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How to Groom a German Shepherd

Updated on July 31, 2014

Learn How to Groom a German Shepherd Dog at Home

Do you want to learn how to groom a German Shepherd? Grooming your dog at home will save money and ease anxiety in some pets who don't like to travel to a professional dog groomer. One of the best things about GSDs is that they only require a bath about twice a year, barring any dirty catastrophes.

One of the worst things about the German Shepherd Dog is the amount of shedding that comes with their coat. A regimen of daily grooming will greatly cut down on shedding, and I'll show you exactly how to do it. I'm a retired dog groomer and I'll also go through the steps of how to give a full groom to a German Shepherd, including ear cleaning and tooth brushing.

Photo credit: C Cameron

Most German Shepherds Love to Be Brushed
Most German Shepherds Love to Be Brushed

Groom Your German Shepherd Daily to Control Shedding

A Quick Daily Brush Out Makes a Big Difference for GSD Owners

The best tip to control shedding in German Shepherd Dogs is to comb or brush your pet daily. Stay ahead of the shedding by removing the loose hair daily and putting it straight in the garbage or outside. Daily grooming will also alert you to any skin conditions, fleas or ticks that may be on your pet. Most dogs enjoy a daily brushing, so treat it like a bonding experience with your pet.

Use the shedding comb to remove loose hair all over the dog. A shedding comb has small tines alternated with long tines to reach through the guard hairs to the dog's undercoat. Lay the shedding comb flat and go in the direction of hair growth. Use short strokes, up and away from the dog's body where the fur is the thickest. Clean the shedding comb as you go, put the hair right into a garbage bag to contain it.

Use the slicker brush to loosen even more hair. Start by going in the direction of hair growth. Remove as much loose hair as possible. Then brush in the opposite direction, against the hair growth, to loosen more undercoat. Follow up with a shedding comb again, or just turn the brush around and go back in the direction of fur growth.

As you brush and comb the German Shepherd each day look for pest infestations (fleas & ticks), as well as hot spots and general flaky skin. Report any severe skin irritations and hair loss to your veterinarian immediately. Treat any fleas or ticks immediately. If you notice your pet's fur is oilier than usual or flaky, call your veterinarian for suggestions. Your pet may have an allergy.

Photo credit: C Cameron

Put that German Shepherd Dog hair to work by spreading it sparingly around your garden to keep the rabbits out!

Shedding Tools for Daily Grooming of a German Shepherd

Miracle Coat Slicker Dog Brush, Large
Miracle Coat Slicker Dog Brush, Large

Make grooming a German Shepherd easier by using this large slicker brush from Miracle Coat. The large size covers more area faster for those less tolerant German Shepherds too.

Evolution Double Row Undercoat Rake with Rotating Pins
Evolution Double Row Undercoat Rake with Rotating Pins

No German Shepherd grooming session is complete without using an undercoat rake. This double row rake with rotating teeth does more than its job with very little pulling.

Master Grooming Tools Ergonomic Pet De-Shedding Rakes
Master Grooming Tools Ergonomic Pet De-Shedding Rakes

I love all of the handles on the Master Grooming Tools products. They just fit in my hand so well it makes quick work of the grooming process. Try this rake on for size.


How to Brush a German Shepherd Dog's Teeth - Dental Care Is an Important Part of Dog Grooming

Dental care should be a part of the daily grooming ritual of every dog owner. Mouth infections can cause disease and illness, let alone costly dental bills for extractions at the veterinary office. It's not hard to keep your dog's teeth clean and your pet will thank you for it with fresher smelling kisses!

Put a small amount of dog toothpaste (never use human toothpaste) on the toothbrush.

With your non-dominant hand lightly lift the upper lip while holding the snout. Don't be aggressive about it, but do be firm and in control. The key is to act like this is nothing to get excited about. It's something we are going to do every day. Your dog will react based on your tension, so relax and just do it.

With your dominant hand gently begin to brush the dog's exposed teeth from the side. There will be a lot of licking, just go about the business of brushing the dog's teeth.

Switch sides and repeat the process. Take a little break in between sides if the dog is squirming too much at first. They will get used to the process and every day it will get easier. If you start brushing your pet's teeth as a puppy they react very well to the process, so start early.

Tips: Stay away from canned dog food as much as possible. The preservatives and sugar will rot a dog's teeth very fast!

Dog Dental Products - Make toothbrushing a part of everyday grooming!

Petrodex Dental Kit For Dogs Beef Flavor
Petrodex Dental Kit For Dogs Beef Flavor

This beef flavored dental paste makes for a drool-y job in some cases! This is the perfect dog dental formula for those dogs that need real tempting for tooth brushing.


