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Some people think shaving a German Shepherd puts them at little to no risk of skin or health problems.
But this couldn’t be farther from the truth!
Shaving your German Shepherd has serious implications, especially if you think you’re doing your dog a favor to help them stay cool in the summer.
The fact of the matter is you need to consider the problems you face if you shave your Shepherd.
Should I Shave My German Shepherd?
No, you shouldn’t shave or clip your German Shepherd routinely for grooming or because you think they’re too hot. The coat takes too long to grow back, may grow back shorter, may grow in a lighter color, puts them at risk for bites and parasites, and provides a necessary and natural heating and cooling system in the elements which you alter when you shave them.
You should only shave for medical reasons as per your vet.
What Happens if I Shave My German Shepherd?
While many people think shaving their German Shepherd is the easiest option for grooming, there’re risks associated with this.
Consider all the following first before taking the plunge on a complete shave.
1. Shaving leaves your dog cold in the winter and hot in the summer.
The undercoat and guard hair insulate them from cold air, but also create a ventilation system to help cool them in the summer. Think of their double coat as a self-adjusting heating and cooling system.
In the summer, shaving them puts your dog at risk of overheating. This is because the different fur layers act as an air conditioning system by allowing air to circulate against the skin, which provides a cooling effect.
Without the longer hairs to help circulate the air against the skin, the sun’s rays burn into your German Shepherd’s shaved body directly.
The longer guard (our outer) hair keep the cool air against the skin, and the hot hair away from the skin. This helps prevent overheating.
Unless your vet advises you, it’s better to find other options to help with your dog’s thick coat. Dogs left exposed to the elements are more at risk for health issues and additional skin problems.
2. A shaved dog is susceptible to sunburn and skin damage by ultraviolet (UV) rays.
Your double-coated dog would usually not have exposure to these rays unless you shaved them.
Sunburns are painful and put your dog at risk of skin irritation and hot spots as they lick the skin to relieve the pain. Sunburns can also cause overheating and sunstroke when your dog is left outdoors for long periods.
Your dog might experience scaling or dandruff from this irritated skin, even after the hair has fully regrown.
Did you know that a dog’s skin is only 6 to 10 layers deep, while human skin is 16 to 20 layers (source)! Imagine the amount of damage and pain your dog will get with a sunburn now.
3. Shaving makes your dog an easier target for mosquitoes and other parasites.
Parasites are more able to bite right into their skin or ticks to more easily attach to them since their fur is shorter or missing.
If you shave your GSD, they don’t have the fur to block off the bites and they’re stripped of their natural layer of parasite protection.
This is especially important in areas where mosquitos are prolific.
4. Shaving can ruin the texture and style of the coat.
The lighter outer hairs may not return to their full length at all, giving your dog’s coat a different look and texture.
New fur that grows in may not have the same thickness or grow out as long as the original coat. Plus, their coats won’t look as pretty during the regrowing process.
5. The older a dog gets the more difficult it is to grow their guard hairs.
Shaving your dog as they get older may produce different results in the length of their guard hairs when the fur finishes growing in.
As a dog ages, their hair production and growth slow, giving them thinner coats. If you shave your senior dog that is already showing slow hair growth, their guard hairs (the top long layer of fur) may not grow as freely as they did when younger.
6. Shaved hair is actually harder to get rid of.
The guard hair, or outer layer of more coarse fur, is what sheds and some owners find a nuisance. However, shaving your dog doesn’t stop the shedding!
Instead, your GSD will still shed, but the hairs are shorter and blunter. This makes them stick into your clothes and furniture even more than their regular, unshaved hair! You’ll actually have a harder time removing the shorter, blunt, shaved hair than you would their longer, unshaved coat.
7. Shaving a German Shepherd can cause major matting.
For many German Shepherds, shaving the undercoat causes it to grow faster than the topcoat. This is due to the topcoat not being meant to shed greatly, so the topcoat grows extremely slow.
This faster-growing undercoat now becomes matted in the slower-growing topcoat, giving you even more work to do with brushing and grooming!
Your dog’s hair looks fuzzy and will vary in length all over their body as the fur is different lengths than normal. Most of the time with proper brushing and the next shed cycle the topcoat will grow longer as the undercoat sheds away.
