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Are German Shepherds Hypoallergenic?

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Are German Shepherds Hypoallergenic?

Just because you’re allergic to dogs, doesn’t mean you don’t love them, right? If you’re allergic to dog hair but still want to be an owner, specifically the owner of a German Shepherd, you’re probably wondering – are they hypoallergenic? 

The answer is no, unfortunately not. In actuality, no dogs, apart from a few rare hairless breeds, are truly hypoallergenic. However, some breeds have such low-shedding coats that it doesn’t trigger a reaction in people with allergies. They are known as hypoallergenic dogs, but German Shepherds are not one of them. 

That said, don’t give up! There are several things that budding owners with allergies can do to make life with a German Shepherd easier.

Table of Contents

Living with pet allergies

Around 10-20% of the population have allergies to dog hair. Specifically, the proteins that dogs secrete through their dander, which release into the atmosphere when they shed their fur. Symptoms include sneezing and coughing, a runny or congested nose, facial pressure, pain, and swelling, and eye, nose, and throat irritation.

Doctors can diagnose pet allergies through skin and blood tests. If you want to try and reduce your symptoms, try to keep your home as clean as possible with regular vacuuming and laundering of soft furnishings. You could use impermeable covers for your furniture, or invest in a high-efficiency HEPA air cleaner to prevent dander from catching and sticking to things in the home.

Medical treatments for pet allergies include immunotherapy in the form of allergy shots, steroid and antihistamine nose sprays, and antihistamine pills. There are also things you can do to reduce your dog’s shedding. 

What coat type do German Shepherds have?

German Shepherds have two coat types; long-haired and short-haired. The short-haired variety is more common. Their fur tends to be around 1 inch long, whereas long-haired Shep coats can reach 2 inches or more in length. There is also a coat type known as “plush coated” German Shepherds, which is sort of a mix between the two, although this is not officially recognized by the AKC. 

Both long and short-haired Sheps have thick double coats consisting of a soft, insulating undercoat and a coarse topcoat with straight fur. Their thick coats helped them to stay warm when guarding livestock throughout the night; the job they were originally bred to do. 

Short-haired German Shepherds tend to have thicker undercoats with thinner topcoats, and long-haired Sheps have it the other way around. That said, some long-haired Sheps lack an undercoat altogether.  

The German Shepard’s appearance is instantly recognizable; they are predominantly a mixture of black and tan, although they can be several different colors, including all-black, sable, and cream. Common markings include black on the muzzle, ears, neck, back, and tail. Their fur tends to be softer and feathery on the chest, legs, backend, and tail. Long-haired Sheps also have a large neck rough, and short-haired Sheps may have a slight one.

two german shepherds outside

Can coat type affect temperament?

Interestingly, long-haired German Shepherds are known for having a better temperament than short-haired ones. Not to say that short-haired Sheps have a bad temperament, but long-haired ones are generally known for being gentler and friendlier.

This is due to short-haired Sheps being genetically closer to their ancestors. The original German Shepherd dogs were short-haired, which means that the genetics of long-haired Sheps have been “diluted” to create the long-haired gene. So, short-haired German Shepherds have more working DNA in them than long-haired Sheps, making them a little rougher around the edges.

Are German Shepherds heavy shedders?

German Shepherds are naturally heavy shedders, which is why they’re not well-suited to owners with allergies to dog hair. They also shed all year round, with the heaviest shedding occurring during shedding seasons; the 2-4 week transitions from spring into summer and fall into winter. That said, some dogs can take up to 8 weeks to fully blow their coats. 

During the transition from spring to summer, German Shepherds will completely shed their thick winter coats to grow in a thinner, cooler coat for the summer, and this is the heaviest period of shedding throughout the year. Then, at the end of fall, they shed their cool summer coats to grow their warm winter ones back in again.

Excessive shedding in German Shepherds

Excessive or abnormal shedding can be a sign of poor skin and coat health. This is not the same as hair loss, in which dogs lose patches of hair that don’t grow back. Other signs of poor coat health include matted, dull, dry, and brittle fur or fur that is smelly and greasy to touch, whilst unhealthy skin is often dry, irritated, and flaky. 

Poor skin and coat health in German Shepherds can be caused by a few things, most commonly poor diet, poor hygiene, and food allergies. Dogs also shed more as they get older because their fur becomes more brittle with age.

Dogs with poor nutrition may be under or overweight, lethargic, smell bad, and experience lots of skin and digestive issues. Common food allergies in dogs include grains, soy, and certain proteins found in meat, dairy, and eggs. Allergies can also cause digestive disturbances. 

Less common but more serious explanations for a dramatic increase in shedding include hormonal issues, infections, parasites, immune diseases, and cancer. However, these should all have more apparent signs and symptoms, like changes in behavior and appearance or stomach upsets. 

Stress can also cause a sudden increase in shedding, as adrenaline causes more hair to be released from the follicles. Common causes of stress include life changes, boredom, separation anxiety, illness, trauma, and grief. 

How to prevent & reduce shedding in German Shepherds 

Although you can’t stop your German Shepherd from shedding completely, you can reduce it, improve their coat health, and make them more allergy-friendly with lifestyle changes and deshedding products.

When excessive shedding is caused by illness, dogs should be tested and treated by a vet right away. You can offset stress-induced shedding caused by life changes with lots of TLC, a stable routine, and relaxation products. If their stress has a particular trigger, you should try to associate it with something positive or avoid it altogether if possible.

german shepherd with a bowl of food

Diet

A good, healthy, natural diet is the first line of defense against excessive shedding. If your German Shepherd’s body is being properly nourished from the inside out, it will strengthen hair follicles and reduce breakage. 

