Can German Shepherds stay outside in the cold?

I love German Shepherds and I live somewhere that gets very cold in the winter. So, I wanted to learn if German Shepherds can stay outside in the cold, and I did some research.

So, can German Shepherds stay outside in the cold? German Shepherds are built to be able to tolerate cold weather well. While they shouldn’t be out in the cold 24/7, they can handle being in cold weather for a while. If they have shelter from cold wind, they can be out even longer.

German Shepherds are a great breed of dog to have if you live in a place where it is cold. They are able to do well in it for a few reasons.

A Double-Coat for Winter

German Shepherds are among a few different breeds of dog that have double-coats. This means that there are two layers of fur that grow.

Their outer coat is long and course, and it is there to protect the dog against snow and ice. The undercoat is thick and soft, and it insulates the dog against cold in the winter and heat in the summer. While there is a drawback of these coats in that German Shepherds are known to shed a lot, it does mean that they are better suited for colder weather than many other breeds of dog.

Just like we layer up in the winter to keep warm, a German Shepherd’s coat will grow in longer and thicker as winter approaches. The insulation that it provides means that they are able to run around and play in the cold winter temperatures without a real need for any type of doggy sweater or clothing.

If you still want to put a cute outfit on your shepherd, however, you still can! But nothing too thick because you don’t want them to overheat. And make sure they are willing to wear one. They don’t need it, and it may be uncomfortable. If they protest, a good collar or accessory can be just as cute.

While almost all German Shepherds have double-coats, there are still variations in a German Shepherd’s fur. There are typically four different types of fur for these dogs.

German Shepherds can have short, medium, or long outer coats and fur with undercoats, and occasionally, some do have long outer coats without an undercoat. A German Shepherd with a medium or long outer coat with an undercoat will typically do better in the winter than a dog with the other coat options.

It’s also important to keep a dog well-groomed and brushed in the winter. While it may be shocking to see how much they can shed in the winter, keeping them brushed and groomed actually lessens the amount of shedding and keeps their coats healthy, which helps with their insulation and protection from the cold.

When you bathe a dog in the winter, try and do it in a garage or somewhere protected form the cold, and make sure they dry off completely before going outside in the cold, so that their coat doesn’t freeze and give them a risk of health problems such as frostbite or hypothermia.

Tips for the Cold Weather

While a German Shepherd may be able to tolerate the cold reasonably well, probably more than we humans are, there are still some things to consider and to keep in mind. Listed are some tips for when you let your dog outside in the cold for any period of time.

  • Make sure there is protection from the wind- Windchill can make tolerable cold temperatures something bitter and miserable. If your dog is staying outside in the cold for any period of time, make sure they have a house or structure out there with a wall and windbreak so that they can get some relief. Some people buy heated dog houses for their pet’s stay outside.
  • Watch for chemicals and salt- In the winter, chemicals like antifreeze can malt and get loose, which is dangerous for dogs. The salt that can be used on roads and sidewalks can potentially hurt your dog’s paws as well, so it’s good to make sure your dog is somewhere where it won’t risk getting hurt by these things.
  • Keep them on a leash if not in an enclosed space- If there is a fence, then your dog will probably be okay without a tether. If you’re going on a walk or run, keep them on a leash. The snow and ice can make your dog lose your scent and it can end up getting lost, especially if there is a snowstorm. It’s better to be safe than sorry, so keep your dog close in the cold!

“More dogs are lost during the winter than during any other season, so make sure yours always wears ID tags.”

-German Shepherd Rescue of New England
  • Make sure they have drinkable water- If your German Shepherd is going to be outside for a few hours, make sure they have plenty of fresh water to drink from. When the temperature is below freezing, water just left out in a bowl without protection could freeze and become undrinkable. Put the water in a dog house or somewhere you no it won’t freeze so that your dog is able to drink plenty and stay refreshed as it plays.
  • Give your dog plenty of protein- If your dog spends a lot of time outside, you may need to increase their food intake, especially with meat. This will give them more calories and energy to help keep them warm. It’s also good if your dog loves to run so that it can have energy. Some dogs run a lot in the cold because it helps them warm up.
  • Consider their age- Puppies and elderly dogs may be less able to tolerate the cold. Even German Shepherds when of tender ages can have difficulties with winter. You may have to let them outside for less amount of time and you’ll want to keep a close eye on them so you know that they are handling it alright.
  • Watch for signs that they are cold- German Shepherds are better in the cold than many other dogs, but they can still get cold. watch out for shivering, whining, slowing down, and acting anxious. These could be signs that your dog is cold and needs to go somewhere to warm up.

There’s not really a set amount of time or a temperature that is perfect for every German Shepherd, as all of them are different. Some may be better acclimated to the cold than others, and so they can stay outside longer and in colder temperatures.

Typically, anything below 20 degrees Fahrenheit could be dangerous for the average dog, so make sure you keep an eye out and try to learn their tolerance level. German Shepherds are also social dogs and shouldn’t be left alone for more than eight hours at a time regardless of temperature. A few hours in the cold might be okay if the temperature is above freezing.

With German Shepherds, it’s good to let them play outside for a bit, because they do enjoy the weather, and they need exercise. Just make sure you know their limits and are able to help if something happens.

If you do your best to be aware of your dog’s needs, you could end up having a lot of fun outside with you beloved companion by your side.

Related Questions:

Can German Shepherds be left outside? German Shepherds should not be left outside 24/7. They are social animals who need love and attention. Making them an indoor part of the family also helps them to be more obedient and lessens behavioral problems such as barking and chewing.

Can German Shepherds stay outside in hot weather? German Shepherds can be prone to heatstroke in warm weather if not provided shade and water. Their coats are thick and warm, although less so in the summer. Too long in the heat can be dangerous and so they should be watched carefully when it’s hot outside.

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