How Cold Is Too Cold for German Shepherd: Rules for Winter Keeping

German Shepherds look strong and powerful, their thick and dense coat is a good protection against the cold. But let’s face it, this breed was bred as a shepherd’s helper, not as a sled dog in the far north.

That’s why many owners worry about what to do in the winter. At what temperatures should the walking time be shortened? If the shepherd dog lives in an aviary in the summer, is it possible to keep him outside in the winter? So, how cold is too cold for German Shepherd?

How Cold Is Too Cold for German Shepherd: 8 Rule

Features of keeping a German Shepherd Outdoors in Cold Weather

It is possible to keep a German on the street in winter only if there is a spacious aviary.

Keeping a dog on a chain is strictly prohibited, the pet must move freely in his home in order to german shepherd warm up and stretch his muscles if necessary.

Rules for Keeping a German Shepherd in Winter Weather

  1. An insulated kennel built of wood panels should be installed in the aviary
  2. It is desirable to insulate the walls of the kennel with foam or mineral wool
  3. It is recommended to lay the floor of the enclosure with straw or sawdust
  4. I don’t bathe German Shepherds in winter, because he can easily catch a cold because of wet coat
  5. When it’s cold outside, walking with a pet should not exceed two hours
  6. Walking in a frost exceeding -4ºF/-20ºC should last no more than half an hour
  7. In severe frosts before walking it is recommended to grease ears and paw tips with animal fat because these are the parts of the body where German Shepherds often get frostbite
  8. For extreme weather, get dog boots. Use dog jackets for puppies and senior dogs
Keeping a German Shepherd in Winter

GSD’s Healthy Diet in Cold Weather

The German Shepherd cold tolerance in winter should receive more nutritious and high-calorie food.

If the owner feeds the German Shepherd with healthy diet, then you should increase the dose of meat products in the daily portion of the German Shepherd.

A small amount of vegetable oil or animal fat is added to the porridge.

When feeding a pet with dry food, in winter it is advisable to choose food intended for active sports not all German Shepherds.

You need to feed the animal with warmed (not hot water bottles) food. Warm water is also poured into the German Shepherd’s bowl.

Feeding your shepherd in the cold

Winter is a time when a pet living on the street needs to be looked after twice. Despite the fact that the animal, quenching thirst, can eat snow dogs, it is necessary to change the hot water bottles in the bowl in time if it is frozen.

The food is served warm enough so that the German Shepherds has time to eat the food before it cools down very much. If the thermometer has dropped too low, make sure that the dog is not cold.

If it is known in advance that the German Shepherd will live on the street in winter, it is recommended to purchase a german shepherd puppy who was born and spent the first weeks of his life in an aviary.

Such individuals have strong immunity and a short period of adaptation to outdoor life.

How to understand that your German Shepherd is cold

Increased caloric needs in the cold

During the cold season, your dog needs more calories to german shepherd stay warm. The calculated energy requirement can increase three to four times, compared to resting energy requirements.

Resting Energy Requirements or RER, which can be calculated by multiplying the animal’s body weight in kilograms raised to the ¾ power by 70, for example, a 10kg (22lb) adult neutered dog of healthy weight needs RER = 70(10kg)3/4 ≈ 400 Calories/day. 

THE OHIO STATE UNIVERSITY, Veterinary Medical Center

With the onset of cold weather, increase your Shepherd’s diet according to the severity of the cold. This caloric value is called DER: Daily Energy Requirement represents the average daily energy expenditure of an animal, dependent on lifestage and activity (work, gestation, lactation and growth).

Work DER (kcal/day)
Light work = 2 х RER
Moderate work = 3 х RER
Heavy work = 4–8 х RER

Wilmot Veterinary Clinic

If it is not possible to make the food more caloric, the dosage of the feed is increased by adding half of the usual daily volume of food to the portion.

german shepherd adapts to the cold

At What Age German Shepherds Can Be Kept Outside

It is possible to keep a German Shepherd cold tolerance on the street in winter, starting from the age of three to four months. But only on condition that the baby had previously lived with his mother in an open aviary, and not in the house.

If the German Shepherd was kept at home, then it should be transferred to the aviary in winter gradually, starting from an hour a day. Thanks to their thick fur, German Shepherd are cold tolerance.

Optimal low temperature for young German Shepherds is up to 23ºF/-5ºC. With a stronger cold snap, the baby is taken into the house, since the heat exchange in puppies is not yet fully formed, and in the tolerate cold temperatures the pet can catch a cold and get sick.

Caring for elderly dogs GSD

The senior German Shepherd tolerates the cold much worse, since senior German Shepherd have a thin fur coat and not such a bushy tail. A thin fur coat does not warm the dog well.

Sick German Shepherds should be inside all winter. In sick service dogs, there is a violation of the hind legs, a warm coat, unlike a healthy dog, the patient does not tolerate temperatures.

Double coats of skin does not save from severe cold, the dog will be saved from the cold only if it stay warm.

