Living in the UK, we experience both the moderate heat of the summer (although not for long) and pretty cold temperatures in the winter. When I got my German Shepherd Willow, I knew that some of her littermates traveled to the US and the Caribbean. I became concerned about those weather extremes and wondered what the ideal temperature is for German Shepherds?
The ideal temperature for a German Shepherd is between 50° and 80°F (10° to 27°C). German Shepherds can tolerate higher and lower temperatures, but only for a short time. Overly hot or cold conditions will make GSDs uncomfortable and may be dangerous to their health.
It’s vital to understand the risks of prolonged exposure to both overly hot and cold temperatures. You should be aware of the danger signs of hypothermia and heat stroke and know that senior German Shepherds and puppies respond to temperature differently.
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- Suitable Temperature for German Shepherds
- Are German Shepherds Good in Cold Weather?
- Are German Shepherds Good in Hot Weather?
- Senior German Shepherds and Temperature
- German Shepherd Puppies and Temperature
- Final Thoughts
Suitable Temperature for German Shepherds
The temperature of your environment can have positive or negative effects on your German Shepherd’s health. The Animal Welfare Act includes sections to protect dogs from extreme temperatures.
Regulations state that the ambient temperature must not fall below 50°F (10°C) for dogs not acclimated to lower temperatures or rise above 85°F (29°C) for dogs in indoor facilities.
When considering the temperature requirements for dogs, although age, breed, coat type, body shape, health status, and level of acclimation all come into play when specifying acceptable temperature ranges, more research is needed to account for those specific factors.
As the German Shepherd coat consists of two layers, they will be far more comfortable not exceeding a temperature of 80°F (27°C).
Additionally, regulations require that you must maintain humidity at levels of 30-70% for the indoor housing of dogs, and temperatures must not go lower than 45°F (7°C) or rise above 85°F (29°C) for more than four consecutive hours.
Are German Shepherds Good in Cold Weather?
A German Shepherd’s double coat is well-suited to cold weather, but extended exposure to temperatures below 20°F (-7°C) puts your dog in danger of frostbite and hypothermia.
Most dogs enjoy playing in the snow and do well in conditions when you might need a winter coat. But when the temperature dips below 20°F (-7°C), your German Shepherd should only stay out for a few minutes or to take a bathroom break.
A walk outside during a cold snap below 45°F (7°C) should be fine but get indoors as soon as you notice your German Shepherd shiver or raise his paws off the icy ground.
Frostbite in German Shepherds
German Shepherds have a dense double coat to protect against the elements. Their undercoat acts as an insulation layer in winter, while the topcoat (guard coat) protects against the wind and rain.
However, their ears, paws, and tail are vulnerable to cold and can become frostbitten in extreme temperatures and weather conditions. Canines are at risk once the temperature falls below 32°F (0°C).
Signs of frostbite in GSDs:
- Tenderness or pain when touched
- Pale, gray, or blue skin in the frostbitten region
- Blistering or ulceration
- Blackened or dead skin
You should take your best friend to a warm place upon noticing signs of frostbite. Avoid rubbing frostbitten areas or applying direct heat, such as with a hairdryer or heating pad. Instead, take your dog to the vet, who may prescribe antibiotics and painkillers.
While most mild cases of frostbite heal with no permanent injuries, severe frostbite can lead to permanent scarring, nerve damage, or amputation.
Although frostbite is not usually a life-threatening condition, hypothermia can often follow, which can prove fatal.
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Hypothermia in German Shepherds
Your German Shepherds’ average body temperature ranges between 101°F (38°C) and 102.5°F (39°C). If a GSD’s body temperature drops to 98˚F or 99˚F (37°C), hypothermia sets in.
Should you notice your dog acting disoriented, begin to shiver during your walk, has difficulty walking, or is lethargic, it is time to get him home immediately. If left out in the cold too long, your GSD will become sluggish and ultimately unresponsive. Lasting injury or death can result from untreated hypothermia.
Dogs love rolling around in the snow, and some breeds like Labradors love a dip in icy water. But if your dog gets wet, he will be more susceptible to hypothermia. As German Shepherds cannot tolerate the cold as well as the Great Pyrenees or Huskies who are acclimatized to colder temperatures, it is best to avoid winter water time.
If your German Shepherd is hypothermic, you will need to warm him by:
- Getting him inside a warm place
- Wrapping him in blankets or coats (warm these on a radiator first if you can)
- Call your veterinarian
Are German Shepherds Good in Hot Weather?
While German Shepherds can tolerate hot weather up to 85°F (29°C) if they have water and shade, they will be much happier indoors when the temperature rises above 80°F (27°C). For greater insight, check out this article, Can German Shepherds Overheat? (Heat Tolerance Explained).
German Shepherds, like all dogs, cool themselves through panting. Heat loss through sweating from the paw pads and nose is minimal. Nonetheless, panting loses its effectiveness as the temperature rises. On humid days, dogs must pant even more vigorously. Our dogs feel more uncomfortable on humid, steamy days, just like we do.
