Skip to main content

Everything you need to keep your dog active in the cold: The ultimate winter weather safety guide

What your dog needs for winter when outdoors in the cold

As humans, we have an idea of when the temperatures are about to dip. The weather person may bat .200 when it comes to predicting snow, but they’re usually pretty on point when it comes to letting us know about chilly weather.




5 minutes

What You Need

  • Dehumidifier

  • Leash

  • Outerwear (dog sweater or coat)

  • Dog booties

  • Paw balm

  • Treats

  • Toys

Our dogs don’t have the same luxury of weather reports. They know the weather outside has gotten frightful the moment you open the door and a cold, arctic blast hits — not nips — their cute little noses. Some dogs, such as huskies, were built for winter. Their long coats and DNA make them winter-ready canines. However, your Chihuahua may not share the same sentiment. Even dogs that love the outdoors, like Labradors and beagles, have shorter fur and may not appreciate Jack Frost.

It’s still important to get your dog physical activity and use the facilities. Here’s what dogs need for winter weather.

A German shepherd fetching a stick in the snow
abid adeel / Shutterstock

Keep your dog safe and healthy in cold weather

You want to keep your pooch as comfortable and healthy as possible when taking them outside in the cold, snow, and ice. These tips can help keep them warm and prevent pesky issues like dryness and chills before and after walks.

Step 1: Consider your dog.

No two dogs are alike, and some pups need more help during the cooler months. A husky can probably go out in most weather without many precautions, but your short-haired terrier may need more assistance. Additionally, a senior dog that isn’t as sure on their feet or one with a condition like hip dysplasia may have more trouble on the ice.

Step 2: Check the temperature.

As a general rule of thumb, if it’s too cold for you to be outside for long periods, it’s too cold for your dog. If you’re letting them out in the backyard, be sure to let them back in after they’ve done their business if it’s freezing.

Step 3: Run a dehumidifier.

Dehumidifiers keep human skin from losing moisture in the dry heat caused by indoor heating. They can do the same for your pet. Dry paws and itchiness can make your pet less likely to want to stay active, so mitigating these seemingly benign issues can give them one less reason to be a couch potato.

Step 4: Engage in post-walk cleanups.

Dry ice can cause paw irritation, so wipe their paws with a cloth and warm water when you come inside.

Step 5: Take a bath break.

A warm bath on a cold day may feel like the perfect Rx. However, bathing too frequently can reduce the essential oils needed to keep your dog’s skin moist and healthy. Stick to about once per month or every six weeks during the winter to avoid irritation that may make it harder for your pet to move and stay healthy outside.

A Yorkie in a red sweater
Image used with permission by copyright holder

What dogs need for winter weather

Your dog has a fur coat, but some dogs can benefit from a little extra. Consider gifting your pup one or more of the following this holiday season to prepare for the cold weather ahead.

  • A sweater or coat. A cozy sweater or waterproof coat can provide an extra layer for your pet and keep them cozy during outdoor winter walks.
  • Booties. If your four-legged friend will wear them, booties can protect paws against dry ice and other irritants.
  • Paw balms. Balms help keep your pet’s paws from getting dry, cracked, and irritated. Note that cleaning with warm water is still essential.

Remember, if your dog isn’t into the sweater or booties, it may be best not to bother, especially if it’s preventing them from wanting to go outside. The point is to help them stay active outside and not give them another reason to pull you back indoors.

A brown dog in the snow
Image used with permission by copyright holder

How to entice your dog to go out in the cold

It may be too cold for a trip to the dog park or a long walk in a winter wonderland, but your pet likely still needs to brave the cold weather to potty. Here’s what to do if your dog isn’t having it.

Step 1: Lean into training.

Basic commands, like "come," can remind your dog to follow your lead.

Step 2: Find a dry patch.

If snow is preventing your dog from going outside and you can pick them up, do so. Find (or clear) a patch, bring your dog to it, and have them do their business. You may need to pick them up again to go inside.

Step 3: Praise your pup.

Keep it positive. Remember, your dog isn’t trying to be annoying — they're cold and maybe a little scared. Give them plenty of praise as they slowly make their way outside.

