Caring for a Long Haired German Shepherd

Potential issues that can arise when owning a Long Haired German Shepherd and how to handle them 

The iconic long-haired German Shepherd is loved by dog owners and breeders all over the world thanks to its gorgeous long coat and dashing good looks. Despite popular beliefs, long hair on German Shepherds is not a product of selective breeding and is in fact the result of a genetic fault.

The specific gene is an unpredictable trait and there’s no real way of telling whether or not pups will be born with long hair. Even with selective breeding it's often down to luck because even two parent dogs with short hair could still produce a long-haired German Shepherd if their DNA contains the necessary gene.

Although it's down to personal preference and not everyone likes fluffy, long-haired dogs, this particular breed has become very popular with dog owners looking for a furry friend to adopt.

If you’re lucky enough to have one of these beautiful canines or you’re thinking of adopting one, make sure you know a lot about them in advance so you’re prepared and equipped to look after them. This guide will provide you with a quick profile of the long-haired German Shepherd and outline some of the common concerns, issues or potential problems you’ll need to consider.

Appearance

The long-haired German Shepherd is surprisingly very similar to its short-haired counterpart, despite looking quite different. They share the same general body shape and size, which means that you won’t have to worry about making any extra space. The average height of a long-haired German Shepherd is 55-65cm  and they usually weigh in at 22-40kg, making it a medium size dog that would fit well into any average size home.

It’s the luscious long coat that's is the biggest difference. The longer haired dogs don’t actually have an undercoat which can make their fur look a lot more sleek and shiny than an average German Shepherd's. This is one of the reasons why breeders and trainers all over the world favour these genetic miracle dogs, however the lack of an undercoat comes with certain problems.

Long-haired German Shepherds are less resilient to harsh weather conditions such as heavy rain and harsh winds. They will tend to get colder a lot easier and will struggle to withstand the elements if they're outdoors for too long. For this reason they are not really suited to the line of work they're traditionally known for. If you’re looking for a herding dog or a hunter, you'd be better suited to a short-haired German Shepherd.

Temperament

You may be surprised to know that the long-haired German Shepherd retains all of the intelligence and obedience that the breed is known for, while maintaining a much better general temperament than a standard German Shepherd. This makes them much more diverse in terms of compatibility as they will be suited to all different types of people and home environments.

Along with a much more playful and calm temperament, the long-haired German Shepherd is very affectionate and sociable. They enjoy the company of humans and are always looking to be in contact, which makes them ideal house dogs for families. They're extremely loyal and still retain the protective instinct that German Shepherds are known for. Their soft and playful nature means that they get along well with children so you won’t have to worry if you plan on bringing one into the family.

Just like any other herding breed of dog it’s important that the long-haired German Shepherd gets enough room to grow. They're naturally full of energy so they need to be taken on plenty of walks and given the chance to get a lot of exercise. Due to their playful nature you may find that their energy will be used to chew up your favourite shoes if you don’t give them enough exercise.

Health

Unfortunately the long-haired German Shepherd is prone to suffering from the same health conditions and potential illnesses of it's short-haired cousin. They are a medium sized herd dog which means they're liable to suffer from hip or elbow dysplasia as they get older. Conditions like this are often down to genetics so it’s a good idea to look into the lineage of your pooch and try to find out how susceptible they are to dysplasia.

Although things like joint conditions are hereditary, there are certain things you can do to help reduce the effects and prolong the amount of time before they strike. Maintaining a healthy diet, rich in minerals and vitamins will help to increase the quality of your furry friend’s joints. It's also important to keep their weight at a healthy level. German Shepherds who are overweight have been known to develop hip dysplasia earlier in life due to the extra strain put on their bones and joints. 

Other illnesses that can develop in long-haired German Shepherds include digestion issues, eye diseases and skin conditions. These can be caused by bad breeding techniques but also as a result of careless grooming and a poor diet. Be sure to regularly groom your dog to help maintain a healthy coat, improve blood flow and reduce the risk of dry or irritated skin. Regular check-ups are also vital if you want to make sure your four-legged friend is kept happy and healthy.

Exercise

Just like with any other dog, exercise is an important part of keeping your long-haired German Shepherd fit and healthy. They are full of energy and love to get outside and run around, which means you’ll need to have plenty of space or time for walks if you plan on adopting one.

If you’re a fitness buff and you go on regular walks or runs, a long-haired German Shepherd will make a perfect exercise buddy. They love relaxing with their human family but they are naturally energetic so will always jump at the chance to get outside. This can be a problem if you’re a single home owner as you may struggle to find time to walk them regularly. As long as you're prepared and willing to put the time into giving them exercise you'll love welcoming a long-haired German Shepherd into your family.

They are extremely clever dogs which means they’re perfect for playing games like fetch and Frisbee at the park. They can be easily trained to retrieve things if you’re willing to put the time in.

Living requirements

As mentioned earlier, long-haired German Shepherds are very emotionally dependent on their human family and require a lot of contact. This means that you might not be suited to this pooch if you spend the majority of your time out of the house. If you often leave for extended periods of time you’ll need to recruit friends or family to help out.

Long-haired German Shepherds are very well suited to people who regularly get outside or go for runs because you can take your canine buddy along with you and then get home to chill out on the sofa. As mentioned earlier long-haired German Shepherds are good house dogs due to their lack of undercoat and inability to deal with harsh weather conditions.

As medium sized dogs they do need their own space and can require a lot of attention. If you’re planning on adopting one of these gorgeous furry pooches you’ll need to make sure you have enough room to give them their own bed, eating area and play toys. They can be quite hyperactive sometimes so if there are certain areas or rooms you don’t want them to go in it’s a good idea to train them from being pups

Grooming

The long hair of this dog means that there is a lot of extra grooming that you’ll have to do compared to a standard German Shepherd. If you’ve never seen the amount of hair that a long-haired German Shepherd sheds, you may be in for a bit of a shock. After a full brushing you’ll be left with what looks like another dog on the floor, so be sure not to leave it too long between brushes.

Because of its length, your dog’s hair can easily become matted and sticky if left uncleaned and ungroomed. This means you’ll need to keep on top of your pooch’s grooming schedule and make sure they're brushed regularly to avoid irritation and overheating from a build-up of fur.

Long-haired German Shepherds constantly shed their fur so you may want to invest in a decent vacuum cleaner as you’ll be using it a lot. We all know how dog hairs have a habit of getting everywhere so make sure you have plenty of lint rollers to hand so you can de-fur your clothes before you head out.

As well as brushing your pooch it’s important to maintain well-trimmed nails, so regular manicures are vital. There are many health benefits to keeping your long-haired German Shepherd’s nails neat and trimmed. It can be an awkward task if you’ve never done it before so be sure to check out our guides here and here on cutting dog nails if you need some advice. 

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