Max Von Stephanitz, a German military man who is widely credited as the father of the German Shepherds, spoke highly of its firmness of nerves, reliability, and incorruptibility.
A widely acclaimed attribute of German Shepherd, that forms an important part of this praise, is its ability to withstand very high temperatures. In fact, it is believed that German Shepherds can withstand temperatures as low as minus 4 degrees Celsius.
This leads to their preference as sheep rearing dogs in high mountainous terrains as well as security aide to our defense forces at high altitude zones.
They also end up as pretend wolves in motion pictures filmed at high-altitude locations because of their ability to withstand cold temperatures and their general behavioral affinity towards humans. Remember the Winterfell wolves from the Game of Thrones? They actually are crossbreeds of German shepherd dogs.
Now that we have you intrigued, what makes our German shepherd dogs ready for action when the winter is coming.
Bio-adaptability to minus temperatures
The Dual Coating
The first mechanism of bio-adaptability to cold for German Shepherds is the natural armor bestowed on them that is formed out of a double coat on their bodies.
The inner layer of the coat is much thicker than the outer layer that allows the entrapment of heat. The outer layer, on the other hand, contains water repellant coarse hairs that help the animal keep warm at extreme temperatures.
Tip: Constant grooming is a commitment you make for the dog’s life when you acquire a German shepherd. However, in extremely cold climatic conditions and especially when your dog prefers to remain outdoor a log, do not trim the body hair! This is because they are a part of the acclimatization mechanism of this dog.
Also, it is advisable to give it an extra man-made coating of a wool jacket, if the temperature dips below minus 4 or even if your dog is aged or simply, not in the best of health. We will go so far as to say that certain German shepherd dogs, especially the aged ones, may even require boots as extra padding.
The Muscle Metabolism
The German shepherds have been bred to have a high muscle mass that in turn aids in maintaining a high metabolic rate. A high metabolic rate thus allows the body to maintain a high body temperature and thus keep the body warm.
Tip: A high protein diet can go a long way in helping the German shepherd dogs maintain a sound body and muscle mass. Thus, German shepherd dogs with comparatively low body weight and mass may lose this natural advantage against combat with cold external temperature.
An important point to note in this undertaking is that if your German shepherd dog is not the outdoor kind and prefers to stay indoors, an excessive diet may be counterproductive as it may make it sluggish. Thus the diet has to be adjusted according to the specific energy needs of the dog.
The Behavioral Modifications
German shepherds, just like all living creatures on the path of evolution, develop behavioral modifications against adverse externalities.
German shepherds curl up their bodies and place their bushy tails on their noses to reduce their overall surface area to volume ratio which allows them to retain more heat.
Tips: It ia always a healthy sign to treat a pet as a part of a family. However, if your dog prefers to stay outdoors, it is best to construct an economical dog house, complete with dry blankets, which he can curl into anytime he gets bored with the running around.
Also, it is then important to keep checking on the bowl of water you place outside to quench his thirst, as it may freeze outside in the cold temperature. It is important to keep in mind is that dogs may die of dehydration in the winter season as well. It is, hence, not a phenomena limited to summers only. And no, snow is not an alternative to water.
The Paw Blood Circulation
The paws of German Shepherds are heavily padded and have a heavy blood circulation that develops a counter heat exchange system. This allows the dogs to jolt through the snow while we struggle to tie the knots of our snow boots.
German shepherds have been evolved and bred to naturally adapt to cold climatic conditions. However, a Do and Don’t guide for the human friends of the canine is also essential to help this dog maintain a perfect ecological balance with its surroundings.
Points To Remember For German Shepherd Owners:
- German shepherds often lose their olfactory sense or sense of smell in snowstorms. Hence they may not be able to retain their ability to find their way back home. It is important that they should be kept on a leash as well as tagged with ID cards so that they may not be thus lost in such scenarios.
- As we know, often salt and antifreeze chemicals are sprayed on the snow to allow faster clearance of pathways. However, what we may not anticipate is that German shepherds, as well as other dogs, may retain these chemicals on their paws. They may also ingest them while licking their paws. These antifreeze chemicals can prove poisonous for our canine friends. Thus, it is of utmost importance to clean their paws and legs after every walk outdoors.
- Snow and ice structures have sharpened edges that may physically damage their paws. Hence it is important to be on the lookout for bleeding cuts and clots in the cold, snow-ridden season.
- It is to be also kept in mind that puppies and aged dogs are more susceptible to cold weather conditions as they have reduced muscle mass. Puppies do not have fully formed coats and full hair growth. Also, German shepherds tend to shed a lot of hair throughout their lifetime. Hence, aged dogs have far lesser hair on their body surface. This makes it necessary to pay higher attention to them. It is, thus, preferable that they should be allowed to stay indoors in extreme weather conditions.
German Shepherds are the epitome of cold weather resistance, both in popular fan fiction and reality. They have been bred into these qualities and with a little human assistance; they will hopefully continue to dominate snow-capped mountains for decades to come.