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Can Australian Shepherds Handle Cold Weather?

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

Australian shepherds can handle cold weather quite well. Despite originating from warm climates, Aussies can tolerate low temperatures with their double-thick fur coat, but should not live in cold weather for extended periods.

Australian shepherds may become too cold if they go beyond their tolerances. Read on to find out how long your Aussie can stay outside when the thermometer drops and some signs they are getting too cold.

Aussie in Cold Weather

Australian Shepherds Can Handle Cold Climates

Australian shepherds have thick fur coats that tolerate cold temperatures despite the breed being originally from a warmer climate.

Each layer of the Aussie 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, cold, and other external elements. Because of this protection, the topcoat is also called the “guard” coat. 

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.

Understand Your Reasons to Leave Your Dog Outside

Australian shepherds are social animals that require human and canine interactions to remain healthy. Aussies are great indoor animals so if there is no need to leave them outside for extended periods, they would prefer to be indoors with their humans.

Aussies Can Live Outside During Winter With a Catch

If you must keep your Australian shepherd outside during winter weather, you should provide an extremely well-built, completely weatherproofed doghouse.

The doghouse must be as dry, safe, and warm inside. This may require additional insulation, waterproof walls and roof, a windproof entrance, and a raised floor inside.

Ideally, you should have a doghouse that is warm enough for you to sleep inside with your Aussie.

According to VCA Animal Hospitals, “Australian Shepherds enjoy cold weather, but cannot live outside in it.”

How Cold is Too Cold for Aussies to Be Outside?

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

Each dog has a unique cold tolerance. Your Aussie may do better than others depending on its previous exposure to cold, coat thickness, and duration in the cold. It’s best to check with your pet’s veterinarian for safe outdoor exposure limits.

A good rule of thumb is that your Aussie can tolerate as much cold as you can while you are wearing a winter coat.

Australian shepherds need the occasional shelter to warm up just like a human. A well-insulated and/or heated doghouse like these on Amazon will go a long way as well. 

Just note that it is not just cold temperatures that you should be worried about. Your Aussie 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. 

Signs That Your Aussie Has Been Outside for Too Long

It may take a while, but your Aussie may develop hypothermia if you leave it outside in the cold for too long. If you see any of the following signs, 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. You should bring your Aussie indoors to warm up once they get too cold to continue.

Does an Australian Shepherd Need a Winter Jacket?

All dogs need exercise and Australian shepherds are no exception. These high-energy animals need to move. So, you will inevitably venture outside into the cold with your Aussie.

As you can put on layers to keep yourself warm, you can add layers of protection to your pet. There are lots of winter coats, jackets, and booties for dogs on the market like these on Amazon. The right winter coat keeps your dog warm and dry on cold days, even if it is raining or snowing.

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

Exercise Indoors During Extreme Weather

During extreme weather conditions, you can give your Aussie adequate exercise with indoor activities. It may not get their heart pumping as much as outdoor exercise, but it is a great way to keep an Australian shepherd active during winter. 

Some examples of indoor activities are playing hide and seek with them, giving them dog puzzle toys with treats, or a good game of tug of war with their favorite plush toy.

Staying indoors, especially during freezing rain. Freezing rain can drain the heat out of your Aussie quickly by dampening the fur. It’s best to keep your Aussie indoors where it is warm and dry during severe weather events, taking it outside for short potty breaks.

Can an Aussie Learn to Like Cold Weather?

If your Australian shepherd doesn’t immediately take to being outdoors in the winter, you can train them to enjoy the snow and cold weather as much as you do.

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 train slowly to give your Aussie time to adjust to each new winter experience.  

Do Aussies Do Well in the Snow?

Aussies typically love to play in the snow and will go out of their way to do so. Aussies are inquisitive animals, and anything out of the ordinary will fascinate them. Snow offers a very cold, fluffy surface that provides hours of fun and rewarding play.

It would be best if you were watchful of how much snow exposure your Aussie is getting. Unlike northern dog breeds, Australian shepherds have no insulation in their paws, making them highly vulnerable to cold and hot surfaces. 

How Long Can an Aussie 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 while others may only be good for a few minutes. 

Even if you have a very tolerant pet, their tolerance can change depending on the type of winter weather. Rain, wind, and dry air can change the effects of cold temperatures. For instance, an intense wind chill may make a zero-degree day feel like 15 below.  

As a general rule, Australian shepherds react to cold weather the same way humans do. 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 should also look for signs of developing hypothermia and other cold-related symptoms through some universal behavior patterns. 

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. A good rule of thumb here is to treat your Aussie as you would a young child. 

Final Thoughts

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

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