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How to Keep a German Shepherd Cool: 10 Tips to Beat the Heat

Last Updated: December 27, 2023

Are you wondering how to keep your German Shepherd cool in the summer? You are not alone! This is a topic of paramount importance for every owner of this magnificent breed.

As the summer sun blazes overhead, the rising temperatures can pose a significant challenge to your furry friend, as German Shepherds, with their dense fur and energetic disposition, are particularly susceptible to heat-related stress.

This article will equip you with practical and innovative strategies to ensure your four-legged friend remains cool, safe, and happy, no matter how high the thermometer rises.

Join us as we explore everything from cooling products to lifestyle adjustments tailored specifically for your German Shepherd’s well-being in the heat.

Let’s cool down the heat!

A GSD in the shade drinking water.
My German Shepherd Willow keeping cool in the shade.

How To Keep a German Shepherd Cool

1. Acclimatize Your Dog to Warmer Temperatures

Acclimatizing your German Shepherd involves changing their environment that gradually help them get accustomed to temperatures beyond the normal thermoneutral zone.

These changes allow your dog to adapt and reduce the distress they experience during heat spells. Adapting your GSD takes time and should be done over a period of two weeks, even extending the process to 60 days if you’re relocating to a warmer climate. 

There are a few ways to help your German Shepherd acclimate and stay cool in the heat, and we’ll discuss these in the rest of the article. 

2. Ensure Your German Shepherd Is Hydrated 

Keeping your dog hydrated is perhaps the most effective way of helping your German Shepherd stave off the heat.

So, if you’re wondering how to cool down a German Shepherd, an adequate and regular water supply should be your first option. 

Water replenishes the body fluids lost by your GSD, thereby helping your pet’s body maintain the required body temperature homeostasis. Most importantly, keeping your pet hydrated allows the cells in their body to act as a buffer for temperature changes. 

Water has a high heat capacity, which means that when your German Shepherd drinks, the water absorbs heat and facilitates the normal transfer of heat in and out of the body, stabilizing your dog’s body temperature. 

If your dog struggles to keep hydrated, try the PetSafe Drinkwell Water Fountain from Amazon. This clever multi-tiered drinking fountain is the perfect size for German Shepherds. The free-flowing water entices your dog to drink more, and the continual water circulation keeps the water clean.

Note: Clicking the above link(s) will take you to Amazon or an online store where we have an affiliate relationship. If you make a purchase, we may earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

German Shepherd lying on the grass in the sun.

3. Keep Your GSD’s Fur Intact

Some dog owners may reason that reducing the amount of fur on your German Shepherd’s skin can help regulate extreme heat. However, there’s a flaw in that logic. 

First off, dogs don’t perspire through their skin as humans do. So, trimming your GSD’s hair doesn’t make it regulate heat better through the skin.

Besides, your dog is programmed to blow its inner coat (shed heavily) in summer to regulate airflow and enhance cooling. 

Also, trimming your GSD’s fur can expose his skin to sunburn, which leads to adverse effects, like red and inflamed skin that is painful and easily irritated. Consistent exposure of skin to direct sunlight is also associated with skin cancer.

It’s no secret that dogs like to snooze in the sun or in front of the fire in winter. Check out my German Shepherd Willow sunbathing in this photo. I love this picture; it almost appears that she is laughing!

After a few minutes, though, she’ll toddle off to cool down and lie on the cold patio in the shade!

German Shepherd Sunbathing while lying on her human sister
My German Shepherd Willow sunbathing.

If you take your pet to the beach or expose him to hours of sunshine, consider using dog sunscreen. 

The Epi-Pet Sunscreen is an easy-to-apply option to put on your dog and work into the coat with a brush.

You’ll have to apply the lotion manually to the muzzle, nose, and ear flaps. The spray also acts as a coat and skin conditioner. It is developed by veterinarians and is FDA-compliant. 

4. Frequently Groom Your Dog

Although you can’t trim your GSD’s fur to help him stay cool, you can indulge in frequent grooming as this will help regulate his temperature. 

German Shepherds shed throughout the year, but they blow their coats in the hot and cold seasons. 

‘Blowing the coat’ refers to when your dog sheds large amounts of fur from the undercoat that tends to hang on to the longer outer coat hairs. 

