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Grooming the German Shepherd Dog

The German Shepherd Dog is a breed that requires little grooming except for a few times a year. During those times, when the breed sheds out undercoat, they require a few intensive grooming sessions (unless you like a dog that resembles a pony shedding its winter coat, with huge tufts sticking out everywhere on the dog and coating everything the dog comes into contact with.) The dead undercoat combs out easily when it is ready to come out and the proper tools are used. The best tool for the purpose, which I use more than all my other grooming tools combined, is the short-toothed German grooming rake. This rake outdoes every other grooming tool in its effectiveness in combing out dead hair at least 3-1! The better-made brands are the best choices to buy, I have found that the handles come off of the cheaper versions after being used for a short time, and that the teeth of the cheaper versions also bend more easily. Bent teeth may not hamper the comb's efficiency a whole lot, but they certainly can injure the dog's skin. The last thing a dog needs to learn is that grooming is unpleasant or painful. The more enjoyable you can make the experience, the more cooperative the dog will be (after he first learns that he has to cooperate-most dogs, like children, have to resist authority at the beginning!)

The short toothed grooming rake does the overall best job of removing dead undercoat from a German Shepherd Dog. However, a few other tools to use in combination with the rake make the job far easier. A long-toothed German grooming rake is different from the short toothed rake pictured above only in that the teeth are longer.

The long toothed rake is very handy for grooming tails, neck hair, pants hair, and other places on the dog's body where the hair may be longer and thicker. It is useful for loosening up minor mats or clumps of dirty hair prior to using the short toothed rake in a problem area.
The large wide toothed grooming comb (pictured above) does a good job of going through the coat (and it does comb out a lot of dead hair but I don't know exactly how it does it when the spaces between the teeth are as wide as they are!) Other similar combs don't work nearly as well on the German Shepherd Dog coat as this one and I have tried a variety of them. Others may be useful for "finishing touches" here and there, but I am attempting to cover only the most basic useful grooming tools in this article.

Flea combs will trap fleas, but can be very difficult to even get through the dense coat of a German Shepherd Dog. If you do use a flea comb on your dog, first prepare a bowl of soapy water to drown the fleas in as you comb the dog. When you trap fleas in the comb, then dip the comb into the water and give those rotten little parasites a well deserved swirly! After all, they aren't welcome guests and don't pay much attention to polite requests to leave and never come back! The soapy water keeps them from jumping out of the bowl and returning to where you just evicted them from.

Incidentally flea combs are EXCELLENT for grooming cats and catching fleas in feline coats!

Something I have seen advertised and am tempted to try out ( is an electronic flea comb I've seen advertised, that kills the fleas as you comb them but is not supposed to hurt the animal being groomed.
(UPDATE-Evidently the electronic flea comb must have quickly been proven worthless, since I tried to order it when I first saw it advertised, and it already had been discontinued and was unavailable.)

Another tool that is indespensable, is the shedding blade, the type used for shedding out dead coat in horses. It is excellent for loosening and removing dead undercoat on the back, neck, and sides of the dog. One must make sure to move the rake in the direction the coat grows, and to hold the rake in a position close to parallel to the part of the dog you are grooming, when using it. Holding the rake at too much of an angle (for example 45-90 degree angle to the dog), or using too much force can cause the rake to cut the dog's skin and create sore spots.

Pinbrushes and slicker brushes are not very useful for the major grooming jobs of removing dead undercoat. They are used to put the finishing touches on a show coat and fluff up areas of the coat that improve the dog's overall appearance. They tend to clog quickly with dead hair which is not easy to clean out. Rubber currycombs are almost totally useless in grooming a German Shepherd Dog.

Basically, the absolute minimum of grooming equipment you need for the German Shepherd Dog is the short-toothed undercoat rake pictured above. Remember, though, that tasks are much easier if you have a selection of effective tools, and grooming the German Shepherd Dog is much easier if you have the following objects.
1. Short-toothed undercoat rake
2. Long-toothed undercoat rake
3. Large grooming comb with wideand evenly spaced long teeth (the type pictured above.) 4. Shedding blade of the type used for horses.

