How to Prepare & Dress Your Dog for Winter

Dog with scarf and winter background.You either understand it or you don’t: the relationship between a dog and its owner. Dogs alert us, guard us, track for us, hunt for us, and serve as companions to us. Dogs descended from wolves, but we domesticated them. Therefore, they no longer know how to care for themselves as they did in the wild. We shower dogs with love. We feed them choice dog food. We make sure they receive the finest medical care. Often, we pile them up in our own beds. Many even view their pets as family members. Regardless of whether we see our dogs as part of our families or as our precious companions, it is our responsibility to care for them and to keep them safe and happy. In the wintertime, this can be especially problematic as cold temperatures set in; however, there are some helpful tips for making sure your dog is prepared for the change in weather.

Preventing Winter Health Risks in Dogs

Here are a few ways to help prevent health risks in dogs this winter.


Remaining out in freezing temperatures for any significant period of time can cause your dog to get frostbite. This occurs when blood is redirected to vital organs from the outermost extremities, such as the paws, ears, and tail. This is because of the natural process of the dog’s body trying to keep it alive by protecting these vital organs. This loss of blood flow can cause tissue damage in your dog’s outer extremities. The American Kennel Club, or AKC, says a good rule of thumb is if it is too cold for people, it is probably too cold for your dog.


A dog’s body temperature is normally 100–101°F. Once the process of diverting blood from the paws, tail, ears, and nose area is not enough to normalize the processes of the dog’s internal organs and their bodies begin to fall below this temperature, their internal systems begin to slow and cease performing their critical functions in the dog’s body. Shivering is an involuntary response indicating the dog is trying to warm itself. If the dog remains compromised, its breathing will slow down, as will its heart rate, and eventually, it will end up falling into a coma. Should you suspect your dog may be suffering from this condition, which is called hypothermia, you’ll need to warm it immediately, but carefully. Warm blankets or heating pads, even hot water bottles, will work, but don’t try to do it too quickly or with too much heat, as a dog’s skin burns quite easily. Wet animals will develop hypothermia more quickly. A temperature-controlled environment is necessary for your dog to be safe.

Noticing If Your Dog is Cold

Not all dogs are greatly affected by cold weather. Dogs like Great Pyrenees are bred specifically for working in cold weather. However, Chihuahuas are small, have short hair, and thin coats. This and other breeds, like German Shorthaired Pointers, are the types of dogs quite susceptible to cold weather. Special diligence is required to keep them safe. You’ll be able to tell if your dog is cold. The following are some signs that your dog is cold.

  • Shivering or shaking
  • Barking or whining
  • Acting reluctant to keep going
  • Acting anxious or uncomfortable
  • Hunching over and tucking its tail
  • Searching for a warm resting place
  • Holding up one or two paws
  • Slowing down (lethargy)
  • Turning around as if to head home

This is a standard guideline. You know your dog. These signs or any other abnormal behavior could mean it is time to head home and get warm.

Winter Tips

Dog running outdoors with stick.Keep the following tips in mind to keep your dog comfortable this winter.

Protect Dog’s Paws and Ears

We wear earmuffs or a toboggan and gloves when we are out in the cold wind. If we don’t, our ears and hands can become very cold, much colder than the rest of our bodies, even numb. A dog is no different in this respect. Since a dog’s paws and ears are susceptible to frostbite, just like ours are, they must be protected if your dog is going to be exposed to freezing weather. Dog booties and head muffs are a must in frigid temperatures.

Trim Foot Fuzz and Keep Dog’s Feet Clean

You will want to trim all your dog’s foot fuzz and clip its nails with dog nail clippers on a regular basis. This is to keep salt and de-icing chemicals from clinging to them. Ice balls can form in between the pads or toes, which can cause pain and even health issues. Wash and wipe paws and nails dry after a walk to remove de-icing chemicals or even spilled antifreeze. Licking off the most commonly used de-icing chemicals, which contain calcium chloride and sodium chloride, can make your dog ill. Non-toxic ice melter is available for your walkway and driveway. Dog booties also help solve this problem.

Limit Dog’s Time Spent Outside

If it is below freezing, you’ll need to limit the amount of time you keep your dog outdoors. Cold tolerance varies in dogs, just like it does in us. We think of thin-coated dogs getting cold more quickly than thick-coated dogs. Remember short-legged dogs will get chilled more quickly than taller dogs because their bodies are so close to the cold ground. Very young dogs, older dogs or dogs with health conditions sometimes have trouble regulating their body temperatures and could have a hard time compensating in extremely cold weather. They are also more likely to lose their balance and fall on icy patches.

Have Dog Stay Inside

We know, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that our dogs love the outdoors, but if you’re experiencing a cold spell of at or around freezing temperatures, you’ll need to keep your best friend inside with you. Dogs will need to be taken out periodically for “nature” walks and exercise, but they will need to remain inside with you for the bulk of the time.

