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Double-Coated German Shepherds

A lovely double-coated German Sheperd

A lovely double-coated German Sheperd

German Shepherds are undoubtedly beautiful dogs. One of the strongest and most noticeable characteristics of these dogs is their long, shiny coat. These striking fur coats are among the most easily recognized in the dog world.

You may have heard about some German Shepherds having double coats. How can you identify a single coat versus a double coat? These are the questions that will be answered in this article so you can understand more about these dogs and their fantastic fur coats.

Single Coats vs. Double Coats: What's the Difference?

Dogs are generally considered either a single-coat or a double-coat breed. A double-coated dog breed will have a second coating of fur. This second coat is referred to as a guard coat. The purpose of a guard coat is to help protect the dog from dirt and water. It does this because of its shape.

The fur in a guard coat is generally wiry and is better able to deflect dirt and water before it gets to the dog's skin. This is useful because it prevents them from getting dirty or experiencing an unnecessary infection.

Double coats are also able to serve a dual function during different times of the year. During winter, they are able to keep the dogs' naturally produced heat close to the skin. In summer, they are able to reflect the sun's light, preventing the dog from getting too hot.

Dogs with double coats will also have an undercoat. This undercoat works as a fantastic insulating coat, and during the winter months, the undercoat tends to get thicker. This, coupled with the second coat, makes double-coated dogs especially well-suited to all types of weather.

Single-coated dogs, on the other hand, only have an external, protective coat. This means that these dogs are usually not well-suited to living in cold weather, as in most cases they were bred in regions where they did not need an insulating undercoat.

A single-coated German Sheperd.

A single-coated German Sheperd.

Are German Shepherds Double-Coated Dogs?

German Shepherds are generally considered to be double-coated. However, not all of them are the same. There are a number of different lengths and sizes that their coats can be. Not all of the coats have the insulating undercoat.

The official breed that is able to compete in competitions will exclusively have undercoats. In the United States, if a German Shepherd doesn't have an undercoat, it is considered by the American Kennel Association to be a flawed dog. They will not be allowed to compete in shows. However, not all German Shepherds have these undercoats. There are a number of different types, which can include:

  • A short-length coat of about an inch, with an undercoat
  • A medium-length coat with an undercoat is generally known as a plush coat. This is the most frequent type of coat that you’ll see on a German Shepherd and is considered the most desirable for show lines. This coat will usually be between one and two inches.
  • A longer coat with an undercoat. These coats are at least two inches long, and generally quite thick.
  • A longer coat without an undercoat; same as above, except missing the undercoat.

Coat Varieties and Shedding

One of the factors that influences the amount of shedding that your dog will do is their coat type. These dogs are going to be shedding a lot all year long, regardless of their coat. However, certain types of German Shepherds may shed less.

One of the reasons for this is that during the spring and fall months dogs will shed their undercoats. This is usually a time of much vacuuming for owners. However, people who own a dog that does not have an undercoat may find that their dogs are not shedding any more than usual during these times.

Whatever the case, it's important to make sure that you brush your German Shepherd on a regular basis. Brushing once a day is ideal, but if this is not possible, make sure that you brush them at least several times a week.

It's also important to make sure that you don't bathe your dog too frequently. Twice a month should be plenty, except during the months in which your dog is shedding its undercoat. During these times, it's important to make sure that you bathe them enough so that they can stay clean.

Most dogs are considered to be either single-coat or double-coat dogs. German Shepherds are generally considered double-coated dogs, especially purebred dogs that are used in shows. However, some domestic dogs do not have undercoats.

German Shepherds without undercoats often require less grooming during the spring and fall months than their undercoated brethren. However, this does not make them any less beautiful.


  • Willis M. B. The German Shepherd Dog: A Genetic History. Howell Book House, 1992, 439 p.

© 2019 Sam Shepards


Adrienne Farricelli on November 24, 2019:

Interesting article on the types of German shepherd coats. My in-laws had two beautiful GSD in Northern Italy and I always admired how nice and puffy their coats were in the winter.

Sam Shepards (author) from Europe on November 03, 2019:

Thank you for the comments.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on November 03, 2019:

Cool and helpful.

Laynie H from Bend, Oregon on November 03, 2019:

I appreciate your expertise with this breed.