German Shepherds tolerate cold weather better than many other breeds. Despite this, they will get cold after a certain point. Here is your guide to discovering just how well German Shepherds hold up in the winter and how to ensure that they remain comfortable and safe in the colder months.
A Note About German Shepherds Getting Cold
It is important to understand that German Shepherds aren’t always aware of cold weather. If they are running around or enjoying themselves, they may not register the fact that the temperature is too low.
Due to this, you should always limit how much time your German Shepherd spends out in the cold. During winter, don’t let them stay outside for more than 30 minutes. In very cold weather, try to cut this time down even further.
You should also keep an eye on the temperature. If it begins to drop, it is time to take your dog inside. At the very least, you will have to get warmer clothing for them.
Erring on the side of caution can ensure that your dog has a great time in the cold, but also comes away safe, healthy, and happy.
What Temperature is Too Cold for German Shepherds?
Most German Shepherds can withstand temperatures as low as 24.8°F or -4°C. While they tolerate such temperatures, they can’t do so for too long. Make sure to bring your dog inside after fifteen to twenty minutes in such cases.
The wind can make the surroundings seem even colder. When it begins to pick, be aware that the temperature will drop as well. You and your dog shouldn’t spend too much time outside when it gets windy.
Not all German Shepherds can function at such low temperatures, either. Dogs with thinner coats, health conditions and older dogs may not hold up as well. The same can be said for dogs who have gotten used to living in warmer climes and may not have adapted to the cold yet.
Understanding Cold Tolerance in German Shepherds
To begin with, let’s take a look at why a German Shepherd may or may not thrive in colder climes:
One of the top reasons German Shepherds do well in the cold is due to their thick double coats.
The undercoat is dense and works as an insulating layer. This traps the body heat produced by the dog, preventing it from escaping. The topcoat, on the other hand, repels moisture and cold. This way, the cold doesn’t reach the dog’s body.
German Shepherds have several types of coats, nonetheless. The exact type of coat they have can determine how cold they get. Dogs with longer coats will enjoy the most amount of insulation while pups with shorter coats will have the least.
Size and Muscle Mass
German Shepherds are often classified as a large breed and they tend to have muscular physiques. This comes in handy when warding off the cold.
The thick muscles of the German Shepherd can raise their metabolic rate, allowing the dog’s body to produce more heat. In doing so, these dogs can stay warmer. The muscles will contract and relax more readily which can make it easier for the pups to withstand the cold.
German Shepherds that are lean or don’t have as much muscle may not be as comfortable in cold temperatures. The same goes for smaller German Shepherds as well.
Larger dogs have a smaller surface area to volume ratio. Due to this particular feature, they can retain body heat more readily.
High Energy Levels
Many German Shepherds are high-energy dogs. They may also instinctively engage in more physical activity when the temperature gets colder. This additional movement works to generate more body heat and keep them warmer.
This advantage may not apply to less energetic dogs, particularly those that are older.
Signs to Watch Out For
Here are the signs to keep an eye out for when your German Shepherd is out in the cold. If you spot these, you need to take your German Shepherd inside:
If your dog has begun to shiver, it means that he or she isn’t producing enough heat to stay warm. It is also possible that their fur has become too damp to insulate them from the cold any longer. Regardless, it means that they can’t stay outdoors anymore.
Is the fur on your dog’s back raised? Typically, this is associated with aggression, especially towards other animals. When it is very cold, however, this is akin to getting goosebumps on humans. It means that your dog is beginning to feel the cold.
Burrowing or Nestling
Dogs will try to find bedding that allows them to curl up and preserve body heat. They may try to do this when they are outdoors or standing up. This involves hunching their back and tucking their tail in. At this point, the weather is too cold for them.
Anxiety or Signs of Stress
If your dog is feeling too cold, it will become anxious. They may begin to whine, bark, or howl. In general, their body language will show that they are stressed out. Don’t let them remain like this for too long.
Signs of Lethargy
When it gets too cold, your dog’s body will start to focus on keeping its organs warm. At this point, much of the energy and heat will be pulled away from your dog’s muscles and directed towards major organs. This can cause them to become lethargic and not want to move around as much.
Are German Shepherds Good in the Snow?
You should be aware that German Shepherds haven’t been bred to tolerate snow. Despite this, the breed does enjoy snowy conditions. Not only are they well-versed in handling the cold, but they enjoy the feel and texture of snow as well.
This can vary from one dog to another. As mentioned, German Shepherds aren’t designed to handle snow. As such, you may have one German Shepherd that loves it and another that is wary of such conditions.
Even though your dog may appear to be having the time of their life, don’t let them stay out for more than 30 minutes at a time. It is a good idea to pay attention to the wind as it can make the surrounding temperature much colder.
Do German Shepherds Need Coats in the Winter?
It is unlikely that your German Shepherd will need a coat in the winter, but this does depend on the dog. Very young or very old dogs that aren’t as good at regulating their body temperature may benefit from an extra layer of protection.
If the weather is quite cold and your dog’s coat is thinner or shorter, putting on a knitted coat can make up for this. You may also want to put a coat on your dog if you are headed out in very cold temperatures and are planning to stay outdoors for longer.
In case you’re putting a coat on your German Shepherd, it is a good idea to watch out for signs of overheating. If they are panting excessively or scratching at their coat and jacket, it may be time to take it off.
Cooler climes affect German Shepherds but they hold up quite well, nevertheless. You need to be aware that not all dogs can tolerate the cold equally, however. Use the information above to ensure that your German Shepherd stays healthy and happy in cold conditions.