Winter is here, and for us dog owners that means walks through both crisp, beautiful snow and dirty, salty slush. Your dog needs to be walked even in bad weather – and that’s doubly true for a puppy, whose energy levels are abundant regardless of the chilly temperatures outside. It is important for you to know how cold is too cold for puppies to be out and about.
Virtually every dog loves the snow, but they are anything but sensible about how long it’s safe for them to stay out in the cold. The following tips are a guideline for keeping your puppy safe and happy while giving him or her enough exercise throughout the winter.
How Cold is Too Cold for Puppies
How long your pup can spend outside will depend on the dog’s breed, age, and haircut – as well as the temperature on any given day.
Young puppies of some breeds (chihuahuas and other small types, especially those bred for warmer climates) can get too cold in minutes, while older puppies of breeds like the St. Bernard or Alaskan Malamute, which were bred to survive snowstorms, can safely handle over an hour outdoors in sub-zero temperatures.
There really is no hard and fast rules for how long your puppy is safe to stay outside, but if there’s any doubt it’s usually a good idea to keep walks and romps in the snow shorter rather than risking frostbite or a chill. It is always safer to err on the side of caution when it comes to your dog’s comfort and health.
As a general guideline, when temperatures fall below 45°F your dog may start to feel the cold. This is when you should consider winter dog jackets and coats. Once the temperature drops below 20°F dogs can start to develop cold-related health issues like frostbite and hyperthermia. You should limit time outside and monitor your pup for behavior like shivering and slowing down.
Keep Walks Short and Frequent
One of the best ways to cut down on your pup’s exposure to the cold, while still ensuring they are getting enough exercise, is to take him out more regularly, but only for short walks. If your schedule allows it, four or five brief walks (no more than 10 to 15 minutes) staggered through the day is ideal. This gives most pups enough activity to burn off their energy and keep them from destroying things inside the house but also protects them from getting too cold.
If your work schedule makes it impossible for you to walk your dog that often, see if a neighbor or relative might be willing to drop by during the day and take your pup outside for a few minutes. Even if your dog is only getting one or two walks it is still best to keep them short and sweet.
For some families, it’s inevitable that puppy will be inside more often in the winter than during the warm summer months. Additional toys, especially hard chew toys and interactive dog toys, can occupy most dogs for hours and help take the edge off that insatiable puppy energy.
Bundle Up, Pup!
If you’re going out on a longer excursion, or if the weather turns particularly grim, it’s always a good idea to be prepared with some additional warmth for your puppy. You can find a wide range of doggie boots, sweaters, and even waterproof coats to protect pups from the elements.
Waterproof dog boots are a good idea for any city dog since the salt and other chemicals used on city roads and sidewalks can be harmful to dogs’ feet – and toxic if ingested (many dogs will lick and clean their feet after a walk). Boots keep salt from harming the pads of the feet, and they also keep snow from collecting in the sensitive places between your dog’s toes where it can cause problems.
Dog sweaters are a must to have on hand for when the weather turns cold. They will keep your puppy warm without adding too much bulk that will weight them down. Make sure you measure your pup and check sizing before purchasing to get the right fit.
A winter coat for your pup is essential if you live in an area that gets particularly cold or you have a lot of rainy or snowy days. These coats will have more insulation and padding to keep your pup warm, and many are also waterproof. You can find our picks for the best winter dog jacket here.
If your dog is of a breed whose coat grows out and needs to be trimmed, keeping his or her fur longer throughout the winter helps protect your pup from the elements and means you won’t necessarily have to worry about a sweater or coat so your puppy can enjoy the snow and winter weather.
Remember to check your puppy regularly during cold weather, whether inside or outside, for signs that they may be feeling the cold. Rug them up when heading out for a walk, and keep them warm and dry when at home.
P.S. Help a friend with keeping their puppy warm by pinning this!