🦴 Updated on July 8th, 2023
Living in Rolla, North Dakota, USA, the temperatures average lowest about -15°F (5°C) from November to February. During the winter months, we get an average of 42 inches of snow per year.
Ruby, my four-year-old German shepherd, loves the snow. She jumps and dives and bounces nearly every winter. However, when Ruby gets too cold, she’ll start to shake, and she’ll stand in one spot looking up at me with her begging eyes letting me know it’s time to come inside.
When temperatures reach 30°F (-1°C), I try not to take her out as much – except for potty breaks. If I don’t put cozies on her feet, she’ll get frostbite quickly in temperatures below 14. So, How cold can German shepherds handle?
Do German Shepherds Get Cold?
Yes, German shepherds get cold. Because of the way they are built accompanying their thick double coats, German shepherds tolerate lower temperatures easier than other breeds. Unlike the Alaskan Malamute, German shepherds cannot tolerate temperatures lower than 20°F for long periods.
Not all German shepherds have double-layered coats or the same length of hair, so it’s best to pay attention to your dog’s body language to determine when it’s time to go inside.
What is a German Shepherd’s Cold Tolerance?
A German shepherd can tolerate chilly temperatures for a long time or freezing temperatures for a short period. If your German shepherd is in the cold for too long, they’ll get fairly sick and become susceptible to hypothermia and increased joint stiffness.
A Sable German shepherd has longer and fluffier hair than the average German shepherd, which will be able to withstand colder temperatures easier. On the other hand, like most breeds, they can also become acclimated rather quickly to the changing seasons.
Generally, a German Shepherd temperature tolerance is roughly not lower than 20°F (-6.6°C).
Factors That Affect a German Shepherd’s Cold Tolerance
Factors such as age, activity level, and overall health of your German shepherd will determine their tolerance level for colder weather.
Due to their body mass and size, puppies cannot tolerate cold temperatures like adults. On the other hand, a senior german shepherd temperature will not withstand cold weather as easily as an adult because they cannot regulate their temperature as they age.
How Extreme or Unpredictable the Weather is
If it’s raining in the cold months of winter, chances are it’s freezing rain that will penetrate your German shepherd’s skin and may soak through the top layer. Sometimes the weather states 20°F but feels like 5°F due to wind chill or cloud cover.
During these conditions, your German shepherd should avoid going outside as much as possible to decrease the risks of hypothermia and getting sick.
If your German shepherd eats a well-balanced diet and generally stays healthy, it will be able to withstand cold temperatures longer, however, if your dog is sick or has a health condition. They’re already expelling so much energy trying to get better that it will be quite difficult for them to regulate heat in the cold.
How Do German Shepherds Cope with Cold Weather?
German shepherds are very capable of coping with extreme weather conditions based on their muscle metabolism, paw-blood circulation, energy level, and body structure.
Thin and Dense Double Coat
German shepherds with shorter hair tend to have a thin layer of fur as their undercoat. Their undercoat functions perform well in extreme cold and hot temperatures.
The higher energy your German shepherd has and can release, the warmer they’ll stay when it comes to lower outdoor temperatures.
German shepherds can manage their body heat well due to their high muscle mass. Muscle mass maintains high metabolic rates, which allows for an overall high body temperature.
Paw Blood Circulation
German shepherd paws develop a large amount of blood supply which helps them with circulation. Their heavy padded paws are why they can tolerate walking on sweltering pavement and in the freezing snow.
How Cold is Too Cold for a German Shepherd?
When temperatures reach or drop below 20°F (-6°C), it is too cold for your shepherd. Although they may seem like they have loads of energy playing in the snow or running around the yard, they may not realize they are cold.
If temperatures reach 19°F, ensure your shepherd goes out for short periods. While every shepherd is different, some can withstand -7°C weather – but not for long periods. Pay close attention to their body language.
At 20°F and below, your German shepherd risks hypothermia.
Signs That a German Shepherd is Cold
If your German shepherd is not acclimated to cold weather, it’s never best to leave them outside for extended periods. Instead, allow them to get used to the cold with small doses every time you go out with them.
While it’s best to keep your dog in before the onset of cold symptoms, if you notice any of the following signs, get your pup inside and warm immediately to avoid frostbite:
- Shivering – is an indication that your GSD’s body temperature is dropping, so the body shakes to keep warm.
- Burrowing – is not just a playful method to increase activity. Excessive burrowing is your dog’s way of tapping into their survival instinct, making a warm place to lay down.
- Stress signs – barking, whining, and even howling mean that your dog is showing signs of anxiety. They’re cold and becoming vocal about it.
- Hunched back or tucked tail – usually happens after they have made attempts to get warm and failed. If your GSD stays out any longer in the cold, they will get sick and develop hypothermia.
- Pale or Bluish gums – a definite sign of hypothermia.
The chances are that if you’re cold, your German shepherd is getting cold or just as cold. Don’t take the risk – just get warm together.
