German Shepherds can do well in warm climates and their coats offer them insulation, however, care must be taken to ensure they do not overheat. Like all dogs, they should not be left in the heat for extended periods and their health should be monitored during strenuous activity in hot weather.
Below we’ll take a look at three reasons why a German Shepherd will usually do well in hot temperatures, and three reasons that hot temperatures may have more of an impact on a German Shepherd than another breed.
We’ll discuss how much heat a German Shepherd is able to tolerate, and how German Shepherd puppies have different heat tolerances than adult dogs.
inally, we’ll discuss some tips for keeping your German Shepherd cool during the warmer months.
Do German Shepherds Do Well In Hot Temperatures?
Each individual German Shepherd may have their own personal heat tolerance level, too, so it’s important to look at your own pup and go from there in determining how to keep them comfortable in warm weather.
German Shepherds originate from Germany, which tends to be on the colder side, so Shepherds may have a tougher time in areas where there are not only high temperatures but excessive humidity as well. Dogs do not sweat like humans do, and the minimal sweating from their paws is not enough to cool them down.
That being said, there are a few characteristics that German Shepherds have that make them a good choice for warmer climates, as well as a few specific reasons why you might need to be more careful having them in a warmer climate.
3 Reasons Why A German Shepherd May Do Well In Heat
German Shepherds have three distinct coat types: the Stock (Short) Coat, Plush (Medium) Coat, and the Long Coat. They have what is called a double coat, where a softer undercoat is protected by a thicker, more water-repellent topcoat called the guard coat.
Not only does this dual-layer protection make it so they can tolerate colder temperatures better, but it also allows them to stay cooler in warmer temperatures by insulating their body from the heat (similar to how an insulated cooler might work).
It’s a common misconception that a German Shepherd’s heavy coat makes them hot, so many people will opt to shave their dogs during the warmer months.
This can actually make them hotter as it takes away the cooling insulation of their coat (not to mention it can permanently damage their skin and create additional health issues). So, no matter how hot your German Shepherd may appear, don’t shave their coat!
Adaptability & Intelligence
One of the best characteristics of the German Shepherd is their ability to adapt to a variety of challenging situations, including those of the weather variety.
The breed is incredibly versatile, and they are capable of doing amazingly well in temperatures and terrains that range from freezing and wet to sunny and dry.
While certain common-sense precautions should still be taken regardless of how well a dog of any breed might do in an extreme climate, German Shepherds are usually able to adapt and thrive in a variety of warm environments.
German Shepherds also tend to have pretty good common sense. Some dogs are prone to just laying in the sun for hours on end without seeking out shade, but the German Shepherd usually isn’t one of those and will seek out shade and water the moment they start to get too hot.
Face & Ears
There are certain breeds of dogs whose faces and breathing capabilities make it much harder (and even dangerous) for them to be in even mildly hot weather. Not so for the German Shepherd!
The sleek, wolf-like muzzle of the German Shepherd can be opened fully to pant and there is no crowding of their nasal passages and tongue, so their breathing is not inhibited even when panting heavily.
Panting is the primary way a dog cools down, so the fact that a German Shepherd has a longer muzzle and larger tongue means they can use the evaporation process to their advantage in the heat.
3 Reasons Why A German Shepherd May NOT Do Well In Heat
A German Shepherd’s coat is a double-edged sword when it comes to how likely they are to do well in the heat.
While it is insulating, it is still thick and can cause them to heat up faster than a dog with little to no coat. German Shepherds often also have a lot of black or very dark browns and reds in their coats, and this can lead to them getting hotter as well as they absorb more of the heat than a lighter colored dog.
Hotter temperatures also mean that your German Shepherd is likely to shed more frequently than a Shepherd who lives in a colder climate. While most German Shepherds blow their coats about twice a year, those that live in warmer climates might be shedding for a longer period of time.
If you live in an area with more of a dry heat than a humid heat, your Shepherd’s coat can also become brittle and dry (which not only looks bad but can also lead to skin issues) so it might require more upkeep nutritionally and through grooming to ensure that it maintains good moisture levels.
German Shepherds are very active dogs that require a lot of physical and mental exercise. If they do not get that exercise on a daily basis, they will find other ways to occupy themselves and this could result in a lot of unwanted behavioral issues.
In hotter climates, you can be more restricted about what time of day you are able to do a lot of physical activity. This generally means going outside very early in the morning or at night when it is cooler.
