The German Shepherd Dog, often shortened to GSD, is one of the most popular breeds in America. As the name implies, this breed originates from Germany and was originally intended to be a herding breed.
Today, however, the German Shepherd is best known for its versatility. Although they may have started as a herding dog, GSDs have been used to perform a huge array of tasks. They are a popular breed for police work, search and rescue, and tracking.
But the German Shepherd also makes a fantastic companion dog. If you’re thinking of adopting a German Shepherd, then you’ll be adopting a loyal, loving companion.
Like all breeds, it’s important to know how to take care of your German Shepherd. One of the aspects you need to consider is the breed’s coat so that you know how to take good care of it. You’ll find everything that you need to know about the GSD’s coat here.
Single Coats vs Double Coats in dogs. What’s the Difference?
Dogs have either double coats or single coats. The term “double coat” refers to a coat that has both an undercoat and an outer coat. In dogs with a double coat, the undercoat is made up of softer, dense usually short fur. This coat is used as insulation and helps to regulate the dog’s body temperature. It keeps the dog warm in cold weather, and also protects the dog against extreme heat.
The outer coat, on the other hand, is usually longer, coarser in texture, and may even stand off of the dog’s body. It is also supported by the dog’s undercoat. This fur is often referred to as “guard hairs” because it protects the dog’s softer undercoat and serves the purpose of weather-proofing.
If a dog has a single coat, then there is only the topcoat. No undercoat will be present.
Are German Shepherds Double-Coated?
Although German Shepherds have the same general looks, there is some variation within the breed. German Shepherds are generally considered double-coated dogs, but the coat can come in a variety of lengths and thicknesses. Some German Shepherd dogs do not have an undercoat present.
The only German Shepherds that are acceptable in competitions will have a medium-length overcoat with an undercoat. If the dog does not have an undercoat, then this is considered a fault by the AKC.
Some dogs have undercoats that are very sparse or that shed completely. This is called an open coat, and it is also considered to be a fault.
German Shepherd coats can vary greatly. You’ll find coats like:
- A short-length coat, which features an undercoat with an overcoat about an inch long.
- A medium-length coat, which is usually one or two inches long and is the only coat acceptable for show lines. There will be an undercoat present.
- A long coat with an undercoat, which will have an overcoat at least two inches long. This coat will usually be very thick, which makes these particular dogs especially well-suited to colder climates.
- A long coat without an undercoat, which looks very similar to a dog with a long coat with an undercoat, but without an undercoat.
How to Identify Double Coated German Shepherd Puppies
In adult dogs, you’ll be able to identify whether or not a dog has a single coat or a double coat by inspecting the fur. You should be able to feel for yourself the softer undercoat underneath the overcoat.
However, it can be more difficult to tell in puppies. This is because puppies are born with a single coat, with the fur being very soft and fluffy. At around 4 to 6 months old, the puppy will shed this coat completely, and his adult coat will grow in.
If the puppy is still very young, then the best way to tell whether it is a double-coated or single-coated dog is by looking at the puppy’s parents. If the parents both have double coats, then most likely the puppy will also have a double coat.
Remember to always get your puppy from a reputable breeder. This will help ensure you’re getting a double-coated puppy. It will also ensure that you’re getting a healthy puppy, since reputable breeders screen for common illnesses and conditions in their dogs.
Coat Types and Shedding
German Shepherds shed throughout the year, but their coat type can affect the amount that they shed.
If you have a German Shepherd with an undercoat, then you’ll likely find that your dog sheds more during the spring and fall. This is because, as the seasons change, the dog “blows out” his undercoat to adjust to the new season.
But if your dog only has a single coat, then you’ll find that he sheds about the same amount no matter the time of year.
Grooming Tips for German Shepherd Coats
The main thing you need to do for your German Shepherd’s coat is to brush it as frequently as you can. No matter your dog’s coat length or type, brushing every day is best. If you can’t brush it every day, then brushing it at least three or four times a week will work too.
During the spring and fall when your double-coated German Shepherd is blowing out his coat, you will need to be even more diligent about brushing him. During this period, you are going to want to make sure that you’re brushing him every day to help pull out the dead furs.
How Often Should You Bathe Your German Shepherd?
One of the biggest mistakes you can make for your dog is bathing him too often. If you bathe your GSD too frequently, then you are stripping his skin and fur of the natural oils that help keep your dog’s coat healthy. Stripping these oils can also dry out your dog’s skin, making him itchy and uncomfortable.
German Shepherds are naturally very clean dogs, which means you don’t need to bathe them too frequently anyway. You should only have to bathe your GSD every 3 to 4 months or so.
Around the spring, during flea season, you may find that you need to bathe your dog more often. Just try not to bathe him more than every 2 months to help keep his coat and skin healthy.
Can You Shave a German Shepherd?
Some owners mistakenly believe that their dog’s coat is too thick during the summer and that shaving their dog will help keep him cool.
But your dog’s double coat actually protects against heat by acting as an insulant. Your dog is already naturally insulated from hot weather.
If you shave your German Shepherd, then you may ruin his double coat. It can take years for his coat to grow back in properly, and in some cases, it may never grow in right again.
It’s best to avoid shaving your German Shepherd and trust his coat’s natural ability to protect him against all types of weather.