SHOULD YOU SHAVE YOUR GERMAN SHEPHERD?

Humorous, But Not Recommended
Humorous, But Not Recommended!

It’s been my observation that there are two trigger points that can get owners of German Shepherds, and other canines with substantial coats, to contemplate the merits of shaving their dog! The first is where an owner considers the solution to having a thick fur coat in warm weather is to take it off! The second trigger point can be exasperation at the amount of hair getting deposited all over a home during their dog’s shedding.

Other than the less-than-wonderful appearance resulting from a complete dog shave, you cannot blame well-intentioned owners in either situation. But well-intentioned is not enough, for we need also to be well-informed!

Oh, and I should include a third category, where a dog is shaved, or partially so, for questionable cosmetic purposes. I’ll add a photo for this one – see the “lion-dog”, above!

The German Shepherd sheds year round, but does so copiously for a couple of weeks in spring and again in fall. During these times of “blowing the coat”, as it’s sometimes described, the quantities of hair coming off can leave their mark in almost every corner of a house.

Good Grooming Matters

This natural cycle is all about getting rid of the old-growth and making way for healthy new hair. Inconvenient as it may be for humans, this is a good and healthy thing for the GSD. There’s nothing we can do to reduce or eliminate the process.

Good grooming practices however, help to remove excess hair, getting the dog looking better faster. And of course, the more that is removed in this way, the less remains to be scattered around our living spaces.

For more on grooming, I invite you to read our article, which covers the basics concerning the tools and methods for dealing with the “hairy monsters”; our beloved German Shepherds: Grooming Your German Shepherd.

So, What About Shaving the German Shepherd?

The short answer on whether it is O.K. to shave your German Shepherd, is NO, it is not! With rare exceptions, we should not even entertain the idea! We will explore the various reasons for not shaving your dog in a moment. But first I’ll address situations which may constitute those rare exceptions. Even so, I raise such possibilities with caution:

Exceptions

There may be two exceptions to the rule of never shaving your German Shepherd:

  1. In the event of a medical necessity on the part of the dog resulting in the strong recommendation of a TRUSTED vet.
  2. If a human member of the family is suffering from serious allergic or other reactions to the dog’s hair. Preferably such incompatibilities between housemates can be anticipated ahead and thus avoided. But where the problem surfaces after the arrival of a new family member, canine or human, it must be addressed accordingly.

A Reader’s SOS

Here is a question we recently received from a reader – only her name has been changed. Following is my response to her, with minor edits for additional clarity:

Hello Mark…
Our 4 year old german shepherd of 33 kilos, is somehow shedding “tons of hair”. (down here we are in summer.) My husband said next time, he’ll have her shorn, so as not to be sweeping up handfulls of hair from the oddest places. Would this be a good idea?
Thankyou.
Danielle

Reasons for Not Shaving Your German Shepherd

Hello Danielle,
I understand the predicament of the dog that sheds abundantly. So, let me share some thoughts on this (not necessarily in order of importance):

  1. A German Shepherd’s thick coat provides temperature control – all year round! Cooling in the summer, and heat in the winter.
  2. Removing a dog’s coat makes them vulnerable to sunburn and to heatstroke.
  3. Shaved to the skin, a dog is more prone to insect bites.
  4. A shorn dog is likely to suffer from dry-skin conditions.
  5. A shorn dog still sheds. This means that the short new growth, when shed, consists of short prickly “pins and needles” that can be worse to deal with in the house than normal long shed hairs.
  6. The appearance of a shorn German Shepherd represents a sad shadow of his former, coated, self.
  7. Human hair is thought to grow back thicker and better- looking after shaving the head. But such is not the case with German Shepherds! Their coat may never quite recover after a shaving. The new growth can be patchy and uneven, especially if the dog remained shaved for a few months.

These seven points, taken together, provide a compelling case for not shaving our dogs, barring the kind of rare exceptions previously noted!

