Can I Keep My Dog Outdoors in the Winter?

Depending on where you live, the winter months of December, January and February can be mild and delightful, or several months of sheer survival (like Omaha, Nebraska where Sergeant’s is headquartered). If you live in an area that experiences brutal weather extremes, keeping your pet outdoors may not be a good idea. Here’s a checklist to help you determine whether your dog can stay outdoors in cold winter weather.

1)   Is your dog “designed” for cold weather? In other words, do you own a dog that is adapted to living in cold and/or snow? If you own a dog with a short coat, such as a weimeraner or Dalmatian, the answer is no. Likewise, toy dogs should not be kept outdoors. However, if you own a dog like a Siberian Husky, Malamute or Chow, their specially-designed coat will help them endure extreme temperatures.

2)   Make your dog’s coat is properly groomed and brushed. Matted hair does not insulate as well. Try our popular Fur-So-Fresh 2-Sided Pin/Bristle Brush, which is designed to keep your dog’s coat healthy and shiny. Also be sure to check your dog’s paws to ensure that snow and ice are not building up between the pads, which can lead to sores and infection.

3)   If you have a long-haired breed and you have clipped your dog’s coat short, you’ve taken away his protection and you need to keep him sheltered until his coat is entirely grown back.

4)   Do you have adequate shelter for your dog? Many pet parents prefer to keep their beloved pets indoors and close to the family. However, many hunting, herding and working dogs are kept outdoors. These animals must have shelter from inclement weather. (Note: An overturned 50-gallon barrel is not considered adequate.) Your dog should have access to an outbuilding that protects them from moisture and wind; or have an insulated, waterproof doghouse that provides a storm flap. It is recommended that doghouses have a sloped roof and plenty of warm, dry bedding. Dogs should have enough room to enter, turn around completely and curl up. If the shelter is too big, it will be difficult to retain heat.

5)   In the event of exceptionally bitter weather, consider providing indoor shelter, such as inside a barn, for your outdoor dogs.

6)   Puppies should never be kept outdoors in cold weather. They do not have adequate coats to protect them from the cold, and their body’s ability to regulate heat is not fully developed. While curling up with mom and their littermates may help, if Mom leaves, so does their primary heat source!

7)   Be sure to keep an eye on your dog for signs that the cold may be too intense. Just as with humans, shivering is a sign that cold is getting to your dog. Also watch for signs of frostbite. A good rule of thumb is, “If in doubt, don’t leave them out.”

8)   Cold weather is extremely hard for older dogs. Animals with osteoarthritis may need to be moved indoors, or provide with heated beds to help with achy joints and sore muscles. Consider providing your older pet with supplements  especially designed to help with these conditions.

Most dog experts agree that dogs left outdoors, especially those that are chained, tend to have more behavioral problems and are more likely to bite. As “pack animals,” our dogs are happiest with us, indoors. Unless your dog truly is a “working” dog that is acclimated to cold weather, keep your dog with you, regardless of the weather.

-Photo Credit: From flickr by pugetsoundphotowalks

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

  • Print
  • email