In hot weather, loose or matted fur can trap heat and compromise your dog’s ability to regulate body temperature. To prevent this from happening, regularly brush your GSD’s coat to get rid of loose fur and facilitate cooling and healthy airflow. 

I use the FURminator de-shedding tool. It does a great job of removing all the loose fur and getting safely through the topcoat to remove the dead undercoat.

I’ve tried different grooming tools in the past, but none of them compare to the FURminator. Check out my article on the best grooming tools for GSDs to find my other recommendations.

5. Create Conditions for Behavioral Thermoregulation

Thermoregulation is a mechanism for regulating body temperature irrespective of external temperatures. 

Behavioral thermoregulation in dogs refers to behavioral patterns that a dog adopts to cope with the heat. These include: 

  • Changing body postures 
  • Seeking shelter under the shade 
  • Going into a paddling pool 
  • Going into a cooled room
  • Lying on cooling mats 

Dog owners have the role of creating the conditions for behavioral thermoregulation by providing the resources that support these behaviors. 

For example, you can set up a dog pool in your yard. Consider a portable option such as the Jasonwell Foldable Dog Pool. This durable, non-slip dog pool doesn’t need inflating and has a side drain to make your work easier. 

I’ll definitely be investing in a new pool this year, as Willow cooling down in a muddy puddle was not what I had in mind!!

German Shepherd in Muddy Puddle
“Oof…that’s better!”

6. Reduce Your German Shepherd’s Activity Level

I normally encourage dog owners to provide enough exercise for their dog, especially if it’s a high-energy breed, like the German Shepherd. However, this can be counterproductive in extremely high temperatures. 

If you’re worried about keeping a German Shepherd cool in the summer, consider reducing your dog’s activity level since exercise triggers a rise in body temperature. 

A study in the UK found that exercise was likely to cause heatstroke in dogs as it creates the same internal body conditions as when exposed to heat in a locked-up car. 

Alternatively, you can replace high-energy outdoor exercise with indoor activity so your GSD gets their dose of healthy exercise without the risk of overheating. 

You’ll probably find that your dog, just like Willow, does not need as much exercise in hot weather as they expend energy throughout the day by panting when trying to keep cool.

7. Steer Clear of Leaving Your Dog in a Parked Car

Parked cars don’t regulate air exchange and can quickly heat up, especially when parked in the open, under the scorching midday heat. 

A report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicated that cars parked in direct sunlight could heat up to 131°F-172°F (55°C-77.8°C) on the inside when the external temperatures are just 80°F-100°F (26.7°C-37.8°C).

As previously mentioned, such high temperatures can cause hyperthermia and heat stroke, even leading to organ failure or death. 

8. Avoid Exposing Your Dog to the Midday Heat

Outdoor temperatures in summer are typically the highest around noon. So, if you’re worried about how to keep a German Shepherd cool, avoid the midday sun altogether.

Aside from the fierce sunlight, the ground gets heated, and it can be painful for your dog to stand on the asphalt while his paws get scorched.  

Either way, summer heat tends to be rough on your GSD’s paws, and you might want to help moisturize them with a lotion, such as Vets Preferred Paw Balm. This paw balm has a moisturizing and restorative effect and can even be used on your dog’s nose if it dries up. 

To keep your German Shepherd exercised while you avoid the midday heat, take your daily walks in the early morning and late evening hours. On hot days, I take Willow out around 6 am and then late in the evening, around 9 pm.

9. Keep Your German Shepherd at a Healthy Weight

Fat tissue in your dog’s body has a lower thermal conductivity, which blocks heat loss and interrupts the thermoregulation process. If your dog is overweight, they’ll feel external heat more severely than if they maintain a healthy weight. 

To help your dog expel heat effectively, you must feed him properly and provide adequate exercise to maintain a healthy body weight. Going by the AKC breed standards, your GSD should be: 

  • 65-90 lbs (29.5-40.8 kg) if male
  • 50-70lbs (22.7-31.8 kg) if female

***Please note these are approximations.

If you aren’t sure whether your GSD is obese or overweight, check the growth charts (height and weight) in this article to ensure you’re on the right track.  

German Shepherd Finding Pebble in River

10. Give Your Dog a Cooling Bed or Mat

A cooling bed will give your German Shepherd the same soothing effect they would experience on a cold floor when temperatures are high.

