Cold Weather Safety for Your Dog

Brought to you by the AKC GoodDog! Helpline – the AKC’s 7-day-a-week training support service
by Hilarie Erb, AKC GoodDog! Helpline Trainer

Hot-weather safety issues get a lot of attention and rightly so. But very cold temperatures can be dangerous for dogs too. It can be less obvious when a dog is experiencing discomfort or even injury because of cold weather.

Even when dogs appear to be having a wonderful time playing in the snow, owners need to watch them carefully and limit time outside. If you need to wear a big warm coat, your dog needs special care too. Some things to remember in the winter:

  • Outdoor housing: Ideally, your dog lives and sleeps indoors. If he must stay outside for extended periods, provide a wind-proof doghouse with a heated bed (there are ones designed for dogs; heating pads designed for human indoor use are unsafe). Straw makes a warmer insulator than blankets.
  • Water: Dogs need to drink just as much in the winter as in the summer. When your dog is outside in freezing temperatures, provide a heated bowl designed to keep the water from freezing so that it is always available to her.
  • Grooming: Even breeds with lots of hair need consideration. Paws can be injured by ice, salt, and chemicals and ears can be frostbitten. In snow, long-haired dogs can get build-up of ice chunks on their under-carriage and legs, which can become painful, similar to matted hair. Pay attention when your dog is in the snow, and bring him in before this happens. When you bring the dog indoors, use a hair dryer (low temperature!) to melt any ice away.
  • Boots: Look into dog booties. At first it might be a challenge getting your dog used to wearing them, but if you walk your dog on city sidewalks frequently, they can be invaluable for protecting paws. Keep hair between the toes trimmed; this will help to prevent painful ice build-up between them.
  • Clean Paws: If wearing booties isn’t an option, have a bucket of warm soapy water, towels and wipes near the door for cleaning paws when coming in from walks. This is important not just for cleanliness, but to remove any de-icing chemicals that the dog might lick off later.
  • Coats: A good-fitting coat will be appreciated by many dogs. Even those with a fair amount of hair will be happier wearing one when the weather is very cold. For dogs with little or no coat and low body fat – Whippets and Chihuahuas, for example – a coat it is a necessity.
  • The Young and Old: Consider your dog’s age. Senior dogs and young puppies are less able to regulate their temperature. Make sure they are well protected and carefully watched for signs of discomfort. We are not always good at noticing what they are telling us, and by the time a dog is shivering, he is very uncomfortable.

There is a lot of fun to be had outdoors in the winter, and most dogs do handle cold weather better than extremely hot temperatures. Just remember to look out for your dog’s well-being. It’s up to you to know when to come in from the cold.

Join the AKC GoodDog! Helpline TODAY at the discount price of $59.99 – $20 off the regular fee. This provides lifetime training support for your dog. No renewals ever necessary.

For more tips and advice on training your dog, join the AKC GoodDog! Helpline, a seven-day-a-week telephone support service staffed by experienced dog trainers: www.akcgooddoghelpline.org.

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