They should eat nutritiously complete and balanced kibbles with high-quality protein sources like chicken and salmon, fiber-rich fruits and vegetables, and treats made from wholesome ingredients. 

Many commercial pet foods use so-called filler ingredients that are actually bad for dogs, such as wheat and artificial additives, because they’re cheaper to manufacture. Try to avoid those by checking the labels and product descriptions online and if you’re going to make a big change to your dog’s diet, do it gradually to avoid upsetting their tummy. 

If you think your dog could have an allergy, speak to your vet about doing a food trial to determine the cause of their symptoms. These days, there are tonnes of tasty and affordable foods for dogs on the market that are free from common allergens. 

Grooming

It’s a good idea to brush your German Shepherd every other day, or 3-4 times per week. Regular brushing removes loose fur, debris, and tangles. Not only does this prevent bad hygiene and health issues, but it will make your Shep’s coat look and feel great, and stop the loose fur from getting all over your home. 

Always brush their hair following the direction it grows, and use firm pressure with short strokes so as to not pull or rip any hair out. Slicker brushes and deshedding rakes are the best brushes for German Shepherds. Slicker brushes have lots of tiny, thin metal pins to remove knots and debris, and they’re ideal for dogs with coarse coats. Rake brushes have long, thick metal pins and rake-like handles to effectively remove loose fur from undercoats with ease.

German Shepherds don’t require too much bathing because their coarse fur doesn’t let in or trap dirt very easily. That said, you should bathe them every 3-4 months to avoid a build-up of dirt and debris, but it’s important not to over-bathe them, as this can strip the fur of its natural self-cleaning oils. Once you’ve wet the coat, lather it up with an all-natural dog shampoo, massage it into the skin and be sure to thoroughly rinse it all off afterward.

Generally, German Shepherd coats do not need trimming or clipping by a professional. This is usually only necessary in dogs with curled fur to prevent serious tangles and matting. However, you may want to trim their back ends every now and then if it is particularly feathery for hygiene reasons, but it’s nothing that can’t be done at home. 

It’s best to introduce grooming to Shepherd pups young to prevent it from becoming something they hate. If it’s too late for that, take it slow and give your Shep loads of treats and praise as you go to make grooming fun. Alternatively, invest in some scrubbing and brushing gloves to reduce anxiety around brushing and bathtime. They mimic a natural petting motion to make grooming less apparent and are also quite calming on the skin.

Deshedding products

There are several great deshedding supplements and shampoos on the market. Supplements work by nourishing the skin and hair with essential nutrients to improve the overall condition of the coat and reduce shedding. They come in several forms, like chews, powders, and liquids that can be mixed in with daily meals. Key ingredients to look out for include Omega 3 & 6 oils, biotin, vitamin E, and zinc.

Deshedding shampoos exfoliate and cleanse to remove loose fur, encourage new growth, and strengthen the hair follicles to lessen breakage. They should also condition the coat and make it smell nice, without interfering with topical medications.

german shepherd indoor lay down

Alternative dog breeds for people with allergies

There are several hypoallergenic breeds of dog, but if you have your heart set on a German Shepherd, consider some hypoallergenic breeds that share some of their best qualities. 

Pulis, Irish Water Spaniels, and Giant Schnauzers are all large breeds that are known to make great guard dogs; watchful, courageous, protective, and fiercely loyal – just like the German Shepherd! 

Although not always as large, several Terrier breeds also have the fearlessness of the German Shepherd, with the added bonus of hypoallergenic coats. Hypoallergenic Terrier breeds include the Airedale Terrier, the Border Terrier, and the Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier. 

If you want the German Shepherd’s high energy, however, consider an Afghan Hound. Other than their size, the glamorous Afghan Hound may not appear to have much in common with German Shepherds at first glance; their long, luscious, locks are a far cry from the German Shepherd’s short, coarse coat. However, they are just as high-energy and independently minded.

And yes, that super long fur is somehow hypoallergenic! It also takes a lot of grooming, especially in contrast with German Shepherd coats, but it is extremely low-shedding and won’t cause an allergic reaction

If it’s the German Shepherd’s intelligence you want, consider getting a Poodle. Known to be the second smartest dog breed in the world, the Poodle will give you all of the smarts and playfulness of the German Shepherd, without any of the dander. In fact, they need just as much mental stimulation as German Shepherds to sustain their bright minds and avoid boredom. 

Not only do Poodles come in all shapes and sizes, but they also have several cross-breeds, most of which are also hypoallergenic – and that includes the Shepadoodle! Yes, this is a German Shepherd-Poodle cross, combining all of your favorite German Shepherd traits with the hypoallergenic fur of the Poodle. 

The bottom line

Although German Shepherds aren’t the ideal breed of dog for people with allergies, there are several ways to reduce shedding and improve allergy symptoms if you’re determined to own a German Shepherd. So, don’t give up! Look into allergy treatments, dander-proofing your home, caring for your Shep’s coat, and trying out some deshedding products.

Laura <br> <h6>Writer and Border Collie Mom​</h6>

Laura

Writer and Border Collie Mom​

Laura is a dog-lover with an animal-related degree and plenty of hands on experience. She is passionate about dog health & welfare and wants to arm owners with all of the essential info they need!

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