Update

The article above has become the most popular one on this website. Thousands of readers have evidently benefitted from it. So, in response to the related feedback we’ve received, we wrote a new article, expanding on the first one, and specifically addressing some of the comments and concerns we received. Click: What Happens If I Shave My Dog?

If you’ve already read through the original article, when you go to the new one you may like to skip down to the two sections: 

  • Why Wolves Don’t Have to Shave Their Coats, and
  • How to Cool Our Dogs & Reduce Their Fur ~ Naturally

Click HERE to read the new article

If You Enjoyed this Article…

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Please consider making a donation to German Shepherd Place. We depend on gifts of all sizes from readers like you in order to continue being a vital information-provider for German Shepherd owners around the world:

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26 Replies to “SHOULD YOU SHAVE YOUR GERMAN SHEPHERD?”

  1. I just rescued a GS who’s coat looks like dreadlocks coated with fecal matter. I understand why you say not to shave but is this an exception?

    • Hi Rebecca,

      Kudos to you for rescuing this dog – you have a big heart!

      Absolutely; from what you describe, your GSD needs to get his/her coat taken off, so you can provide a thorough cleanup, and check the skin over. Health and survival must in this case come first, before future concerns over the coat. Also, we’ll hope that the coat grows back just fine, and there’s a good chance it will, especially if you make this just a one-time shaving.

      Once the coat is off, just be sure to protect your dog from the sun. It will be best to allow limited exposure, and preferably when the sun is low.

      MM

  2. I have a rescue dog that is GS/Boxer, we shave her but not to the skin. Live in florida and take her to the beach all the time and have never had an issue. Should I be concerned?

    • Hi Mike,
      I welcome any verifiable exceptions to the general rule against shearing down a double coated dog!! Of course, given your dog is a mix with a boxer, a short-haired dog, that adds an interesting component. The result being a creature who is no longer a truly double-coated. Thanks for sharing – no worries my friend…go with what’s working for you!

      MM

  3. I think there’s a lot of misinformation about shaving dogs with double coats. Do you have any evidence to back up your claims? Our white GSD has always shed constantly. She’s about 8 now and we decided to shave her last summer. Her coat has grown back perfectly and she now barely sheds. She also seems a lot more relaxed since we’ve shaved her. I would definitely recommend it to other GSD owners.

    • Kai: Yes, there’s plenty of empirical evidence – where clear and specific problems have resulted – that indicates shaving double coated dogs is to be avoided if at all possible. I would say this: Your situation, rather than bringing into question the established wisdom on the subject, simply demonstrates what may be the presence of legitimate exceptions. On occasion we also have recommended an owner shave their dog, notwithstanding the possible downsides. Bottom line? Avoid shaving a double-coated dog, but for exceptional cases.

      Look for a new, broadened article here on this topic, with a lot of helpful guidance on measures to take to avoid coat removal if at all possible. To be published in June.

      MM

  4. We are in our late 60’s our German Shepherd is 10. It is very hard to keep up with with his grooming, he hates to be brushed (Furminator) and runs and hides. We have tried all kinds of brushes and gloves. It is hard for me to keep the hair from being all over the house. Doesn’t like baths but the older he gets he has flakey skin and we put coconut oil on him everyday. Then I has a ton of dog sheets to wash. Help!!!!!

    • Cheryl: Try changing your dog’s diet as a solution to the flaky skin. A good start would be to provide a daily supplement of olive oil or coconut oil in his food. These are rich in healthy Omega fats which are beneficial, among other things, to a dogs skin and coat. Use the Search box in the side column to locate articles on olive oil and coconut oil. That way, you can stop using coconut oil on the outside.

      In addition, there’s no reason for your dog to act up when getting groomed. Study dog training basics to see how to recondition your pooch to be fine with grooming.

