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Can a German Shepherd Live in Extreme Climates?

~ The Origins and History of the German Shepherd ~

Germany, in general, has moderate year-round weather with Winter temperates averaging at 0 °C (32 °F) and Summer temperatures averaging at 24 °C (75 °F). During the early years of developing the German Shepherd breed, the weather was much cooler due to global warming.

The German Shepherd breed was "developed" to withstand chilly weather, especially in the mountains where shepherds usually brought grazing herds. Years of development, and the spread of the famous breed throughout the World, have produced different lines of GSDs that can tolerate warmer climates in the tropics and live comfortably in coldest of cities. See our article here on the difference between European and American Line German Shepherds.

Living Outside in Extreme Weather

Common sense would say that it is not advisable to leave your dog outside in extreme weather for prolonged periods of time. The variables are too much, whether you live in a very cold or extremely hot city. The chances of a freak snowstorm suddenly developing without warning are low, but it could still happen.

In warm cities, nights are usually cooler, so there is little risk of your dog dying from heatstroke, but during the day, the heat of summer may be too much. Always provide the right shelter, water, food, and comfort for your GSD if you intend to leave him out for an extended time.

Different Coats

The German Shepherd comes in different coats. The standard stock coat is just the tip of the iceberg for this dog breed. The stock coat consists of two kinds of hair; the denser undercoat and the low-lying overcoat.

The undercoat functions to generate and keep the heat, while the overcoat gives a sort of waterproofing effect that holds for several minutes under a deluge.

The overcoat comes in short, medium, or long coats. The genes usually decide the kind of coat, but there are times when exposure to the weather can also affect the undercoat's thickness.

Warning Signs

Several warning signs may indicate that your dog is in distress due to the weather. It is handy to familiarize yourself with signs of distress in dogs, whether due to the temperature or any other reason. Familiarize yourself with the warning signs and symptoms below for each extreme situation.

Living in a Cold Climate

As mentioned above, this breed tolerates the cold well. This is especially true for dogs that are born and raised in countries with lower temperatures. Their tolerance has already been established compared to dogs of the same breed but living in warmer cities.

A GSD in Alaska may still need to be kept indoors or in a shelter during the colder parts of the day since temperatures there can plummet as low as -50 degrees fahrenheit.

This American state also experiences unending nights starting around mid-November and towards the end of February. Despite this, the breed should enjoy playing out in the snow with his family, especially during the warmer months in Alaska or Northern Canada. Keeping the dogs indoors in the warmth continually, when they are actually well-equipped to handle a bit of cold, might make them less tolerant of lower temperatures.

You can expect your dog to fare well in colder climates. This is assuming that you procured your GSD from a reputable breeder from the same area. It is best to acquire dogs in a geographic location with similar weather to your place of residence.

Most dogs love the cold and enjoy a good romp in the snow. They are actually well equipped to handle the chill for an extended period if they're used to it. Ask any cold-weather GSD owner, and you'll hear many struggle stories of getting their German Shepherd back into the house after a fresh snowstorm! See these other cold-weather tips from our favorite local GSD Rescue

Warning Signs to Bring Your GSD Inside


When your dog is quiet and totally out of character when outside in frigid weather, it may be best to head back indoors and warm up. Although German Shepherds are active and need daily exercises, their reaction to the cold may change daily. Keep an observant eye on your dog and take a cue from him when it's time to stop playing or training. Sluggish behavior is a precursor of

hypothermia and should not be ignored.


Some GSDs whine a lot as a way of communicating with you. You should be able to notice distressed whining because he will indicate that he wants to stop being out in the snow.


This indicates that the dog's inner temperature is succumbing to the cold. Shivering is a survival mechanism of the body to generate more heat. The involuntary movement is a sign that your dog is getting too cold. Bring him indoors immediately.

Accumulation of snow

The hairs on the back of your GSD usually stands up when it encounters snow. This action keeps the snow from accumulating and melting when it comes in contact with his body warmth. A pronounced accumulation (inches) of snow on your dog's back indicates that his body feels the cold and is beginning to struggle his heat regulation.

Living in a Hot Climate

In the United States, cities like Las Vegas or Miami are considered to have year-round hot weather. If you live in a similar climate, your GSD should be able to live life well despite being developed with the chilly mountainous air of the Alps in mind. The breed has also evolved through the years. Since the breed has a foundation of several old breeds, you can be sure that somewhere in its DNA, some genes were initially used to living in warmer climates. The breed is known for having different coats, each well suited for different kinds of weather.

If air-conditioning is not an option, a well-ventilated, cool place will suffice for long-coated GSDs. Dogs have been known to suffer from heatstroke due to sweltering conditions. Give cool, fresh water every chance you get. Water may become warm even if it is placed under the shade when the surroundings are very hot.

Make sure that any dog houses you have are well ventilated. A standard old-school dog house can become a "hot box" and can increase your GSD's chance of getting heat stroke. See this brief article here from Tractor Supply on getting the appropriate dog house for your pooch.

Warning Signs to Bring Your GSD Inside

Abnormal panting

These dogs are active and usually pant when they are active. Heavy panting is a sign that he needs to rest from his activities and cool down. Dogs pant because they feel hot and have some difficulty breathing or coping in the heat.

Low Energy / Lethargy

Exposure to extreme heat can cause your four-legged friend to be sluggish and tired. In some cases, your dog might faint or be too disoriented to stand up properly.

Thick Saliva

This sign can happen in a span of several hours of your dog feeling too hot and not given access to fresh, clean water. His body is reacting to the heat and loss of fluids by not producing the right consistency in his saliva.

Hydration and Diet

Keeping your dog well-hydrated plays a crucial role in his organ function and managing his core temperature well. It is essential to supply your GSD with enough water for his daily needs in the heat and cold. You might be under the impression that he does not need much water because of the cold, but his body still needs a minimum amount of water daily to function properly. Dehydration can still happen even during the most frigid weather.

Keeping hydrated in warmer cities is an obvious must because your dog uses the water to cool his body temperature at optimum levels.

Dogs are thought to be exclusively carnivorous, but they also need the right diet for their health and well-being. A diet of either kibble, moist dog food, and raw food might be recommended for this particular breed. The reality of it is that the owner's preference wins. You will see how healthy your dog is after having your vet assesses his overall health. Consider the vet's recommendations regarding what your dog needs with regards to diet. You should see how effective the diet you have put him on is, and then you can make the relevant changes for his good. See our article here on 10 of the highest buyer rated foods on Amazon for your German Shepherd.

Final Words

Can a German Shepherd live in extreme climates? Yes, but with caution. Keep in mind that the German Shepherd is built to withstand the cold better than the heat. No dog should live outside full-time, but the German Shepherd is more than equipped to withstand various climates for a few hours if given the proper amenities. Follow the warning signs noted above and you're German Shepherd will be a happy doggo no matter the weather!

Welcome to the Pack!


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