With frigid temperatures get low enough to affect our everyday lives, dog owners are cautioned to keep their pups indoors. But for many pet owners, this could mean an increase in pent up, anxious, and destructive behaviours as dogs create outlets to satiate their mind and body. Dogs need regular stimulation and exercise, so even one day of staying in can be enough to drive some dogs a little crazy.

But how do you know when it is too cold for regular walks or dog-park fun?

First, consider your dog’s size. Different breeds will have vastly different temperature tolerances – a husky can endure cold temperatures significantly longer than a chihuahua! Typically, for small breed dogs, temperatures below -5C can have be potentially life-threatening. For medium and large breed dogs, it’s best to avoid temperatures colder than -10C, although this varies by breed.

Long-haired, and double-coated dogs tend to do well in much colder weather than their short-haired, and single-coated counterparts. Dogs with darker-coloured coats may stay warmer on days when the sun is out, as their coat will absorb heat from sunlight. Overweight dogs have extra insulation that provides more warmth than slender dogs. Every dog is unique, and their tolerance for cold will vary greatly. Adult dogs have better cold resistance than puppies or seniors dogs, too.

Also consider weather conditions. On a frigid day that is otherwise clean and clear, your pooch may be just fine in weather a few degrees cooler than recommended. However, other factors such as a cold wind or blowing snow can mean waiting for warmer weather. And freezing rain can be particularly dangerous, so avoid going out in it at all.

It is also important to make sure your pooch is prepared for the weather. Dog boots will keep paws clean and warm, preventing ice buildup in between the toes. Dog coats help provide a toasty insulating barrier, too. Dress for the weather; from light sweaters, to arctic parkas, there are solutions for every temperature.

When venturing out during cold temperatures, keep a close eye on your dog. If they seem to be lifting their paws off the ground, this is a clear indication they are too cold. If they are shivering, then get them inside as fast as possible. Try not to stray too far from home, just in case you need to return in a hurry.

If you find your pooch is getting pent up at home during frigid winter conditions, try going outside for several small spurts throughout the day, if possible. To keep your dog engaged, challenged, and stimulated, try getting creative by teaching new tricks or playing games. For example, hide small treats throughout the home for a fun scavenger hunt, or try to learn a fun trick off YouTube. Extra snuggle time can also be a fun cure for the cold-weather blues. Always check weather warnings before taking your pooch out during the winter.

About Brandon Forder

Brandon holds multiple certifications in pet nutrition and canine psychology. He has more than twenty-five years experience specializing in pet nutrition, behaviour, and healthy pet lifestyles. Brandon has a lifelong passion for helping people become great pet parents. He has written hundreds of informative pet-related articles for newspapers, magazines, web, and radio.

15 Responses

  1. I have a 50-pound border collie/husky/shepherd mix with a relatively short coat, though he does have an undercoat. He is a tripawd, missing his rear left leg. Is he more prone to getting cold with a missing leg? I have to keep him lean because of his missing leg, so indoor treat games are limited. Do you have any other suggestions for indoor activities?

    1. Hello, Maureen. Thank you for your post.

      Absolutely, it’s thoughtful of you to consider the unique needs of your tri-pawed friend, especially given his breed mix and physical condition. Losing a limb can slightly alter a pet’s ability to regulate body temperature, as they have less body mass to generate warmth, and the missing limb could mean less mobility to generate heat through movement. This, coupled with his relatively short coat and undercoat, might make him more susceptible to feeling cold, particularly in cooler environments.

      Keeping him lean is indeed important for his mobility and overall health, so it’s great that you’re mindful of his treat intake. For indoor activities that don’t rely heavily on treats, you might consider:

      1. Puzzle Toys: There are many toys available that stimulate a dog’s mind without the need for constant treats. Some can be filled with a small amount of food to keep him engaged without overfeeding.
      2. Hide and Seek: This game can help keep him active and use his natural instincts. It can be played with his favorite toys or with you as the one to find.
      3. Tug-of-War: If he enjoys it and you can do so gently, tug-of-war can be a good way to engage his muscles without needing too much space or putting strain on his remaining legs.
      4. Training Sessions: Teaching new tricks or reinforcing old ones can be mentally stimulating and a great way to bond. Use positive reinforcement and break down treats into small, manageable pieces if you use them.
      5. Gentle Massage: Not an activity in the traditional sense, but gentle massage can help with circulation and provide comfort, especially in areas that might compensate for his missing limb.

      Always monitor his energy levels and comfort during these activities, adjusting as necessary to ensure he’s not overexerted. It’s also a good idea to consult with a vet or a pet rehabilitation specialist for personalized advice, considering his specific needs as a tripawd. They might offer insights into physical therapy exercises that can be done at home to keep him strong and healthy.

