==> The German Shepherd - King of Shedding?
No, not exactly. But this is THE topic that leads many new GSD owners into despair...
Non Shedding Dogs and German Shepherds? - Certainly Not!
German Shepherd Shedding
First, the weather.
The sky was cloudy today, wasn't it?
Or so we might think!
But no! It's just the bottom half of this pic:
This is the Top Shedder! - Or can yours beat that? Proof required!
The German Shepherd breed is probably not really the 'King of Shedding', but I like to call them that. Here you see why, ha!
Find out more: Click to save vet cost, training cost, and your nerves!
In this Periodical:
- 7 Top mistakes dog owners make in regards shedding
- Why do our dogs shed at all?
- When is your 'happy season'?
- How much shedding is good for your dog?
- Will you keep your dog's shedding in good memory?
- 4 best tools to use (and 3 best accessories) so that you have FUN with your dog's shedding (sort of)
- 7 Top Tips to keep shedding under control
7 Top mistakes dog owners make in regards shedding
Here's the list of the top mistakes in terms of shedding:
- Grooming far too rarely
- Trying to brush matts of hair
- Ruining the skin underneath
- Grooming inside the house and/or on dry ground
- Using ineffective grooming tools and ineffective accessories
- Starting with the line of hair growth
- Grooming with the dog lying down
Why do our dogs shed at all?
Genetically, there are two main reasons why dogs shed:
- They lose (shed off) the dead hair to make room for new healthy hair. This is the year-round shedding.
- And, they prepare for the different weather conditions in summer and winter. This is the seasonal shedding (or 'blowing the coat') in spring and autumn.
However, when you've had your dog for some years (or had several), you will know that there are significant fluctuations in the amount of shedding of German Shepherds:
There are weeks where our GSDs hardly seem to shed at all (comparatively), and other times they seem to be shedding in a race against the clock (months on end)!
Why these differences?
Because, in addition to the two hereditary reasons above, dogs - and particularly our GSDs - shed year-round to a differing degree due to:
- Amount to drink
- Stress level
- Exercise (level, and type of)
- Proportion of being indoor/outdoor
- Hormonal changes (if unaltered dog)
- Infections and infestations can also increse shedding (particularly ringworm)
- Skin Allergies (which in turn may actually be caused by a food allergy or drug allergy, see the linked Periodical)
Diet does have less an impact on the amount of shedding, more an impact on skin and coat quality. A balanced and nutrient-rich diet makes for healthy skin and a soft and shiny coat that's easy to brush or comb. Conversely, a poor diet and dry dog food increases matting and hair tangling, which makes grooming harder, even if done daily.
Dehydration immediately leads to dry skin (because that's the last body part that's supplied with fluid), and dry skin significantly increases hair loss (shedding). So, here's another reason why we always want to provide our dogs with ample amounts to drink!
Stress (say caused by Separation Anxiety) increases shedding as well. Not just because our dog will be nipping its fur all the time, but also because of the hormonal imbalance that goes with it.
The heavier the outdoor exercise, and the more varied, the less shedding.
Some people claim that indoor dogs shed more, but I find that the opposite is true: Given the same time of year, and in the absence of other differences (see above), daily outdoor exercise seems to reduce the shedding significantly.
I assume the reason is that heavy outdoor exercise loosens the hair and helps it to come off. Hence less hair is coming off indoors!
By the way, I am not aware of a reliable connection between shedding and cancer, but it is certainly clever to:
But how would you know? Wait a sec, I'll get to that in a moment.
When is your 'happy season'?
Have you tracked when your dog sheds how much? Not that this is important in itself (it isn't - we need to get done with the shedding anyway), but a 'shedding diary' can help to easily track your dog's shedding, can help to detect potential health issues(!), and can help to prevent excess shedding if you take action on it.
A simple version of a shedding diary can look like this:
When you track your dog's shedding, you can easily find out when your 'happy season' is during the year (my analogy to 'happy hour' ) and you can adapt your lifestyle and your dog's lifestyle, and prepare better in case you go traveling, and consider dietary changes, vaccinations, etc.
How much shedding is good for your dog?
Sounds better than 'How much shedding is 'normal', doesn't it?
New GSD owners often are surprised just how much their GSD sheds hair. However, if you are new to GSD ownership then first note that Shedding is not all the same for all German Shepherds:
Some do shed a lot every day, others a lot only during shedding season, and a few hardly shed at all during the remainder of the year. Particularly the short-coarse-haired edition of German origin, and some family lines of the long-coated GSDs that have no undercoat (so not the long stock coat ones).
Conversely, the plush-coat GSDs shed the most (see the gorgeous example on the right).
So, how much shedding is 'okay'? - In case you are concerned if your dog is 'normal' (what everyone of us is wondering once a while I guess).
Well, let me answer this in a fun way:
During your dog's personal shedding season (personal sounds better than individual, although it means the same here ), it is not a reason for concern if your GSD sheds this much every day (yes, every day):
But if (s)he sheds this much every day:
then you've put more time into being creative, and not enough time into grooming your dog!
No seriously, a daily amount like this would be too much, even when we consider that our GSDs are twice the size. So, in such case, better take your dog to the vet for a health check.
Will you keep your dog's shedding in good memory?
For years, I only saw shedding as - well yes - quite a nuisance (particularly while we didn't know of the right tools to manage it, see in a moment).
