Do Some Dogs Live Outside in the Winter?

You’ve probably known families who have owned dogs that don’t live inside the home. These backyard dogs were common in decades past, but these days, most dogs spend their days indoors. That begs the question: do some dogs live outside in the winter? In general, most dogs shouldn’t spend 100 percent of their time outdoors. Let’s talk about why.

How Cold is Too Cold?

When temperatures dip below freezing, it’s too cold for your dog to be outside for more than 15 minutes. Now, some dogs with thick, long coats bred for colder climates can withstand longer times outdoors, but as a rule, 15 minutes is safe.

Cold Weather Safety Tips for Your Dog

Unless you raise sledding dogs or other cold-weather work dogs, you should not make your dog live outdoors or spend extended periods of time outside during the cold season. If your dog does spend extended periods outside, then provide them with a dog house to escape the elements.

When it’s cold out, be sure to monitor your dog while they’re outside. In as little as 15 minutes, they may start to exhibit symptoms of hypothermia. Thicker, long-haired dogs will be able to bear the weather much better than short-haired, small dogs. You can increase your dog’s time outside by dressing them for the weather. A sweater and booties go a long way in helping your dog retain some of their natural heat. Boots also help your dog’s feet from becoming dry and cracked.

If you take daily walks, limit them to 15 minutes if the temperatures are below freezing. You don’t want your dog developing hypothermia or frostbite.

Here’s a brief summary of what we discussed above:

  • Put a coat or sweater on your dog
  • Keep walks to 15 minutes or less if the weather is below freezing
  • Don’t make your dogs live outside during the winter months
  • Keep potty breaks quick and less frequent

Signs Your Dog is Too Cold

If your dog spends too much time exposed during cold weather, they could begin to feel unwell. Signs your dog is too cold include: weakness, cowering, shaking, droopy ears, sleepiness, and tail tucked between their legs. These are early signs of hypothermia. If your dog is curled into a ball, they are too cold and trying to retain their body heat.

Just because your pups have fur coats doesn’t mean they belong outside all day. They need to spend time with their owners and are just as much at risk as humans of getting frostbite and hypothermia.

Do Some Dogs Live Outside in the Winter?

No dog should live outdoors 100 percent of the time. Old dogs and puppies are especially susceptible to illness in the cold and hot weather. So, it’s important to set reasonable expectations for time spent outdoors. Older dogs have a hard time regulating their body heat due to less muscle mass. That means when they come inside from cold weather, you should give them access to blankets so they can warm up faster.

If you decide to get a dog house for your yard, then make sure you set it up properly. The opening should be just big enough to let the dog pass in and out. The door should be aimed away from prevailing winds. Then, a dog house should be caulked and raised off the ground to prevent wind and water from entering. The bottom should be well insulated with either bedding or something like wood chips. The bedding should be checked daily to ensure it’s dry.

Last thing to note: if your dog likes being outdoors during the cooler weather, you should consider increasing their dietary intake by about 15 percent. This will make sure they have enough fat to fuel to protect their bodies and increase their ability to retain heat.

Have fun and be safe out there!

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