Can Australian Shepherds Handle Cold Weather?

Aussie Cold Weather

Every dog can handle brisk sunny days without issue, including Australian shepherds, but only a few breeds can handle the weather when it gets really cold. Cold hardy breeds tend to have thick coats that help them deal with snow and other winter conditions. However, as winter approaches, you may wonder if your pet Aussie is among them. 

Australian shepherds can handle cold weather quite well. Despite originating from warm climates, these dogs can tolerate low temperatures with their double thick fur coat.

However, they cannot stay out in the cold forever. Australian shepherds will freeze to death if they go beyond their tolerances. Read on to find out how long your pet can stay outside when the thermometer drops. 

Australian Shepherds Can Handle Cold Climates

Winter weather challenges everyone. The extremely low temperatures combined with the wind can take the life right out of you. To help reduce the effects of the cold, you can wear thick, layered clothing while limiting your exposure. The same is true for dogs.

This is why dog breeds with short coats and little or no undercoat or body fat have low cold tolerance. Dogs such as Greyhounds must remain indoors all winter unless they wear a sweater or jacket. Dogs need heavy fur coats and enough fat to keep themselves warm whenever the temperature drops.

Fortunately for Aussie owners, Australian shepherds do have thick enough fur coats to tolerate cold temperatures despite originally being from a warmer climate. The breed was first bred in Western Australia, where the temperatures rarely drop below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Despite this warm history, Aussies developed everything they needed to withstand low temperatures. They have a beautiful, thick, double coat of fur, which keeps these dogs warm. It is like they wear two sweaters all the time. 

Each layer of the coat offers a different type of protection.

  • Undercoat: Soft, fluffy fur near the skin insulates the dog from the cold, and it is incredibly effective at keeping your pet warm.
  • Topcoat: Long, tough fur that feels coarse to the touch. It is the fur you see, and it shields your pet from rain, wind, direct heat, sunlight, the cold, and other external elements. Because of this protection, the topcoat is also called the “guard” coat. 

Cold Tolerance Varies Between Aussies

This impressive double layer of fur keeps your pet warm all day, but it might be your pet’s only protection against the cold. Northern breeds such as the Siberian Huskey developed specialized blood circulatory systems that prevent their paws from freezing. Unfortunately, because they are a southern breed, Australian shepherds do not have this internal protection. As such, there is a limit to how long your Aussie can remain out in the cold. 

Can an Aussie Live or Sleep Outside During Winter?

Because Aussies tolerate the cold, you might wonder if you can leave your pet outside in his or her doghouse all winter. This question is quite common among Australian shepherd owners for a variety of reasons. In return, you will get a variety of answers as well.

Understand Your Reasons to Leave Your Dog Outside

It all comes down to why you need your dog to live outside. Most Aussie experts agree that Australian shepherds are social animals that require human and canine interactions to remain healthy. Therefore, most owners believe their pets deserve to live with them in their homes. Aussies are great indoor animals as well. There is no need to leave them outside for extended periods in most situations. 

Extremely affectionate with a craving for attention, Aussies need their owners. So, leaving your dog outside begs some serious moral questions.

Aussies Can Live Outside During Winter With a Catch

If you must keep your dog outside because you have friends or family over who are allergic to dogs or something similar, you should know that you can leave your Australian shepherd outside during winter weather, but you should provide an extremely well-built, completely weatherproofed doghouse.

This doghouse must be as dry, safe, and warm inside as it is inside your actual home. This may require adequate insulation, waterproof walls and roof, a windproof entrance, and have a raised floor inside. Overall, you must ensure that there are no drafts inside the doghouse for any reason.

In the end, you need a doghouse that is warm enough for you to sleep inside with your dog. If you can do all this work, your pet Aussie can technically live outside your home all year. It might seem like a lot of work, and it is, but it is the only way to ensure your Australian shepherd can survive outside for extended periods. 

How Cold is Too Cold for Aussies to Be Outside?

Whether your pet must live outside, or if you are just taking your pet for a walk, you must know that there is a limit to your dog’s cold tolerance. You cannot leave your dog outside without any protection if it gets too cold. 

However, there is no hard rule for either an Aussie temperature threshold or durations. Each dog has a unique cold tolerance. Your dog may not have the tolerance of a northern breed, but it may do better than others depending on its previous exposure to cold. Therefore, you should always check with your pet’s veterinarian.

A good rule of thumb is that your dog can tolerate as much cold as you can while you are wearing a decent winter coat. Australian shepherds need the occasional shelter to warm up just like a human. This can simply be walking your dog into a dog-friendly institution to warm up before continuing on your journey. A well-insulated and heated doghouse will go a long way as well. 

Just note that it is not just cold temperatures that you should be worried about. Your dog is just as vulnerable to rain, wind, and snow as you are as well. As such, your dog will have a lower cold tolerance in the middle of a snowstorm than it would on a calm sunny day, regardless of temperature. 

Signs That Your Dog Has Been Outside for Too Long

While there is no exact temperature or duration, you can easily know when your Australian shepherd was outside in the cold for too long. This is because Aussies are extremely expressive animals. As a result, their behavior changes if something is wrong. Therefore, you can tell when your pet has been out for too long by observing what it does.

Signs That You Left Your Aussie Alone for Too Long

While your dog can get cold, it is more likely to become lonely first. Aussies need frequent interaction with both humans and other dogs to remain happy and healthy. Your pet will become lonely if it must sleep and live outside on its own. 

You will need to own a whole pack of Aussies to prevent this from happening. Otherwise, you must bring your dog indoors if you ever see one of the following conditions:

  • Depression
  • Isolation distress
  • Separation anxiety
  • Any behavioral issue

Signs The Your Aussie is Too Cold 

It may take a while, but your Aussie will develop hypothermia if you leave it outside in the cold for too long. Long before that, your pet will start growing more uncomfortable in the chilly air. As the cold takes its toll, your pet may begin showing any of the following behaviors. If you see any of them, it is time to take your dog inside to warm up. 

