The Best GSD: Short Coat vs. Long Coat


German Shepherd Dog. German Shepherd short coat, German Shepherd long coat – what does it all mean? Does coat length really matter in any context? Oh, and what about that “Shepherd” thing? You’ve probably seen it misspelled a million times, as “Sheperd,” “Shepard” or “Sheppard,” so let’s put that one to rest finally and forever – it’s “Shepherd.” As in “herder of sheep.” That dealt with, for the rest of this post I’m just going to say “GSD,” short for “German Shepherd Dog.” Now that this is out of the way, we can begin to talk about the GSD short coat vs. long coat, and about the breed in general.

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What’s All This Stuff About Coats?

I guess I’m pretty fortunate in my choice of breed. There is never any argument when it comes to Boxers, since they come in just one variety: short-coated. Of course, you could argue with other Boxer-fanciers all day about whether the fawn Boxer or the brindle Boxer is preferable, but in the final analysis, it boils down to aesthetics. No one is going to ever tell you that the fawn Boxer is somehow healthier than the brindle Boxer, or that the brindle Boxer is more desirable at show than the fawn Boxer. When it comes to the best GSD coat, though, you will find very vociferous arguments on either sides.

About the GSD

The GSD is one of the most popular breeds all across America, and most of the time it has less to do with the nature of the coat than it does with the intelligence and wonderful temperament of these dogs. Yes, there are two coats – the GSD has a short coat, or a long coat. Most people prefer the GSD short coat over the long coat, but really, it’s just a matter of personal preference.

So, what is the difference? The long coat GSD has longer hairs around the hindquarters, between the legs, and also around the face, belly, tail and ears. What the long coat GSD does not have, though, is an undercoat. The short coat GSD does, and because of that, they actually have more hair than the long coat GSD.

When it comes to showing, this actually makes a huge difference. In fact, the American Kennel Club will not recognize long coat GSDs. The Kennel Club considers the long hair to be a flaw that causes the dog to not meet the standards of the breed, and because of that, long coat GSDs are not permitted to show. GSDs with a short coat, however, can show. As if that isn’t complicated enough, there are also GSDs that have long hair as well as a double coat. In spite of this, they are still not AKC-recognized.

Big Deal or No?

You might think that this is just “show people” being asshats, which from my perspective, they often are. You need to look further, though, because what it also means is that the long coat GSD is not bred anywhere near as often as the GSD short coat. So, because one type of GSD has been deemed to be somehow “better” than another, the AKC sets standards that make no sense when it comes to promoting the GSD breed.

Now, just to further complicate the issue, the GSD long hair is still considered, by the AKC, to be a recognized purebred dog. So, it’s still “in the club,” but it can’t participate in any of the club functions. Make sense? No, I didn’t think so.

Number Three!

Now, let’s muddy up the mix even further. You might be surprised to know that there is a third type of GSD that is still considered purebred. It’s the plush-coated GSD. It kind of falls somewhere between the GSD long coat and the GSD short coat. It gets stuck in the middle because its hair is too short to be considered a GSD long coat, and too short to be a GSD short coat. So, the rocket scientists at the AKC have chosen the term “plush coat.” The AKC has no idea where they should position these dogs, so they simply ban them from showing.

So What’s the Difference?

The difference, simply stated, has less to do with the coat than with the purpose. If you are living in a cold climate, you will be better off with a GSD short coat than a long coat if you plan to have your dog spend any time outside – this is because of the protective undercoat. Long coat GSDs don’t have the protection of the undercoat, so they are better suited to climates that are less frigid.

If you are simply looking for a good family pet, though, none of this might be relevant. You just want a good dog, an intelligent dog that can make a good companion. Or you might be trying to train a dog for service work, in which case, again, the nature of the coat does not matter in the least – a GSD short coat will work just as well as a long coat, and vice versa. Most of the time, though, GSD short coat dogs are chosen over long coats for service work.

Does It Have Anything to Do with Personality?

Some will tell you that GSD short coats are more focused on tasks and will make better working dogs. Those people will also tell you that GSD short coats will be more aloof and less receptive to strangers. GSD long coats are generally believed to have a more pleasing temperament, simply because they are not typically bred to be working dogs.

I have no opinion one way or another on this. I know that this has never been scientifically proven, and I kind of tend to move almost instinctively away from the idea that coat length has much to do with personality. However, considering that this is pretty much part and parcel of the common knowledge, I would suggest that there might be something to it. So if you are choosing a dog for a certain purpose, consider what we have learned about GSD short coats vs. GSD long coats, and proceed accordingly.

About Shedding

I don’t know about you, but even with short haired dogs, I typically sweep up the equivalent of a small litter of puppies in any given day, and that’s with short-haired dogs. When it comes to GSDs, short and long haired dogs are both going to shed – a lot. The long haired GSD is going to shed like crazy, and the GSD short coat is going to do the same because of the undercoat. Either way, you’ll have to sweep vigorously.

That said, though, there really is not that much difference in the two types when it comes to shedding. The GSD short coat will shed like mad all throughout the year. The long coat will probably shed twice a year and not trouble you all that much for the rest of the time.

So, with the GSD short coat, you are going to see hair all over the house throughout the year, but with the GSD long coat, you will find it in clumps a couple of times of a year. I’m not sure if either scenario should trouble you – you either clean up a couple of times a day, or do a big cleanup a couple of times a year. Doesn’t seem to me like a big deal either way.

Here’s the thing – GSD short coats and long coats are both going to be shedding units. That’s because they were intended to be working dogs, and they had to work in all manner of weather. Because of that, they had to shed their coats regularly in order to stay clean and free of parasites. So today, even though most of these dogs are family pets, the biological demand to shed is still in place. Most GSDs will shed in the spring, and then again in the fall.


It really doesn’t matter if you have a GSD short coat or a GSD long coat, you are still going to have to be vigilant about brushing. Your dog is going to deposit hair everywhere, and what remains on his body is going to get tangled and matted. This causes a lot more than just an unhealthy coat. It can also harm your dog’s skin as hair ends up being matted and pulled in various directions. It is important to brush your dog regularly in order to prevent this type of discomfort. Essentially, you want to stop shedding as soon as you can.

Still Your Baby

I think the most important thing that you have to remember when you’re thinking about whether you have a GSD short coat or a long coat is that the dog you chose is your baby! So unless you’re obsessed with showing, it really shouldn’t matter to you if your dog is a GSD short coat or a GSD long coat. What should matter is that you took this dog into your household, and you made a commitment to love him. And hasn’t he given back that same love to you? Short coat, long coat, meh. He’s you’re baby.

At least that’s where it sits with me. I couldn’t care less what kind of coat my dogs have. All that matters to me is that they love me, and I love them. You can take your “long coat” and “short coat” arguments and consign them once and for all to the trash heap, as far as I am concerned. My dogs are short coat, and that’s all Boxers ever are. However, if they came in other types of coats, they would still be Janice and Leroy, and their coats wouldn’t matter a tinker’s damn (whatever that expression means; if you want to know, Google it).

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Coats, fer cryin out loud. Like it matters. Love comes in all coat lengths, all coat colors, all sizes, all breeds, and if you’re very lucky, it comes to you. AKC standards matter considerably less than what you feel in your heart. Sure, there are differences between the GSD short coat and the GSD long coat. But they are still the same dog, and they have the same traits that you love. The differences are skin-deep most of the time. Long or short haired, the GSD is a very loyal, loving, intelligent dog that will be a wonderful companion. If that is what you want, then you will not go wrong with the GSD.