How to Give a German Shepherd a Bath

...and not drown!

Getting a bath is not the favorite thing for most German Shepherd Dogs. They just are not built for water. Luckily these dogs only need about two baths a year, baring any unforeseen (or smelly) incidents. Try to avoid giving a GSD a bath if possible.Even the best shampoos can build up quickly and make the skin flaky or the coat appear oily or dull.

Always use a quality protein or oatmeal shampoo when bathing your German Shepherd. Dilute the shampoo with water before putting it on the dog. This makes it much easier to rinse the soap off the dog and better disperses the shampoo. No conditioner is necessary on German Shepherd Dogs.

Put the dog in the tub, or preferably teach the GSD to jump in the tub all by themselves, and get your towels and shampoo ready.

Use a sprayer (or a large cup) to completely soak the dog's coat. Use your hands and work against the hair growth to get water all the way to the dog's skin.

Put the diluted shampoo on the dog and rub in all over. Don't over use the shampoo! You don't need much so just gradually add it and work in with your fingers all the way to the skin. Keep the shampoo out of the dog's eyes and ears (just spot clean the face as needed with a clean wet rag).

Rinse all of the shampoo from the dog until the water runs clean. Keep the dog standing to make sure you rinse the tail area well.

Towel dry the dog in the tub.

Photo credit: C Cameron

Dog Grooming Secret: To stop a dog from shaking place one hand flat (don't grab the scruff) firmly on the back of the dog's neck and apply gentle pressure

Best Shampoos for a German Shepherd

SynergyLabs Groomer’s Blend Oatmeal Protein Shampoo; 18.4 fl. oz.
SynergyLabs Groomer’s Blend Oatmeal Protein Shampoo; 18.4 fl. oz.

You can't go wrong with this oatmeal shampoo. German Shepherd Dogs don't need conditioner (unless they have skin problems or it's vet recommended), but they do need quality shampoo with protein and oatmeal as a base.


Dog Blow Dryers

It's important to dry the dog's coat after a bath. Dogs with thick coats can actually mold if they are not properly dried. Some dogs don't like the sound of a blow dryer, but they dry much more evenly and faster using one. As with most of the grooming process, the earlier you introduce the drying process, the easier it is on the dog. They get used to things more quickly as a puppy.

You may want to blow dry a German Shepherd outside or in the bathtub enclosure to contain the hair. There is going to be a lot of hair flying during the drying process. This is another reason why blow drying is essential, it helps control shedding by removing all the loose hair at once.

Move the dryer around often. If you are using a handheld pet dryer move from side to side and over the top continuously. Fluff the fur with your free hand to loosen more hair and get down to the skin.

If you are cage drying the dog, make sure to move the dryer around so you don't over dry any parts of the coat or overheat the dog.

Air Force Commander 2-Speed Dryer 4.0 HP Motor S
Air Force Commander 2-Speed Dryer 4.0 HP Motor S

I use this blow dryer on my German Shepherd and she loses a ton of blown fur after her bath and blow dry!

Trim your German Shepherd's toenails
Trim your German Shepherd's toenails

How to Clip a German Shepherd Dog's Toenails

...and Survive!

First and foremost, don't skimp on the toenail clippers for a German Shepherd Dog. This breed has extremely thick toenails and they are usually all black. The double whammie for pet owners trying to clip their dog's toenails at home. As long as you use quality heavy duty toenail clippers you'll be fine.

Don't use the guillotine style dog toenail clippers. They are not strong enough a GSD's toenails. The odds are greater that the nail may split up the back, causing bleeding and possibly pain when the dog walks. Use the scissor style only for this dog breed. Buy the largest available, in whatever style handle feels best for you.

Have the dog lay down if you are alone. If the dog is well behaved during nail trimming standing is fine.

Take a foot confidently in your non-dominant hand and press lightly on the top of the foot to expose each toenail. Clip the toenail just below where the back ridge attaches to the front of the nail. If you aren't sure where this area is, take short clips and whittle down the nail until you feel comfortable.

Don't forget the dew claw! Higher up on the leg German Shepherd Dogs have a dew claw. This claw must be trimmed and may need it more often than the rest of the toenails since it never gets worn down from walking. Without trimming this nail can grow all the way around and into the pad up there. I've seen it happen too many times, so don't forget the dew claw!

