Last Updated on May 17, 2023 by The Puppy Mag
German Shepherds are one of the most resilient breeds we know of.
As German Shepherds are still widely used for working purposes, it’s often asked if they can live and sleep outside in winter conditions.
This is a very common question with an important answer. I’ll explain everything owners should know in order to keep their GSD safe and healthy.
Can German Shepherds Sleep Outside In Winter?
Most healthy adult German Shepherds will be fine sleeping outside in winter, so long as they have a protective and weather resistant dog house.
Without sturdy protective weather-resistant housing, a German shepherd would not be able to sleep outside. Of course, this does depend on just how cold it is, in your region.
German shepherds are not as well adapted to the cold as some other northern breeds are, but they still boast thick double-coats with impressive insulating qualities.
GSDs have a coarse semi-water-resistant topcoat that protects against snow, rain, and dampness. The undercoat is the soft fur that’s next to the skin. This is the layer that will keep a German Shepherd warm when the temperatures drop.
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4 Factors That Affect Your GSD Sleeping Outside
Here are a few extra things to take into consideration before having your German Shepherd sleep outside.
1. Cold Countries
If you live somewhere with sub-zero temperatures at night, you’ll need to take further precautions. Your GSD will still be fine to sleep outside, but the housing you provide should be insulated to a higher level. Many owners even include an external heat source inside the housing.
You can get things like heat lamps or special heating mats. Of course, you have to think about the safety of whatever product you decide to use. But when the temperature drops this low, it’s important to help your German Shepherd stay warm as much as possible.
2. How Many GSD’s Do You Have?
This will also play a big part in how well your German Shepherds can tolerate sleeping outside. They may be working dogs, but they’re incredibly social too, and being alone is not good for any German Shepherd.
Sleeping and living outside will be easy if you have a pack or at least more than one German Shepherd. If you have just one, you may want to consider bringing them inside your home for at least the winter months.
Sleeping in a pack will not only help with staying warm, but it mimics their life in the wild. Dogs are pack animals, meaning they live, sleep, eat, and work always with multiple buddies around.
This level of companionship is greatly missed when dogs spend too much time alone. This can have many adverse effects, and simply put, isn’t nice for any dog!
3. Do You Want a Pet or a Working Dog
There’s a strong argument that allowing your dog to live inside with you will create a better relationship and bond compared to living separately.
So It’s important to consider this and think about whether you want a pet, or you purely want your GSD for working purposes only.
Do you want your GSD to cuddle in the morning and scooch up to during the evenings? If you want an affectionate, family-orientated german shepherd, then allowing him to sleep inside with you and your family is a must.
4. Their Age and Health
Their overall health, as well as their age, will have a big say on whether sleeping outside is appropriate.
It’s not recommended for senior German shepherds (9 or 10 years plus) to sleep outside. Older dogs are far more vulnerable to cold weather and need to stay warm in order for them to remain as healthy as possible.
The same goes for very young puppies. Puppies are just as vulnerable, if not more vulnerable than old GSDs. Puppies will not be physically strong enough to support themselves or even each other if made to sleep outside in cold weather. Until physical maturity at around one year old, puppies will be better off indoors.
The same rule applies when talking about existing health issues. Sleeping inside is a must.
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Outside Housing Suitable For German Shepherds
Sleeping outside would not be possible without the right kind of housing.
It’s our responsibility as dog owners to provide decent housing regardless of the temperature. Whether it’s 10°C or -10°C it’s important that the housing will protect your German Shepherd.
Key components for outside housing:
Made from strong, sturdy material that will not be damaged in high winds.
As you can imagine, weak housing could potentially collapse or break with your German Shepherd inside! Thick timber or even a metal structure is ideal.
In order for your German Shepherd to stay warm, there can’t be any wind and it must be completely waterproof. If the temperatures are subzero even a slightly cold draft will make it much harder for him to remain warm.
Not too big.