Winter dog jacket

With age, the dog’s temperature is regulated harder, dog’s paws take blood worse, so older dogs need more heat, they are less cold tolerance. Due to poor cold tolerance, can lose dogs paws, also due to poor cold tolerance, older dogs lose weight. Even thick coats will not protect from severe cold.

To prevent weakness in the hind limbs, wear dog socks, it is worth exercising your sheepdog from a very young age. There is a set of exercises to make German Shepherd back legs stronger.

Can I keep it on a chain?

Theoretically, any service German Shepherd dogs can be trained to chain maintenance. For the owners it is convenient. The chain is fastened to the kennel or on a movable block to the cable.

But both German Shepherd handlers and owners themselves mostly express negative opinions about such a restriction of the freedom of sick German Shepherds.

German Shepherd enjoys the snow

Psychological Factor

Perceiving the leash as a betrayal towards itself, the animal begins to show excessive aggression. A German Shepherd that has broken loose from the chain sometimes becomes uncontrollable.

The anger of the chain Shepherd cold weather tolerance becomes uncontrollable, and the animal begins to pose a danger to humans.

The dog receives significant physical harm:

  • sagging back;
  • weakness of the limbs.

There is a danger that the animal will get entangled in the leash. At best, this will lead to the fact that the German Shepherd will not be able to reach the bowls with water and food, at worst, asphyxia will occur if the chain is wound around the neck.

From the point of view of security functions, it is easier for intruders to resist a German Shepherd if it is on a leash.

For reference

It is possible to leave a German Shepherd dogs on a chain only for a short time when it is necessary for the sake of safety, for example, if people unfamiliar to the animal visited the yard.


Preventing of Injuries in GSDs in the Winter Season

In winter, due to ice, the risk of dislocations, sprains, fractures and bruises increases. Avoid playing and walking on slippery sections of the street and in no case let the dog run on the ice of cold temperatures reservoirs.

Also in winter, the risk of cuts to the pads of paws warm with glass and other sharp objects hidden under the snow increases.

Because of the cold, the vessels narrow, the sensitivity of the limbs decreases – as a result, the dog may not immediately feel pain when stepping on something sharp.

Sometimes in winter, a severe cut of the dog’s paw pads is found only at home, when normal body temperature blood circulation is restored in the body temperature and bleeding increases.

How to understand that your German Shepherd is cold?

Here are the signs that may indicate your dog is too cold temperatures

  • Shivering or trembling.
  • A hunched posture with a raised tail.
  • Whining or barking.
  • A change in behavior, such as apparent anxiety or discomfort.
  • Unwillingness to continue walking or attempts to turn around.
  • Looking for a place to hide.
  • He lifts his paw off the ground.
  • Low body warm temperature (body heat indicates the condition of the dog’s body warm, if the body heat temperatures is low, the dog needs to be warmed up urgently)

With prolonged exposure to the colder weather, the German Shepherds loses weight, body fat turn into very little energy to warm the dog coat, but over time, body fat are not enough to maintain heat.

A dog’s barking can be very loud and annoying, but always check to see what the cause is. This may be your GSD’s way of telling you he’s cold.

Unreasonable barking should be dealt with by special training. Learn about it in our recent post.

At what temperature should dogs be started?

1. Although some pets are used to tolerate cold weather, veterinary experts agree that you should have pets indoors if the body temperature drops below 20 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. Puppies, kittens and shorthair pets should go inside every time the temperature drops below 40 degrees.

How to Equip a German Shepherd’s Kennel in Cold Weather?

For yard German Shepherds it is very important to make a spacious and warm kennel, it should not be cramped for a large breed dogs young or old dog warm, but puppies should also be quite cozy.

Usually a dog house for large dog breeds is built of wood, less often of brick, but both of them must be insulated.

It is better to make the walls double, and place foam, mineral wool or shavings and sawdust between them. It is important not to allow drafts.

The roof can also be made double or simply insulated with an old wool blanket. In order to make it easier to clean and disinfect the kennel, the roof must be removable.

German Shepherd's Kennel in Cold Weather

What kind of coating material to choose is up to the owner, but the roof of the kennel should not get wet and deteriorate from the temperature drop.

The litter of any material must be periodically stirred (4-6 times a week) and changed at least every 7-8 days. The entrance to the kennel should be covered with burlap or a piece of dense fabric to protect against gusty wind chill and draft.

If the shepherd is uncomfortable in the kennel, damp or cold, he will be constantly outside. Noticing this behavior of the most German Shepherds, it is urgent to re-equip the kennel.

Adapting to the cold

It is allowed to keep a German Shepherd dog warm on the street all year round. Naturally, it is impossible to transfer an adult dog raised in an apartment immediately to the cold, since it needs a long period of adaptation to the cold weather tolerance.

For a German Shepherds raised outside the city and used to being out of the house for a long time, a full transfer to street maintenance is acceptable.

