a woman and her husky dog playing in the snow

Cold Weather Safety Tips for Dogs

Updated November 4, 2017 . AmFam Team

When you’re walking your dog in winter, some dog breeds need to be bundled up more than others. But, what’s the best answer for your dog? Get in the know about how to protect your pup this winter with these great tips.

If you bundle your pup for below-freezing temperatures, sleet and snow — good move! You’re taking steps to ensure your furry friend stays warm and healthy during the winter. But did you know there are other threats that the cold weather brings? We’ve pulled together a list of ways you can do even more to make your family dog comfortable in cold weather.

Dog Breed, Hair Length and Other Factors

Even if some dog breeds fair better when the weather gets chilly, most furry friends deal with the cold in their own way. Factors like body fat, hair length and health can all effect your pet’s ability to brave the wind chill. Here are some key points on keeping your family dog safe when they’re out and about during wintertime.

Stay aware. We all have our limits — and dogs are no different. When it’s too cold for you, it’s likely too cold for your dog. Get inside and warm up with your pup when the cold gets to be too much.

Aching joints hurt more. As dogs age, some breeds are more prone to suffer from hip and joint problems. And just like us, the cold can make it tough to get around in the chilly months. So take it slower and give your dog more time to get nimble.

Clean the paws. One of the reasons to remove the snow between toes is it can contain salt and de-icing chemicals, which are not good for your dog’s skin. Gently washing your pup’s feet and belly should remove these chemicals and any last bits of snow and ice. Clean off the mess with baby wipes or a wet towel.

Keep an Eye on the Weather Forecast

Many factors come into play when trying to outfit your dog for a winter walk. The best answer is to look at the current weather forecast so you’ll know the wind chill and level of dampness out there. This way, you’ll be able to dress your pup well.

Winter wear. Short-haired dogs are not designed for cold weather and can really benefit from a sweater or a jacket that protects their core from the cold.

Buy the booties. Your dog’s pads are fragile. These are areas that can easily dry out and crack in winter. If you can get them to wear booties — go for it! It may take time for them to get used to the feel. If not, try rubbing their pads with petroleum jelly before walks, which can save their feet some wear and tear.

Your Dog, Winter Weather and Indoor Life

With the heat on, the air inside can get dry. And that can spell trouble for the canine in your life. Take a look at these ideas to help your pup cope with indoor life during winter.

Bathe dogs less. While you’re cleaning their feet more, you’ll actually want to be bathing them less. Removing the essential oils from their coat leaves their skin less protected. If you must bathe your dog, ask your vet for recommendations on moisturizing products.

Skip the shave. Fur is nature’s way of protecting your dog from the elements. Let fur do its job and skip the regular shave in the winter. That long hair will help insulate your pup and you can always cut it come the warmer weather. If your pet has long hair, you may want to do just a little trimming to prevent it from dragging on the ground and picking up excess snow.

More food and water. Pets burn energy to stay warm, which means they can benefit from a few more calories and added water in winter. For more great tips on what to feed your dog, and what foods dogs should not eat, take a look at our section on pets and food safety.

Keep it moist. The dry air can affect your dog’s skin just like it does yours. Keeping your home humidified helps avoid itchy, flaky skin. Their eyes will benefit from the moisture too.

Keep them cozy. Check your pet’s bed and favorite resting places to make sure they’re warm and away from drafts. Give them bedding options too — they’ll be glad to have choices about where to sleep.

And the best tip of all: give them lots of love! Hugging and petting your dog lets you share body heat and you’ll both benefit from the closeness.

Now that you know how to keep your pup warm this winter, learn more about homeowners insurance and dogs. And check in with your American Family Insurance agent (Opens in a new tab) to be sure you’re getting all you can from your homeowners policy. Your agent can help get you the coverage that best protect your family and your pets.

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