How Cold Can German Shepherds Tolerate? (Caring Tips Included)

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Every dog has a different tolerance for the cold. If you live in a region where the temperatures drop below zero, it’s important to know how far your German Shepherd can handle these types of conditions. We’ve put together this post that can help you access how cold can your beloved German Shepherd can handle and some tips to protect them during the winter. Read on to find out more.

Most German Shepherds, having double-coat, can tolerate temperatures as low as 30°F or -1°C. Long-haired GSDs can withstand even colder temperatures. Yet, factors like age, health conditions, activity level, and weight may also affect their ability to stand the cold weather. 

What is German Shepherd’s cold tolerance?

Unlike some breeds who were bred to live and sleep in the snow, like Sebastian Huskies, Saint Bernards, and Malamutes, German Shepherds were bred to live and work with people and livestock. 

The fact is, the German Shepherd is a breed of dog that has a double coat. This means that there are two layers of fur. Their outer coat is long and coarse, 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 as well as heat in the summer.

Many owners have shared that their GSDs literally love the snow. Their pooches were fine even being out in the snow for one to two hours. And when they are cold, they will come inside.

Depending on their coat length, age, weight, lifestyle, and diet, German Shepherds will do alright even below zero, as long as they are on the move and are not left outside for a prolonged period of time.

How cold is too cold for your German Shepherd?

While German Shepherds should not be spending all their time in the freezing cold weather, some owners report that their pooch can handle temperatures as low as -30°F or -34°C outdoor just fine. If the temperature gets too far below, your dog will have trouble regulating its temperatures.

However, there are a few exceptions to this. For example, if your pup is a long-haired German Shepherd with a thick fur coat, eats a healthy diet or is muscular, he may be able to withstand even lower temperatures. Some long-haired German Shepherds, for short periods, can handle temperatures as low as 10° F or -12°C.

How long can your German Shepherd stay in below zero temperature?

Your GSD can go outside for 15 to 20 minutes at below-freezing temperatures for potty breaks. Owners should keep a close eye on their dogs while they’re outside to make sure that they’re not showing any signs of discomfort.

Your dog’s natural behavioral adaptation

Just like a human, when moving from a warmer place to a colder one, it may take some time for your GSD to get used to the colder weather.

All dogs also have ways to retain heat. For one, their bushy tail can be used to cover the face and keep it warm while sleeping. Also, as a German Shepherd curls up, he retains heat better while sleeping. Raising the coat hairs also helps to trap heat and keep the body warm.

Factors that affect a GSD’s cold tolerance 

Now that we know more about how cold a German Shepherd can tolerate, we need to also focus on some of the factors that may affect this cold tolerance. These factors include:

Age

German Shepherd puppies have a thin fur coat that makes winter very hard on them. Their muscles are also underdeveloped, making it hard to regulate body heat well. Feeding your puppy a highly nutritious diet and giving them a warm coat can help them stay warm during winter.

On the other hand, older dogs may also have trouble regulating their body heat as well. Over time, older dogs lose their hair and muscles, and their immune systems may dwindle as they age. It is usually best to not take a senior German Shepherd into the severe cold too often.

In case you live in an area with a very cold winter, you may keep your young or old dog warm with a vest while going outside.

Activity Level

If a German Shepherd is highly active and always on the move, he can keep himself warm on a chilly day just by staying busy. This should not be a problem if your dog is healthy. They can run for at least several hours a day for sure.

This is a dog who is bred to go all day regardless of the temperature, and all that activity helps to keep your Shepherd warm. 

Weight

If your German Shepherd is slim and seems to be losing weight, this means he may not have enough muscle and body fat to keep him warm. Both of these are important to maintain heat. 

In really cold weather conditions, the body fat can be converted to extra energy to keep your pup warm. If your dog doesn’t have enough fat reserve in his body, he will struggle more with staying warm.

Protein from meat and salmon is a calorie-dense nutrient. And many of the high protein diets are extremely high in calories and can lead to overweight.

Consider adding plant-based protein, like sweet potatoes and pumpkin, to your dog’s diet to help him gain weight. Boosting their diet with fat and fiber will help your dog’s digestion as well. 

Health conditions

If your dog eats a balanced diet and has enough physical and mental stimulation during the day, he is a happy and healthy dog that can stay active to keep himself warm in cold weather.

However, when your dog is sick, their bodies automatically take extra energy and direct it towards healing. This leaves very little energy left to help the dog stay warm. This is why it is best to keep any sick German Shepherds inside where it is nice and warm.

What to look for when your dog reacts to colder temperatures

Again, not all German Shepherds have the same ability to regulate their body heat temperatures, and they may struggle with colder temperatures. If it seems like your dog is shivering when it gets colder, you need to keep them inside or give them some added layers of protection.

Cold Weather Caring Tips for Dog

You may assume that your Shepherd will be able to handle the cold with no problem. After all, this is what they were made for, and your Shepherd sure isn’t slowing down. However, even if your dog seems to be having a great time in the snow, there are some things that you can do to make it safer and easier for them:

Paw Balm

Paw balm has been used throughout history to protect the paws of dogs who have to track over ice and snow. The formula even includes vitamin E to heal any wounds as well as keeping the paws healthy. Just rub it on your dog’s paws before you go outside. It can protect them from ice, snow, and salt. 

Dog Boots

If you can make your dog wear them, dog boots (like these) are an excellent way to protect their paws from snow, ice, and debris. If your dog works long hours, especially on rough terrain, these are a great choice.

The best way to train your dog to wear boots is to reward and distract them at first, then get them into the midst of activity so they stop worrying about what’s on their feet. 

Dog jacket (for young puppies and senior only)

Dog jackets or vests are usually unnecessary for a breed with double-coat like GSD.

But in case you have a young puppy or an unwell senior dog, providing them with an extra layer of insulation is still a wise choice.

Dog coats can come in many different shapes and sizes, they will not only keep your dog warm in cold winter, but they are also weatherproof, waterproof, and comfortable.

Bottom Line: Read your dog’s body lanugage

Keep an eye on your dog’s body language when staying in the cold for a while. Be cautious of cues that your pup may not be able to handle the low temperature any longer.

If your pooch is whining, shivering, seems anxious, slows down, or stops moving, get them indoor to stay warm immediately. 

Other than body language, check your dog’s paws frequently for signs of cold-weather injury or damage, such as cracked paw pads or bleeding. During a walk, a sudden lameness may be due to an injury or maybe due to ice accumulation between his/her toes. You may be able to reduce the chance of iceball accumulation by clipping the hair between your dog’s toes.

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Further Questions

How do dogs paws not get cold?

When your dog’s paw pad is exposed to the cold elements, the circulatory connection of the paw’s arteries and veins – called arteriovenous anastomoses – recirculates the blood flow from the surface of the pad back to the body’s core thereby preventing heat loss for reasonably long periods of time. (Source)

Can ice burn dogs feet?

Winter weather can pose a few risks to your dog’s well-being, particularly their paws. Snow and ice can increase your dog’s risk of frostbite and dry out their paw pads, leaving the skin chapped or cracked. (Source)

Why is my dog licking his paws after being in the snow?

During the winter months, dogs’ paws are often swollen and irritated. Examination of the interdigital area (between the toes) reveals red, inflamed skin. Often the first symptom is an incessant licking of the paws. The dog will usually try to lick between the toes. (Source)

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