Dog Grooming Made Simple

Setting up a regular dog grooming schedule for your German Shepherd is the best way to insure that things don’t get neglected. While brushing his coat will be at least a weekly occurrence, bathing can be done two to three times a year.

Brushing Your German Shepherd

The German Shepherd Dog has two coats: A thick wooly undercoat for insulation and waterproofing; and a shiny overcoat. Most GSDs have a medium length coat, although there are also those with long-coats. Since GSDs shed their coats continuously it’s desirable to brush them once or twice a week, to reduce the quantity of hair falling around the house. In addition this will enhance the health and beauty of the coat, since brushing removes dead hair and distributes the natural oils. Older loose hairs dull the appearance of a dog’s coat, so when they are removed the fresh luster of new growth restores the appearance.

Brushes and Combs   

  • Use a Pin Brush to brush the thick undercoat, getting all the way down to the skin. With care on your part, the rounded ends of this brush’s bristles should protect the skin from abrasion and irritation. Brushing backwards can be helpful in loosening dead hairs.
  • A Bristle Brush is easy on the skin – a good choice for puppy hair and for more extended brushing sessions on grown dogs. It is helpful in removing dead hair, in addition to distributing the natural oils.
  • Slicker Brushes have many fine bent wires and are used for removing shedding hair. Since they can cut the outer coat, go gently and move with the grain of the hair.
  • The wide-toothed comb is useful for removing loose hair left behind following a brushing.
  • An undercoat shedding rake is the best tool for shedding periods when large quantities of the undercoat typically come loose. The rubber nubs help it to easily pull out the dead hair.

What About Shaving Your German Shepherd?

For a number of reasons, shaving the coat off your German Shepherd is not a good idea. To learn more you can refer to an article which focuses on this one topic: CLICK HERE

Washing and Drying Your Dog

Put a non-slip rubber mat in the tub, and then use a hand-held hose attachment with warm water, testing with the back of your hand to insure the temperature is not too high. Wet your dog’s coat thoroughly, and then apply the shampoo, working from the back of the head and neck downwards. Shampoo and rinse by sections. Since you want to avoid water in the ears and nose, and shampoo in the eyes, the face can be washed with a damp cloth. You might find it helpful to improvise a step-up device to help your GSD to get in and out of the tub. Diluting the shampoo with water helps it go on evenly and extend further.

Since your German Shepherd has a thick coat, he needs to be dried thoroughly, especially before going out in cold weather. Start off with a vigorous towel-drying, then use a hair dryer on a low-heat setting, holding it 10-12 inches from the coat. Without a hair dryer it can take a very long time for the coat to air dry, in particular if you are not in a dry climate.


A shiny, healthy coat comes primarily from a good diet – it starts from the inside. As long as your German Shepherd is getting quality nutrition, your grooming work will produce good results.

Dogs and humans have different PH levels, so their shampoos differ accordingly to provide the appropriate PH balance. Dogs’ skin has a PH of 7.5, whereas humans have a PH of 5.5; their skin being more acidic. So avoid using a human shampoo on a dog since it is likely to cause scaling and irritation.

Should your German Shepherd’s skin have a condition that calls for special attention, there may be a shampoo that can help. Here are some skin conditions, with shampoos formulated to help them:

  • Dry, scaly skin: Moisturizing shampoo
  • Oily, scaly skin: Anti-seborrheic shampoo
  • Itchy skin: Oatmeal-based anti-pruritics
  • Infected skin: Anti-microbials

Flea shampoos are also available, but are unlikely to give any benefit for the extra money. They do kill fleas, but so do regular shampoos. And since “flea shampoos” have no residual flea-killing properties, you don’t need to waste your money! Fleas have to be prevented or treated in other ways. See article: Healthcare for Your German Shepherd.

A Quick-Clean Tip: Keep a container of waterless foam shampoo or waterless powder shampoo handy. These products are useful for spot shampoos and quick cleanups, when you don’t have the time or the need to do a full washing. Another benefit of these waterless shampoos is that they don’t interfere with flea treatments.

Trimming Nails

The Basics

Your German Shepherd’s nails need to be clipped regularly, including the dew claws – the ones that grow on the inside of the front legs, above the feet.