You may also need to shorten the duration of how long you are outside or change the type of activity you are doing to one that is less physically demanding. For an active German Shepherd, all of those restrictions can impact their mental and physical health.
In hotter temperatures, a dog will require more food to meet their increased energy needs, which happens due to an effect on metabolism and the energy required to metabolize food.
When a dog pants (which occurs frequently and for long periods of time in the heat), they are speeding up their metabolism because it requires more energy to pant than it does to just sit and relax.
As German Shepherds are larger dogs, they will usually require more food during the hotter months or else they risk dropping too much weight. The more active your German Shepherd is in the heat, the more food or nutritional supplements you may need to provide.
As an example, during the winter months, my German Shepherds maintain their weight and energy with only one cup of food per meal as they are not as active, and their bodies are doing less “work”. During the hot summer months, they may eat as much as two to three cups per meal depending on what activities we did that day.
All of that food can lead to an increased food budget during the summer months, and it can really add up quickly! If you live in a climate that is hot year-round, you may find that you must feed your German Shepherd a larger amount of food compared to a Shepherd that lives in a colder or even a seasonal climate. Dr. Nita Patel notes “You may also consider a “sport” breed dog food if your German Shepherd is highly active which can make meeting the daily nutrient requirements a little easier.”
What Temperature Is Too Hot For A German Shepherd?
Dogs are actually better suited to colder temperatures than they are to hotter temperatures (yes, even those breeds that are traditionally found in very hot climates).
German Shepherds, like most other dog breeds, can only tolerate being in direct sunlight amid high temperatures for a very short period of time. While brief visits outside to potty are acceptable, in most cases additional safety measures need to be undertaken to prevent your German Shepherd from getting heat stroke.
Dry heat is also very different than humid heat, and whether your German Shepherd is in an open, shady area or an enclosed area in direct sunlight also plays a huge role in how much heat they are able to tolerate.
Older German Shepherds and Shepherds who are injured or ill may also not be able to tolerate high temperatures very well, so it’s important to pay attention to your individual dog to decide when the heat is too much. Enclosed areas (like cars, garages, or shed) may become hotter much more quickly due to a lack of airflow.
Areas, where your pup is in direct sunlight and has no means of escape, can also cause issues, which is why it’s so important to consider the movement of the sun and access to shade when you are choosing where to put your dog’s crate or if you are building an outdoor dog run.
Along those same lines, while the ambient temperature may not be extreme, the temperature of the ground could quickly cause damage to your German Shepherd’s paws if they walk on it.
Asphalt temperatures in particular can skyrocket in even mild heat. If you can’t keep the palm of your hand on the ground for more than a few seconds, then it’s too hot for your German Shepherd!
Do German Shepherd Puppies Do Well In Heat?
Newborn German Shepherd puppies actually require quite a bit of heat as their bodies haven’t developed thermoregulation yet, so they require an external heat source (usually mom along with some heating pads) to stay warm.
That being said, they should still not be left in an area in direct sunlight or one in which there is no airflow as that will make it TOO hot. Plus, mom might also get too hot and not want to feed her puppies!
As the German Shepherd puppies age, they will need an external heat source less frequently.
Older puppies can tolerate mild heat and a bit of activity, but they might not be able to tolerate as much as an adult German Shepherd and may be prone to overheating because they aren’t as good at knowing when to take a break during play.
How Do I Keep My German Shepherd Cool In The Heat?
First and foremost, make sure your German Shepherd has access to a cooler area. If they are outside, make sure you provide them with a shady area (a doghouse is NOT a good option for shade as it gets too stuffy and can actually trap heat inside) with lots of good airflow. Plenty of drinking water is also a must.
When planning physical activities, try to plan them around the time of day when the temperatures are cooler, such as in the early morning or evening. Paying attention to the calendar to see when there are days with more cloud cover and lower temperatures is also a good idea.
Monitoring your German Shepherd’s health as you walk, hike, play, or swim is important, and you should educate yourself on the signs and symptoms of heatstroke in dogs.
Providing ice cubes, “pup”-sicles, cooling vests, and cooling pads are all great ways of making sure your pup stays cool in the heat.
While German Shepherds tend to do well in warmer climates, like any dog they are susceptible to heat-related illnesses so care should be taken to make sure they are kept cool and comfortable.
Their coat should never be shaved (unless directed by a vet) as this offers them protection from the sun and helps keep them cool. Additional ways to keep them cool include providing shade, fresh water, and ample airflow.
Monitoring your pup for signs of heatstroke during times of strenuous activity is important, too!