How Cold is Too Cold for German Shepherd?

German Shepherds are revered for their bravery in the most challenging of situations. From chasing criminals to saving military personnel to defending their owners, this canine breed has a well-deserved stellar reputation.

But can they brave the cold, and sleep outside?

A German Shepherd can be outside in temperatures as low as -1° Centigrade, and long-haired Shepherds can manage somewhat colder.

If a temperature falls below this, this breed can fall victim to hyperthermia and other illnesses related to a frigid outdoor climate. 

How Cold is Too Cold for German Shepherd

Cold Tolerance

This large canine breed is known for a certain tolerance and resistance to cold, nonetheless, even German Shepherds have limits in what they can withstand.

While each dog will have varying levels of cold tolerance, certain characteristics will influence cold weather resistance.

1.) Fur coat type

German Shepherds more often than not boast two layers of fur coat. The layer found underneath is thicker than the outer layer. This is to trap heat nearer to the body.

The outer layer is more water-resistant, formed of coarse-textured hair. This explains the German Shepherd’s ability to tolerate cold better than other breeds.

The individual dog may have more or less resistance depending on the thickness of each of these two fur coats. 

However, there are three varying kinds of fur coats found on German Shepherds:

      • Some have only a single long-hair coat with no undercoat
      • Some feature undercoats that are longhaired together with outer coats
      • Some will have a short outer coat and a thick undercoat

So, again cold resistance will vary from dog to dog.

2.) Individual adaption to climactic conditions

If a German Shepherd is born in a colder climate or has lived for a substantial period in a colder region, it will have adapted to its environment for survival purposes.

3.) Muscle mass

Well-developed impressive muscles increase the dog’s metabolic rate, and the metabolism will increase heat production.

4.) The canine surface and how it relates to volume

Science suggests that larger canine breeds will have a smaller volume to surface ratio allowing them better heat retention.

Can German Shepherds Live Outdoors?

Can German Shepherds Live Outdoors

Much depends on the conditions and actual outside temperature as well as the specific dog.

Theoretically, 20° Fahrenheit (6° C) is cause for concern if a dog must remain outside, but again you need to factor in age, general, health, environmental acclamation, and the fur coat type. A jump to 45° F will be more tolerable especially if the German Shepherd has a double fur coat.

German Shepherds were bred as working dogs and are not cold climate canines like St. Bernards, Huskies, or Malamutes that can sleep in the snow.

A German Shepherd may enjoy a couple of hours playing in the snow but will not resist icy conditions 24/7 like several other breeds.

How Cold Is Too Cold?

As a rule of thumb, anything lower than – 4°C should worry you. A few of these dogs may manage temperatures as low as -9°C to -12°C but only for very brief periods.

Factors that can reduce this tolerance to cold include, age, illness, and loss of weight.

1. Age is a problem for both puppies and senior German Shepherds because of thin fur, reduced muscle mass, and weaker immune systems.

2. If a German Shepherd, or any dog for that matter, is ill, energy will be directed toward the health issue and not to warming.

3. Weight loss can also be a problem because the dog will inevitably have lost both body fat and muscle mass. Without reserves, any dog will struggle to produce sufficient heat to remain warm.

4. Activity can make a difference. German Shepherds on the move will keep warm particularly if healthy

Can a German Shepherd Remain Outside at Night?

German Shepherds are bred to resist cold to a certain extent. If the dog is acclimated to a colder climate, this is especially so.

He or she will be able to remain outside for longer periods. If, on the contrary, your dog spends a good part of the day inside, its cold resistance will be less.

While ideally, it’s better for any dog to have access to a warmer location, especially for sleep, if your German Shepherd does live outside, it should have access to specific protections.

An elevated doghouse will keep your dog from direct contact with cold and frozen ground. A flap-covered entrance will protect from wind, rain, and snow, but permit the dog to go outside if necessary.

German Shepherds Outdoors: How Cold Is Too Cold for Outdoor Sleeping?

If a German Shepherd cannot tolerate temperatures below -4°C, it stands to reason that it should not sleep outside in anything below this.

Providing your dog with a doghouse suitable for colder climates with insulation and blankets or hay will aid your dog in sleeping more comfortably.

In the majority of cases, German Shepherds are able to sleep outdoors. But the quality of the outdoor location will be the deciding factor. 

Outdoor locations including garages, sheds, or dog houses should be fully weatherproof and adequately insulated with some type of bedding.

Is Leaving My German Shepherd Outside to Sleep Animal Cruelty?

Not with the proper type of kennel or housing. It is important that your dog is able to minimize heat dispersal outdoors whether awake or asleep.

What Reactions to Cold Should I Look for When My Dog Is Outdoors?

Not all German Shepherds will have the same capabilities when regulating their body temperatures. Some will struggle particularly in colder weather. If you notice your dog trembling or shivering, bring them indoors or provide added protection.

Tips for Colder Weather Canine Care

If your dog seems to enjoy playing outdoors in colder weather, and especially in the snow, here are a few tips to aid your best friend.

1.) Dog Booties

Dog booties will protect paws from ice, snow, and debris.

2.) Dog Coats

Canines with double fur coats most likely will not need an outer dog coat, but they do come in handy for seniors and puppies or ill German Shepherds.

3.) Paw Balm

Paw balm has been used for decades to protect dogs that work and track over snow and ice. It usually will have ingredients to aid in healing wounds and will protect your pooch’s paws from salt used on icy streets as well.

When taking your dog outdoors, check paws for cracking, bleeding, or the accumulation of ice between toes. Winter weather conditions can place dogs at risk of frostbite.

4.) LED or Fluorescent collar

These collars can be useful in winter weather because it gets darker outside sooner. If there are cars in your area, it will help drivers to see your dog should it free itself from a yard or leash.

A Final Thought

When taking your dog outside in cold climates and before leaving your German Shepherd to sleep outside in the cold, watch your Shepherd’s body language and posture when outside for a while.

If your pooch whines, seems fearful, shivers, slows down, shows signs of stress, or stops, take it indoors immediately to warm up.

Susan R Elliston

I have over 11 years of experience as a vet working with a wonderful variety of species of innocent and lovely animals. Whilst I still work two days a week for a local practice, I realized that I could help more people by sharing my knowledge and experience with my readers.

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