The summer heat can be uncomfortable and even dangerous for your German Shepherd as they tend to overheat easily due to their thick coats. And like all dogs, German Shepherds don’t sweat to regulate body temperature, so they need us to help them stay cool.
Here are 10 ways to keep a German Shepherd cool:
- Get your German Shepherd used to higher temperatures.
- Ensure your German Shepherd is hydrated.
- Keep your GSD’s fur intact.
- Groom your German Shepherd frequently.
- Create conditions for behavioral thermoregulation.
- Reduce your German Shepherd’s activity level.
- Avoid sitting with your GSD in a parked car.
- Avoid exposing your German Shepherd to the midday heat.
- Keep your German Shepherd at a healthy weight.
- Give your German Shepherd a cooling bed or mat.
This article will outline the best ways to keep your German Shepherd comfortable in the heat. We’ll also mention the adverse effects of heat on your dog and suggest a few techniques you can use to keep your furry friend cool and refreshed.
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- Do German Shepherds Get Hot Easily?
- Can German Shepherds Tolerate the Heat?
- How To Keep a German Shepherd Cool
- 1. Get Your German Shepherd Used to Higher Temperatures
- 2. Ensure Your German Shepherd Is Hydrated
- 3. Keep Your GSD’s Fur Intact
- 4. Groom Your German Shepherd Frequently
- 5. Create Conditions for Behavioral Thermoregulation
- 6. Reduce Your German Shepherd’s Activity Level
- 7. Avoid Sitting With Your German Shepherd in a Parked Car
- 8. Avoid Exposing Your German Shepherd to the Midday Heat
- 9. Keep Your German Shepherd at a Healthy Weight
- 10. Give Your German Shepherd a Cooling Bed or Mat
- Key Takeaways
Do German Shepherds Get Hot Easily?
German Shepherds can get hot easily as they have a thicker coat than other common dog breeds. They also tend to feel hotter when they’re living in a space with poor ventilation or lack 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).
Thermoneutral Zone (TNZ) refers to 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.
Learn How To Prevent Your Dog Overheating In This Video…
(And What To Do If Your Pet Gets Heatstroke)
How To Keep a German Shepherd Cool
If you’re wondering how to keep your German Shepherd cool in the summer, let’s go over a few methods that can help.
1. Get Your German Shepherd Used to Higher Temperatures
Acclimating your German Shepherd involves making changes in 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. Acclimating 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, thereby 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.
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 them 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.
If you take your pet to the beach or expose him to hours of sunshine, consider using dog sunscreen.
The Epi-Pet Sunscreen from Amazon is an easy-to-apply option that you can 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. Groom Your German Shepherd Frequently
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 from Amazon. 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 out 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 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 from Amazon. 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 muddle puddle was not what I had in mind!!
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 they’re 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. Avoid Sitting With Your German Shepherd in a Parked Car
Parked cars don’t regulate air exchange and can quickly heat up, especially when the vehicle is 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 German Shepherd 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 as well, 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 from Amazon. This paw balm has a moisturizing and restorative effect and can even be used on your dog’s nose in case 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, implying that it 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.
10. Give Your German Shepherd 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 from Amazon. 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 for 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.
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If you’re planning a summer escapade with your German Shepherd or you live in a warm climate, here’s a quick summary of how to keep him cool in the heat.
- Give your dog a few days to gradually adapt to the hot weather.
- Ensure your dog stays hydrated.
- Groom your dog regularly to eliminate loose and matted hair.
- Create conditions for behavioral thermoregulation by building a shade or setting up a doggie pool.
- Keep your dog at a healthy weight for efficient thermoregulation.
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