Buy Dog a Coat and Thicker Bedding

Dog with coat outside.People argue over whether dogs should even wear dog coats in wintertime, but small dogs with thin coats need this protection when it is bitter cold. In frigidly cold weather, many thicker-coated dogs can benefit from a coat on occasion, as well. Just keep your dog comfortable and safe. You will get to know if your dog is cold and if so, take steps to warm it up as soon as possible.

In the summertime, cooler bedding probably provides your dog the most contentment, but in the wintertime, it may not be enough. Thicker bedding will provide the warmth needed in the wintertime. In cold weather, bedding should be composed of memory foam. This, combined with senior dog vitamins, will serve as strong support for older dogs with body aches. Some people provide their dog with softness and warmth through a down blanket. Do it your way. Just make sure they are nice and cozy so they can rest well.

Brush Dog

A dog’s skin, just like a human’s, protects its body. Germs cannot get to and harm a dog’s vital organs if the skin is healthy. Its immune system is safeguarded by the skin, and its body temperature is regulated by the same. To keep the skin healthy, brushing your dog’s coat with dog grooming products is the most vital action you can take. It will keep the loose coat removed. This makes the dog comfortable while stimulating its skin. If you brush it properly, this will help insulate your dog from the cold.

Consider Dog’s Age

Older dogs or those with arthritis or weak immune systems will need a coat in cold weather. Some of these dogs may act anxious as if they do not want to go outside in the cold weather. This is probably because the cold will aggravate their arthritis or other ailments. Their joints will be more comfortable when warm. Their conditions will need to be taken into consideration when deciding upon their winter activities. You might consider senior dog joint and hip supplements as well as indoor activities for them and only take them outside to relieve themselves, at which time they should have on proper attire. In cold weather, it is quite possible for older dogs, dogs with arthritis, or even sickly dogs to benefit from wearing a dog coat indoors as well.

Beware of Antifreeze

It’s the time of year to make sure our cars have plenty of anti-freeze. Don’t leave anti-freeze anywhere your dog can get to it. Only a few tablespoons are enough to kill an average-sized dog. Be cognizant of the following signs.

  • Acting depressed
  • Staggering
  • Having seizures
  • Drinking more than usual
  • Urinating more than usual
  • Vomiting
  • Then, appearing to improve
  • A day or two later, getting much worse as the kidneys fail
  • Next, urinating much less than usual

If you see these signs and there’s a chance your dog may have been exposed to anti-freeze, find a vet immediately. Treatment started immediately gives your dog a better chance of survival, although in most cases, anti-freeze poisoning is fatal, so prevention is always the best answer.

Protect Dog from Heaters

Space heaters should be used with caution around dogs. Dogs can be attracted to the warmth and get burned or turn over a space heater, starting a fire. Other things to watch are fireplaces and wood-burning stoves. Be cognizant a dog’s skin is more susceptible to burns than ours.

Bathing and Drying Dog Off After Being Outdoors

Keeping your dog clean is very important. The dog will be more comfortable and happier. You will be happier about the dog being in your home, and it will enable you to keep the dog parasite-free when using a dog flea and tick shampoo. Knowing how often to bathe your dog can be somewhat of a complicated task, but once you figure it out, you can set a routine and move forward. Knowing how often to bathe your dog means knowing the breed, health, length of coat, lifestyle and what you are willing and able to do. It is not as easy as thin-coated dogs need bathing less often, and thick-coated dogs more often. Different breeds have different qualities. Consult the AKC to find out more about bathing your breed. It is not good to bathe your dog too often, especially in wintertime, as it will deplete the skin of needed oils and cause dry, flaky skin. Those oils are needed for the skin to be healthy so it can protect your dog.

Dogs can take hours to dry after walks. This can make them look and feel rotten and cold. It can attribute to some serious health problems, as well. Towel drying dogs after taking them outdoors when it’s wet, especially in the cold, is essential. Microfiber towels will work well.

Keep Dog Hydrated

We think about our dog’s hydration in hot weather, but what about when it’s cold? Water is needed for a dog’s digestion and absorption of vitamins and minerals. Water is needed for your dog’s temperature regulation, as well as waste removal. Both temperature and activity affect hydration, too. Enough water helps your dog get rid of mucus and other unwanted substances, so make sure your dog is well hydrated in cold weather, as well as hot.


Dog playing in the snow.Because we love them so much, we care if they are happy or sad, if they are safe or in trouble, and it is upon our shoulders to make comfort and safety happen for these:our canine buddies. They follow us to the door to beg us not to leave as we go to work; they greet us with abounding love when we return home; they are under our feet all evening as we cook, eat and watch television; and they keep our feet warm in our beds at night. Dogs are amazing creatures. Wintertime is a fun time with our dogs. Many dogs even like playing in the snow with us. However, some dogs cannot handle this cold weather. Some can only handle it with proper attire. There is just no substitute for proper wintertime care, but if you just do these few things, you and your best friend can enjoy many more years together.