Since your German Shepherd is unlikely to relish this aspect of grooming, it is a good idea to get him used to the idea from a young age. A good break-in approach is to handle your pup’s paws often; and from here you transition into actually clipping – with treats on hand to reward good behavior.

Get into a regular routine of nail clipping, To shorten nails, cut them every week; and to maintain them, trim every two weeks. Keep your dog’s nail-trimming sessions short – you might like to clip the front and rear nails in separate sessions. It’s better to clip small amounts off regularly than to clip larger portions less frequently. Only clip the hollow, end part of each claw, avoiding the area beyond that contains the red vein, or quick.

It is best to use a scissor-type of clipper, as opposed to the guillotine variety. Heavy duty clippers will be needed for adult German Shepherds.

Finer Points

Trimming nails, for the great majority of dogs, is not optional – the rare exceptions being those in rural areas that log enough foot-mileage to keep the nails worn down. Failing to maintain your dog’s nails can result in problems that range from mere discomfort to serious physical conditions. Overly long claws cause pain by pressing up into the foot or twisting to the side. Another negative result of excessively long nails in a dog may be less obvious but is just as real:

Feedback System
A dog’s nails are part of a feedback system whereby well-trimmed nails provide signals to the dog’s brain upon contact with the ground. You can visualize this process in the case of a dog approaching a steep hill: The rising terrain makes contact with the nails on the back feet, prompting the dog to adopt a forward-leaning hill-climbing posture. Long nails, on the other hand, in making continuous contact with the ground, provide a false reading, prompting an unneeded and in this case, detrimental, forward-leaning posture.

A Better Way to Trim
Rather than a single cross-cut to each claw, the following approach involves a couple more cuts, but produces better results. The trimmed nails will look tidier, and there will be less likelihood of accidentally cutting into the quick.

1. Use scissor-type clippers, and make sure they are sharp.
2. Begin with the first nail as illustrated above, 1st cut. The scissors will face the paw, angled with handle down, and cutting end up.
3. Next, clip either side of the same nail, angling the cuts as indicated. See 2nd illustration, cuts 2 and 3.
4. Trim away the fluffy remains on the front lower part of the nail (4th cut).
5. Use a rotary grinder (available from dog grooming suppliers) or a simple nail file, to smooth off the sharp areas where you clipped.
6. When finished, give praise and a treat to your dog to reward his/her cooperation.

Note: If you nip the quick of your dog’s nail, causing it to bleed, apply styptic powder to the claw, or if you don’t have that, use baking powder. Have the powder compacted in a small open container, into which you can gently press the dog’s claw, and then release.

Cuts 2 and 3 above can be considered optional. If time doesn’t allow for you to do all four cuts, or your dog is extra squeamish, just do 1 and 4.
Having well-trimmed nails is an important part of maintaining the health and well-being of your German Shepherd. The above steps become an easy part of your routine, once formed into a habit.

In writing this post I drew on an article by Karen Gellman DVM PhD, published in the January/February 2015 issue of Dogs Naturally Magazine (click Dog’s Naturally ad on sidebar for more information).

Cleaning Ears

The tall upright ears of the grown GSD allow for plenty of natural ventilation, preventing the heat buildup and infection sometimes associated with dog breeds with closed earflaps. To maintain healthy ears in your German Shepherd, check periodically for dirt or wax buildup. If cleaning is needed, use a dog ear cleaning solution; alternatively you can make your own with one part rubbing alcohol to two parts white vinegar.

Take your dog outside and, holding him at the base of the ear, squeeze in some solution. Massage the liquid downward and squish it around. After about 15 seconds, by which time the itchiness will probably be driving your pooch nuts; stand clear and let him have a good shake. Hopefully you’ll succeed in getting out of range as the dissolved wax and dirt flies out!

Avoid using a powder-type ear cleaner since it can cake in the ear. Hydrogen peroxide should also be avoided because of the moisture residue it leaves in the ear.

When to See the Vet

If the ears look red and irritated, do not attempt to clean them yourself but seek veterinary help. The same applies if black residue persists in your dog’s ears after you’ve tried to clean them. Ear mites can also occur in a dog, and should be treated by a vet.