So naturally, when subscriber Connie sent me this article I was pleasantly surprised and realized that we can/should actually see the sheer amount our GSDs are shedding as a gift:
Because, like any other dog, shedding they would be anyway! But 'thankfully' they shed so much that we can benefit from it (not every dog owner can!). Benefit with offers like that from Connie.
Which then made me realize that there are probably further uses for our dog's hair, in addition to making a keepsake, no?
What are you doing with your dog's hair (if anything other than trashing it)? What ideas do you have to turn all that shedding into a pleasure? Or at least to make use of it?
A special scent in the fireplace maybe? A wig for Halloween?
4 Best tools to use so that you have FUN with your dog's shedding
Well, sort of!
I really feel that there's a massive difference in getting shedding under control depending on the tools and accessories we use.
And at least one of these tools does provide a certain 'FUN' factor when I do the grooming - and the kids enjoy it even more. But I am getting ahead of myself here...
So, what are our experiences how to best get German Shepherd shedding under control? And what are yours?
- Furminator - We use the large furminator, long hair version (yellow top)
- Oster Rake - This wider version saves time (but it's never wide enough)
- Pin-headed rubber brush - The knobs are just perfect
- Love glove - I only discovered this recently, before it was just the 3 items above, they do the job!
However, the above are only the grooming tools we use to control shedding. They of course don't help with the mess the remaining hair is making in the house.
So here are the top accessories to keep the house reasonably hair-free:
- The totally amazing waterproof bed throw (not just for throwing it over the beds)
- Best car seat cover (back bench and trunk too)
- Best sofa throw if you don't like the bed throw in the living room (but I like it more than this one, particularly the Leopard one)
- TPR broom for all even surfaces (parquet, tiles, and the like, incl flat carpet/rugs) - absolutely awesome results, even better than wet-wiping with the swiffer
- As regards vacuum-cleaning, I now totally swear on letting others do that backpain-producing work! Meanwhile we employ the services of a robotic vacuum cleaner (Italian Ariete, similar to her American brother Roomba), and we never want to be without her help anymore!
- If you want to shower or bath your dog before grooming (see tips below), then some shampoos are better than others in regards shedding. This shampoo does help quite a bit.
- Finally, to get the dog dry after the shower (or swimming), this dryer seems to be the most powerful canine dryer commercially available: K9 High Velocity Blower/Dryer (but be warned: the price does reflect its power). We don't have it here, we have to towel-rub and then dry in the sunshine (this we always have here).
What we don't use
So, you may have noticed: We do not use say food supplements to help with shedding. Although I admit that products like shed relief do have their merit, still this is the wrong approach in my opinion.
As you will expect from me, I say the right approach is to focus on a healthy and balanced diet straight away. One of MANY side effects is then that you get significant shed relief too.
Similarly, we do not use skin supplements (like say this one). Again, the much better approach is to focus on a healthy and balanced diet which in turn will strengthen the hair follicles more than any spray can achieve.
Further, we do not use a slicker brush because they irritate the skin (best case) or worse, they lead to lesions (unless you are super careful and highly concentrated while brushing - which I am not, and the kids never).
Finally, we do not use those popular sticky tape rollers. a) They don't catch enough, and b) they get quickly expensive, considering the amount you need already for one GSD.
7 Top Tips to keep shedding under control
Now let's apply all prior points to the actual process how to reduce shedding and the aftermath.
For easier reference, I will match each point to the list of the top mistakes that I mentioned in the beginning, so that this may hopefully help new GSD owners:
- Unless maybe you have the short coarse hair 'German edition' of a German Shepherd, better briefly brush your GSD every day. This alone reduces shedding to a minimum, even during shedding season.
- If for some reason you didn't get to the brushing for a week or so, I would certainly recommend to shower your GSD first, while maybe using that special shampoo mentioned above. During washing your dog, use the pin-headed rubber brush, because in addition to massaging your dog's skin it is excellent in untangling mats of hair and losening any hair that would fall out within the next few hours anyway.
- Then when you have dried your dog's coat (a bit of residual moisture is perfect!), use the furminator to remove any remaining mats of hair and to de-shed the guard hair of your dog, and use the rake for the undercoat. But be careful not to scratch down onto the skin. A cool trick is to have one finger (I use the small one) slide over the coat underneath the furminator to always keep the same distance.
- If you have the chance (garden/yard?) to de-shed your dog outside, I'd make use of that chance. Just choose a spot where it's not windy. If instead you prefer to do it indoors, I recommend you make your dog stand on a large sheet of wetted paper (old newspapers can do, however white paper is much better because then you can see say fleas and flea eggs; they are brown dots on wetted paper, and black dots on dry paper). The wetted paper has the added benefit that the hair stays on the paper when it comes off, instead of flying around the room. - You can of course use the paper trick outside too.
- Use effective grooming tools and accessories like the ones mentioned above.
- Start brushing against the line of hair growth, and end with the line of hair growth.
- And make your dog stand upright while you do the grooming (it's much easier). If you use the love glove, the grooming can even be FUN (there it is now!), for your dog too, because you are basically patting your dog, giving affection - while brushing your dog! Insane, I know.
Our subscriber Eric contributed this great suggestion: (or was it his dog Rygel? )
"If you have carpet this works wonders: Before you vacuum, sweep your carpet with a broom. This brings up the fur that is stuck in the carpet. To test this, vacuum then sweep and notice how much hair the vacuum cleaner left."
Thanks again Eric!!
==> Next edition: Dog Eye Care! <==