Like a cold floor that absorbs heat from your dog’s body, cooling beds absorb heat and transfer it into water or an absorbent gel. The excess heat from your German Shepherd’s body warms up the bed, allowing your dog to cool down quickly.

Once the bed gets too warm, your dog will move away and seek refuge from the heat elsewhere. In the meantime, the mat loses its heat to the air and the floor, and your dog can return to a chilly bed the next time he needs to cool off.

I recommend the Chillz Cooling Mat. This pressure-activated mat can be used indoors, outdoors, and even in the car.

The mat’s cooling action is activated when your dog sits on it, and the cooling effect can last up to three hours. Considering how big German Shepherds are, you’ll probably need to get the extra-large size.

Here are a few other methods you can employ to keep your German Shepherd cool and prevent them from overheating: 

  • Take your dog for a swim. Ensure you supervise your dog while he’s in the pool. 
  • Give them cool summer treats. Watermelons are refreshing (remove seeds and rind to be on the safe side). You can also try frozen strawberries or frozen chicken broth made in ice cube trays.
  • Add ice to your dog’s water
  • Let your dog cool down by turning on the garden sprinkler. 
  • Use an elevated bed for better air circulation. 
A GSD having a swim.

Do German Shepherds Get Hot Easily?

German Shepherds can get hot easily as they have thicker coats than other dog breeds. They also tend to feel hotter when living in a space with poor ventilation or lack of access to fresh water. 

According to the Center for Animal Welfare Science at Purdue University, dogs with thicker coats have a reduced ability to release heat from their skin surface. As such, they can quickly experience thermal distress when temperatures go up. 

German Shepherds were ranked 22 out of 35 breeds in a 2016 study that assessed the incidence of heatstroke (heat-related illness) in UK dogs under vet care.

These results suggest that German Shepherds are moderately susceptible to heat-related illnesses or conditions. Typically, flat-faced (brachycephalic) dogs like the Bulldog take the lead in poor heat regulation. 

Can German Shepherds Tolerate the Heat?

German Shepherds can tolerate heat up to a certain level (30°C/86°F). If the dog’s body temperature rises to 103°F/39.4°C, it’s at risk of heatstroke. Higher body temperatures (around 107°F/41.7°C and 109°F/42.8°C) can lead to organ failure and even death. 

For all dogs, the usual Thermoneutral Zone ranges between 20°C and 30°C (68°F and 86°F).

The Thermoneutral Zone (TNZ) is the temperature range within which your dog can maintain its normal temperature by regulating heat loss through skin blood flow. In other words, a dog in the normal TNZ has a balanced heat production and heat loss process. 

If the temperature is too high, your dog must expend energy through panting to maintain normal body temperature. Otherwise, they risk hyperthermia and the consequent heat stroke. 

Considering these adverse effects of extreme heat on your German Shepherd, it’s crucial to know how to keep your dog cool, which is the main focus of this article. 


What is too hot for a German Shepherd?

Any temperature above 80 degrees Fahrenheit is considered hot for a German Shepherd. As the temperature increases, the risk associated with health also increases. It’s important to reduce their exposure to high temperatures.

How often should I provide water for my German Shepherd?

It is recommended to provide fresh, clean water for your German Shepherd at least every few hours throughout the day, especially in warm weather. More frequent access helps them remain properly hydrated.

Can I give my German Shepherd ice cubes to cool down?

Providing ice cubes can be an enjoyable and effective way for your German Shepherd to cool down on hot days. Most dogs enjoy chewing and licking ice to lower their body temperature. Be sure cubes are the appropriate size for your dog.

Should I use cooling mats or pads for my German Shepherd?

Cooling mats and pads can offer German Shepherds much relief from warm indoor and outdoor surfaces. Placing such items in shaded areas allows dogs to rest comfortably in hot conditions. Regularly refreshing or replacing the items helps them remain cool.

Sharon Waddington
Sharon Waddington is the founder of World of Dogz. With over 30 years of experience working with dogs, this former Police Officer has seen it all. But it’s her trusty German Shepherd, Willow, who steals the show as the inspiration behind this website. As Sharon’s constant companion Willow has played a pivotal role in shaping her passion for dogs. Recently, Sharon has become deeply passionate about the plight of rescue dogs and is an active advocate for dog rescue, striving to make a difference in the lives of dogs in need.

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