Your pup will need shade against the blistering sun and plenty of cold water to drink. If you have a kid’s swimming pool or shallow trough, you can fill that and let your doggo soak to cool off.
Thicker coats, like that of the German Shepherd, decrease heat loss from the skin. Without proper attention, your dog may face heatstroke at higher temperatures than what other dogs can tolerate.
If your pooch struggles to keep hydrated, you can get a trendy water fountain such as the PetSafe Drinkwell from Amazon. This clever multi-tiered fountain is the perfect size for German Shepherds.
The free-flowing water lures your dog to drink more, and the continual water circulation keeps the water fresh and clean. And you don’t have to keep filling it up every hour! You can also head over to this article, 10 Ways to Keep a German Shepherd Cool, for some great ideas to keep your dog’s temperature down.
Check out my German Shepherd Willow in the below photo. She loves sunbathing – but only for a few minutes! It’s not long before she will get too hot and go and cool down on the cold patio.
Should I Shave My German Shepherd in the Summer?
You should never shave your German Shepherd in the summer or at any time of year, for that matter. Shaving your dog’s undercoat removes his protection against UV rays and makes him more likely to overheat.
Your dog can also suffer from red and inflamed skin that becomes painful and easily irritated. Consistent exposure to direct sunlight is also associated with skin cancer.
Dogs don’t perspire through their skin like humans. So, shaving or trimming your dog’s fur doesn’t make him regulate heat better through the skin. Besides, your dog is programmed to blow his undercoat (shed heavily) in summer to regulate airflow and enhance cooling.
The long hairs in your German Shepherd’s coat hold in the air and act as an insulator. Air warmed by your dog’s body keeps him warm in the winter, and air blowing through his fur cools him in the summer after they’ve shed their winter coat. A shaved dog no longer has that cooling system and is more likely to suffer heatstroke.
How Do I Know if My German Shepherd Has Heatstroke?
Signs of heatstroke in German Shepherds are:
- Vigorous panting or labored breathing
- Dehydration and deep red gums
- Trembling, disorientation, or seizures
- Salivating or foaming at the mouth
- Vomiting and bloody diarrhea
- Collapse or unconsciousness
If you notice these signs in your dog, get him to a shaded and cooler temperature. Pour cool tap water (not cold to avoid shock) over your dog and let him drink small amounts of cool water.
Don’t place wet towels over your dog as this can trap heat and worsen the condition. Towels can be placed beneath him in minor cases, and consult your vet.
On hot days, walk your dog early morning and late evening when it is cooler. I get my German Shepherd out at 6.30 am and only walk short distances when it is hot. I usually take Willow to a nearby wood where the trees shade her.
I also take a dog water bottle like the Tuff Pupper PupFlask from Amazon to ensure I always have emergency hydration when my dog needs it. This flask is a great size, is quick and easy to use, and has a cool reversible leaf-shaped bowl that lays flat over the bottle when not in use.
Senior German Shepherds and Temperature
German Shepherds become more sensitive to hot and cold weather as they age as they have a reduced capacity to maintain their body temperature. Temperatures your dog enjoyed while young may be too much for them as a senior.
Dogs lose the ability to control their body temperature as they age. They are more vulnerable to hypothermia in the winter and heatstroke in the summer. Additionally, if your senior GSD develops arthritis (common in older dogs), they will feel discomfort during cold or damp weather.
The more sedentary senior lifestyle also means many older dogs are prone to weight gain. An obese dog is at greater risk of heat stroke and heart conditions.
Keep your older dog fit and healthy by giving him a senior breed-specific food like Royal Canin Senior Large Breed Dog Food formulated to meet a big old dog’s nutritional needs. I like this food as it’s packed with nutrients, and the kibbles are shaped to compliment your GSD’s snout shape and jaw strength.
German Shepherd Puppies and Temperature
German Shepherd puppies are more sensitive to temperature due to their smaller size. You will need to keep a close eye on your puppy when the temperature is above 80°F (27°C) and below 50°F (10°C).
GSD puppies have boundless energy. If given a chance, they will play in the sun until they overheat. It may be tempting to let your puppy in the yard during the day (especially if you’re still working on housebreaking), but puppies should stay indoors if the weather is too hot.
While puppies love playing and rolling around in the snow, they can quickly start to shiver if exposed to the cold for too long. You will need to watch your pup closely and get him warm at the first signs of hypothermia.
German Shepherds can tolerate high or low temperatures for a short while but will do better in cool to moderately warm weather due to their thick double coat. Ensure your dog has plenty of water when it is hot, and look out for shivering when the temperature drops.
While you can keep your German Shepherd in an outside kennel in a temperate climate, your dog will be much happier indoors with the family. The ideal temperature for a German Shepherd and the perfect environment is in your house.