German Shepherds are hardy, intelligent, and make excellent guards and companions… but Are German Shepherds outside dogs?
While they can spend time outdoors regularly, we don’t recommend much more than 4 hours at a time. Shepherds were bred to ‘watch their flock’ and their family and too much time alone can be detrimental for their mental health and overall happiness. As such, they are better suited as indoor dogs.
We understand that sometimes you might need your dog to spend time outdoors, so in this article, we’re going to give you tips on how to make the best of it. We’ll tell you how to keep your Shepherd comfortable, give you some time limits and rules, and even tell you about indoor doghouse options. Let’s get started!
Are German Shepherds Outside Dogs?
German Shepherds have a double-coat of fur, and this is the first thing that you need to consider before letting them spend a lot of time outside and unsupervised in your backyard. If it’s cold, for instance, then your Shepherd might be just fine – but it’s going to depend on HOW cold outside it is.
At 30 degrees, your dog should be okay to spend a little time outside, but when it starts colder than that then it’s recommended that you get your Shepherd indoors quickly. Long-haired Shepherds can tolerate colder temperatures, but as there are other factors such as weight, overall health, and age, it’s best to err on the safe side.
With heat, anything over 95 degrees can definitely hurt your Shepherd, and around this temperature, your dog is certainly not going to be comfortable, in any case. With heat, it’s best to consider your German Shepherds average body temperature. Shepherds average between 101 and 102.5 degrees of body heat normally.
Add in that they have a coat and you can see why the Summer is hard on them and they seem to be just fine during a mild winter. Use your best judgment, but if you feel hot then your Shepherd definitely does, and remember that they have a heavy coat but anything below 30 is still dangerous for them.
Are doghouses comfortable for Shepherds?
Doghouses can be comfortable for your German Shepherd if they will be spending a lot of time in the backyard, but you want to make sure of a few things first to confirm this. A doghouse should be insulated, for instance, otherwise, it will still be cold inside in the winter and possibly hotter than the outside in summer.
Depending on the insulation that you choose, a doghouse can be as much as 20 degrees cooler inside and retain warmth very well during the winter, but you’ll need to have it insulated if you want those effects. Just make sure that paneling is installed over the insulation to keep them from chewing it!
Doghouses need to have proper ventilation as well and if you live somewhere warm, you might even consider windows. Shepherds love being able to sit comfortably inside, but also to peek out of the window if they hear an intruder, and opened windows in the summer let in a nice breeze.
Finally, you want to have some good bedding inside, and cedar chips are one option that you might want to consider. The oils in the cedar will repel insects naturally, so that when your dog wants to play for a long time outside then you’ll have less worry about them bringing bugs into the house when they return.
Where should the doghouse be placed?
If you are trying to encourage your Shepherd to spend more time outside, you should know that they might not use their doghouse if you don’t place it properly. First off, you want to put it close to the house. If it’s too far away, your dog might ignore it as it will feel too isolated for them.
Next, consider facing the door to the east or north, with the East being the preferred option. In the United States, storms tend to come in from the south and the west, so placing the house so that the door faces east or north helps to keep rain and chilly winds from blowing through the door.
Don’t be surprised either if your dog likes to spend time on the roof of the house. All dogs keep watch over their owners, but German Shepherds are especially good about this, and if the roof and weather permit it, then your dog might well perch directly on the roof.
Don’t worry – they seem to like this and it gives them a great vantage point. Provided that you stick to these placement rules, then your German Shepherd should eventually give the doghouse a ‘trial run’ for naps or chewing on a favorite toy. Just be patient – these are very social dogs and they’ll likely take time to adjust.
Will my Shepherd be cold outside?
No, most likely your dog is not going to be cold outside, due to their double coat. Their body language will let you know when they start getting cold. Shivering and shaking, for instance, are universal signs that you don’t want to ignore and cold Shepherds may pace back and forth a bit as well.
