Keeping Your Dog Safe & Warm in the Winter
The world population is split evenly on how they feel about cold weather. Some people love the cold and all the winter activities that come with it, while others can’t wait for it to pass so that they can have a warm day at the beach.
No matter what side of things you’re on, you must agree that everyone should make sure that their dogs are safe and comfortable in the cold weather. These creatures are totally dependent on us to provide them with the best environment possible, but doing so could be tough if you’re unprepared.
Because of this, it’s important that you’re aware of how to keep your dog safe during the winter. Below we’ve highlighted some of the most important steps that you can take to ensure that your pooch has a great time in the cold.
Know How Much Cold Your Dog Can Handle
While it’s likely that your dog is covered with a thick layer of fur, that doesn’t mean that they’re totally immune to the cold weather. Different dogs have different cold tolerances, so knowing how much your dog can tolerate is a good way to keep them in their comfortable range. So how cold is too cold for some dogs?
Many factors play into a dog’s cold tolerance. Some of the most prominent factors are age, breed, coat thickness, health, nutrition, and their overall exposure to the cold. Dogs have the unique ability to become acclimated to extreme temperatures in around 2 months, but acclimated doesn’t mean immune.
This infographic displays what temperatures are dangerous and safe for small, medium, and large dogs. Surprisingly, there isn’t too much of a difference between these sizes! Larger dogs typically handle about 10°F colder weather than small and medium dogs. Regardless of their size, though, you should bring your dog inside once temperatures drop to around 20°F.
Additionally, while a temperature may not be life-threatening or dangerous, time spent outside should be limited in some way – especially if there’s snow!
Give Special Care to Outside Dogs
Some dogs are just naturally happier spending a lot of time outside and have the body composition to make that possible! If your dog is like this, there are a few things that you can do to help keep them safe and warm while still allowing them to enjoy the outdoors.
Make Their Kennel Warm
Dogs that are primarily kept outside should always be given a kennel regardless of whether or not they use it a lot. This kennel keeps dogs sheltered year-round from snow, rain, wind, sun, and any other elements that could be harmful.
This is especially true during cold weather, as kennels can be lifesavers for outdoor dogs. Not only does it keep dogs dry, but it keeps them warm by insulating their body heat. Before trusting the kennel with keeping your dog warm, do some tests to ensure that it’s watertight and warm.
Most kennels don’t put a special focus on the winter months, so you may need to make some alterations. The two main changes you’ll need to make are raising it a few inches off the ground and providing warm, soft materials like straw and bedding for insulation.
Steadily Supply Food & Water
Food and water are big considerations for outdoor dogs in the winter months. Water freezes at 32°F, so you’ll need to stop that from happening if temperatures drop that low. That’s why heated water bowls exist! They keep water in a liquid state at temperatures well below freezing. Still keep an eye on this bowl regularly, though, to make sure that it doesn’t accidentally still freeze.
It should also be noted that some outside dogs will eat more in order to keep their metabolism up and stay warm. Sudden diet changes can be a bit risky, though, so check with your vet prior to making any changes.
Dress Them for the Occasion
Adorably, dogs can join us in dressing up for the cold weather. It’s recommended that dogs wear some type of clothing to insulate their body heat and keep them warm, especially if they’re smaller or have shorter hair. This will allow your winter walks and hikes to be a lot safer and more enjoyable!
The default clothing item that most people gravitate towards is a simple jacket. You should find a jacket that fits your dog extremely well and doesn’t fall off or restrict movement in any substantial way. This jacket will cover a large portion of your dog’s body, keeping them warm for a long period of time.
Another piece of clothing that’s quite essential, especially in snow, is a set of dog boots. These boots not only keep your dog’s feet insulated, but they also separate the delicate pads from the harsh terrain. Cold weather commonly sees the ground covered with salt and de-icer, and both things can irritate your dog’s paws. If you’re going without boots, just be sure to wash your dog’s paws when you get home.
Keep Your Home Warm & Comfy
Up to this point we’ve talked about keeping your dog warm and safe while outside in the elements. Do you need to put the same care into making them comfortable inside of the home?
While preparations certainly aren’t as extensive, there are still a few things that you can do for your pup.
Provide a Warm Bed
This is easily one of the most important factors to consider! Dogs spend over half of the day sleeping or resting, so you’ll need to provide them with an optimal place to do that. The best dog bed has a few different characteristics to it.
To begin with, just getting your dog off of the ground is the biggest step. If you lay on the ground during a particularly cold day, you’ll find that it has the tendency to quickly absorb any heat from your body and leave you freezing. Dogs are no exception to this! Beds provide a buffer between your dog and the cold hard floor.
The shape of the bed is also important. An optimal shape for winter months is circular with raised sides. This allows the dog to curl up into a ball and stay insulated on all sides.
In addition to the bed, your dog should have a few thick blankets to cuddle with. You don’t need a weighted blanket or something that’s 100% silk – just make sure that they’re warm and clean. My dog loves when I cover him up before bed, and I like doing this because I know he’s always sufficiently warm.
Keep a Generally Warm House
While a warm bed is very important, the rest of the house should also be comfortable to live in! Create a few warm spots in different places around your house so that your dog can follow you around and still be comfortable.
There are several ways that you can do this. Many owners use space heaters, while others use heating pads or just piles of blankets around the house.
Know the Signs of a Cold Dog
Even if you follow all of the steps above, that doesn’t mean that your dog is guaranteed to thrive in the cold weather. Every dog is different, and some may have unexpected health concerns that arise. Due to this, you should always keep an eye on your dog and constantly assess them for good health.
When to Bring a Dog Inside
It’s possible that your dog has a great time outside with their thick coat and then suddenly hits their tolerance limit for the cold. The chart above is simply a general guide, meaning that the temperatures listed out are not cut-and-dry.
As stated, keep an eye on your dog. If you notice your dog shivering, chewing on their tail or feet, or simply not acting like themselves, it’s a good idea to bring them inside. Even if there’s no serious health concerns, it’s always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to your four-legged friend.