5 Cold Weather Care Tips for German Shepherd Owners
Though German Shepherd’s are considered to be the world’s ultimate working dog, they require some special attention during the cold winter months. Depending on your climate, you may want to consider adding a few of the following tips and tricks to your routine
5 Cold Weather Care Tips for German Shepherd Owners
Keep your dog on a leash
During heavy snowfall, it is wise to keep your dog on a leash when you take him for a walk – this goes double for young dogs and puppies. Snowdrifts can not only be much deeper than they appear, they can also hide dangerous obstructions. In the city, this could include trash and discarded food, whereas in the countryside snow may cover hunting traps and snares, fallen branches, natural pits, and thinly frozen ponds and gulches.
For well trained dogs with a reliable recall, especially those that normally walk off leash, use your best judgement. Stick to well-trafficked paths and keep an eye on your dog if he runs off ahead. At the very least, make a wide berth around ponds, creeks, and other hazards you would normally come across during fair weather.
Keeping your dog clean is a good policy for all German Shepherd owners, but keeping your dogs coat brushed and healthy is especially important during the winter, where your dog will be relying on his coat more than ever to stay warm. A daily (or at least weekly) brushing will also mean you can keep a close eye on your German Shepherd’s coat and skin.
German Shepherd’s come in several coat types — namely, standard, plush, and long-coat varieties. Stock coat dogs will have the easiest time during the winter, as their hard outer coat is designed to repel water and keep them dry. While plush and long coat dogs may look like they’ll do well in the cold, they get wet easily and can quickly become sick or even die if they aren’t kept warm. For these types of dogs, you may want to look into coats, discussed below.
Most German Shepherd’s tolerate cold weather quite well – even extreme conditions, as you might find in your typical Berlin winters night. But with the popularity of plush and coated variety’s of German Shepherd, whose coats are not as water repellent as their stock-coat counterparts, a special mention should be made for the value of dog blankets and shoes.
Tough 1 company makes a great dog jacket that’s similar in style to a horses winter rug, and will help keep them dry and warm. I personally like these jackets because they don’t look like “little dog clothes” (grin) and with their adjustable chest and belly straps, they’re very easy to take on and off. Note that these jackets are not only for plush and coated Shepherds – and are a great way to keep any dog warm, especially young dogs and seniors.
Dog Shoes are hit or miss. If your dog is especially tolerant, or if he’s had injuries to his paws before, it’s something you may want to look into. They can go a long way toward keeping your dog safe, especially if you’re in the inner-city, where your dog may encounter salt and other chemicals added to the street and sidewalk while he walks through the snow. And speaking of which-
You should physically look your dog over when he comes in from outside, paying close attention to his paws and belly. Most cities chemically treat their streets with salt, and its likely that it’ll stick to his fur and paw pads. Wiping him off with a towel or dog wipe is good practice, and has the added benefit of keeping your dog comfortable with handling his paws and legs – a skill every dog should have.
Taking your dog to the vet during the early onset of winter can also help you get a handle pre-existing medical conditions before they become a problem. Even dogs who appear healthy can be at risk for the onset of chronic health conditions, like hip and elbow dysplasia. These dogs may become especially sensitive to the cold and could require additional care to get them through the winter happy, and comfortable.
Provide Plenty of Blankets
This may seem like a no brainer, but it’s important. Keep plenty of blankets on hand for your German Shepherd during the winter, even if it means picking up a couple new ones. Consider switching out blankets that they may use during the summer months for material that is more insulating in plush. For example, while my dogs may only have a towel or sheet in their kennel during the summer, they’ll usually get upgraded to a fluffy throw blanket during the winter to keep them extra warm.
It’s important to remember that dogs kept in indoor kennels at night will get much warmer, much faster than dogs kept outdoors. If your dog sleeps in a kennel, make sure he has plenty of space to get away from blankets and beds, in case he gets too hot. If your dog sleeps with you, or in his bed, this is less important as he will be able to move around freely and probably wont risk getting too hot.
Of Special Concern for Outside-Dogs
While we believe that your German Shepherd should always sleep inside with the family, if he does sleep outdoors for one reason or another, it is necessary that he has an elevated dog house with either a curved entrance or a flap over the door, so that he can stay warm when the wind picks up.
We’re fans of the Outback Log Exterior Dog House, by Precision Pet, who also manufacture insulation kits and door flaps to keep your dog extra toasty when the temperature dips. Their products fit together by design, making set-up and cleaning a breeze.