If the housing is too big, your GSD will find it harder to keep warm. The housing needs to be large enough for him to move around, stand up and walk in and out. Avoid high ceilings to keep the warmth lower down and closer to your GSD. Cozy is good!
This may have been obvious, but over the years I have seen many outside housing units that have no flooring; just straight on top of the mud. Flooring is a crucial part of keeping the warmth inside, without it, the ground will absorb any heat instantly.
Provide blankets or hay.
Providing warm soft bedding for your german shepherd is a must for them to keep their body heat to themselves. Without a blanket, their body heat will be drawn out of them into the ground. Blankets or even hay both work well.
Lastly, clean fresh water must be replaced before bed times.
What’s Better For Training? Outside or Inside Living?
As one of the most intelligent dog breeds we know of, it goes without saying that most owners want to train their GSD to a high level of obedience. And whether or not your GSD lives outdoors or indoors does have an impact.
While there are arguments for and against, the majority of professional dog trainers agree that dogs allowed to sleep inside the home with the family are easier to train, are more obedient, and produce fewer behavioral issues down the line.
Why is this?
Dogs are social animals and relationships are extremely important. The stronger the bond between you and him, the more receptive and responsive he will be to you.
Pack hierarchy and authority are paramount in the ability to train any dog, and by having a closer relationship you are better able to establish yourself as the leader, equating to more effective training sessions.
This isn’t to say that German Shepherds that live and sleep outside can’t be trained, It’s just that if you want a streamlined process, indoors will be a better option.
Keeping Your German Shepherd Safe & Healthy Outside
Let’s run through some other important points that are not often thought about
1. Ensure a rich diet sufficient in protein and fat.
A diet that’s abundant in protein and fat closely mimics a wild diet and is what German Shepherds thrive on. This is important to keep their bodies strong, healthy, and capable of sleeping outside in winter conditions.
2. Ensure the supply of water doesn’t freeze!
When the temperature drops below zero, the water will start to freeze. Make sure to locate the bowl in a place where it’s protected from the outside. As long as your housing is completely weatherproof, this shouldn’t be an issue.
3. Regularly check on your GSD or install CCTV.
No matter how good your housing is, it’s important to carry out routine checks to make sure everything is ok. If you notice your GSD acting anxious, shivering, scared, or any signs of discomfort. Be ready to bring him back inside with you.
4. Spend as much quality time with your GSD as you can.
If your German Shepherd does live outside, it’s crucial to ensure you’re spending enough time with him to socialize, bond, train and show your love. All dogs need and deserve to be cared for just like a family member.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can it be too cold for my GSD to sleep outside?
If you live somewhere that gets -30°C (which is extremely cold then keep your GSD inside. But having said, if your dog housing unit is completely insulated, weather-proof and externally heated then it’s likely going to be okay. It always comes down to common sense.
I have one German Shepherd, should he sleep outside or inside?
Although it’s possible for a single dog to sleep outside on their own, it’s not recommended. Dogs are social animals and having company (human or canine) is extremely important to their mental health. A single german shepherd will always be better off sleeping inside your home, with you and your family.
How tall should the housing be?
As long as the housing is tall enough for your german shepherd to properly stand up, that’s sufficient. You may want to make it slightly taller so you are able to more easily access the insides. But it’s important not to make it too high otherwise the heat will rise to the top leaving the ground area constantly cold. 4-6ft is a good height.
Can my German Shepherd wear a winter jacket while sleeping?
Well, if you’re considering this, it’s likely already too cold for your German Shepherd to be there, and he should come back inside. Wearing a winter jacket would prevent him from getting any sleep due to how uncomfortable and irritative it would be. The only thing your GSD should wear is a basic collar and name tag (for safety purposes)
So there you have it, you know that your GSD can sleep outside in winter so long as various measures are taken. Proper housing is crucial, and it’s preferable if you have two or more dogs living outside to keep each other company.
Their current health and age should also play a part in your decision. Remember that your GSD is a social animal, and it’s our responsibility to keep them safe and feeling loved.
Thank you for reading! Back to more German Shepherd articles
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