Walking Dogs in the Cold Weather

If you love the winter, then you’re set. If you’re like us, then anything below 40F is too cold, even if we’re bundled up! That’s Arizona for you though — we’re not used to chilly weather! What about your pup though? Do they get cold like we do? Doggy Brace has the answers! 

Things to Keep in Mind

Not all dogs are built for the cold and some are actually more susceptible to it! Puppies and senior dogs, for instance, aren’t the best at regulating their body temperatures yet. This can put them at a higher risk for frostbite and hypothermia in the winter. 

Additionally, dogs with thyroid disease or chronic lung problems should also have very limited exposure to cold air. Keep their walks brief when it’s chilly for their health. 

Finally hypothermia can strike at any time, in any breed — yes, even huskies! If your dog gets wet and it’s chilly outside, this can get dangerous very quickly. You should be on the lookout for any of these signs: 

  • Shivering
  • Cold ears and feet
  • Rapid breathing
  • Increase in urination
  • Hair standing on ends

If you notice any of these, bring them inside to warm them up right away! Dry them off with a towel and offer fresh warm/lukewarm water. NEVER put them into warm/hot water or wrap them in a hot blanket! This sudden change can shock their system. 

Consider calling your veterinarian or emergency vet clinic to be sure your dog is safe from hypothermia or frostbite.

Things to Consider When Walking Dogs in Cold Weather

Sweater or No Sweater?

Will your dog need a sweater? While it may look cute, some dogs won’t benefit from them at all. You should only consider a doggy sweater for smaller breeds, such as Yorkies, Chihuahuas, and Pomerainians, or breeds with short hair, like greyhounds, bulldogs, and dachshunds. 

In most cases though, their fur coat will keep them warm (as long as it’s not wet)! 

If they do need a sweater, what kind should you get? You’ll see a lot on the market — ones that wrap around their back like a cape, but leave their belly exposed, ones that are more like shirts, and ones that look more like raincoats than winter coats. What your dog needs depends on their breed and where you live. 

If you get snow and ice, then you’ll want a sweater that is both waterproof and covers their stomach. Those little cape sweaters are nice when it’s dry out, but they won’t do anything if your dog’s belly drags against the snow! 

If it’s just for cold protection, look for durable wool or cable knit. If your dog doesn’t mind wearing clothes, you can get them a turtleneck too! We love this list of sweaters, so check it out too! 

Does My Dog Need Boots?

Okay, if they don’t need a sweater, what about boots? Their paws aren’t fully covered in fur after all! 

A dog’s paw is actually a complicated system of veins and arteries that is extremely efficient in circulating warm blood. That means they’re great at staying warm without boots! Most dogs won’t need them at all. 

That being said, their paws can be irritated by road salt, de-icing chemicals, and wetness. If you want to get dog boots, the American Kennel Club has some guidelines: 

  • The material of the sole should be textured for good grip 
  • Choose boots made from waterproof or water-resistant material
  • The sole should be flexible so your dog can walk naturally
  • Choose a boot with adjustable Velcro straps
  • Most dogs don’t like the feel of shoes or boots. Prepare him by trying them on him in the house for short periods of time and praising him as he gets used to wearing them
  • Always check the manufacturer’s guidelines for size, and measure before you order.

How Cold is Too Cold? 

Unless you have a snow dog like a husky or malamute, then follow this simple rule: if you’re cold with a coat on, then your dog probably is too! While walks are extremely important for dogs, they should be an enjoyable and safe experience for them. If it’s too cold or too wet, then you increase the chance of cold-related illnesses for both you and your pup! Keep their outside time to a short potty break until it gets warmer and/or dryer.