      MM

  5. Hey! I have a question and would love your opinion… I have an 8 yr old rescue, she is a gas + collie cross. She is very touchy with people and I cannot get her groomed as she is too aggressive and won’t let most people near her. Normally she has let me brush her no problem and the past few season changes we have dealt with her coat changes no problem with home grooming . Lately with this season change however she is absolutely beyond resistant with me to grooming to the point that she’s started to get matted since I can only do little bits for short periods before she’s totally worn and it’s too much for her. I don’t want to shave her.persay but would trimming out these Matt’s be acceptable? I’m at my wit’s end and I just want my baby girl to be comfortable. Thanks in advance!

    • Hi Kyle: Better to clip out the matted parts of the coat, than letting it get worse. But, as a longer-term solution, plan to train your dog to overcome her behavior issues. It’s entirely doable my friend; granted it will take some time commitment and patience – and money if you are paying a professional – but it’s well worth it. You might like to check out our training videos. Hit the DOG TRAINING tab above; this is a great way to cost-effectively train your dog. But whether you use this resource or another, I think you will find it a very worthwhile thing to train your GSD. She’ll be happier for it, as will be the humans in her life!

      MM

  6. Hi all
    So I have a German Shepard and live in South Africa it’s exceptionally hot and she is battling to cope she basically lives in the pool and at night is is uncomfortable and gets irritated if I put the fan on
    I want to shave her ,becaus I want her to be comfortable , the hair doesn’t bother me but she constantly looks uncomfortable and irritated

    She sleeps inside and has access to the house during the day so I’m not worried about sun burn , but bar her looking like a chop , she should be fine surely ?

    • Nicole: As they say, “Never say never”. And, shaving a dog can be a case in point. Although, for the reasons stated in the article, we discourage the practice, there are extenuating circumstances, and yours may be one of them. Dogs cool themselves by panting, and by sweating through their foot pads, and not as humans do, through the skin. However, it is also true that some double-coated dogs just don’t handle heat well, even when provided with appropriate shade and drinking water.

      We know of cases where a GSD has indeed felt better after shaving. Furthermore, coats can grow back perfectly after a shave – it depends on the individual dog. Habitual shaving is more likely to take a toll on a dog’s coat, than a one-off, or occasional shave.

      MM

  7. My nearly ten-year old long-haired German Shepherd has had a bad case of dandruff for about a year now. It used to clear up with bathing, but now does not, even with tar & sulfur shampoos recommended by the vet. She’s terribly itchy and miserable and I’m worried she’s going to get hot spots from her incessant chewing.

    Keep in mind that we regularly brush her with a Furminator to keep her undercoat healthy. We have also addressed dietary needs with her vet. I have taken to picking the dandruff out of her fur on a spot-by-spot basis to try to give her some relief, but it is easy to miss spots in all that heavy fur.

    I know the benefits her double coat provides and I am leery of shaving her, but I feel that we may have reached a point where it is necessary in order to give her some relief. At the very least, I will be able to find the spots of dandruff and remove them before they can build up more easily.

    I’d like your opinion on the matter before I go through with it. If I do shave her, will I need to take steps to protect her from the weather? Are there other ways this can affect her well-being that I should take into consideration?

    • Hi Cassie,
      It’s probably accurate to say that most skin problems such as dandruff, itching and other irritations on dogs have a systemic origin – they relate to something that goes deeper than the skin; and that invariably points to diet. Both olive oil and coconut oil are excellent sources of beneficial fatty acids – good oils, that is. These natural oils, taken as dietary supplements, provide many health benefits. Amongst these they nourish and lubricate the skin and coat – from the inside! To learn more, follow these links to our related articles:
      http://germanshepherdplace.com/2014/07/is-olive-oil-good-for-your-dog/
      http://germanshepherdplace.com/2014/01/virgin-coconut-oil-dog/

      You can try one of these oils, then the other, or go ahead and use them concurrently. Let us know how this goes! I expect you’ll see positive results. Failing that, we’ll be able to point you towards further healthy diet solutions if requested.

