5 Wintertime Dog Safety Tips

How cold is too cold for your dog? The simplest answer is…it depends on the type of dog.

Generally, cold temperatures should not become a problem for most dogs until they fall below 32° F. At this temperature, some very young, senior, or thin-coated dogs might begin to feel uncomfortable. Most other dogs that are double-coated or in prime health remain comfortable until temperatures drop under 20° F. At that point, pet owners need to be aware of their dog’s well-being by being observant of their behavior. 

With that being said, what do we do to keep our pets safe in the winter? Below are 5 ways you can keep your pup safe in the winter:

wintertime dog safety


Use proper gear on walks.

We all know that dogs can have a mind of their own when we least want them to. This behavior combined with a strong prey drive can land your dog in a sticky situation, like running over a frozen lake or too far away from home to get back.

In fact, more pets become lost in the winter than in any other season because snowfall can disguise recognizable scents that would normally help them find their way home. Because of this, it’s important to keep them safely on a leash at all times, and make sure their collars have up-to-date contact information and are microchipped.

If you have to walk your dog in the dark due to shorter winter days, it may be necessary to wear reflective gear.

TIP #2

Wipe their paws and noses.

During winter walks, your dog can pick up all kinds of toxic chemicals like salt, antifreeze, or de-icers. Be sure to wipe off your dog’s paws and nose when you return home to keep them from potentially licking these dangerous chemicals off and becoming sick. While wiping your dog’s nose and paws, also make sure they aren’t cracked or bleeding from the cold weather. It might be a good idea to keep nose butter or petroleum jelly on hand to help with this if it ever happens. For added safety, purchase pet-safe de-icers for your home.

TIP #3

Know your dog’s limits.

Some dogs like Huskies love to be outside when it’s cold, other dogs that are short-coated, thin, elderly, or very young, not so much. Use this knowledge to plan how long you want to leave your dog outside, if at all.

If necessary, reduce walking time for the more susceptible pups to the cold. For dogs that refuse to go outside in the cold, a good alternative to pottying outside might be to keep a kiddie pool full of sod in your garage or keep pee pads around the house.

TIP #4

Keep your pets at home when running errands.

In icy weather, heated cars cool down rapidly. Pets left inside vehicles can freeze, especially if they are in fragile health. Do not leave your pet in unattended vehicles.

dog in snow

TIP #5

Give them winter-appropriate shelter.

If your pets primarily live outdoors, bring them indoors during sub-zero temperatures. For the rest of the winter, provide them with a dry, draft-free shelter that is large enough to allow them to sit, stand and lay down comfortably, but small enough to conserve body heat. The floor should be raised a few inches off the ground and covered with cedar shavings or straw. 

Turn the shelter so it faces away from the wind and cover the doorway with waterproof burlap or heavy plastic. Also, pets who spend a lot of time outside need more food to replace the energy lost from trying to stay warm.

Lastly, make sure your dog has fresh water outside, and use plastic or glass bowls. Water can easily freeze outside in the winter months, and if it’s cold enough, your dog’s tongue can stick to a metal bowl.

Protect Your PUp

By keeping these 5 things in mind, our pups are sure to remain safe and comfortable during the winter months.

Want to read more about what you can do for your pup throughout winter? Check out these New Laws Protecting Dogs Left Out in the Cold.

About the Author: Ana Mendoza is a marketing copywriter and has created pieces for several brands and organizations, including Outward Hound. Developing strong relationships between pets and their owners through educative blogs is one of her passions in life.