A general rule of thumb is if it is too cold for you, it’s too cold for the dog. But make sure you looking at weather fairly. “Don’t want to” and “too cold” can be two different things. It is important for your dog get some physical activity even in the winter.
The flip side is if you have an active and enthusiastic dog, it is still you, not the dog, who needs to decide when to go out. I can tell you there is nothing more embarrassing than carrying your heavy 60 lb dog down the block because he refuses to put paws on the ground because it’s too cold. No seriously, I can tell you, just embarrassing. Your neighbors will not let you live it down!
But enough about my lessons. Some others things to look at when deciding when is cold “too cold” including weather conditions, the dog’s breed and type of coat, her age, and any health conditions.
Breed and coat
You have to get information about your dog’s breed and his or her tolerance to weather. For instance, huge Bullmastiffs shouldn’t be out in very hot or very cold weather. Even Alaskan Huskies shouldn’t be left out in the cold too long unless you know how to work with dogs in cold for sledding, etc. (For instance, dogs that spend a lot of time in the cold need a slightly different diet.)
In general, dogs that are double coated (they have an undercoat of fur for the winter) are good in the cold and snow are good for up to 30 minutes. Many single coat dogs should wear a sweater or jacket. The length of a dog’s coat does not give an indication of how well they can stand the cold. King Charles Spaniels have very long coats, but this dog is cut out for the cold weather and can stay in most days in the winter (but you should include some type of playtime indoors).Get more information on your dog’s breed from your vet or look up information about the breed on a dog book or Web sites like Wikipedia.com.
Very young or very old dogs should stay in if the weather is close to or below freezing. Again breed matters. Puppies and older dogs have trouble regulating their body temperature. If the weather is under 40 degrees, consider a dog sweater or jacket and booties. And keep in mind, both are more prone to injuries on slippery surfaces, puppies due to lack of coordination and older dogs due to loss of flexibility.
With conditions like arthritis or hip dysplasia, for his comfort, it’s better to keep the dog inside if the temperature falls under 40. Check with your vet about any conditions your dog has.
|Dog shoes are not silly! They keep your dog’s feet warm and dry and prevent salt and other ice-melting chemicals from getting on her paws or between her toes. You can find affordable pairs like these online.|
Just because your dog does not want to go out doesn’t mean she should stay in. Use your judgment more than the dog’s. If the weather is appropriate (not bitterly cold, not very wet), get the dog outside, even if for a short while. It is still important to get some physical activity even in the winter. When walking in the cold, you still want to consider safety as well, especially for the feet. Also check out “ Winterize Your Dog”.
So How Cold Is Cold?
It also depends on who you are asking. After talking with my and three other local vets, I compiled these guidelines.
|Generally, many healthy medium or large size dog can walk for up to 30 minutes as long as it’s above 20 degrees F (-7 C). For smaller dogs, cut the time to 15 or 20 minutes for temps above 20 F/ -7 C. Below 0 F / -18 C, everybody stays in. But you need to include in other factors.
The bottom line, don’t hibernate just because it’s cold. Get outside even for a little bit when it is appropriate for your dog’s breed, age, and health condition.
For more information on knowing when it’s cold–or too hot–to walk, check out this Android app Walk the Dog? on Google Play.
Originally published Jan 20, 2009, updated September 30, 2012.