The cold weather a few weeks ago lead me to think about the safety of the dogs when they were running around outside. Would their coats alone protect them? How long could they stay outside without it being dangerous? I also knew that I wasn’t the only pet parent trying to answer these questions. All over the internet, there were wild pictures of the Great Lakes freezing over, frost in people’s well insulated houses and pictures of the carnage in garage refrigerators. If the weather wasn’t safe for us, it isn’t safe for the pups. Let’s talk about cold weather safety for dogs.
So how long is too long to be outside in sub-zero temperatures? Simply put, it varies by breed and coat type.
Double Coated Breeds
In our house, Daisy is notorious for staying outside as long as we will let her. Not much stops her fun. Her favorite time of year is the winter because she loves running and digging in the snow. Daisy is half beagle and half shiba inu. Luckily, she inherited the shiba inu coat. This breed’s coat thick. Similar to breeds like huskies, the shiba inu has what is called a dual layered coat. This basically means that she has a soft underlayer coat which keeps her insulated in cold temperatures and a protective outer coat which repels dirt, water, etc. It’s great because she is always the cleanest dog in the house.
Wire Coat Breeds
Dexter is the opposite! He is a small dog with a thin coat. He starts to get cold when it is 45 degrees Fahrenheit. Surely this weather is going to be too much for him. Thankfully, we already have a thick coat for him to wear to cover up the core of his body and some booties to keep his feet warm. In this case, it was just enough for him to go outside, do his business and run back inside.
Smooth Coat Breeds
The dog I was concerned about was Pepper. Her coat is definitely made for the summer. I also knew for a fact that she was going to want to keep up and play with Daisy. Her recall would definitely be tested here. So we put a coat similar to Dexter’s but much bigger and let her out. We didn’t want to take any chances so we broke out the high value treats (hot dogs in this case). When she had done her business and had a chance to expel some energy we called her back in.
When each dog came back inside, we’d take a towel with warm water and wiped their paws down. This would both clean their paws and warm their paws back up. This is especially important when we would walk them outside. Our sidewalks were covered in salt. The chemicals they use in the salt can irritate dog paws and we didn’t want any sore paws!
Ultimately, I think the Ontario SPCA sums things up perfectly, “If it’s too cold for you to go outside, it’s too cold for your pet!” Know the signs of distress in cold weather:
- Picking paws up
- Hiding (somewhere they might think is warmer than the elements)
As soon as you see any of these signs, take play time back inside. When bad weather strikes and we can’t play outside, I always find mentally stimulating games to be the best ways to avoid boredom but this is for another story!