  • Holding paws off the ground
  • Tucking tail between legs
  • Slowed movement
  • Shaking or shivering
  • Refusal to walk further
  • Hunched-over body
  • Any other unusual behavior

Please note that these signs can develop even if your Australian shepherd appears to love the snow. The effects of cold weather can occur quickly and unexpectedly. Remember, your pet reacts to the cold similar to how a young child would react to it. You must bring your dog indoors to warm up once they get too cold to continue. Any delays can lead to serious health issues. 

Does an Australian Shepherd Need a Winter Jacket?

All dogs need exercise. Australian shepherds need it more than other breeds. These high-energy animals need to move. Because of this, you will inevitably venture outside into the cold with your pet. As such, your pet needs a way to deal with the cold until you return to your warm abode. 

As you can put on layers to keep yourself warm, you can add layers of protection to your pet. There are numerous winter coats and jackets for dogs on the market that support every owner’s style. So you can just get the style you want with the appropriate cold protection for your pet. 

The right winter coat keeps your dog warm and dry on cold days, even if it is raining or snowing. These coats make your Aussie waterproof, something it cannot get with just its thick double coat of fur. By keeping your pet dry, these dog clothes protect your pet from hypothermia and other winter-related ailments. 

However, in most situations, your Aussie should be fine without a winter coat. The Aussie’s natural double coat will keep your pet warm enough if you give them enough exercise. Physical activity will maintain your dog’s body temperature during your strolls. 

Exercise Indoors When Possible

Plus, if your home is big enough, you can give your Aussie adequate exercise just by letting him or her run around your house. It will not be as good as outdoor exercise, but it is the most popular way to exercise an Australian shepherd during winter. 

This is especially true during freezing rain. Freezing rain can drain the heat out of your pet quickly by dampening the fur. This damped fur no longer provides a shield against the cold, making your dog essentially naked and exposed directly to the temperature.

You should keep your Aussie indoors where it is warm and dry during these severe weather events. You should only take it outside for short potty breaks in your yard. Once your pet is done, bring him or her inside immediately. 

Can an Aussie Learn to Like Cold Weather?

If you love winter sports, you may want to train your Australian shepherd to enjoy the snow as much as you do. However, you cannot force your Aussie to like cold weather. You can help your pet learn to get used to the cold.

If you live in a cold region or are planning on moving to one, you can begin the process by providing positive exposure to increasingly lower temperatures. You must conduct this training slowly to give your Aussie time to adjust to each new winter experience.  

Just remember that the training does not get rid of the usual effects of cold weather. If you see any of the behavioral changes mentioned throughout this article, you must stop the training for the day and bring your pet inside to warm up. You want to do this before it gets too cold for your pet to avoid any negative experience. 

Do Aussies Do Well in the Snow?

Like most dogs, Australian shepherds love to play around with unusual textures. They are inquisitive animals, and anything out of the ordinary will fascinate them. Snow does that in spades. It offers a very bumpy and fluffy surface that provides hours of fun and rewarding play. As such, Aussies love to play in the snow and will go out of their way to do so.

While snow is pretty and exciting, it is a very cold substance. Therefore, you must be wary about how much exposure your dog is getting. Unlike northern dog breeds, Australian shepherds have no insulation in their paws, making them highly vulnerable to cold and hot surfaces. 

If your Aussie stays out too long in the snow, its paws may freeze, leading to numerous health problems. Therefore, you should check your pet’s paws regularly to remove any ice build-up. If your Aussie starts holding any paw off the ground, they are already too cold and should head back indoors immediately. 

How Long Can an Aussie Stay Out in the Cold?

As we mentioned before, there is no hard-fast rule for how long an Aussie can stay out in the cold. Each Australian shepherd has a different tolerance for cold, dependent on the dog’s previous exposure to cold. Some Aussies can stay outside for hours. Others may only be good for a few minutes. 

Even if you have a very tolerant pet, his or her tolerance can change depending on the type of winter weather. Rain, wind, and dry air can change or enhance the effects of cold temperatures. For instance, an intense wind chill may make a zero-degree day feel like fifteen below.  

However, as a general rule, Australian shepherds react to cold weather the same way humans do. Therefore, you can use your weather tolerance to get a rough estimate for your pet. Most Aussie experts recommend keeping your pet’s cold exposure to under 20 minutes. You can also look for the signs of developing hypothermia and other cold-related symptoms through some universal behavior patterns. 

We mentioned them before, but to summarize, a cold Aussie will slow down with a desire to stop. Your pet may also try to keep a paw up in the air or anything else in an attempt to stay warm as possible. 

These behavioral changes can occur suddenly even if your pet seems otherwise unphased by the cold, but you must take your Australian shepherd inside if you see them. A good rule of thumb here is to treat your Aussie as you would a young child. 

Aussies love snow and the cold as much as any young kid. However, your pet does not have the means to tell you when it is cold and needs shelter. It can only suffer with it until you notice that something is wrong. 

Conclusion

Highly energetic, Australian shepherds love playing in the snow, and their nice double fur coats will keep them warm while doing so. However, that protection has its limits. While every dog is different, they all need shelter to warm up from time to time. 

Jacqueline Hamel

I’m a lifetime dog owner of several breeds and a recent Cattle Dog enthusiast after adopting two puppy siblings Bindi and Banjo. Now, I’m on a mission to better understand Heelers and other herding dogs. Hopefully, through this blog, I can share the joy and lessons learned from these intelligent, protective, loyal, athletic, and intelligent dogs.

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