Brushing the German Shepherd

Learn about a German Shepherd’s coat and discover how this dog needs to be brushed.

By By Kitson Jazynka | posted: March 28, 2012, 1 p.m., EDT

Buy German Shepherd PuppiesA German Shepherd's coat has two parts: the outercoat, which protects the puppy from the elements with its texture and subtle oiliness, and the undercoat, which protects the puppy from heat and cold. The undercoat also holds a German Shepherd’s natural body oils. To preserve these natural oils and keep your dog’s entire coat shiny, healthy and odor-free, focus your grooming efforts on brushing your German Shepherd puppy or adult dog once a day.

For a German Shepherd puppy:

  1. Lightly mist your German Shepherd Dog with water from a spray bottle to eliminate static and dampen the undercoat.
  2. Brush your puppy’s coat in the direction in which it grows, using a brush with flexible bristles. Use gentle strokes to get him comfortable with the process.
  3. Next, brush your German Shepherd’s coat backward, going against the natural direction. This is called back brushing. Back brushing is important for several reasons: It fluffs the dog’s entire coat, aerates the undercoat, releases trapped moisture and lifts away dirt and dead hair. It also helps eliminate odors and prevents hot spots (painful skin infections). Approximately 15 minutes after back brushing, your German Shepherd’s coat will return to its normal state – just shinier and cleaner. If you brush the dog’s coat only in the direction in which it grows, you will trap the dirt and moisture, which causes that unpleasant dog odor.
  4. Starting with your GSD puppy’s paws, brush up from his paws to the tops of his legs. Brush his tail from the tip to his hips, then do the same on his back, brushing from your dog’s hips to his shoulders and in the same direction on his sides. Finally, brush your German Shepherd’s chest from bottom to top.
  5. End the session by rubbing your German Shepherd puppy with a soft towel. Don’t smooth out his hair; leave it fluffed up to aerate and invigorate the undercoat. Give your little German Shepherd lots of praise for his cooperation.

"Within a week of repeated brushings, your GSD puppy will get excited to see you coming with the misting bottle and will be anxious for you to start the back brushing,” says American Kennel Club Judge and German Shepherd Dog expert Dr. Carmen Battaglia.

At this point, you’re ready to move on to a simpler daily German Shepherd Dog brushing routine, which can be accomplished in less than two minutes.

  • Lightly mist your German Shepherd’s coat.
  • Back brush your dog all over with a soft brush.
  • Rub him with a soft towel.
  • Leave the coat standing up.

In the spring and fall, your GSD’s coat will replace itself. This is known as shedding or "blowing the coat.” You’ll need a more aggressive daily brushing plan during these seasons. Try the following:

  1. Brush your German Shepherd’s coat with a grooming rake (a brush with a series of curved, metal tines designed to remove loose undercoat). Start at your dog’s head, and rake in the direction in which the coat grows. Rake down your GSD’s neck, down his front side to his paws, under his body, along his back to his hind legs, and finish at his tail. Repeat this two or three times.
  2. Mist your dog’s coat.
  3. Use the back-brushing technique.
  4. Rub your dog with a clean, plush towel.

Brushing your GSD in this way during his shedding period will aid in the shedding cycle. If you don’t use a rake during this period, the shedding process might take as long as three or four weeks.


Excerpt from the Popular Puppies Series magabook German Shepherd Puppies with permission from its publisher, BowTie magazines, a division of BowTie Inc. Purchase German Shepherd Puppies here.



4 of 8 Comments View All 8 Comments

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Jim   San Antonio, Texas

3/31/2013 11:32:00 AM

Regarding Sarah-45971's comment "the Furminator", a word of caution: the Furminator IS a great tool, however, one must use a gentle hand. If you press down to hard or repetitively stroke the same area you can inadvertently cause "hot spots'. Also, you really need to clean and disinfected, (Unfortunately, I learned that the hard way)

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Sarah - 45971   Albuquerque, NM

3/14/2013 11:13:17 AM

Good info, however I find something like the Furminator to be the best for when my GSDs are shedding. :)

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Bec&Maya   Edmonton, AB

9/16/2012 8:44:04 AM

Hi! Just looking for advice on which brush would be best for my German Shepard/Border Collie cross! By flexible bristles, do you mean those bendy wire ones, or the nylon ones, where the nylon is very close together? Or a brush similar to one people would use with plastic bristles?

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LaurenM   Somewhere, GA

8/15/2012 3:25:40 AM

My German Shepherd mix is shedding a lot right now, this article really helped :)

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