  2. Hello,
    I have a 3 year old Belgian Malanois. He is a rescue and doesn’t like his feet being touched, so putting on boots would be difficult. I think also trying to put a jacket on would be difficult as well, as he doesn’t even like when people go near his collar.
    He loves being outside and loves physical activity. We generally do a 20-30 minute walk in the mornings and then a few 10 minute ones throughout the day, like when I get home and before bed and such.
    What do I do in Alberta’s colder temperatures of -20 C and colder?

    1. Hello, Rachelle. Apologies for the late reply. Your post was flagged as spam by our system for some reason.

      At the beginning, most dogs do not like wearing boots. Depending on the dog’s disposition, getting them comfortable wearing boots can take some time… and patience. If you want to give it a go, the best approach is to begin by introducing boots and associating them with tasty treats. At first, your dog doesn’t even have to wear them, just get him comfortable having the boots near him. Let him sniff the boots and immediately reward him with a treat and/or praise. From there, you can begin putting the boots on him for short periods of time indoors. Keep the experience as positive as possible – that is key! Over time, with consistency, your dog may not love wearing boots but the goal is for him to at least tolerate wearing the boots. Distraction is also important – don’t let him think about the boots he is wearing. Treats and praise are a great distraction. If your pooch will still not adjust to wearing boots, you can consider a paw balm. While these products do not provide the same protection as a boot, they do help quite a bit compared to nothing at all. The same logic applies to jackets; start slow, stay positive, and be patient.

      When it comes to days that are really cold, keep the walks short. Instead, focus on indoor activities to keep your pooch stimulated. Enrichment activities will stimulate the mind and provide a constructive outlet for his pent-up energy. My favourite enrichment toys include the Chilly Penguin, and the Outward Hound Nina Ottosson puzzle toys.

      I hope this is helpful. Good luck!

  3. I have a 8 month old German Shepard and was wondering if in addition to boots, I should using a long jacket/sweater on her as well, for walks in the cold weather & at what temperatures the coat would be needed. I’m in Toronto and it gets pretty cold here

    1. Hello, Devi. Thank you for your post.

      Whether a dog needs a jacket or not is going to be dependent on the temperature, duration outdoors, and your dog’s coat. Many GSD’s have thick undercoats and may not need a jacket, whereas others are not so cold weather tolerant. If it is going to be very cold and you are going to be spending a good amount of time outdoors with your pooch, a coat is never a bad idea; you can always take it off if your pooch is too warm, too.

  4. I have a pomsky that’s 5 months old. She loves cold weather but with it being -35 with a wind chill I’m very concerned. She has boots and a coat as well but I’m worried about taking her out in this cold. I usually just let her out the back and make sure to play with her lots during the day.

  5. My dogs around 100 lbs pitbull mastiff mix but he’s more lean than chunky lately it’s been -20 and I’ve been holding back on taking him for walks and taking him out throughout the day around 10-15 min outside he almost starts limping like it’s cold for his paws but we come inside and he is okay I don’t have booties for him but considering getting some never noticed this behaviour before but he is getting older just want to make sure this is common during the cold temperatures he enjoys running around outside in the snow and burring his face sniffing underneath but it’s just his paws that seem to be the issue

    1. Hello, Hank. Thank you for posting.

      When it is cold outside, it is normal for many dogs to lift their paws. This can be due to a number of things: the temperature, ice and snow buildup in between the toes, salt and other irritants, etc. A decent set of well-fitted boots will provide a protective barrier to eliminate these issues, so give that some consideration if you find your pooch is regularly lifting his paws during winter walks.

      I hope this is helpful!

  6. It’s -30 C or -3F the high today is supposed to be 13F my Yorkie is 4 months old and I have boots, sweater and jacket for him. He has to wait another 7 days before walking on the street (he just had his last shots) so we go into my little garden and my long 40’ driveway. Is it to cold for him to go out today?

    1. Hello, Jean. Thank you for posting.

      If you have concerns that it may be too cold to have your dog outside, then it is probably too cold. It is best to stick to more frequent short outings than fewer, longer outings. When you are outside, pay close attention to your pooch and use sound judgement. You can always spend more time outdoors when the deep cold temperatures let up.

  7. thanks for the information. My 11 month old corgi doesn’t mind the cold too much but this morning it was minus 25degrees here in Ontario and he was lifting his paws when I took him out for his morning pee. So I knew what was wrong, as I’d just read about it in your post!

  8. Thank you for the information! I know how to prepare my dogs now. Both rescues are from Mexico, and have short hair.

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