If You Enjoyed this Article…

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If you have a moment, let us know what you liked about this article. Plus, share your suggestions – we would value your input. Post comments below, or write,
Mark Mulock



  1. I have a gsd mix wolf & his nails are black. How do I know where to cut? I once cut a dog way to short & it really scared me, it bleed so long.

    • Hi Samantha – You’ve brought up a good question, and I’m going to provide below a link to an article by our friends at Dogs Naturally Magazine which should be helpful. In particular, for your situation, look in that article at the third photo in the illustration titled, “How to Trim Your Dog’s Nails”. The photo clearly illustrates what to look for when clipping a dog’s nail of any color, but is particularly helpful when the nail is dark or black!

  2. The Paws Pamper Undercoat Rake is another great brush for double coated breeds. We used this all the time at my pet spa, especially during the shedding seasons. The dogs seemed to like it, most of them fell asleep with we did all the hard work of course. It worked well at getting the loose dead undercoat out. We smoothed the topcoat using a slicker or pin brush and the clients loved the results. Highly recommend!

  3. I am a dog groomer and one of my policies is not to shave double coated breeds, specially if it is the first time. I had a client that booked her dog with me and when they came in I saw how beautiful the dog looks naturally and even though she said it has been done before I just could not find myself doing it, I told her I will give the dog a good de-sheeding bath, brush out and take as much of the undercoat as possible now that it is spring, she did not understand why since other groomers have no problem shaving. I probably lost this client but I could not do that to this beautiful dog for me it is not acceptable knowing the purpose of their coat. I do consider myself a professional groomer and because of it i just had to refuse.

    • Congrats Molly on standing on principal when it came to you declining to shave that GSD. It’s not easy to turn down business. But it gives you a story worth sharing – and I wouldn’t be surprised if some future clients come on board just knowing you have some professional convictions!

      Mark M.

  4. I have a 7 month old German Shepard/Husky. His hair is very thick and long which is normal from what I have read; when should I start taking and getting him trimmed? I called my local groomer and she said that it was far to early to get him trimmed due to him still being a puppy, when should I start? Thanks in advance!

    • Hi Allison,

      The real question should be whether or not your dog’s hair actually should be trimmed at all! Let me elaborate. Both the German Shepherd and the Husky, the two breeds that you say your dog comprises, have thick undercoats and straight-haired upper coats. These dogs are much better off not getting their hair trimmed, with the exception of tidying the paws around the pads, and possibly cleaning up around their faces. Their coats provide insulation from all weathers in addition to protection from insects and parasites.

      When its hot, keep your dog inside; and remember, while humans wear less when its hot, with dogs it’s different. For our canines, cooling is done through panting, sweating at the paws and the cooling of blood in the ears.

      Huskies shed, or blow, their coats in spring and fall, as do German Shepherds. Cutting or shaving them can eventually damage the look of their coat when it grows out, and may interfere with the natural shedding cycle.

      This is not the answer you were expecting Allison, but again, we are about doing what’s best for our dogs, and I think the above should serve you and your Husky/GSD well!


  5. Hi,
    This article is a comprehensive one and it gives facts that are important in GSD care. I have a 9 months old GSD and is in excellent condition. I would request your guidance on appropriate shampoo for my GSD with medium coat.

    • The key is to use an actual dog shampoo. This is important in order to provide the correct PH (acid-alkaline) balance. The article above gives more detail. Beyond that, buy the best shampoo you can. The more natural ingredients, the better!

  6. Hi I’m Ally my gsd is Max he is 14 yes old and I’ve had him since he was almost 6 weeks he is the most loving dog I’ve ever met he has a great temperament and his vet says she’s never seen a dog that old so healthy! I do have a problem with shedding Max is constantly shedding but we manage that by lots of brushing and good skin care. Last year he was diagnosed with cancer and had a tumor in his mouth but after lots of love care and a lot of bills he’s better now and cancer free

    • Hi Ally,
      What a great story. Max sounds like a wonderful dog, and it’s evident you’ve been great family to him all these years. It is very good to hear that the cancer was beat. Congrats for your part in that. You’ve clearly invested a lot of TLC into this pooch.
      Thanks for sharing!

