If you’re thinking about shaving your German Shepherd, this will be one of the most important articles you’ll ever read.
(I know that’s a bold statement. But it’s true).
Read further to discover:
- How you can damage your German Shepherd by shaving them.
- Expectations vs. reality in relation to German Shepherd shaving.
- What you should do instead of shaving (perfect for summer).
- How shaving your GSD can lead to cancer (and cause other problems).
- And more…
Table of contents
- Should you shave a German Shepherd?
- What exactly is a double coat?
- To shave or not to shave?
- 11 reasons why you should NEVER shave your German Shepherd (even in the summer)
- What happens when a German Shepherd’s coat blows?
- #5: You can manage shedding and coat blow without the need for shaving
- #6: Shaving won’t protect them against the sun
- #7: Shaving messes up with the texture
- #8: Shaving damages both coats
- #9: Shaving exposes your German Shepherd to matting
- #10: Your German Shepherd is susceptible to hotspots
- #11: Shaving could lead to skin cancer
- Do this instead of shaving your German Shepherd
Should you shave a German Shepherd?
You should not shave a German Shepherd or you risk doing more harm than good. Their double coat insulates and protects them against the heat and cold. In addition, shaving doesn’t guarantee against shedding. German Shepherds shed and blow their coat as part of their genetic makeup.
What exactly is a double coat?
German Shepherds are among dog breeds that have a double coat. Quite simply, a double coat has two layers:
- The undercoat of short hairs.
- A top coat of longer hairs (also called guard hairs).
A dog’s coat is not there just to make them beautiful. It serves a purpose based on what the dog was bred to do.
German Shepherds originated from Germany. Their main job was to herd and protect sheep in harsh climates.
Their medium-length coat fits the job perfectly. It protected them from rain and snow.
Also, the top coat was resistant to picking burrs and dirt. This made their upkeep easier for shepherds and farmers.
In modern times, the double coat protects them from cold nights while doing police duties.
To shave or not to shave?
Summertime poses two challenges for German Shepherd owners:
- It’s shedding season.
- The weather is too hot.
You may think that, with all that fur, can your dog still feel comfortable? That thinking can bring you to the most important decision regarding double coats.
Will you shave your German Shepherd?
The answer is a big fat NO!
It’s understandable that you only want your dog to feel cool. But you will only cause more harm than good.
If you want to know why, read on.
11 reasons why you should NEVER shave your German Shepherd (even in the summer)
#1: German Shepherds lose protection from harsh elements
The two layers of the coat have dual purposes:
- Keep them warm in winter.
- Keep them cool in summer.
Shaving their coats loses this protection. It will affect their health. Shaved, they will be less tolerant of heat and will feel cold quickly.
There’s no question that an owner will not shave their German Shepherd before winter.
But what happens when you shave them in the summer?
#2: Shaving won’t make them cool in summer
I know what you’re thinking. What relief a German Shepherd can get without all that hair!
Contrary to popular belief, shaving won’t help them keep cool in summer.
During a coat blow (more on this in #4), German Shepherds shed their undercoat. In huge clumps.
During a coat blow, the guard hairs trap air and allow it to circulate near the dog’s skin.
That’s what makes German Shepherds cool during the summer. It’s amazing, right?
The opposite happens when you shave your German Shepherd. The cool air can’t get near the skin because the undercoat is still there.
#3: Shaving doesn’t guarantee against shedding
Do German Shepherds shed a lot because of their double coats?
No. They just shed a lot all year round.
And you can’t prevent shedding in a German Shepherd. Dogs with an undercoat will shed, no matter what. That’s part of their genetic makeup.
You can’t even move the shedding process along if you shave them. If anything, this is the worst thing to do.
What you can do instead is to manage their shedding (check #5). This way, their hair doesn’t end up everywhere.
#4: Shaving interrupts the naturally-occurring blowing of the coat
Shedding is simply losing hair 365 days a year.
Coat blow, on the other hand, involves shedding of clumps of hair. Lots of it.
Don’t worry, though. Your German Shepherd won’t go hairless.
But you’ll notice more hair than usual in your house and in your clothes.
When can you expect a coat blow to happen? It happens twice a year: at the end of winter and before winter begins. In other words, be ready for it come spring and late fall.
What happens when a German Shepherd’s coat blows?
A German Shepherd’s undercoat is soft and thick. That’s what makes them warm even on the coldest night of winter.
