How to Keep Your Dog Warm During the Winter

A white dog out in the snow

Watching your dog experience the snow for the first time can be a truly memorable experience. Seeing him jump around, dig in it and try to gobble it up makes it hard to keep a smile off of your face. Read on to learn how to keep dogs warm in winter snow and cold.

Get your dog used to the snow gradually

When bringing your dog outside in the snow for the first time, make sure to check how he is reacting. If he isn’t shivering or trying to make his way back inside, it’s fine to let him stay outside for longer periods of time, as long as he’s building up to it. Start your dog out with small periods of time outside so his paws will have time to adjust to the colder weather.

Remember that coldness depends on the dog

Puppies have a harder time regulating their body temperatures outside, and senior dogs can have health issues like diabetes or an altered metabolism that can make it harder for them to adjust. Smaller dogs with thinner coats will also be more sensitive than dogs that were bred to be outside in the cold.

Prepare your dog

If you notice that your dog gets cold easily, stock up on sweaters, coats or dog booties. Some dogs even get cold indoors during the winter! If your dog has a longer coat, avoid shaving him during the winter and wipe off his paws when he comes inside to ensure that the pads of his paws don’t stay wet for long periods of time.

When is it too cold for dogs to be outside?

If it is absolutely freezing outside, make sure to limit your dog’s time outside. Use common sense to know when it is too cold for dogs to be outside. If the cold wind is penetrating your ski jacket, it’s most likely too cold for your dog to play outside for a long period of time too. Always watch for signs of discomfort, such as your dog holding up his paw from the ground because it is too cold.  

Make bathroom breaks quicker and easier

Try shovelling a patch of grass for your dog to run to during his potty time. If you find that he opts to go on the carpet, try taking him outside for a quick two or three-minute walk and give him a treat every time you come back in. Doing so will help them learn a new routine. If your regular area for bathroom breaks is too cold, try a new area with less snow or overhead protection from falling rain or snow.

Watch out for salt and antifreeze

Rock salt is going to be everywhere, so try and keep your dog from eating it. It isn’t toxic, but it can upset his stomach. It may also rub on the pads of his paws and cause irritation. Dog-safe rock salt might be a great option for your home.

Be extra vigilant about keeping your dog away from antifreeze. It tastes sweet, but is extremely toxic. Look out for blue or green-coloured substances on driveways, sidewalks and car surfaces.

Learn how to warm up your dog

If your dog seems too cold, try covering him in a towel or blanket. If your dog is comfortable with blow dryers, you can use one at a low setting to warm him up. Avoid heating pads, which could cause third-degree burns. However, if you want to give your dog something warm to cuddle up to, a warm sock filled with dry rice from the microwave is an excellent alternative. Make sure to test it against your wrist to make sure it’s not too hot.

If you’re worried your dog is too cold, their normal body temperature should range from 38.3 °C to 39.2 °C. In order to take your dog’s temperature, you’ll need to use a rectal thermometer.

Treat cracked pads

Try a moisturizer originally made for cow udders to soothe your dog’s paws. After applying anything to his feet, make sure to keep him busy with treats or a puzzle feeder so that he doesn’t lick it right off. If you want to prevent damage to your dog’s paws, put him in dog booties before you go outside or make sure to clean off the pads of his feet every time he comes inside.

Give your dog plenty of exercise

It can be hard to find the motivation to get exercise with your dog on a cold day, but letting your dog stay idle can lead to destructive or nervous behaviours due to all that pent-up energy. Once your dog is used to the temperature outside and prepared for the cold, it’s okay to continue walks and backyard play. You can even build an agility course in your backyard with piles of snow!

If your area is just too cold, try finding an indoor gym for dogs. Puzzle feeders are also a great option for keeping your dog busy on a long, cold winter day.

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