How to Keep a Dog Warm Outside
When you have a dog that spends a lot of time outside, you have to monitor the weather to make sure your pup doesn't get too cold. Even if it isn't wintertime, your dog can still get cold if there's a chilly rain. Here's what you can do to keep your dog warm outside.
How Cold Is Too Cold for Your Dog?
When determining what temperature is too cold for your dog, remember that it depends on your dog's coat, weight, health, and size.1 Smaller dogs with thin coats will get cold quickly, while large dogs with thick fur may actually prefer colder weather. Dogs with lighter-colored fur may get cold faster than a dog with a brown or black coat that absorbs more heat from the sun. A thin dog will get chilly more quickly. A young, healthy adult dog will handle the cold better than an older dog, a puppy, or a dog with health conditions.
In general, most dogs are okay down to about 45 degrees Fahrenheit, but a cloudy day or a strong wind can make it feel much colder.2 When it's below 20°F, any dog might be in danger of hypothermia or frostbite. Dogs more prone to getting cold (like those that are small, have thin coats, or are old) might start having problems around 32°F. But some breeds absolutely thrive in the cold, like Siberian Huskies or Bernese Mountain Dogs.3 So exactly which temperature is safe varies from dog to dog. Talk to your veterinarian if you aren't sure where the "danger zone" is for your pup.
Here's How You Can Keep Your Dog Warm Outside
Whether your dog is in the backyard a lot, you're camping together, or you're going for a short walk, you want to stay warm. Follow these tips to keep your pup warm and toasty when it's colder.
1. Bring Your Dog Inside.
This first solution is the simplest. Just bring your dog inside, where you have a heater, and it's nice and toasty. Don't leave your dog to sleep outside when the temperature gets low. You'll probably appreciate the extra snuggles too.
2. Try a Sweater or Coat.
A dog that is very small or has thin fur might benefit from a sweater or a coat. Your Chihuahua, for example, would likely love to wear a little sweater. Plus, they're really cute. Sweaters should extend to the base of your dog's tail and cover his stomach too.
3. Protect Your Dog's Paws.
Your dog might benefit from doggie booties that keep his paws warm and protect him from the elements. Doggie booties can protect your pup's paws from getting dreaded frostbite or from being injured while walking on ice or snow. They also protect your pup from toxins like antifreeze that may be on the ground when it's colder.
If you don't use doggie booties, you want to wipe down your dog's paws after you go for a walk, in case he stepped in any antifreeze. Since ice or snow might cause bleeding, check your dog's paws for any scratches or cuts.
4. Give Your Pup a Warm Bed.
A warm bed is the perfect gift for a cold dog. Consider the Lectro-Soft Outdoor Heated Bed or the Deluxe Lectro-Soft Outdoor Heated Bed that comes with a bolster. Either of these would be great for use in an outdoor shelter, garage, kennel, patio, or another area your outdoor dog may have access to. The bed needs to be plugged in, so keep it elevated and away from the rain. Another option is the Original Lectro-Kennel Outdoor Heated Pad with a plastic exterior.
Remember, if you're using a bed outside, you want to make sure it's elevated off the cold ground and in a covered area protected from the elements.
5. Get an Elevated Bed.
If you don't want to elevate a dog bed yourself, look for a bed that's already elevated. If it's just a little cool and your dog doesn't need the insulation, then an elevated cot can do a lot to help him stay warm. The ground can get cold, and if it's wet outside, it gets colder. Look for something like the K&H Original Pet Cot, which is waterproof and elevated off the ground. Another option is the K&H Self-Warming Pet Cot. It's made to be used outdoors and has self-warming technology for colder weather.
You might also be interested in the Elevated Cozy Cot. This is machine washable and is great for camping. Or just put a K&H Original Pet Cot Pad, which has a microfleece top and fluffy pillow, on top of the Original Pet Cot. For extra comfort, try the Bolster Pet Cot. It's similar to the Original Pet Cot but has a bolster to keep your pup snuggly. Ideally, these should be kept in covered areas where they won't be rained on. You don't want your dog to sleep on a cot that's wet and cold.
6. Try a Covered Dog House.
If it's colder and your dog needs more protection from the elements, consider the K&H Pet Cot House. This uses an elevated cot with a removable cover.
If you want a bed that will warm up your pup, some options can be plugged in to provide extra warmth. The Thermo Tent, for example, is a covered "dog house" with a removable, heated floor that has a washable fleece cover.
If you already have an igloo-style dog house, then you can enhance it with a Lectro-Soft Igloo-Style Heated Bed or a Lectro-Kennel Igloo-Style Heated Pad. Both styles need to be plugged in to work, so they should be used in a covered area away from the rain. They are designed to provide gentle warmth even in very cold temperatures, but the Heated Pad has an adjustable thermostat. These only cover half of the igloo bed's floor, so your dog can put all his body on the bed or just part of it if he gets too warm.
7. Set Up a Heated Water Bowl.
Warm water can help your dog feel warmer all over, so try the Thermal-Bowl. This bowl has a chew-resistant cord and will prevent your dog's drinking water from freezing, no matter how cold it gets outside.
Your Dog Can Get Cold Faster if He's Wet
Remember, keeping a dog warm outside isn't just about the cold winter months. If your dog is in the rain or goes for a swim, he might also get chilled. Thankfully, you can often plan for these circumstances.4 If you're going for a walk outside and it's raining, consider getting a raincoat for your dog and putting on doggie rain boots. Make sure you carry a quick-dry towel, so your pup doesn't stay wet for long after the rain has passed.
Make sure you have a shelter where your dog can stay dry if he's outside a lot. You may not always know when a rainstorm will start unexpectedly, especially if you're not home. A covered patio or a doggie door leading into your home will do the trick. Or you can set up a waterproof, insulated dog house.
Preparing for cold weather and rainy days may not be fun, but it doesn't have to be hard. Just follow these steps, and you'll be ready for whatever Mother Nature throws at you. And you'll have a grateful, warm dog when it matters the most.
1. Coates, Jennifer. "How Cold Is Too Cold for Your Dog?" PetMD, 3 November 2016, https://www.petmd.com/dog/care/how-cold-too-cold-dog.
3. CCSPCA. "How Cold Is Too Cold for a Dog & How to Keep Them Safe." Central California SPCA, 3 January 2019, https://www.ccspca.com/blog-spca/education/how-cold-is-too-cold-for-a-dog/.
4. AKC Staff. "How to Keep Your Dog Dry in the Rain." AKC.org, 19 April 2020, https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/lifestyle/spring-dog-rain-products/.