When you do cut a dog's toenail too short, and it will happen, have the styptic powder ready. Place a generous amount of styptic powder on the end of the nail and pack it tight. The bleeding should stop immediately, leave it alone! Don't beat yourself up over injuring your pet. Just be careful and don't clip so deep from now on. Don't over love the dog afterward. Just let them relax again and finish the job. The less you acknowledge the incident the faster they will forget.

Photo credit: C Cameron

Heavy Duty Toenail Clippers

Nail Clipper with Orange Handle Medium Size
Nail Clipper with Orange Handle Medium Size

You'll need these heavy duty nail clippers to safely trim a GSDs toenails. I've been using this brand and style for over 10 years and they last for a very long time.

Trim the fur even with the GSD's pads
Trim the fur even with the GSD's pads

How to Care for a German Shepherd's Feet

Trimming Hair and Checking Pads on a Dog's Feet

Use your fingers to work the fur between the pads of your pet's feet out, checking for burs and cracks in the pads as you go. Use professional dog grooming shears to trim the fur even with the pads. Professional shears are much sharper than regular scissors and make fast even work of this job. They won't pull the hair as they cut, so the dog should stay more relaxed.

Do not attempt to trim the fur all the way down between the pads unless you are a professional dog groomer using clippers. Tell your veterinarian immediately if you find a cut between the pads or if there are severe cracks with bleeding on the pads. Should you accidentally clip a pad (the tips of professional grooming shears are very sharp) use the styptic powder you have for nail clipping to stop the bleeding. Call your veterinarian immediately if the cut appears to be deep or the bleeding does not stop quickly.

Photo credit: C Cameron

How to Clean Your German Shepherd's Ears

You know, those giant things on top of the head!

My veterinarian used to joke that he loved to clean German Shepherd Dogs' ears because his whole arm could fit inside. Of course, that's an exaggeration, but the fact that the GSDs' ears stand straight up and are quite large makes them pretty easy to clean.

Tools: Ear cleaner, extra large cotton balls, paper towels

Gather your grooming tools and take the dog outside or to the grooming area.

Secure the dog. There is going to be a lot o head shaking. Stay in control, use a helper if needed, to keep the dog as calm as possible.

Soak a couple of cotton balls in the ear cleaner and, holding onto them tightly, use them to scrub the inside of the first ear. Squeeze out the excess ear cleaner into the ear canal. Work that in from the outside of the ear at the base. Gently rub the base of the ear to break up any deep dirt.

Use the paper towels to remove excess dirt and ear cleaner from the dog's ear. Use a cotton swab as needed to remove dirt in the creases of the ear. Do not reach deeply into the ear canal with any object other than your finger with a paper towel!

Repeat the process on the other side.

Praise your German Shepherd for being a good dog during the ear cleaning process. Don't give treats right away if the dog is too worked up or excited. Instead give hugs and let them run around and shake it off.

If you notice a large amount of dirt in your German Shepherd Dog's ears or there is any blood in the ear canal call your veterinarian for an appointment. It may be ear mites or other pests. German Shepherds usually have relatively clean ears.

There will be a lot of head shaking going on during the ear cleaning process. The dirtier the dog's ears, the more he is likely to shake. If the dog has ear mites it will be a slightly painful experience. Keep the dog as calm as possible and enlist help to hold him still. If the dog is too hard to handle let your veterinarian do the ear cleaning.

Dog Ear Cleaner

Organically Correct Dog and Cat Ear Cleaner, 8-Ounce
Organically Correct Dog and Cat Ear Cleaner, 8-Ounce

You'll want to purchase a good cleaning, yet gentle ear cleaning solution. This ear cleaner is organic and safe for both cats and dogs so you know it will be safe for your German Shepherd Dog.


Thanks for visiting and wanting to learn how to groom a German Shepherd Dog at home! Do you have any dog grooming questions or tips for others? Share them here!

Do you have any dog grooming tips or questions?

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    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Good lens. Owners of German "Shedders" will appreciate it. Daily grooming is a must for these amazing animals.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Very nice lens! Will use in future!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I really enjoyed your lens. I have a black German Shepherd that has tons of hair. I enjoyed your grooming approach from top to bottom on all areas needing attention. I love a couple of the combs you highlighted as well. Thank you for so much information!

    • ajgodinho profile image

      Anthony Godinho 

      7 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Awesome work on this lens on grooming tips for GSDs. **Blessed by a Squid-Angel**

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      @Stazjia: Thanks! I'm glad you enjoyed it!

    • Stazjia profile image

      Carol Fisher 

      7 years ago from Warminster, Wiltshire, UK

      I think you've done a brilliant job of instructing us how to groom a German shepherd dog, really impressive and so detailed. Blessed.


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