New pet owners are often not sure how often they should be bathing their dogs. Especially if they are German Shepherds (GSDs), because these beautiful double-coated creatures have grooming needs that are unique to their breed.
But here’s the thing: an optimum grooming regimen does not conclude with a bath. You have to take a holistic approach and clean your GDS’s ears, paws, teeth etc. as well on a regular basis in order to keep him/her healthy, clean and happy.
Here is a very helpful tip sheet on GSD grooming that will give you all the information you need to get started:
# 1: Brushing
This is the most important part of a German Shepherd’s grooming regimen. GSDs are active animals who typically spend a lot of time outdoors, collecting dirt and debris that cling to their double coat.
• Brush as often as possible (at least 3-4 times a week) to remove these, as well as reduce the impact of shedding. Daily brushing is the best thing if you manage to do it.
• German Shepherds `blow’ or change coat twice a year (in Fall and in Spring) when hairballs are everywhere, but regular brushing is important even when they’re not experiencing the high volume of seasonal shedding.
• Do some research on the best grooming tools – like a good de-shedder brush or a grooming rake – that will help you do the job quickly and efficiently.
• Apply a light spray of mist to moisten the coat and brush in both directions – towards and against the hair growth. Brushing against the direction of the hair growth (known as back brushing) ventilates the undercoat and pulls up debris and dead hair. It also helps to eliminate `doggy odor’, prevent hot spots and keep the coat looking shiny, healthy and clean.
• Finish off by rubbing him/her down with a soft towel.
# 2: Bath
• Bathing 5-6 times a year should be sufficient if you’re brushing your GSD regularly.
• German Shepherds are double-coated – which means they have a top layer of hair that protects the outdoorsy animal from outside elements and a shorter, inner layer that protects from heat and cold. The coat has a certain amount of natural body oil that may get stripped if you bathe your GDS too often, leaving the skin dry, flaky and more susceptible to skin problems like itchiness, redness and hot spots.
• Brush thoroughly first, to prevent matting when the dog is in the bath.
• Use a dog shampoo that coincides with your pet’s pH balance. Shampoos with Oatmeal and Aloe Vera are generally recommended unless your dog needs medicated shampoo for specific skin-related problems.
• The water should be warm to tepid. Watch your pet’s reaction as you pour water to adjust the temperature to his/her particular liking. Make sure the water is never too hot or too cold.
• Take care that the bath water does not collect in the ears. Keep ears protected at all times.
• Wash the head last because this is the part of the body that the animal least enjoys being wetted and soaped.
• Rinse repeatedly to get rid of all shampoo residue.
• Dry off meticulously with soft, absorbent towels. A lot of dogs do not mind if you use a hair dryer to speed up the process. Just make sure the dryer is not too close, and you don’t keep directing the heat in the same spot for more than 2-3 seconds. Keep the dryer moving constantly.
# 3: Teeth
• Grooming is a good time to give your pet’s dental health a once over. Check closely for common dental issues like tartar and plaque build-up.
• Use canine toothpaste and brush to clean the teeth, but be gentle with the brush so you don’t accidentally hurt the gums.
# 4: Nails
• Long nails are definitely a cause for concern. They can get caught on fabric, upholstery etc. and cause painful injuries. They’re hard to walk on, and what’s more, a dog can develop problems with their joints and legs because they walk or stand in awkward postures to stop the nails from pinching their paws.
• If you’re afraid to trim nails yourself during an at-home grooming session, go to a vet or a professional groomer to get the job done.
# 5: Ears
• Trim excess hair if necessary to improve circulation and prevent ear problems caused by too much dampness.
• Wipe the ears with cleansing cotton balls, to remove visible wax and debris, but make sure not to stick ear buds or anything else deep into the canal. This can push debris deeper into the canal and cause complications.
• Look for signs of infection like redness, itchiness, excessive crud deposits, foul odor etc. Certain food allergies, for example, can show up in the ear and may need a visit to the vet to prevent the infection from festering.
• Eardrops are useful if your dog shows signs of itchy ears. Put a few drops in the ear canal and gently massage the base of the ear to make sure the medication spreads evenly.
# 6: Make Grooming A Soothing Experience For Your GSD
• First and foremost, it is important to make sure your German Shepherd enjoys the grooming experience, so it is easier on both of you. When a large dog is not fond of grooming, he/she will try to wrestle, tug, pull or run away – which is physically and mentally exhausting for the caretaker.
• Start your pet off with the grooming routine as early as possible, so the puppy gets used to it from a very young age.
• Choose a quiet area where the dog can feel safe and private.
• Use a flat surface, like a table, to work on. Make sure the height of the table is comfortable and you don’t hurt your back as you work.
• Talk in a soothing voice if the animal is showing signs of stress. Do not display your frustration if your pet is fidgeting, as that will only spook the animal further.