How to keep your dog warm outside in the winter
It's that time of year again—the temperatures are dropping, snow is falling, and we have to bundle up in our coats and hats to go outside. As pet owners, it's our job to think about our pets once it gets cold, too, and how to keep them warm whether they're playing in the backyard, going for a winter walk, or working outside.
With a little planning, it might be easier than you think to keep your dog warm outside in the winter. A good rule of thumb is if you're cold, your dog is probably cold, too. If you notice him shivering, rapidly breathing, or his hair is standing on end while you're outside, make sure he has a warm shelter and bed, stays hydrated, is properly dressed for the outdoors, and you dry him off as soon as he comes back into the house (don't forget to get out the snow from between his toes!).
Here are our best tips for your peace of mind and the comfort of your pet during the winter months.
1. Be sure your dog has a warm shelter.
If your dog is spending any significant amount of time outside, even on nice days, make sure he has a shelter, like a dog igloo. In the winter, add an outdoor heated bed or pad (some are even igloo-shaped!) to keep your dog warm—and yes, you can leave them on 24/7, as long as the product has been installed as per the instructions, so you don't have to worry about forgetting to turn them off or on. Note: Don't put additional blankets on top of the dog bed—they can collect moisture and make your dog cold. The heated bed is plenty!
A Thermo Tent is a nice option if you want something lightweight and easy to clean and move. Make sure that on windy days, the wind or snow isn't blowing into the dog house.
2. Keep your dog hydrated.
Even when it's cold out, dogs lose a lot of moisture through panting and still get dehydrated.1 And don't rely on snow—it will actually make your dog colder by lowering her core temperature, so it's important to always have fresh water available. A Thermal Bowl will keep your dog's water bowl from freezing over so that she always has access to water.
3. Don't go overboard with grooming.
Bathing your dog too often can give your dog dry, itchy skin, which can get worse in cold, dry weather.2 On that same note, if you get your dog groomed regularly, let his hair get a little longer in the winter to give them some extra warmth, but trim the hair between his toes, because ice balls and de-icing chemicals can cling to it and make your dog very uncomfortable.
4. Bundle your dog up.
If your dog has short hair or a thin coat, she might need a sweater or jacket to stay warm outside. Make sure it covers her belly and is long enough to go from the base of her tail up to her neck. That being said, even dogs with thick hair can get hypothermia, so if your dog is showing any of these symptoms,3 take her inside and consult a veterinarian.
- Cold ears and feet
- Rapid breathing
- Increase in urination
- Hair standing on ends
5. Protect your dog's feet.
If it's very wet or slushy outside, consider getting booties for your dog or rubbing petroleum jelly on his feet to protect his pads from salt, de-icing chemicals, or from getting too cold.
6. Dry your dog off when they come inside.
While some dogs dry off better than others on their own, your dog will be much more comfortable if you help her out. Wipe her down with a towel and remove the clumps of snow and ice so she doesn't end up gnawing at her fur and skin to get it off. Check her feet for any snow, salt, or de-icing chemicals. After she's dry, an indoor heated dog bed will keep her warm and cozy throughout the night.
7. Feed your dog more.
If your dog spends a lot of time outdoors in the winter or works outdoors, consider feeding him a little more food in the colder months. Your dog's body works harder in the winter to stay warm, so the additional calories can be beneficial.2
8. Don't leave your dog in the car.
Just as summer temperatures can be dangerous for your dog, winter temperatures can be just as deadly. Cars hold the cold and could put your dog at risk of hypothermia.2
A few precautions can go a long way when it comes to keeping your dog warm when it's cold outside. Walking in a winter wonderland and frolicking in the snow can be fun for both you and your dog, so bundle yourselves up and get out there!