Perhaps you didn't acquire your German shepherd to herd sheep or catch felons on the run, but if you did, he has the coat to get the work done. Most shepherds have a double coat that is coarse and rough, just like the work they were meant to do.
Your GSD has an outer coat that is straight, coarse and dense with flat hair that lies close to his body. The undercoat is thick and softer than the outer coat. The neck area has a longer and thicker coat compared to the rest of the body. Some German shepherds have slightly wavy hair with a wiry texture for the outer coat. Bred to do herding and police work, his coat can handle the cold nights.
Plan on brushing your shepherd often. The German shepherd sheds constantly, so he requires weekly and even daily brushing, especially during the twice-a-year seasonal shedding. Brushing will help avoid mats and distribute his natural oils.
The German shepherd is available in four coats -- short with an undercoat, medium with an undercoat, long with an undercoat and long without an undercoat. The short and medium-length coats are the preferred show coats. The short coat is as described, short. The medium or plush coat is longer and fuller than the short coat. Besides the longer hair, the long coat has long tufts or feathering on the ears, back of the legs and the tail. The long coat without the undercoat has the same feathering, but the outer coat is soft instead of coarse.
The classic look for German shepherds is black and tan with a black saddle. A blanket-black is when the saddle markings extend to the dog's elbows. A bi-color look is when the saddle covers the whole body except the feet and sometimes the face.
Other combinations include blue and tan as well as liver and tan. Blue dogs have a gray, dusty look to their color. The blue can be a powdery light color to a steel-blue color. Liver is a brownish color varying from a light shade of brown to a chocolate brown.
Solid-colored German shepherd dogs include black, white, blue and liver. Sable is a blend of colors.
For showing, the AKC prefers dogs with strong, rich colors. Pale shades, livers and blues are considered a fault and white shepherds are disqualified. The ideal coat for showing is medium in length with a dense outer coat.
Daily brushing is essential for the long-haired shepherd and during seasonal shedding. When shedding is low, the short-haired may get by with a weekly brushing. Brush puppies daily so they become accustomed to the grooming process.
If you are considering purchasing a German shepherd, beware of breeders who claim to breed unusual colors. Even though the blue and liver shades are recessive, the varied colors for German shepherds are not unusual.
Pauline Gill is a retired teacher with more than 25 years of experience teaching English to high school students. She holds a bachelor's degree in language arts and a Master of Education degree. Gill is also an award-winning fiction author.