    • He sounds wonderful:) & blessed to be part of your family. My GSD will turn 2 y/o in July; therefore we are still in the “push our luck”, “learning”, “loving life (except cats)” stage. Oh he is soooo adorable but monstrously strong & still under maintenance for behavior. I’m so happy your pup is cancer free!!

  7. Hi I’m Charles and I have a 3 yr old gsd, she has always been taken care of but when around other people she gets very skittish and alert is this normal, and if not how could I make her more friendly and playful

    • Hi Charles,

      There are a couple of things to consider here. First, GSDs are by nature somewhat aloof with strangers. Unlike some other breeds, where the well-socialized dog will be fine with almost anyone they meet, a GSD tends to be reserved and a little on guard with others outside his or her immediate circle. These qualities are good in a German Shepherd, being a natural quality of their particular breed makeup. Their reserve is one reason they are a good guard dog.

      The other consideration is this: You don’t want your dog to be really uncomfortable around all other people. Should that be the case, it is likely an indication that she could use more socialization. That would mean purposely exposing her to more varieties of people than she is used to – young, old, male, female, dark-skinned, light-skinned and so on. That includes seeing, hearing and to a certain extent interacting with other people.

      What all this boils down to is that the romping, fun-loving side of a young GSDs nature is typically displayed with members of the immediate family circle. They can bond with other people, but only if those individuals are close enough to be perceived as part of the family, or pack!

  8. my german shepard pup is just 2 months old… he is very active… but he is not barking… it barks very very rarely… what would be the reason?

    • Hi Jerry: Your pup’s quality of rarely barking is likely just a matter of individual personality. I’ve known of a few such cases. Typically they’ll bark when really necessary – such as protecting their domains from real or perceived threats.

    • I got my GSD when he was 12 weeks. He did not bark until he was around 4 months. Maybe even older. Nothing to worry about. I made sure myself from his vet. She told me some just haven’t associated barking to what they are naturally supposed to do.

  9. Hi, my dog seems to scratch and lick a lot. I’ve checked for fleas and such, but he has none. He seems to lick a lot around the tail. Do you think the oatmeal shampoo will benefit him?

  10. I want to bring my German shepherds inside a couple times a week, but I am worried about the hair. We get about a trash bag of hair off of each each month. Will haircuts help with the shedding?

    • Whether the hair is long or short it still sheds. Generally you’re better off not to cut a German Shepherd’s coat, because the resulting shorter hair around the house can actually be harder to deal with than natural-length shed hair. It has the effect of being sharp and spiky, so it sticks into the carpet and furnishings and can be harder to remove.

      My recommendation: Follow the brushing guidelines in the above article – grooming frequently. Make that 3 to 4 times a week if necessary. In addition, there’s no way around the extra housekeeping requirements with our molting, 4-legged friends; vacuum as much as you need to!


  11. i have a very hairy germane shepherd. and he sheds all the time and i just have a regular hair. What should i use?

    • Hi Noah. The article above has a section on brushes. Look near the top under “Brushing Your German Shepherd”, subheading: “Brushes and Combs”. There you’ll see the info you need. If necessary brush two or three times a week!

  12. We have a 5 year old long haired beautiful red and black GSD. This is our first year with her. We brush her about once a week and have enough hair to make a new puppy. At times there seems to be clumps of hair on the floor around the house. We live in Florida, Daytona area, and it has been very warm for this time of year. Our pool will be warm enough to swim in about 2 weeks.
    Should we have her groomed by a pro? Is her situation unusual or is this the norm? This is our first GSD.

    • Hi Jerry. What you are experiencing with your German Shepherd is nothing unusual. Given the volume of hair you are observing, plus the fact that your GSD is long-haired, I’d recommend you increase her brushing schedule to two or three times a week. In your situation I might go to a professional groomer once or twice for starters. Observe what they do. Then, after that, decide whether you’ll take over or continue to get the professional treatment.

  13. Thank you so much for this, it was extremely helpful. My 2 year old sheds a little bit at a time all year round. My 5 month old has been shedding non-stop for the last month (I have a feeling he’s gonna need a lot more grooming!) I’ve used many brushes with these guys that just didn’t work, UNDERCOAT brushes work THE BEST!

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