But still, if the frigid weather forecast warns of a sudden cold snap, take your dog indoors for a while.

So that the pet does not freeze, an indoor aviary is equipped for him and a insulated kennel is installed. A spacious aviary will give the shepherd enough freedom for active movement.

How Long Can German Shepherds Stay Out in the Cold?

German Shepherds have a coat with a dense undercoat, so that dogs feel cold comfortable outside in winter and they are not afraid of cold and frost.

The skin of animals secretes a fatty substance that covers their fur with a dense layer, so they do not freeze even when the thermometer drops below twenty degrees. Representatives of this breed are even happy to “bathe” in the snow, thus cleaning their wool from dirt.

In places with a dry climate,cold climates the German Shepherds can even withstand a thirty-degree frost. Winter camping with dog will be a pleasant pastime, your pet will be happy.

In regions with high humidity, dogs tolerate frost worse, and it is not recommended to keep them outside when the temperature drops below fifteen degrees.

Factors that reduce GSD cold tolerance

Puppies under two months of age, pregnant or nursing females, sick and old German Shepherds are more sensitive to cold weather than adult healthy animals.

Therefore, at extreme temperatures below 14ºF/-10ºС, such dogs must be transferred to temporary maintenance in a house or at least in a barn.

In addition to age and overall health, consider what kind of coat your dog has, because there are three varieties of coat in German Shepherds. Check out the details in this video by Anything German Shepherd:

Chapter FAQ

Can German Shepherds sleep outside in winter?

For a healthy German Shepherd bred outdoors, winter keeping is quite acceptable at temperatures up to 40ºF/+4ºС. This requires an insulated kennel and intensive feeding. But if the temperature drops below 20ºF/-6ºС at night, it’s worth letting the dog sleep inside for the night.

How long can German Shepherds be out in the cold?

If your German Shepherd is used to living indoors, walks in the cold weather should be limited. At frigid temperatures under 40 degrees, walks should be no more than an hour, and at 20 degrees no more than half an hour. For severe cold, use dog coats and boots.

How cold can a German Shepherd tolerate?

German Shepherds are a breed of dog that can tolerate temperatures quite well. With their thick double coat and an undercoat that provides insulation, they are naturally equipped to handle chilly weather.

In fact, they have been known to tolerate temperatures as low as -20 degrees Fahrenheit. However, it is important to note that even though German Shepherds have a higher tolerance for the cold weather compared to some other breeds, they still need proper shelter and care during extreme weather conditions to ensure their safety and well-being.

How cold can a German Shepherd sleep outside?

German Shepherds have a thick double that provides insulation and protects them from extreme weather conditions. They are well adapted to cold weather and can sleep comfortably outside in frigid temperatures below freezing. However, it is important to ensure that they have adequate shelter from the wind chill and rain, and a warm, dry bed to sleep on.

It is also crucial to monitor their behavior and health during cold weather and provide additional protection, such as a heated dog house or extra blankets, if necessary. Ultimately, the specific temperature at which a German Shepherd can sleep outside comfortably may vary depending on factors such as their individual tolerance and acclimatization to cold weather german shepherds get cold.

How long can a German Shepherd walk in the cold?

The length of time a German Shepherd can walk in the cold depends on various factors such as the temperature, the dog’s age and overall health, and its tolerance to cold weather. German Shepherds have a thick coat that provides some insulation, but they are still susceptible to cold temperatures. Generally, it is recommended to limit walks in extreme cold weather to around 20-30 minutes to prevent the dog from experiencing discomfort or potential health issues.

It is crucial to observe the dog’s behavior during the walk and watch for signs of shivering, lethargy, or discomfort, as these can indicate that the dog has been out for too long haired in the cold. It is always best to err on the side of caution and prioritize the dog’s well-being when considering walking them in cold weather conditions.

Do German Shepherds need jackets in winter?

Whether or not German Shepherds need jackets in the winter depends on their individual circumstances. German Shepherds have a thick double coat that provides insulation and helps regulate their body temperature, making them more resistant to cold climates than many other breeds.

However, there are factors to consider such as the temperature and duration of exposure. If they are spending extended periods of time outdoors in extremely cold temperatures, or if they have a short or thin coat, they may benefit from wearing a jacket or sweater to provide additional warmth.
Additionally, older or frailer German Shepherds may be more susceptible to the cold and may also benefit from wearing a jacket. Ultimately, it is important to assess each dog’s specific needs and consult with a veterinarian if unsure of the appropriate measures to take.

Christmas German Shepherd


To make the dog feel good, regulate body heat, so you can provide the dog with a good rest. Regulate body heat with the help of special means, sometimes the dog’s devices in the form of a thick fur coat, an outer coat, body fat, a bushy tail, a double coat of a thick fur outer coat is not enough. As warming elements, you can take dog boots. Dog boots will help keep your feet warm.

Malena Parker

I run this blog and I want to share with you useful information about the life, health, and care of a German Shepherd

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