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How to Keep Your Dog Safe and Warm in Winter

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The winter season is only a few weeks away, and for dog owners in colder climates this means frigid temperatures, snow, ice and other elements that can potentially be harmful for pups. Proper precaution, however, will ensure your dog stays safe and warm during the season.

Research the breed

Take some time to research the needs of your dog’s breed. Small dogs and those with thin coats need extra attention and often have specific requirements for care in the cold. Even Arctic breeds like Siberian Huskies and Malamutes – breeds that prefer the cold weather – still need winter TLC. Make sure you do your homework.

Doggy’s first winter

For puppies, dogs that have moved from warmer regions and rescue dogs adopted into colder climates, the temperature and elements of winter can take some getting used to. At first limit your dog’s time outside and see how they react. Some dogs adjust immediately. Others need some time to process the change. There’s one guarantee, though: Seeing your dog’s first reaction to snow is sure to be entertaining!

Staying warm outside

Keeping dogs warm is imperative to their health. Never leave indoor dogs outside unattended for long periods of time during frigid months. Also, don’t forget that dogs can get frostbite, too. Tails and tips of the ears are the most susceptible body parts, and the longer they are, the greater the risk.

And even though they have built-in coats, dogs – especially small ones – sometimes need extra warmth in the form of a doggy jacket or sweater and booties. They may not like wearing them at first, so use positive reinforcement training to encourage acceptance.

If you have an outdoor dog, make sure they have some sort of shelter that is warm and dry. If the weather is exceptionally cold, be sure to bring them inside.

One last thing: When you bathe your dog, make sure he is 100% dry before you let him outside.

Watch the water

Be extra vigilant when your dog is near rivers, lakes and ponds, especially when the temperature is around freezing (32° F, 0° C). The ice can be thin and your dog could fall through! And remember, areas with strong currents don’t freeze even if the temperature is well below freezing. Always be on guard and don’t let your dog out of your sight.

Exercise changes

Getting enough exercise for your dog is challenging at any time, but even more so in winter. To start, shorten the length of your walk. Better to take two short walks than one long where both you and your dog experience prolonged exposure.

You can exercise inside, too. Clear the area and engage in games like fetch and tug-of-war, or run up and down the stairs. Dog daycare is also a great solution for exercise. Spots fill up quickly in the winter, so be sure to call ahead and reserve space.

Beware of dangerous substances

As benign (and cute) as it may seem, eating snow can be dangerous for dogs. You never know what chemicals are in there, and the temperature may cause an upset stomach or even hypothermia.

Exposure to Antifreeze increases significantly in the winter, so be vigilant and keep it out of reach. It tastes sweet and yummy to pets, but even a small dose can kill them! If you think your dog has eaten Antifreeze, take him to the vet immediately.

Lastly, if your dog does not wear booties outside, be sure to clean his paws regularly. The snow and salt from the roads can be quite irritating.

The list may seem overwhelming, but with simple precautions and good common sense your dog is sure to have an enjoyable and safe winter!

jessitobyJessi Klein is co-creator of My Dog’s Name (, a fun and easy-to-use website to help you find the perfect dog name. She lives is Minneapolis and is proud mom to Toby, a yellow/red Labrador Retriever who is too smart for his own good. 

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Beth Leatherman Harwell

Sunday 17th of November 2013

Thanks for this timely reminder. All too often we see pets who live out of doors. Lots of education is needed to teach them the reasons dogs should not live outside 24/7. In the meantime, access to a doghouse and straw or some other form of bedding to give a little warmth is essential.

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