Step 4: Give your dog a treat.

Try to entice your dog by throwing or leading them outside with a treat. Treat them again when they use the facilities and when they come back inside. (Though the best treat may be a snuggle session with you.)

Step 5: Keep it short.

Let them do their business and go back inside. Now isn’t the time to push a long walk if your dog is too cold. There are other ways to stay active during the winter, like playing indoor fetch or tug of war.

Many dogs, like humans, don't love going out in the cold. However, they likely can’t hibernate indoors all winter. Many dogs are housetrained to potty outside. Items like sweaters or coats and booties can keep them warm and protect against the elements.

Short walks are best this time of year, particularly for short-haired or senior dogs or pets with health conditions. You can continue to ensure your pet gets physical and mental stimulation in other ways, such as rousing play sessions indoors. Try throwing the ball down the hall, playing tug of war, or engaging in short training refreshers.

Editors' Recommendations

BethAnn Mayer
Beth Ann's work has appeared on and In her spare time, you can find her running (either marathons…
Why do dogs’ anal glands fill up? Here’s what to know
How often you may need to take your pup to the vet to relieve this issue
A small dog sits on the table at a vet office

In pet ownership, as in all life, you run into hurdles. Some dogs never have an issue with their anal glands, but they can come as a surprise to even veteran owners who suddenly see or smell something off. Unfortunately, you'll quickly discover how difficult (and gross) these little sacs can be. But dogs with particularly tricky bathroom issues will require a little maintenance and extra attention to the butt area.
What are anal glands?
There's no delicate way to say this: They're two smallish glands on either side of your pet's butthole. From an evolutionary perspective, the anal glands give off a unique scent, and the idea is that it acts as a canine's signature. Anal glands aren't analogous to anything we have as humans, so definitely don't worry about your own body expressing anything like this. However, many pups wind up having issues in this department and find themselves unable to empty them on their own.
Why do dogs' anal glands fill up?
Certain underlying problems, like obesity and poor diet, might make a dog more susceptible to gland issues. Smaller breeds also tend to struggle a bit more since their whole area is more compact. You may find your pooch expressing their own glands, licking the area, or scooting. That means it's time for an inspection.

How do you prevent anal gland issues?
Talk to your vet about what could be causing Fido's difficulties, as it can vary, but generally, you'll want to look at how much food and exercise they're getting. Additionally, a supplement, like a probiotic, will frequently take care of the issue. This works mostly by firming up the poop but can also introduce good bacteria to his gut.

Read more
Wondering how to keep cat warm in cold weather – here are 9 effective ways to help your pet stay toasty
Try these tricks to keep your cat from being cold
A Maine Coon cat reaches his snow-covered paw toward the camera.

There are many reasons why your feline fur baby should remain exclusively indoors, but it's all the more important to keep your cat inside during the winter months. A blanket of snow may look stunning, but it makes it difficult for outdoor kitties to find their way home. The potential for accidents also increases due to decreased visibility and the presence of black ice.

Even if your cat stays indoors all the time, you'll still need to take extra steps to keep her warm during the cool weather. Some homes are naturally drafty, and with snow and ice accumulating on utility lines, the chance of power outages increases as well. Wondering how to keep cats warm in cold weather? Here are nine useful tips to get you started. 

Read more
Why do you often find your dog with their tongue out? Here’s what vets say about the ‘blep’
This behavior may be cute, but what does it really mean?
A German shepherd puppy sticks out their tongue

There's nothing cuter than a "blep" but what does it mean? Whether you first heard the term blep on the internet (it is meme-worthy, after all), or are learning of it for the first time, you're in for a treat. Bleps are positively adorable. The term started gaining online traction in the late 2010s, though it's no less popular today. The common canine behavior it's based on, however, is a habit as old as time: sticking out a tongue. Yep, a dog with its tongue out is enough to break the internet!

It's pretty dang cute, after all, but it's not always easy to figure out why a dog's tongue is sticking out. Don't worry though, pet parents — this is a great place to start. This is everything you need to know about bleps and what they mean.

Read more