How Cold Is Too Cold For a German Shepherd?

How Cold Is Too Cold For a German Shepherd
5 minutes to read

They have risked their lives to pull soldiers out of war-torn trenches, take down dangerous criminals, and even save their owners from home invasions. But are German Shepherds strong enough to brave the cold of winter?

 

A German Shepherd can withstand cold temperatures above -4℃. If the temperature falls below -4℃, a German Shepherd will likely suffer hypothermia and other cold-related illnesses. Increasing a German Shepherd’s activity in winter can help them withstand cold temperatures better.

 

Ever wondered what temperature can German Shepherds withstand? You want to be sure they won’t turn into a freezing pupsicle when you leave them in the car to run errands and it is -5 degrees outside. If that is you, then keep reading.

 

What is the German Shepherd Cold tolerance?

german shepherd lying on ice

German shepherds are one of the large breeds revered for their cold-weather tolerance. But even a Shepherd dog has its limits with winter weather.

Though every dog is different, these are some of the things that influence the German shepherd cold tolerance;

  • Type of coat
  • Surface area to volume ratio
  • Muscle mass
  • Behavioral adaptation

 

Type of coat

Fortunately, a German Shepherd’s coat has two layers of fur. The underlayer is usually thicker than the top layer to trap more heat inside. The topcoat has coarse hairs that are said to be water-resistant. This increases the GSD ability to withstand cold weather .

 

❗ Important

The thicker the top and undercoat, the better the German Shepherd cold tolerance. Also, a water-resistant coat increases the chances of keeping warm.

 

Also, a German Shepherd’s coat has three variations;

  • The out coat is shorter while the inner coat is thick and fluffy
  • Both the outer and inner coats comprise of long hairs. The Shepherd dog also has tufts of fur on the ears and hind legs
  • Only one coat that has long hairs and no undercoat.

 

Surface area to volume ratio

According to science, large animals have a smaller surface area to volume ratio allowing them to have better heat retention ability. Smaller animals have a larger surface area to volume ratio. They need to raise their body metabolism rate for better heat retention.

Fortunately, German Shepherds are large dog breeds and have better heat retention. They grow to 26 inches tall and can weigh 90 pounds. Some German Shepherd dogs grow bigger than this and are better at handling cold temperatures.

 

Learn More:

German Shepherd Puppy Development

 

Muscle mass

Under the thick fur coat, German Shepherds have thick muscles that help with their metabolic rate. Through metabolism, the Shepherd dog releases more heat to keep the body warm. Also muscles coordinate shivering which helps in raising body temperature.

 

Behavioral adaptation

Living in cold regions for long, a German Shepherd adapted to the conditions for better survival. They have a bushy tail which they use to cover the face when sleeping. This keeps the eyes and nose warm.

Also, when a German Shepherd sleeps curled up, he retains heat better. Another behavioral adaptation is raising the coat hairs (piloerection) to trap heat and keep the body warm.

 

What temperature can German Shepherds Withstand?

german shepherd covered in snow

German Shepherds are comfortable with temperatures as low as -4℃. Anything below that and your GSD will have problems regulating temperature. If a German Shepherd has thick fur, great surface area to volume ratio, and large muscle mass, they can withstand temperatures between -9℃ and -12℃ for a short period.

But not all German Shepherd dogs have an ability to regulate body heat in temperatures as low as -4℃. As it gets colder, some GSD will have a hard time coping.

 

What can reduce German Shepherd Cold Tolerance?

german shepherd lying on snow

Things that can reduce a German Shepherd’s tolerance to cold include;

  • Age
  • Disease
  • Weight Loss

 

Age

GSD puppies cannot survive cold weather because of their thin fur coat. They also have underdeveloped muscles and cannot regulate body heat properly. GSD puppies have low body fat too so their bodies cannot keep them warm.

Because of its small body, a GSD puppy has a large surface area to volume ratio. They will have to increase their metabolism to stay warm. For a pup that does not eat a high nutrient diet, this will be difficult.

Older German Shepherd dogs also have a problem regulating body heat. They have lost muscle, hair, and their immune systems are not as strong. If you live with a senior German Shepherd, it is best if they do not go out in the cold.

 

Learn More:

 

Disease

When a German Shepherd is sick, most of the body’s energy is directed towards healing. This leaves little energy for the dog to keep warm with. Things can get rough in winter for a German Shepherd that is sick.

 

Weight Loss

If a German Shepherd loses weight, he also loses body fat and muscle. Most of the body fat converts to energy in extremely cold conditions. If the dog has no fat reserve, he will struggle to keep warm.

 

How to keep your German Shepherd warm in winter?

If your GSD is too young, too old, is sick, or is underweight, you have to help him keep warm during winter. Here are some steps to increase German Shepherd’s cold tolerance.

 

  • Provide a warm place to sleep-if your German Shepherd does not sleep in the house, provide a kennel to shelter them from the wind. Also, add blankets or hay to further insulate the dog’s house.
  • Provide water- hydration is important especially if your dog is sick. Add pet supplements with electrolytes in them. Electrolytes improve muscle function which in turn helps in temperature regulation.
  • Provide a healthy diet- a healthy diet provides more energy to keep warm in cold weather.
  • Grooming- when grooming, do not cut the coat too short especially in winter.
  • Provide a dog coat- a winter coat is perfect especially for an old German Shepherd dog before going outside.
  • Trim the paws – if the hair on the paws get wet.

VIDEO: How To Keep Dogs Warm in the Winter

 

Conclusion

The German Shepherd Cold tolerance is between 0 to -4℃. Anything below that will be unbearable for a young, old, sick, or underweight German Shepherd. If your adult German Shepherd receives a healthy nutrient, has enough muscle mass, and a thick fur coat, he will tolerate cold weather better.

 

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Resources

  1. How To Qualify the Amazing Cold Tolerances of GSDs By anonymous, anythinggermanshepherd.com
  2. Investigating the Surface Area To Volume Ratio (S/V) in Bergman’s Rule By Darrel Linn Ray, online.ucpress.edu
  3. Do German Shepherds Get Cold? By anonymous, jubilantpups.com

See Also


Frequently Asked Questions

If it gets too cold, do not leave your German Shepherd outside. Alternatively, get them a wooden dog house that is windproof and waterproof. A winter jacket and blankets will help keep your dog warm too.

It is okay to wrap your dog in a blanket during winter. Blankets help trap heat and keep the dog warm.

If it is for a short time, you can leave the dog in the car and turn the ac on. But never leave any dog in the car for longer periods. The car will get as cold as outside and this can be dangerous especially for a young or old dog.

Check for signs of shivering and whining when it is cold. Your dog may also burrow through his beddings to get warmer. Some German Shepherds will become slow and sluggish which are the early signs of hypothermia.

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