In the meantime, you’ll be left to ensure your double-coated breed doesn’t get large mats of fur that cause skin irritations and make grooming more difficult.
German Shepherd Summer Grooming Routine
If you’re worried about how hot your dog will get during the summer, then consider other alternatives that can help keep your dog more comfortable.
A complete home grooming routine helps them shed their fur more easily and can make them more comfortable.
Summer German Shepherd grooming means:
Bathe them with a moisturizing or anti-itching shampoo.
Use special brushes to remove the dead hair.
Spray them with a conditioning and de-shedding spray.
Increase your brushing routine to keep their skin healthy in the heat.
Offer them options to help cool themselves, such as shade, wading pools, icy treats, and fans.
Shaving a German Shepherd for Summer? Try these options first!
Your dog doesn’t cool itself as you do. They don’t have the ability to sweat, and therefore they count on their coats to create a cooling system for them to keep them from overheating.
The undercoat helps to circulate cool air and the topcoat guards against sunburns. When you shave them, you take away their insulation system and expose their skin directly to the sun’s harmful rays.
Think of their undercoat and topcoat like the insulated beverage cup you love during the summers. Although there are layers, your drink still stays nice and cold.
So, if you’re considering shaving a German Shepherd for summer, try thesecooling tips, instead. Your dog doesn’t necessarily need a shave when there are other alternatives that will keep your dog healthy and safe.
Offer them a cooling mat to keep their temperature lower.
A cooling mat absorbs their body heat and disperses the heat more easily with a gel material. Some German Shepherds find a large self-cooling mat a pleasant place to sleep and rest to help them through the summer.
Provide a small pool outdoors in the shade where they can relax and wade.
Most GSDs love water and will readily run to your small pool to cool off. These pools are inexpensive and easy to move around your yard or garden. Most kid pools will fit a large German Shepherd easily and offer them a safe cooling option.
Buy a small fan that you can point toward the areas they most often lie down.
My GSD purposely lies in front of the fan when I point it toward myself, so I purchased another fan for her own use. She falls asleep more quickly and stays asleep longer with her fan.
Give your dog refreshing cooling, dog-safe treats.
These include doggie safe ice lollies or other homemade treats that you make yourself. There are plenty of recipes out there to give you a variety of cooling treat options.
If you leave them outside for long periods freeze a two-liter bottle with the top cut off with water. Then allow it to melt a small bit so you can remove the ice block. The ice block will stay cooler longer and give your dog something to lick to cool off.
Provide them with an elevated dog bed.
An elevated dog bed allows air to flow over your German Shepherd during the summer. This airflow decreases their body temperature and provides a cooling effect.
The beds are inexpensive and come with skid-resistant feet to prevent sliding across the ground. The non-slip feet also make the bed an excellent choice for indoor flooring.
Keep your dog inside during the hottest times. If they live outside, ensure they have a shady spot with the cooling tips in place. Heat is hard on dogs since they don’t sweat. Give them places and ways they can help themselves stay cool if you leave them outdoors.
To Shave or Not to Shave Your German Shepherd?
Don’t shave your German Shepherd unless your dog needs a shave for medical reasons or your vet must do it.
While their hair will grow back, it may not grow back as you imagine, will look or feel different, expose your dog to the elements, and prevent them from naturally cooling themselves. Shaving a German Shepherd is a risk. Know these risks and your options.
If you like your Shepherd’s coat the way it looks but are worried about your dog in the summer heat, then use other alternatives to keep them cool.
Why risk having a dog that might grow in a poor coat or worse -a dog now exposed to heatstroke and parasites- when you can offer them other forms of heat relief?
Catherine Krasavin owns Shepherd Sense, a dog website aimed at German Shepherd owners and lovers. She has a Bachelor of Science degree, with Honors, and has been training dogs for over a decade. Catherine’s currently attending continuing education courses to keep up with the latest in animal science, as well as earning her diploma in dog training. She owns a plush coat German Shepherd who was awarded Kennel Club Good Citizen Dog Scheme Gold Award - the highest level of achievement.
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