Sam Shephard is an experienced German Shepherd owner and has learned throughout the years how to optimize the breed's health and wellness.
Many breeders will list long-coat German Shepherd dogs as “unacceptable.” In the United States, Canada, and Germany, long-hair German Shepherd dogs are not shown at dog shows because their longer fur is not considered the “standard” for the breed.
Despite being unsuitable for dog shows, these dogs usually portray every other desirable German Shepherd characteristic. These dogs are not really any lower in quality or less acceptable. In fact, they may actually be preferable to some owners because their fur is longer and softer to the touch. That said, they are definitely not any easier to manage than German Shepherds who have short fur.
Long-Coat German Shepherd Genetics
A German Shepherd's long hair is caused by a recessive gene that any dog can carry. In fact, many breeders might not know that their dogs carry this gene until the puppies are born. Both parents will have to carry the gene in order for it to manifest in the puppies, and even then it will only manifest some of the time.
Two medium- or short-coat dogs that carry the gene can have a litter with no long-hair German Shepherd puppies, or a litter with two or three. It is very rare that the entire littler will have this recessive gene turned on since the breeding dogs will also carry the dominant short hair genes which, when combined, are much more likely to manifest than the recessive short hair trait.
This gene is in every breeding line in all three of the major countries that breed German Shepherds for show, as pets, or as working dogs. While buyers looking for shepherds to show at kennel club shows will not choose long-coat German Shepherd puppies for their needs, many families and trainers will select these dogs because their coats are long, soft, and luxurious.
While this coat has its own challenges, especially considering the rate and volume that a German Shepherd sheds his fur, a long coat gives these dogs a very unique look. They come in every size, color, and coloration pattern as short-haired German Shepherds. Keep your eye out for these dogs and you will be rewarded with a happy, loyal, and healthy dog.
Grooming Long-Haired Dogs
When you have a long-hair German Shepherd puppy or adult, grooming will be very important, perhaps even more important than it is for short- and medium-hair dogs. This is because longer fur is more likely to become matted and difficult to manage, which can be very bad for the dog, especially if you live in a climate where it is very warm or hot during the summers. Starting the grooming routine at a young age can help your dog learn what you need him to do and even enjoy the process as he grows.
When he is a puppy, start by manipulating his legs, paws, and body on a regular basis. This is very important for getting him used to being touched and for teaching him to sit still during grooming. At first, he will probably be very wiggly, but as he grows, he will enjoy the leg massage. Start incorporating brushing into this routine after the first week.
Puppies who play outside are likely to get grass, twigs, mud, and even tree sap in their fur. The longer coat is more prone to collecting wilderness than short coats, which makes brushing all the more important. When he is young, use a very gentle brush or a wide-toothed comb to detangle any knots and to remove fur as he begins to shed.
As he grows and his skin becomes less sensitive, you will want to use a brush designed for shedding or even designed specifically for long-hair German Shepherds. In order to use these brushes and to make sure that you are brushing with the grain of the fur, start by lying him on his side and brushing from his shoulder, along the grain, to his haunches with your brush.
Once one side is done, roll him over and do the other side. A shedding blade can often be a good tool for removing fur, but it can only be used in the direction the dog’s fur grows, or it can cut the fur. A standard dog brush with bristles or pins is also an acceptable tool.
Brushing doesn’t just remove dead fur from the coat, it also removes debris and helps you check for any skin issues. When a puppy is young, it helps the dog and owner bond and teaches your GSD to sit still during grooming and bathing. Most of all, it distributes the oils that your German Shepherd’s skin produces, keeping his skin and coat shiny and healthy.
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Washing Long-Haired German Shepherds
Because the fur on a long-coat German Shepherd is longer and thicker than even a plush coat on other types of German Shepherds, it can collect more dirt and can be more difficult to wash. German Shepherds usually will not need to be washed more than three times a year, with twice being the average, especially if he is getting regular baths. During cold weather, bathe your German Shepherd indoors and make sure he is completely dry before letting him outside. Otherwise, bathing indoors is perfectly fine.
Do not use water that is too hot or too cold. Water that is too hot will dry out his skin, while water that is too cold can make him very cold and uncomfortable. Apply the shampoo to your hands and work it into his fur, just like you would your own hair. Start at his neck and work down his legs, stomach, and haunches. It is also important not to neglect his tail, as the long fur there can pick up plenty of debris.
What kind of shampoo you use really depends on what your dog’s particular needs are. If he has naturally dry skin, a conditioning shampoo can help. Antimicrobial shampoos can help with skin infections. If he has flaky skin or dandruff, there are dog shampoos for those issues as well. Don't bathe your dog too often, a couple of times each year is often more than enough. If your dog isn't especially dirty or smelly, you should not do it!
If you have ever tried to bathe a dog that does not like it, you know how difficult it can be to get him clean, without getting yourself wet and dirty. When your long-hair German Shepherd is a puppy, wetting him down in the bath weekly to get him used to the sensation can help dispel some of his fear. Making sure you are very careful not to get any shampoo in his eyes, ears, or mouth when you are bathing him can further help prevent tantrums or fear when it comes time to get in the bath.
The Bottom Line
Long-haired German Shepherds have a unique look. They are not as wolfish as their short-haired brothers and sisters, sometimes looking more like a setter than a wolf. However, they are definitely handsome creatures, with all the loyalty and intelligence as any other German Shepherd.
© 2019 Sam Shepards
Palak Kumar saha on September 05, 2020:
I love too long coat GSD
Sam Shepards (author) from Europe on August 05, 2019:
@Biwinca thank you for your comment. I'll look into your remarks about long hair German Shepherd dogs. I never had a long coat only plush coat. Normally we don't really wash them but during the summer we use the garden hose, only when they are dirty and/or had a small we would really wash them which wasn't that often. I did poll it, because I wanted to know how often other people do that. I guess it would be once or maybe twice a year depending on activities. For instance when swimming in the very salty sea nearby it happens we need to hose them to get the salt and sand out of the fur, because they would scratch when irritated. When I read about long coat german shepherds from other people it's seems they groom and wash more often than plush coats.
Biwinca on June 05, 2019:
I have a long-haired Shepherd but differ a bit on some of your facts. The LHGS wasn't allowed in dog shows because they were 'unacceptable', but they were unacceptable because most of them don't have an undercoat. As a result they can't be considered true herding dogs because of their acceptability to inclement weather. They therefore don't fit the true essence of the breed. As a side note that is starting to change.
Also, my vet has suggested that we don't wash our dog unless he is 'very dirty'. They clean themselves naturally and it is much healthier for them, as excessive soap, even dog soap, is not good for their skin. I have washed our 5 1/2 year old an average of 1-2 times per year, and every time I take him out there are 1-2 people who remark how shiny and beautiful he is.
Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on March 13, 2019:
Sam Shepards (author) from Europe on March 13, 2019:
Well I never had a long coat German Shepherd. We had plush coats mostly. We didn't wash them that often, it's often not that good for the skin oil/coat. Of course there is nothing wrong with also using the gardenhose from time to time, not really washing, but can be quite entertaining. Just make sure they are not dirty, do not smell bad and don't have lyce or flees etc.
Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on March 13, 2019:
I do not have a German Shepherd but I really like these articles. Wow that recessive gene/genetics is really cool. I found that interesting about 6 months between washing. I thought you was them maybe even without soap whenever they needed.