      MM

  8. Mike is 6+/- years old the best we know since he was a rescue dog. Hair I can tell you about. I thought it was some kind of breed deficiency for making pillows for the Germans. 🙂 so does anybody have an answer for all the hair. It’s not just a little it’s more than anybody could ever imagine He is mostly an inside so no chance of sunburn or frost bite. We brush weekly and vacuum daily. Is there any advice or secrets? Help!! drowning in hair.

    Can I sell this stuff?

  9. My 5 year old German Shepherd loves to be outside and run on our 25 acres. However, we have a TON of fox tails right now (little weeds with barbs on them). She keeps getting them stuck in her thick fur and they eventually burrow into her skin causing little abscesses. Even though we brush her everytime she comes back in and inspect her closely. We have thought about shaving her down until the foxtails are gone, but I have never shaved her before and I don’t want to do anything to harm her. What is your suggestion in this situation?

    • Hi Lisa,

      I understand your predicament! While cutting a dog’s coat to keep it cool is a false notion, if anyone has a legitimate claim to warrant an exception, it’s a case like yours, based on what you’ve described! You are doing your part with the inspections and brushings; plus, in spite of your efforts, you’ve already had to deal with abscesses on your GSD.

      My best advice is that you keep vigilant, and make sure your inspections include checking her paws between each toe, her nose and ears, her stomach and vulva areas. Those are all areas prone to visitation by those pesky awns. While I still can’t recommend you shaving your GSD, I can understand that you may begin to see it as the “lesser of two evils”. Only you can make that decision. If you are in a hot climate with plenty of direct sun, shaving her is too risky. But if you are in a more temperate area then you might consider it, so long as you keep in mind that there’s no guarantee her coat will grow back properly.

      I wish you well with this Lisa, and hope the above will be some help.

      MM

      P.S. Here’s a link to a mesh head cover that is a sensible protective measure for dogs romping in known foxtail or other awn-bearing grasses of a similar nature. It’s a good idea since these awns are particularly adept at getting into ears, nostrils and every other orifice they can find: https://www.outfoxfordogs.com

      P.P.S. A new article in our blog area goes into more detail on Foxtails, along with both the hazards and some solutions for German Shepherds that find themselves in foxtail areas: http://germanshepherdplace.com/2017/05/foxtails-your-german-shepherd/

  10. I trimmed both my GSD & GSD/WOLF mix From the base of their tail up to their collar. I cut it down to about 1/4″ long, and they both were very happy with it. By the time winter got here all their hair had grown back out. We live in Southeastern North Carolina 40 miles from the coast, and last summer we had heat indexes from 105 to 115 degrees. They were happy not to have all that hair on them, and its starting to heat up again so they will be getting another trim very soon.

    • Hi Micky,

      Thanks for taking the time to write us! Those high summer temperatures are something I’m familiar with – NC also being my home state!! You took a bold step that flies in the face of accepted practice in trimming your GSD & GSD/WOLF – and it seems to have worked for you!! While I can’t recommend the practice – for the reasons given – I’m all in favor of acting on our convictions, so long as we are aware of possible pros and cons.

      Cheers!
      MM

  11. I don’t want to shave my 9 yr German Shepherd, but can we have her cut at the vet? Will this help her ? She sheds all year long it’s not just in the spring and fall.
    Thank you

    • Hi Merle,

      You bring up a valid question! The answer is that the same problems that can result from shaving, hold true also in the case of cutting a German Shepherd’s hair, but likely to a less critical degree. Therefore, much as I understand the problems of the continual shedding, you’d do a big disservice to your dog if you were to cut her hair. Again, all the things in the article would apply – the uneven hair growth, the continuation of shedding, overheating in hot weather, and lack of warmth in cold weather. In addition, there would be the probability of skin problems resulting from exposure to the elements.

      Also, by cutting the protective outer coat of a German Shepherd, you leave exposed the inner furry insulation layer. The latter, which is not intended as an outer coat, once deprived of its protective cover, becomes prone to tangling. Thus, in addition to a less than desirable appearance, a new maintenance problem results.

      Your GSD will look better, and be happier with a coat that remains uncut, as nature intended

      The best,

      Mark Mulock

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