that blow the air against the grain of your GSD’s hair – this ensures that both coats are being dried, as opposed to the top layer only.
Our choice here is the Shedlandy Adjustable Speed Dryer. We like this dryer because it’s powerful and adjustable – it blows air from 65 mph to over 135 mph!
We also like that it has 2 adjustable heat settings. We use only the low heat setting, as you never want to use high heat when drying your GSD. This can result in hair breakage, and it is also just uncomfortable for your GSD.
This model is also much less expensive than comparable blowdryers, and will work just fine for the average GSD owner’s needs.
Brush Your German Shepherd Daily
As we previously mentioned, many GSD owners neglect to brush their dogs often enough. A good way to make sure that you stay consistent with this is to tie in brushing to correspond with your dog’s daily eating schedule.
Try keeping the brush next to your GSD’s food bowl, and every time he eats in the morning, run the brush gently through his fur.
Your GSD will get used to this and look forward to his daily brushing, as he will associate it with one of his favorite activities – eating!
A daily maintenance brushing will distribute the natural oils in your GSD’s hair throughout your dog’s coat as you brush.
Again, nothing fancy is needed here. We use a basic brush like the FURminator Grooming Rake.
It’s a simple brush, but what we like most about it is that it has rotating teeth that actually do help to prevent mats and tangles.
Sheen and Paddle Your German Shepherd
Alright, did we lose you here? If so, that’s completely understandable!
What we mean by this is to use a horse sheen on your GSD’s coat, and follow that up with using a paddle brush. Yes, the brush is made for horses too!
Trust us here, you will love the results! Horse sheen is very greasy, so you don’t want to use too much of it.
Simply spray it evenly on your GSD’s coat, after shampooing, drying, and brushing your dog.
After evenly spraying your GSD with horse sheen, follow that by using a paddle brush. Brush your GSD’s coat in one direction, following the lay of his hair. This will really bring out the shine in your GSD’s coat.
Our preference for horse sheen is Shapley’s Magic Sheen Hair Polish. It will shine up your GSD’s hair very well without drying it out. It will also leave behind a nice protective coating.
Remember to use this sheen sparingly. A few light, directional sprays will go a long way.
For a paddle brush, we use the J.T. International Horse Brush.
It’s a simple and inexpensive brush that won’t pull on hair or cause your GSD any discomfort. In fact, we can pretty much guarantee that your GSD will actually love it!
This paddle brush also has a nice and comfortable handle for easy gripping.
We’ve outlined the basics of grooming your German Shepherd, but if you would like a more in-depth understanding (which we highly suggest!), then check out this excellent how-to guide that we wrote for you right here:
Allergies and You
The allergy game goes both ways, and may find that the amount that a GSD sheds is an insurmountable circumstance for you.
However, if you do have a GSD, or would like to get one but find that your own allergies are interfering with your well-being, all is not lost.
There are some things you can do to help alleviate the effects of your GSD’s shedding has on your allergies.
Limit Your Exposure
It can be helpful to keep your GSD out of your bedroom and other rooms where you tend to spend a lot of time. While this is not the most practical solution, because GSDs love to be around their owners, it can help to alleviate symptoms.
You can also keep your GSD outside for a portion of the time. We do not recommend that your GSD be a full time “outside dog,” but they can certainly spend a fair amount of time in the outdoors.
For a full exploration on the topic of keeping a GSD outside, take a look at this great article that we have for you right here:
Can You Keep a German Shepherd Outside?
Keep Carpet-Free Flooring or Shampoo Your Carpet Regularly
Another great way to make sure that the effect of your GSD’s shedding is minimized is to keep your flooring carpet-free.
Carpets hold on to a lot of dander which is then expelled into the air each time it is walked on.
If you do have a carpet, then simply make sure that you shampoo and vacuum your carpet regularly.
Get an Air Purifier
Also of particularly good use in minimizing allergies to GSD hair is an air purifier. Good air purifiers are not cheap, but they are certainly worth the price that you pay for them.
In our experience, we have found that the Levoit True HEPA Filter Purifier is a great value, and it works surprisingly well for it’s price point.
We have spend many hundreds of dollars on single air purifiers that have been both good and, well, not so good.
The Levoit HEPA Filter purifier does the job that it’s intended to without breaking the bank. It’s also very quiet, and has a convenient filter change indicator so you don’t forget.
The company recommends changing the filter every 6-8 months, but we have found that it’s closer to 4-5 months when being used in the presence of a German Shepherd.
It’s safe to say that German Shepherds are fairly high maintenance dogs in terms of grooming. Also, dealing with the amount of hair that they shed, no matter how well you groom a GSD, can be daunting.
Is GSD ownership actually worth all of this extra effort? Our answer is a resounding “YES!,” but this is for you to figure out for yourself.
We have provided you with all of the information that you need to understand just what it takes to deal with how much a German Shepherd sheds, and we urge you to carefully consider it.
We do not want in any way to talk you out of adding a German Shepherd to your family. In fact, nothing would make us happier!
We just want you to be sure that you understand what to expect so that you and your GSD can live the happy life that you are intended to – together!