But something has to change so they remain comfortable when summer comes around. That’s when the blowing of the coat happens.
They’re transitioning from winter coat to summer coat.
German Shepherds also shed their guard hairs. But the most challenging is when the undercoat comes out in big clumps.
Many German Shepherd owners would say that they could fill garbage bags with the shed hair.
It’s not a pretty sight, I know. You’ll have to vacuum more times than you can count in a day.
#5: You can manage shedding and coat blow without the need for shaving
The good news is, you can do things to manage shedding and coat blow.
It’s a huge help having the right tools for de-shedding. Your starter de-shedding kit should include an undercoat rake and a double-sided brush.
You can also buy a high-velocity dryer. This is a good investment if you plan to groom your dog yourself.
These tools are necessary to remove the undercoat before it ends up as fur balls all over your house.
Start with a good brushing. Do this 15 minutes a day or longer, depending on your dog’s needs.
This pooch is having a relaxing time while being brushed:
You’ll find out that regular brushing helps reduce shedding. Get to the loose hair before it forms into mats.
Further, doing this helps make your German Shepherd feel better. It will keep them looking their best while going through a coat blow.
It’s also a terrific way to bond with your pooch.
Another way to manage is by bathing them. It helps to remove the loose undercoat. This will speed up the process of blowing the coat.
Note: Use the right shampoo that won’t irritate their skin.
#6: Shaving won’t protect them against the sun
The German Shepherd’s undercoat is short and crimped. This makes it perfect for trapping air and in insulating them.
On the other hand…
The longer topcoat helps by protecting them from the heat. So even if they’re blowing their coat, the topcoat is there to shield the skin from the sun.
But you mess this up when you shave your German Shepherd.
The shaved guard hairs are useless. And the shaved undercoat is short enough to allow the sun’s rays to get through.
Caution: Many double-coated dogs have pale pink skin. That and sun exposure make them vulnerable to sunburn and overheating.
#7: Shaving messes up with the texture
This is one problem with shaving:
When the hair re-grows, it’s of a different texture.
Shaving does not guarantee that the coats will grow back the same way. What usually happens is that the guard hairs will grow in with the undercoat.
As a result, guard hairs blend in with the undercoat instead of going over it.
In addition, the texture becomes coarse. This makes it easier for burrs and twigs to stick to the coats.
Because of that, German Shepherds are unable to repel dirt, water, and snow.
#8: Shaving damages both coats
If you’re still considering getting your German Shepherd shaved, take it from this dog owner.
Larry, a friend I met years ago, had his dog, Waffles, shaved in time for the summer. He thought it was the best thing to do.
Waffles was 3 when shaved. Ten years later, the dog’s coats still did not recover.
The once beautiful topcoat became a coarse mess that took longer to manage. It also made it difficult for Waffles to tolerate the heat.
Caution: Surprisingly, guard hairs re-grow slower than the undercoat. Sometimes they don’t re-grow, especially the older the dog gets.
#9: Shaving exposes your German Shepherd to matting
Shaving leads to damaged and coarser coats.
This subjects your German Shepherd to uncomfortable clumps of matted fur.
To make things worse, the guard hairs now can’t repel burrs and twigs.
Those could get stuck in the coat and lead to matting.
#10: Your German Shepherd is susceptible to hotspots
Without their coats, your German Shepherd will be exposed to bugs. Especially blackflies.
Just one bite and your German Shepherd will scratch until kingdom come. Without the coats, the dog’s toenails scratch against their skin.
It leads to wounds or hotspots.
And the more they scratch, the more they become susceptible to alopecia areata. Alopecia areata is patchy hair loss.
#11: Shaving could lead to skin cancer
Like humans, dogs can develop skin cancer even with their fur on. What more if they’re shaved?
Their whole body is exposed to the sun. To avoid this, you’ll have to do all of their exercise and training when the sun’s gone.
But even then, your dog can overheat because there is no undercoat to insulate them.
Do this instead of shaving your German Shepherd
If you’re worried for your German Shepherd, especially in the summer, you can do these things:
- If they’re outside, keep them in shaded areas.
- Keep them in a room with a fan or air-conditioning.
- Keep them cool by providing them with clean water to drink.
- For training or exercise, take them out in the morning or late in the evening.
- Brush and comb them regularly. It keeps away mats and minimizes shedding as well.