What to Do If You Suspect Your GSD has Hypothermia
Hypothermia in dogs (and humans) is a severe condition where you have been out in freezing temperatures too long. It is fatal and can lead to severe complications later if you don’t get treatment immediately.
Signs of Hypothermia include:
- Fur and skin are frozen to the touch
- Sleepy or lethargic behavior
- Intermittent trembling and shivering
- Body temperature lower than 95F
- Slowed heart rate
- Labored breathing and trouble walking
- Sometimes coma
While signs of hypothermia may not be present immediately, you should always watch your dog after being out in the cold.
The best thing you can do if you suspect your dog has hypothermia is to use warm blankets (that just come out of the dryer) and place hot-water bottles in and around their bedding. Call a vet immediately after you have warmed them and seek professional guidance.
Never put hot-water bottles directly on your pet as you may risk burning them. Check your shepherd’s temperature every fifteen minutes and write it down for the vet. It’s also a good idea to get your dog to drink warm water.
Tips for Keeping Your German Shepherd Warm in Winter
German shepherds are relatively good at regulating their temperature, but if you suspect that you need to go somewhere and you’ll be out for a lengthy time, there are a few things you should keep in mind:
- Dog booties are a must – warmer paws make for better circulation.
- Keep paw hair trimmed – ice and snow may get attached to the dog’s fur between their toes, making things difficult for your GSD to regulate heat.
- Dog vest/coat – aim for water-resistant and insulated, as this will help your GSD keep warm. Coats are best for senior dogs, sick dogs, and puppies. You might also consider buying durable dog boots.
Other care tips include; in a colder air temperature if you don’t need to bring your German shepherd, try to avoid it. Keep walks shorter and ensure your home is warm for when you get back. During bathroom breaks, keep their fur dry as soon as they come inside.
As a loving dog owner, you want to make sure you get everything right. Here are some common questions asked by other German shepherd owners.
Do German Shepherds Like the Cold?
Yes and no, I wouldn’t say German shepherds like the cold so much as they can stand it for a good period. A dog who has never been frostbitten or had hypothermia won’t associate the cold as something to fear in such a case won’t mind being out in it.
However, if your German shepherd associates the cold with a negative experience, they’ll learn not to like the cold and may even avoid it at all costs.
Do German Shepherds Like Snow?
Yes, German shepherds love snow. It’s like their own personal creativity snow box. What’s not to love when they can eat it, roll in it, jump in it, and chase snowflakes. Snow is a new phenomenon to your GSD, and it’s not something they see every day, so it piques their interest.
A German shepherd in the snow is like a toddler at a candy store. It’s fun and entertaining for them.
Are 45 Degrees Too Cold for a German Shepherd?
45°F is the same as 7°C. While German shepherds can be in colder temperatures, 45°F is still a low temperature to be concerned about. To answer the question, though, 45°F is not too cold for a German shepherd.
What is the Perfect Temperature for a German Shepherd?
In the winter, temperatures lower than 20°F are too cold. In the summer, temperatures above 95F are too hot. Ideally, the perfect range for your German shepherd to feel comfortable ranges from 50F (10°C) to approximately 86°F (30°C).
Anything colder than 25°F, your German shepherd’s chances of hypothermia significantly increase. Anything above 100°F, and your GSD is susceptible to heatstroke and fatal illness.
Can German Shepherds Live Outside?
Even though the German shepherds are very affectionate and family-oriented dogs, they can surely live outside. Especially if the shelter is provided to keep them safe from windchill and other weather conditions.
How Long Can Your German Shepherd Stay in Below Zero Temperature?
After ten to fifteen minutes in below-freezing temperatures, your German shepherd should come inside to get warmed back up. The best way to tell whether your dog is managing is by paying attention to their body language. Any signs of distress, and it’s time to bring them inside.
Is it Okay That a German Shepherd Sleeps in Front of The Fireplace?
German shepherds are drawn to warmth (like humans), so it can be irresistible not to want to curl up in front of a hot burning fireplace. However, fireplaces are dangerous and can cause burns at an unsafe distance. Keep your GSD at least five feet away from the fireplace at all times.
Does a GSD have a low surface area?
Yes, the GSDs have a low surface area. It means that they lose less heat through their skin.
Bottom Line: How Cold Can a German Shepherd Handle?
German shepherds are large breeds with a fairly regulated internal heat system. Their paws circulate blood the most, which helps as it will either help them stay cool or warm during sweltering and cold weather.
Thanks to their muscle mass and body build, they have enough fat and internal warmth to keep them regulated for more extended periods in lower temperatures of up to 40°F to 20°F. Although, German shepherds aren’t equipped for lower than -6°C weather.
Other factors play a significant role in how your German shepherd regulates themselves in cold weather; however, it’s up to you to pay attention to body language. Also, take note of the conditions the weather has outside.
If it’s freezing rain and blustery wind, you may want to set up an indoor potty for your GSD. It’s okay to go outside if it’s temperately nice but chilly- but not for more than fifteen minutes.