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Do German Shepherds Get Cold Outside? Breed Facts & FAQ

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By Nicole Cosgrove


As winter months approach, both the nights and days start to get a bit colder, and it’s only natural to wonder how much time your German Shepherd should be spending outside.

German Shepherds have a double coat, with a dense undercoat and a coarser outer coat, which provides them with some insulation against cold weather. The truth is that they love colder weather, but that doesn’t mean they don’t feel cold or can handle just any temperature out there. But how cold is too cold, and can your German Shepherd live outside? We answer both those questions and more here.

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Do German Shepherds Get Cold Outside?

While German Shepherds can tolerate a wide range of temperatures, they can get cold just like people can. Shaking and shivering are tell-tale signs, and if your dog is exhibiting these signs, they need to come inside to warm up.

That said, you might be surprised how long your dog can stay out in the cold before they need to come inside!

a liver german shepherd dog
Image Credit: Eudyptula, Shutterstock

Can You Leave a German Shepherd Outside?

If you own a German Shepherd and are wondering how long you can leave them outside or whether you can leave them outside at night, you’ve come to the right place.

The truth is that under most circumstances, there’s no reason that you can’t leave your German Shepherd outside if you have the proper setup. However, they should always have access to shelter and water to keep them happy and healthy.

The shelter should be insulated and protect them from the elements, and that includes both the rain and wind. In addition, you need to keep an eye on the highs and lows each day so you don’t expose them to temperatures that are too hot or cold.

Finally, you still need to spend time with your German Shepherd, even if they are outside most of the day. We also recommend having more than one dog because this will give them more companionship while outside.

How Cold Is Too Cold for a German Shepherd?

German Shepherds have two insulating coats, which is a big reason that they do well in colder environments. However, just because they can handle a cold environment doesn’t mean that they can handle everything out there.

For starters, they need access to housing and insulation. Their shelter needs to protect them from rain, wind, and anything else that the great outdoors can throw at them. Wind and rain quickly lower how much your German Shepherd can handle being outside.

They need to have a way to escape the weather if it gets too cold. Of course, this can be your home, but it also can be a shelter for them outside. The important part is that your German Shepherd can access whatever they need when they need it.

While we’d love to give you a specific temperature at which you should bring in your German Shepherd, it’s not that simple. If you think that it’s too cold for your German Shepherd to be outside, it probably is unless they have somewhere to go to escape the weather.

German Shepherd in the snow covered trail
Image Credit: Suchavadee, Shutterstock

Do German Shepherds Like Hot or Cold Weather?

You might think that since German Shepherds have a thick double coat, they can’t tolerate warmer weather. But the misunderstanding stems from the fact that a German Shepherd’s coat doesn’t act the same way that a jacket does on a human.

Rather, their coat acts as insulation. Just like your house’s insulation keeps your home protected from heat and cold, that’s how your German Shepherds coat works. During the summer months, it keeps your dog cool, and during the winter months, it keeps them warm.

So, whatever you do, don’t shave their coats just because it’s summertime!

Working Dogs vs. Pets

Whether you should house your German Shepherd outside comes down to one important factor: if you want a working dog or a pet. Plenty of studies show that living with your dog greatly improves their ability to bond with you, and that’s a huge perk for a pet.

However, if you’re simply looking for a dog to help you run your farm, there’s nothing wrong with housing them outside. Still, since German Shepherds are extremely social animals, we highly recommend getting more than one dog and spending time with them even if they are a working dog.

white german shepherd running in the snow
Image By: anetapics, Shutterstock

How Much Space Does a German Shepherd Need?

Before adopting a German Shepherd or confining them to live outside, you need to ensure that there’s plenty of space for them to roam. At a bare minimum, they need at least 4,000 square feet to roam, and more is better if they’re going to live outside.

Keep in mind that this area should not include their shelter. So, if their shelter takes up 500 square feet, their entire area should take up at least 4,500 square feet.

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Final Thoughts

If you own a dog, you need to pay attention to how they’re feeling and what conditions they can handle, and a German Shepherd is no different. Just because German Shepherds do well in the cold doesn’t mean they don’t get chilled. If they can’t warm up, this can have detrimental effects on their health.

Use common sense and keep an eye on your pup. Let them in when they need to warm up, but don’t hesitate to let them back out when they’re ready!

Featured Image Credit: adamikarl, Shutterstock

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