As the winter months approach, it’s important to consider your Australian Shepherd’s well-being. Despite having thick double coats, do Australian Shepherds cope well in cold weather? What about living or sleeping outside in winter? This article will guide you through everything you need to know about Australian Shepherds and cold weather.
Although Australian Shepherds were not originally bred in cold-weather regions, they are still capable of tolerating very low temperatures. Their thick double coats do an impressive job of keeping their body warm in cold and snowy conditions.
Let’s cover this in much more detail and whether or not Aussies can live or sleep outside, as well as their maximum tolerances of cold weather.
Can Australian Shepherds Tolerate Cold Weather?
Australian Shepherds were originally bred on ranches in Western America where temperatures would rarely drop much below 5°Celcius (40F). So it’s fair to say that Aussies have not had much exposure to sub-zero temperatures throughout their history.
Yet, Australian Shepherds do a remarkable job of tolerating much colder weather than what they are supposed to. Aussies are growing in popularity and are found all over the world, especially in certain parts of Canada and Alaska where temperatures are notoriously low.
⭐ It’s not just about what the mercury level reads. 0°Celcius (30°F) when there is no wind, rain or snow, is a completely different situation compared to when there is, wind, rain, or snow. And there is never a specific temperature that you can safely go by.
Each Australian Shepherd will have a different tolerance. As they are not a “northern breed” tolerating cold weather isn’t a standard trait that all Aussies will possess. Some will do it better than others. And this will likely depend on each dog’s previous exposure to low temperatures.
Why Most Australian Shepherds Do Well in Cold Weather
Considering that Aussies have no real history of living and surviving in cold regions, many owners wonder why they can tolerate such low temperatures.
The answer? Behold their beautiful thick-double coat. Aussies are a double-coated breed, meaning their coat has two layers.
⭐ The undercoat is the soft fluffy fur that sits close to the skin and is known for its insulating properties. This fur is incredibly good at keeping your Aussie warm. The undercoat is also the archnemesis of your ability to keep your floors free from dog hair, yep, this is the coat that sheds!
⭐ The top coat is made up of long fur that is tougher and more coarse to touch. Also considered to be “guard” hairs. This strong layer of fur protects your Aussie from the outside elements such as wind, rain, snow, cold, the sun, and direct heat.
Considering that Australian Shepherds are not a northern breed, it’s likely that their double-coat is their only defense against cold weather.
Some snow breeds like Siberian Huskies have evolved and adjusted their blood circulatory system within their paw pads to prevent their paws from freezing. There is no evidence that this is found in Australian Shepherds.
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Can Australian Shepherds Live/Sleep Outside In Winter?
This is a very popular question and it’s met with a lot of different opinions. There are a few key points to think about that will help you find your answer.
⭐ Should Your Australian Shepherd Sleep Outside In Winter?
Many owners hold a strong stance that dogs deserve to live inside your home with them. Dogs after all are social animals and they require human and canine interaction in order to be happy. So have a think about whether or not you really want your Aussie to live outside. Aussies are working dogs, but they are also extremely affectionate and crave attention, so for many, it raises a morality issue when keeping them outside.
In my opinion, and the majority of others, Australian Shepherds should sleep inside your home with your family. Whether it’s winter, or not.
⭐ Are Aussies capable of living outside in Winter?
Technically speaking, as long as you have provided an extremely well-built completely weatherproofed dog housing unit, then yes, your Aussie would be capable of it. Then again, after having built a dog house to such necessary requirements, it would be just as safe, dry, and warm as inside your actual home.
If you live in a very cold region then the dog house must be insulated, waterproof, windproof, have a raised floor with no drafts and in some cases, you’ll even need to provide some kind of external heater. What you end up with, is a house that would be good enough for you to sleep in.
⭐ The effects of leaving Australian Shepherds alone.
As previously mentioned, Australian Shepherds crave human and canine interaction and they don’t do very well on their own. Unless you have a pack of Aussies, it would almost certainly become too lonely for a single Aussie to live and sleep on their own outside.
