Having owned dogs our entire life up here in the sometimes harsh weather of Canada, we have taken many steps to keep our best friends warm while outside during the winter months.
We have often asked ourselves “do dogs actually get cold outside?” and how to recognize the signs that they are too cold. We will try explore and answer all of these questions and more below.
How do you know when a dog is cold?
As humans do, a cold pup will show physical and vocal signals that they are cold.
Keep an eye on visible signs like shivering, anxious, whining, or sluggish activity. If you see your dog search out a warm place to laydown or holds up there paws, it would signal a good time to head inside and warm up.
Remember, a dog can get coldlike we can! Make sure you familiar with your dogs behaviors when he gets too cold! You may discover that a sweater, hoodie or coat is just what he or she needs to remain outside in the cold environment!
How cold is too cold for a dog?
For the most part, If temperatures are at or above 45°F your dog will not require a sweater or coat to head outside. If temperatures begin to drop below 45°F, some breeds will become uncomfortable and require protection from the element.
For owners of smaller breeds, puppies, older dogs, or thinner haired breeds, when the temperature outside is at or below 32°F, we as dog lovers should pull out the sweaters and/or coats!
If the temperature falls below 20°F, dog owners should be aware of their dog’s well being and look for signs that your dog is may be too cold, even when the breed has a history of living in cold weather.
Do not feel that you must wait until the temperature gets down to 45°F to put a coat on your dog. If your dog is more comfortable outside in 60°F weather with a coat or sweater, then keep it on them.
What happens if a dog gets too cold?
It is important to recognize when your dog gets too cold as it can put your dog at risk. Use your pet’s behaviour guide your reactions.
Signs that your dog is at risk from the cold can include shivering, curling up in a ball, whining, or showing anxiety.
If in doubt, use common sense and error on the side of caution.
Does a dog need to wear boots to protect against the cold?
The short answer is usually not, while dogs can often be trained to wear winter boots, most dogs will generally not want to wear the boots and will normally be distracted by holding up the booted foot and display an agitated state.
You will see this statement throughout this article as it is the most sensible route in my eyes. Error on the side of caution and do what makes your dog happy!
Does my dog need a coat or sweater to go outside?
It depends on the breed of dog. Most dogs will be good in the colder elements for short periods of time, but there are three points that will determine if your dog requires a coat to stay warm:
1. Dogs with short hair and thinner body types, like Whippets or Greyhounds will need a coat for the cold weather.
2. Smaller dogs (including puppies ) will usually require a coat for a short walk or for playing outside. The smaller breeds are unable to generate the body heat that large dogs can and their bellies have a greater chance of brushing against the snow.
3. Older dogs with a weaker immune systems or arthritis will require a coat. Make sure you are putting a coat on the dog to help their joints feel better because they are kept warm by the coat.
Larger dog breeds such as Lab’s, Huskies, or Golden Retrievers that have a thicker fur coat to keep your dog warm will generally not require a coat or sweater for playing or going for a walk in the snowy landscape.
If your dog has long hair, snow can quickly stick/ball in their fur so be sure to check your dog often and remove snow as necessary. Some small or short-coated dogs may prefer to wear a coat when out in the winter weather.
What Type of Dogs Can Sleep Outside in the Cold?
While any dog would suffer if left outside in abnormally cold weather, some dogs are more suited to be outside in the colder weather.
Some breeds are definitely not suited for sleeping outside, this would include breeds that have short hair and/or thin coats.
Smaller toy breeds with thin or “tiny” bodies (with low body fat) are definitely not suited to being out in the cold weather. This includes chihuahuas, toy poodles etc.
Large breeds with thicker, double-layered coats are the most tolerant to the outdoor cold. This would include huskies, newfoundlander and samoyeds.
If you are not sure if your dog’s breed can handle the outdoor cold, be sure ask your vet.
How to Keep Your Dog Warm When Sleeping Outside
If your dog is suited for sleeping outside, it may be necessary to take extra precautions to keep them warm. This is important during the overnight hours.
When grooming your dog during the winter months, consider leaving their coat a bit longer for more insulation. Taking off too much hair during the winter months can inhibit your dog from containing the heat as they would have with the longer coat.
If you happen to live in an area with snow (Canada Eh!), ensure that you do not use a metal water/food bowl as your dog’s tongue will have the unfortunate ability to stick to the metal.
Also, check regularly to make sure the water has not frozen and that your dog is well hydrated.
If the temperature drops significantly, your dog may need to up the number of calories in their diet. Dogs need lots energy for normal activities plus extra energy to create warmth. Beware of over feeding your dog!
Dog Day Cafe’s Thoughts!
As we stated above we have been loyal dog owners our entire live’s and living in Canada has given us enough “Cold Weather” living to enable us to answer the questions above.
Above everything else, always try to use sound judgement and always error on the side of caution. I have always found that the one minute it may have taken to put a coat, sweater or boots on our dogs is always better than the alternative.