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!

Conclusion

So, we’ve seen that concerning a German Shepherd’s coat, and their need to shed  in accordance with nature’s plan and schedule, good maintenance on our part is the best policy. Deep brushing a couple of times a week, using the appropriate brushes (per our article, aforementioned) is the best shedding-season solution for the German Shepherd owner.
Something that you might also find helpful is to give your pooch a good coat massage before grooming. He or she will enjoy this, plus it will loosen the dead hairs, resulting in more effective removal as you brush.

If You Enjoyed this Article…

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

  1. 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/

  2. 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

  3. 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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