There’s plenty of things to love about the winter. This is the time of year where you spend time with friends and family during the holidays, play in the snow, dance in the rain, and snuggle up by the fire. But there’s a good chance your dog doesn’t like the cold winter weather as much as you do.
It’s important to keep your dog warm during those cold winter months, especially if you’re planning on leaving them outdoors. That’s why we will be talking about how to keep dogs warm outside during the cold months. Whether you’re trying to figure out how to keep them warm because they’ll remain an outdoor dog, or you’re just looking for tips to keep them warm for a short walk, the tips below will work.
When trying to keep dogs warm outside, there are three categories to think about
- Clothing – Sweaters and boots will help protect short haired dogs from the cold weather.
- Housing – Insulated dog house with a burrow bed or heated blanket
- Grooming – Keep the coat long and free from tangles.
If you are just trying to keep your dog warm on a walk, you only need to pay attention to the clothing category. If your dog will remain an outdoor dog, housing and grooming are important.
The most obvious way to keep your dog warm outside is with dog clothing. Think about it, if it’s freezing outside, do you want to go out without a jacket? If it’s too cold without a jacket for you, then it’s too cold without a jacket for your dog.
If your dog has a thin coat, wearing clothing during cold weather is a must. If you have a dog with a thick coat, clothing isn’t quite as important but is still a huge help.
Below is a list of the essential clothing to keep dogs warm outside.
Some dogs love sweaters, and some dogs hate them. But when it’s cold outside, you’ll want your dog wearing a sweater even if they don’t like it at first. Just give it some time and they’ll learn to be ok with it.
There are a variety of sweaters out there, but usually simple is better. It’s best to get one without zippers or buttons. They might look cute, but in reality, they are just choking hazards for your furry friend.
The fit should be snug but not too tight. The length should end at right about waist level. The important thing is to make sure your dog can move around freely.
One last tip to make life easier as a pet parent… you’ll want to get a sweater that can easily be washed and dried. If you can’t put it in the washer and dryer, it’ll make life a little more complicated.
Bodysuits and sweaters look similar, but there are some differences. The primary difference is that bodysuits go back further on the hips and extend longer on the legs. If you live in an area where it snows, you’ll want to pick up a winter bodysuit for your pooch.
If your dog doesn’t like sweaters, they’re REALLY not going to like the bodysuit. However, with time, your dog will get used to it and realize it keeps them warm.
Doggie boots serve multiple purposes. First (and most obvious), they keep your dog warm during cold weather. Paws release a lot of heat. If you can trap that heat with boots, their body temperature will stay much higher.
But that’s not the only purpose they serve. They also help protect against frostbite. We often think that dogs don’t sweat. The truth is they have sweat glands on their paws. This means that during freezing temperatures, the sweat coming from their paws could turn into ice, which might result in frostbite. Even if they don’t sweat, they could get ice trapped between their paws, which can also result in frostbite. Boots prevent both of these scenarios from happening.
Don’t be surprised if your dog refuses to walk the first few times they wear boots. They’ll feel off balance at first, but just like the sweaters, they’ll get used to it.
The second factor in keeping your dog warm outside is housing. If you’re planning on having your dog be an outdoor dog during the cold months, providing them with warm shelter is vital.
Insulated Dog House
If there’s one area you shouldn’t go cheap, it’s the dog house. A good quality insulated dog house might be all you need to keep your dog warm during the cold weather.
It’s also a massive help if you can elevate the dog house about six inches off the ground. The ground pulls heat away from the dog house, so lifting it off the ground will help the house retain heat. This can easily be done using a wooden palette.
The house should also be waterproof and windproof. When your dog gets wet, or the windchill goes below freezing, the body temperature of your dog will drop significantly. The dog house should be a place they can go to for protection against rain and windchill.
Burrow beds do a fantastic job keeping your pup warm when it’s cold outside. These beds are designed to allow your dog to burrow themselves into the bed. Most dogs will instinctively know what to do because dogs in the wild burrow during cold weather to stay warm.
If your dog can’t figure it out, the best way to teach them is to use treats. Place a treat under the blanket part of the bed. This forces them to burrow in to get it out. Once they do this a few times, they’ll realize it’s much warmer when they’re snuggled under the blanket!
Although we prefer burrow beds, heated beds are great for dogs who are elderly and don’t want to put in the effort to burrow or dogs who are arthritic and it hurts when they try to burrow.
The downside to these beds is they can be a bit pricey, and if your dog tends to destroy their bed (like mine does), you’ll be wasting a lot of money.
When we think about keeping dogs warm, grooming is probably the last thing that comes to your mind. However, grooming is actually one of the best ways to keep them as warm as possible during those cold nights.
Don’t Cut or Trim Hair
It’s ok to cut some hair during the summer (although you still want to leave enough to block the sun from the skin), but during the cold months, you’ll want to keep as much hair on your dog as possible.
If you have a dog with a thick coat, the constant shedding might get frustrating. Instead of cutting the hair to get rid of the shedding, you can use either a dog grooming glove or a deshedding comb. That will cut back on the shedding while maintaining the length of your dog’s hair.
Keep Out The Knots
Along with keeping the hair long, you’ll want to get rid of all the knots. This might seem silly, but it does make a massive difference in your dog’s body temperature. Dogs’ fur is meant to insulate. When the fur becomes matted, it lessens the effect of insulation. To make matters worse, it exposes the skin to cold air, which could lead to dry skin and dandruff. Maintaining long, knot-free hair is essential during the winter.
Only Bathe Indoors
I understand bathing your dog outdoors is the cleanest way to bathe a dog, but when it’s already cold outside, exposure to water will only make it that much colder. Until the weather warms up, keep the baths indoors.
Be Cautious With Space Heaters
You’ll notice we didn’t mention space heaters in this article. That doesn’t mean space heaters aren’t a good idea. If used correctly, they can be a great tool to keep dogs warm outside.
The issue with space heaters is that they can be dangerous when not monitored at all times. The dog can either knock it over (space heaters should always be upright), or they might get too close to it for too long and burn themselves.
The best way to use space heaters is to warm up the dog house BEFORE your dog goes in. We do this almost every night for our dogs. Have a space heater running inside the dog house for about 30 minutes before the dogs go to bed at night. A well-insulated dog house should be able to maintain most of the heat.
Just make sure to unplug it and bring it back inside with you before the dogs go in. Never leave a dog unsupervised with a plugged-in space heater.
Use Common Sense
When the weather reaches extreme colds, common sense must be used on when to bring your dog inside. If you walk outside and you’re freezing, your dog is probably freezing as well. Even dogs that were bred for the snow and have thick coats still have a limit to how much cold weather they can handle.
In an ideal world, all dogs would come inside when it’s freezing outside, but we understand this isn’t always an option. When you absolutely must leave your dog outside during frigid temperatures, but sure to follow the methods given in this article on keeping dogs warm outside.
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Bryan Harkins is an avid dog lover and the proud owner of dogdorable.com, a website dedicated to all things canine. With years of experience working with dogs, Bryan is passionate about providing valuable information, tips, and resources to help pet owners provide the best possible care for their furry companions.