While they are generally comfortable in temperatures as low as 30 degrees, it’s best not to let them stay unsupervised when it is cold out, and if they seem dazed or are showing other signs that they are cold then you should bring them in immediately.
A bigger worry is heat, especially if you live somewhere like Texas where the summers can be a bit on the brutal side. Shepherds are bred for colder climes, but this gives them a disadvantage when it’s really warm out, so any time outside should be supervised and you need to make sure there is plenty of shade and water.
In a nutshell, worry about the heat more than the cold. If your Shepherd is young and healthy, then as low as 30 degrees will be fine in most cases – cold really doesn’t bother them much until they start getting up in the years. By contrast, heat affects Shepherds greatly so this is the biggest thing to watch for.
Are dog runs okay for Shepherds?
Yes, dog runs are fine for German Shepherds, but you absolutely must limit the amount of time that you let them spend in these. Set a time limit for no more than 4 hours at a time. While a Shepherd could conceivably stay longer with a potty area present, the time limit has to do more with their social needs.
German Shepherds are extremely social dogs and if they don’t have enough time with their ‘pack’, then they can start showing signs of depression. This could manifest in different ways. Your dog might seem ‘mopey’, for instance, or spend lots of time sleeping during the day. They could become aggressive and act out, too!
Separation anxiety is also possible and if your dog whines when you leave and you hear that they keep whining through the day when you are gone, then it’s important that you get your vet involved. Vets have medications that can help to calm your dog, though you will also need a ‘socialization schedule’ as well.
These dogs simply do NOT do well if they are alone for too long, so if you need to be away for prolonged periods of time then you should consider getting your dog a buddy at the very least and enlist the help of a professional dog sitter or family member to help ensure your dog stays happy.
Can I make a doghouse indoors?
Yes, you can, and this is a much better option than trying to turn your social Shepherd into an outside dog. Crate training is an option where you purchase or build a crate for your dog and it has a lot of advantages going for it. For one thing, it makes potty training easier when they are pups!
Provided that it is not overused, a crate also gives you a place to put your dog when you need to run a quick errand, and it makes it easier to transport them if you want to take them to the park or need to bring them in for a vet visit.
Make sure that they do not spend more than 4 hours in the crate at a time and don’t always close the door on them. In this way, they will start to see the crate as their own personal space over time, rather than resenting it and viewing it as a cage.
Until your dog is about 2 years of age, it’s not really safe to leave them alone in the house, so by incorporating crate training you can still have the security of keeping them out of trouble, without relegating them to the backyard where it’s easy to lose track of time. It’s a win-win solution for both of you!
How long is too long outside?
While your dog can endure more extreme temperatures, it’s really best to set a moderate, comfortable temperature rule for any unsupervised time in the backyard. If it’s 40 – 85 degrees, unless your dog is infirm or has health problems, then they should be perfectly happy playing for a few hours with their toys.
That said, don’t leave them outside for longer than 4 hours, unless it’s a ‘once a month’ scenario. German Shepherds are incredibly obedient dogs, so they’ll do what you tell them too, but they really need to spend lots of time close to you and your family in order to be happy and mentally healthy.
If you can’t spend enough time with them, it’s imperative that you employ a pet sitter or a family member to help ensure that your dog doesn’t feel isolated or abandoned. Barring this, a second Shepherd, or a ‘compatible breed’ dog as a buddy is also a very good option.
Border Collies, Doberman Pinschers, and Golden Retrievers are great examples of compatible breeds, or you could get another Shepherd of the opposite sex. Just make sure they are both spayed or neutered and they’ll quickly become friends so that your extra time away at work will have much less impact.
Some closing comments
Today we’ve taken a closer look at what you can do if your Shepherd absolutely needs to spend some time outdoors. First off, you want to monitor their temperatures and remember that cold is better than heat – but no extremes for either.
You should also keep the doghouse close and face the door north or east, to avoid winds and rain coming through the door. Finally, consider crate training – your dog will do much better inside and you can give them their own personal space with a crate. Both you and your dog will be happier for it!