4 min read


Can Dogs Live Outside in the Winter?



4 min read


Can Dogs Live Outside in the Winter?


You likely know or have known, someone in your life or a friend's life that has had an outdoor dog, meaning the dog lives outside and does not live in the family's home. An outside or backyard dog used to be quite popular, but this is generally becoming a thing of the past since we now know there are risks associated with keeping your dog outside at all times. 

Whether or not you agree with this or not, you may have wondered whether a dog can live outside in the winter. Overall, dogs should never live outside in the cold winter months. Read on to find out why!


Signs of a Dog Being Too Cold Outside

Dogs get cold too! When it is very cold outside - even snowing, your dog is at risk if they spend too much time outdoors in the elements. There are a few signs you need to look out for in order to tell if your dog is getting too cold outside in the winter weather. 

If your dog begins to shiver or tremble after being in a cold environment for too long, take this as a sign they are getting too cold and should come inside to warm up. You want to avoid them getting frostbite at all costs because this can be extremely dangerous and can lead to amputation if it is bad enough. 

If you also find that your dog is sleeping more than they should be and they have been outside for too long, they may be in the beginning phases of hypothermia. Similarly, lethargy and weak and tired muscles can be a sign your dog is feeling too chilly. 

Take notice if your dog is curled into a ball as well. This suggests they are trying to use whatever remaining body heat they have to warm their body up. Trying to hide away someplace or seek shelter from the elements outside should also let you know that your dog is much too cold. 

Body Language

These are some signs your may notice if your dog is too cold:

  • Shaking
  • Cowering
  • Weakness
  • Dropped Ears
  • Tail Tucking
  • Sleepiness

Other Signs

Here are some other signs you might notice if your dog is too cold:

  • Cold Body And Restlessness
  • Very Dry And Itchy Skin
  • Whining And Whimpering
  • Signs Of Frostbite

History of Dogs Living Outside in the Winter


Wolves and undomesticated dogs would live outside during all season, of course, including the cold and harsh winter months. People today often justify a dog's ability to live outside during the winter since wolves are able to. However, this comparison is faulty. 

Thousands of years ago, wolves and undomesticated dogs were able to live outside because they have extremely thick and dense fur coats. They would also prepare themselves for the cold months by eating more food and gaining more weight and insulation to keep them warmer. Wolves also sleep in their pack very close to each other so they have the warmth of body heat to keep them warm during these cold months. 

Today, dogs generally have shorter and less dense coats, unless the breed is a long-haired and double coated one. Even still, these dogs do not have the necessary experience with dealing with such cold temperatures.

Furthermore, the owners likely do not try and bulk up the dog's weight before entering into the winter season - this means the dog does not have extra insulation to keep them warmer. It is also likely the dog is not able to sleep with a large pack of other dogs outside, so they also do not have the body heat for warmth when they are sleeping. 

Science Behind Why Dogs Should Not Live Outside in the Winter


Domesticated dogs are not meant to live outside and be left alone all the time, especially when it is very cold outside. Their bodies are not used to being outside in the cold for extended periods of time and there is no reason a dog should be living outside during any season. 

Dogs are social and crave human attention and interaction most of the time and leaving them alone will only set them up for a life of loneliness and frustration. 

Just because dogs have fur coats, it doesn't mean they are immune to the cold weather. In fact, dogs can still suffer from frostbite and hypothermia as well. As a general rule of thumb, if it is too cold outside for your then it is too cold outside for your dog. Time outside should be limited to only short walks and potty trips. 

How to Keep Your Dog Safe During the Winter


Firstly, do not make your beloved dog stay outside during the winter. Even providing a dog house and blankets will not keep them warm enough. Bring them inside where they have a nice, warm house to live in, eat, and sleep. Plus, they are really going to thank you for the love and interaction they will get on a daily basis. 

You also want to take precautions if you take your dog for walks or let them outside to go potty in the winter as well. When temperatures become close to freezing your dog can feel the ill effects the harsh weather in a little as 15 minutes. Therefore, you must make sure you are taking care of your dog properly. 

Thick and long-haired dogs are going to do better in the cold and snow than if you have a short-haired dog or smaller dog. If your dog has a less thick and shorter coat, it is always a good idea to have them wear a puppy jacket to keep them warmer when they are going to the bathroom or if you take them on a walk. Doggy boots are also a great idea because they keep your dog's feet warm, dry, and snow will not ball up on their foot fur. Boots will also prevent your dog's paw pads from cracking and becoming too dry. This is particularly important if you take your dogs for short walks in the cold. 

If you walk your dog in the winter, make sure your walks are short and try to do them during the warmest part of the day, particularly if the sun is shining. If it is below 32 degrees, you should limit your walks to only 15 minutes. This will make sure your dog does not get too cold or have the chance to develop frostbite or hypothermia. 

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Safety Tips for Taking Your Dog Outside in the Winter:

  1. Put a doggy coat on your pooch.
  2. Limit potty breaktimes outside.
  3. Limit walks to 15 minutes or less.
  4. Don't make them live outside in the winter.

By a Samoyed lover Kayla Costanzo

Published: 04/15/2018, edited: 04/06/2020

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