Isolation distress, depression, behavioral issues, and even separation anxiety can all develop in breeds that crave attention like the Australian Shepherds do.
Do Australian Shepherds Need a Winter Jacket
Exercise is extremely important for Australian Shepherds and the cold weather can’t get in the way of it. So does your Aussie need a winter coat when he goes out for exercise? Let’s find out.
In most situations, your Aussie will not need a winter jacket. His thick double-coat combined with keeping physically active will allow your Aussie’s body temperature to stay where it should.
With that being said, if it’s very cold, icy, and even raining, a winter jacket would be necessary. Despite having thick-double coats, they are only partly waterproof and the quickest way to hypothermia will be through being wet and cold.
⭐ There are good winter jackets available online so if you wanted to try one, you can. Here’s a highly-reviewed option (Amazon)
Many Aussie owners prefer to skip the winter jacket and do their best to exercise their Aussie from within their home when the weather gets too bad. I also agree that this is the best thing to do.
Signs Your Australian Shepherd Is Getting Too Cold
In order to protect your Australian Shepherd from hypothermia or just getting too cold in general, there are some universal signs and behavior patterns that you can watch out for.
⭐ If your Aussie displays the following behaviors, It’s time to head back inside:
● Movements are slowing down, or he may even refuse to walk further
● Holding a paw up off from the ground
● Shaking or shivering
● Tail tucked in between legs
● Body hunched over
● Any other unusual behavior
Even if your walk starts out great and your Australian Shepherd appears to be loving the snow, it can change quickly and unexpectedly.
It’s exactly like how it can be with young children. It’s all fun and games but then all of a sudden they’re too cold and you need to head back inside. Think of your Aussie as a young child and everything will be fine.
Other Australian Shepherd Articles on The Puppy Mag
Can You Leave an Australian Shepherd Home Alone?
Why Your Australian Shepherd Isn’t Fluffy
Cold Weather FAQ’s
Below we cover some of the most commonly asked questions followed by a small concise answer.
Is there a specific temperature that’s too cold for an Australian Shepherd?
No, there isn’t. How cold your own Australian Shepherd can tolerate will change from another Aussie. His personal tolerance will be dictated by how frequently exposed to cold weather he is. And it will also depend on whether it’s rainy, windy, or simply dry and cold. Wind chill can make zero degrees feel like -15 degrees.
Do Australian Shepherds like the snow?
Most Aussies love playing in the snow. They are very active and have a strong desire to play and snow is an interesting texture for all dogs. Going out in the snow can be very fun and rewarding, but you must always be attentive to how your Aussie is doing. Paws are very vulnerable when it comes to cold and hot surfaces. Paws can actually freeze so it’s crucial you regularly check them and remove ice build-up. If you see your Aussie starting to hold any of his paws off the ground, they’re already too cold.
If it’s sub-zero and raining should we still go out to exercise?
No. Whenever it’s raining you have to be extra cautious with cold weather. Rain will make any dog become too cold very quickly when the outside temperatures are low. Short potty breaks in your yard should be the only time your Aussie goes outside. Spend no extra unnecessary time outside.
Can I make my Aussie like cold weather?
It’s not possible to force your Australian Shepherd to like cold weather, but he can certainly get used to it at his own pace. If you live or are moving to a cold region, you can encourage your Aussie to adjust to the cold by having many positive experiences and exposing him little by little each day. Always consider how your Aussie is holding up when he’s outside and bring him back indoors before he gets too cold. Avoiding bad experiences is key.
Most Australian Shepherds tolerate cold weather very well. Their thick-double coat does a great job of keeping them warm. However, it’s important to understand that each Aussie will handle cold weather differently and some will do a better job than others.
It’s important not to think too much about the temperature, and focus on the weather conditions instead. 0° Celcius, when it’s dry with no wind, is FAR more tolerable than 0° Celcius when it’s windy and raining. The conditions are important.
Always keep a close eye on your Aussie and check for signs that he’s getting too cold.
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