Brrrr…how cold is too cold for your dog to be outside?

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Brrrr...how cold is too cold for your dog to be outside?

If you live in a cold climate where it drops into the subzero temperatures, it’s important to use caution when letting your dog play outside.

Is it too cold for your dog to be outside? Here are some things to consider when thinking about this question, plus everything you need to know to ensure your pooch stays safe and comfortable this winter.

Is your dog used to cold weather?

No matter how big or small your dog is or how thick or thin her coat is, a top consideration for determining if she can handle the cold is whether or not she’s used to it.

A dog that has acclimated to frigid conditions will do a lot better in cold weather than a dog used to a mild or warm climate. Her body temperature and tolerance will adjust to the cold, equipping her to stay outside for longer periods.

Related: 5 tips for winter travel with your dog

Do you have a “cold weather” dog?

Some dogs are bred to handle cold weather better than others. Breeds like chihuahuas, Dalmatians and greyhounds that have slender builds and short hair are more vulnerable to cold weather. Once the temperature drops, you need to take precautions to keep them warm. Huskies, Malamutes and Bernese Mountain Dogs, on the other hand, are hardy breeds that weather low temperatures well.

How old is your dog?

Puppies and senior dogs are typically less able to tolerate the cold for long periods of time. Be extra cautious when letting your young or old canine play outside, and consider buying her a coat and boots for extra protection.

Look for signs that your dog is cold

If you start to see outward signs that your dog is struggling with the cold, take action immediately. Bring your dog inside and consider calling the vet if early indicators of hypothermia such as the ones below persist:

  • Low energy
  • Shivering
  • Staying close to the house
  • Acting oddly, barking or whining
  • Trying to keep paws off of the ground

Your dog may be okay outside for short periods

Just because you have a short-haired dog that doesn’t like the cold doesn’t mean you have to keep her inside all day. Fresh air is good for animals, so it’s a good idea to give your canine companion limited time outside during the winter. Take her on short walks when the sun is shining, and let her play in the yard for 5-10 minute intervals so she can relieve herself and stretch her legs.

Related: The best ways to treat cracked paw pads

Keep her indoors during dangerous weather

Of course, if the weather takes a turn for the worse, both you and your pup should remain indoors. Blizzards are the perfect excuse to warm up somewhere cozy inside with your dog, and it’s okay to skip the daily walks when there is heavy snowfall, violent winds, or when conditions are extremely icy. Instead, play some indoor games to keep her occupied, and take her to a sheltered spot just outside your house for necessary potty breaks.

Final thoughts

If you are keeping an eye on your dog and monitoring her behavior to see how she reacts to the cold, you will be able to determine when it’s time to bring her inside. If you aren’t sure, err on the side of caution!