Keeping up with the theme of cold weather tips for walking dogs, I thought I’d answer the question that I’ve been asked at least 20 times in the last couple weeks:
Unfortunately, there isn’t one perfect answer for this. I don’t 100% buy the whole “if it’s too cold for you, it’s too cold for your dog” theory. And no matter how cold you feel, your dog still needs exercise during the winter.
After talking to a few veterinarians in Elmhurst and Lombard, I’ve come to a few generalized guidelines.While there’s not one right answer for an exact safe outdoor temperature for your dog, here are some tips to keep in mind:
Your dog’s age, breed, and health are all major factors as well. Remember that puppies and elder dogs are much more sensitive to the cold weather because their bodies can’t regulate their body temps well. If it’s below freezing, these dogs should be taken outside to eliminate only.
Different breeds have better tolerance to winter weather. While no dog should be left out in the cold alone, breeds like German Shepherds, St. Bernards, and Akitas have thick coats that help protect them from the elements. Small dogs and short-haired dogs need a sweater or jacket for the added protection and warmth.
Any physical conditions like arthritis or hip dysplasia will only be aggravated by the cold. Keep pets with these conditions inside where it’s warm.
The best piece of advice I can give you is to know your dog - pay attention to the signals they are giving you. If they are shivering, standing in a hunched position, lifting their paw(s) off the ground, or giving you verbal cues (like whining or barking); bring them inside. More serious signs are things like lethargy, weakness, or slowed breathing which are all signs of hypothermia. Keep an eye out for frostbite as well. The most common places this will effect is their tail, paws, and ear tips. If they are turning pale or blue, get your dog to a veterinarian.
Bottom line, don’t let the cold weather keep your dog from getting exercise. You may have to limit your regular walk to only 5 or 10 minutes, but make sure to get them outside even if it’s just for a little bit when the weather is appropriate. If the weather isn’t cooperative, make sure they are getting sufficient potty breaks and find other activities indoors to keep their minds and bodies active.
John started the Dogs Love Running! pet care service in 2008 to help dogs live longer and behave better. The DLR! team has since helped over 2,000 clients and completed over 225,000 pet care visits. We love dogs!