The above four tools are those I have found are the most useful, in the order listed. If you have a dog that is longer coated, or that has an extremely thick type of undercoat that mats easily, you may find that mat-splitting tools are very useful for breaking up mats and clumps in the coat. These are cutting tools and you have to remember to make sure that you do not move the comb in the wrong direction and cut the skin. You place the cutting edge of the tool under the mat and then move it outward away from the body, with the cutting edge facing away from the skin. There are several types of these made, the one I like the best is a simple single curved blade at the end of a handle.

Sometimes it may be necessary to simply cut areas of hair from a dog's coat. Hair should always be cut away from hot spots (moist, often shiny, round sores that are not uncommon in the breed, and develop usually from an area where the dog has been chewing on himself or where friction is constant.) Moisture, dead coat, and irritation are the most common factors that lead to hot spots, and a dog can develop a hot spot very quickly, sometimes even within hours! Clipping the hair away from the hot spot allows air to get to the sore and also enables the hot spot to heal faster. The best way I have seen to treat simple hot spots at home is to clip the hair away from them and then to put rubbing alcohol on them a couple of times a day, to clean them and help dry them out. The hot spot is a moist eczema and air and dryness are important factors in helping it to heal.

In older, ill, or inactive animals in warm weather, hot spots can pose a danger because they are an open invitation to flies. Hot spots can start under mats and in an animal that is more lethargic, the flies can lay eggs in the sore. Active healthy animals tend to be harder targets for flies because they move around and also bite or scratch at the flies. Any open wound, infected area, or heavily soiled area (especially any area soiled with diarrhea or other bodily fluids)is extremely attractive to flies in warm weather. It is far better to be aware of this and to check the animal for flies and to use fly repellent, than it is to treat the problems that result if flies do get a chance to lay eggs on the dog and these eggs are not removed. If you ever find fly eggs on your dog, remove them at once and take action to make sure that the flies don't get another chance. If you find larvae, the dog should be seen by the vet. Fly larvae are capable of killing a dog if a person does not intervene.

If you have to resort to scissors, and if you have a dog that is heavily matted, or has clumps of muddy or sticky hair that need removed, use scissors that are not too large and that are well sharpened. Cutting hair safely from a dog's coat can be done safely if it is done slowly and care is taken to make sure to cut hair only from small areas at a time. Make sure before you cut, that you are aiming for hair and not skin. The most common way to injure a dog with scissors seems to be when someone takes too big a cut, and even if the area closest to the scissors isn't injured, remember that a dog's body is made of curves and scissors cut across these curves. Bandage scissors are great for safely cutting hair away from a dog, and are less likely to cut the skin than regular scissors. It is a matter of simple logic and common sense, that all scissors should be used carefully.

An animal should be groomed before you bathe it. If you bathe before grooming, you will find that grooming becomes a much more difficult job. Also, grooming before bathing is much easier on your drain! Bathing usually stimulates more shedding so you will find it necessary to do a short grooming job after a dog is has had a bath and his coat has dried.

During the summer, if your dog goes outdoors (and most German Shepherd Dogs do need quite a bit of outdoor time to exercise), you will usually need to put insect repellant on the dog's ears to protect them against flies. Flies bite the ears, making them bloody, which in turn attracts more flies to come for a meal. If left untreated, the dog's ears can become permanently scarred and bald from the damage caused by the flies. The most effective fly repellant I've found so far, is a white cream available from vets and pet product catalogs. There's a pink cream that works fairly well too, but its color and stickiness make it less pleasant to use, than the white cream. Liquids and gels don't last as long. However, if you can't find fly repellant in a cream, you can mix liquid with plain petroleum jelly, and that will stay on the dog's ear longer than the liquids or clear gels do. Of course, it is always possible that new products in any of the above forms, may be released which are more effective and longer-lasting than those presently available. Many people are very aware of the need to protect their dog against fleas, but aren't as aware of how damaging flies can be to the ears of a German Shepherd Dog.

The German Shepherd Dog has the reputation for being a breed that sheds heavily, but actually its coat is no harder to maintain than the coats of other "double-coated" breeds, and most breeds of dogs are "double-coated", possessing an outer coat and a softer undercoat.

Clipping Your Dog's Nails
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