7 Cold-Weather Tips for Dogs and Dog Owners


Cold weather is a reality for most Americans. If you have just moved to an area that has very cold weather or if you have recently gotten a dog and are going through the first winter together, you may be concerned about what to expect.

Here are seven cold weather tips for dogs and dog owners to help you both enjoy this winter as much as you can.

7 Cold-Weather Tips for Dogs and Dog Owners

Some of us love the cold weather, some of us can’t stand it, but for many of us throughout America, those cold months arrive whether we like it or not. Some dogs love cold weather and embrace the snow, while other dogs would rather just stay home.

Dogs were developed for a wide range of climates. If you’ve got a dog that was bred for hot weather experiencing the cold and snow, some adaptation and equipment will be needed. If, on the other hand, your dog is made for the snow, you may have a hard time keeping up. Whatever you and your dog think about the cold weather, here are a few tips to help you get through this winter.

1. Know your dog

Some dogs are much better suited to cold weather than others. Dogs with long, thick coats are designed for chilly weather. Breeds like huskies, Alaskan malamutes, and Saint Bernards can handle extremely low temperatures. Even dogs with shorter coats may have double coats that handle cold weather well. Some short coats have lush undercoats designed to insulate along with outer coats designed to keep out cold. 

However, some dogs that may appear to be able to handle the cold are, in fact, less able than you might expect. Some long-coated breeds have single coats without undercoats and they do not handle the cold as well. These include Irish setters, Afghan hounds, and spaniels. 

If you have a mixed-breed dog, it can be hard to determine how well they do in the cold. Keep an eye on your dog and check their temperature periodically. Also, check paws and the tip of the tail for frostbite. Keep in mind that many dogs will keep running and playing even if they are extremely cold. This may be especially true of working dogs like retrievers who make keep fetching even as they start to develop hypothermia. 

2. Wear appropriate clothing

Sweaters, jackets, booties, and headgear can all help your dog handle cold weather better. Dogs can get earaches or be bothered by cold air going into their ears, so consider a headscarf, especially for dogs that have cropped ears or very short ears. Insulating sweaters and jackets are designed to lock in warmth. 

If you will be going out in active snowfall or your dog likes to play in the snow, it is a good idea to get a jacket with a water-resistant outer layer and an insulating inner layer so that your dog won’t become damp and the insulation will continue to be effective. 

Booties may look silly, and most dogs don’t enjoy wearing them, especially at the beginning, but booties can do so much to protect your dog’s delicate paws from the snow. 

Even northern breeds like huskies may have ice and snow clump between the paws. If you notice your dog pausing to chew on their paws, you can expect that they are getting snow clumps there. Booties can help protect against snow clumps. They also help protect against salts and chemicals that may bother your dog’s paws.

3. Prepare your walks for freezing temperatures

As you head out for a walk in very cold temperatures, prepare your dog and bring things that you may need.

If your dog refuses to wear booties, rubbing paw balm on before you go. You can rub paw balm onto your dog’s paws before a walk to create a shield against chemicals and ice. As your dog’s paws can become cracked and dry in freezing temperatures, paw balm may be a good choice even if your dog wears booties.

Bring wipes made especially for a dog’s body and paws so that you can wipe them down on the walk if their paws become clotted with ice or if they roll in the snow (which may have chemicals on it). It’s also a good idea to bring the paw balm with you so that you can reapply as needed, especially on long walks.

Don’t take a risk with walking in freezing cold temperatures without some form of communication. You need to be able to call for help if your dog suddenly becomes hurt or if something happens and you get trapped outside. There’s no time to mess around with being stuck outside when temperatures are so cold. You or your dog could quickly develop hypothermia or frostbite. Always bring your phone on walks in the snow and make sure that it is charged.

4. Practice ice safety

It may be safe for you and your dog to walk on ice in the dead of winter, but teaching your dog that it is okay to step out on ice can be very dangerous. Your dog will not have as good of judgment as you do about when ice is hard and when it isn’t. If your dog runs out on the ice and the ice breaks, your dog can get seriously hurt or drown. You bear the risk of getting injured as well if you try to rescue them.

If you really want to walk with your dog on a frozen body of water, teach your dog very firm commands for when they are allowed to go out on the lake and when they are not. Go by the area frequently in order to practice your dog’s self-control. Never allow your dog to run without your supervision anywhere there may be frozen water.

5. Practice nighttime walking safety

For many of us, winter means spending time outdoors at night instead of during the daytime. With shorter days, you are likely to get home from work in the dark, only to find your dog ready to get outside and go for a walk. 

Use reflective or light-up gear in order to make yourself visible at night. If your dog has a long coat, use a reflective or light-up vest or coat instead of a collar or harness so that it will be clearly visible and not buried by your dog’s coat. 

Be aware that the snow and ice can cause strange reflections and may make you invisible to motorists even if you are well-lit, so stick to sidewalks and be very careful when crossing roads. Also, be aware of slick places where you may want to walk your dog but there may not be much maintenance. If your dog has joint or mobility issues, it is very important not to let them slip on the ice.

6. Dog houses aren’t good enough

Even if you have northern breed dogs accustomed to spending their time outside, a plastic or wooden doghouse is not sufficient for them to spend the winter. Northern breed dogs may be able to survive winter outside in the best of health, but at the first sign of weakness, or because of injury or disease that you may not even know about, your dog may succumb to the cold. 

Furthermore, dogs in these conditions will spend the winter in misery. If you can’t take your dog inside in the winter, provide a heated garage, shed, or a specially built kennel for their comfort. It is also essential to make sure that your dog’s water source is kept in a heated area where it won’t freeze.

7. It may be better to just stay indoors 

If you have a dog that is very susceptible to the cold like a small puppy, a frail older dog, or a breed with very little insulation such as an Italian greyhound or a hairless breed, it may be better just to skip the outdoors altogether. 

You can train your dog to go to the bathroom in a litter box or on paper or train them to go on command so they only have to go outside for a few minutes in order to go potty. Instead of exercising by going for walks, you can play indoor games like hide-and-seek and work on their agility by having them jump over furniture. 

Obedience training can take up more of your dog’s energy than you may expect. If you really want to get out and walk somewhere this winter with your dog but are afraid of the cold, consider going to a pet store or another store or mall that allows dogs.

Summary

This winter, have cold-weather fun with your dog safely. Cold weather can be a lot of fun, as dogs enjoy playing in the snow and as you both enjoy watching the snowfall by the fire.

There are special dangers in wintertime that you need to be aware of, but as long as you keep these tips in mind, you can both have a safe winter.

Coral Dawn Drake

My fiance, Justin, and I live with our two little dogs, Sofie and Lisa, and three chickens in Gainesville, Florida. Justin and I are homebodies who occasionally enjoy a good adventure. I love living in Gainesville, and I love Florida. I can’t imagine anywhere more beautiful or strange than this hot, marshy place where people are guaranteed to be nothing other than themselves. Justin is always reminding me to relax. Relaxing doesn’t come naturally to me. I’m always busy. Making art or editing photos, digging in the yard or trying to grow some new moss or plant. There never seems to be enough time to do everything that I want to do. Life is so, so full and I want to plunge into every second of it.

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