Can dogs survive outside during winter? Yes, they can. With several precautionary measures, dogs can not only survive but also thrive through the winter. You may wonder why anyone would want to have their dog outside during winter.
Well, the reasons for leaving dogs out vary. Some families choose to leave their dogs outdoors to make it easier to clean up after them. Such people don’t like the idea of dog litter and fur all over their house.
Dogs have a distinct smell that some fur parents may find unbearable, even when they are bathed regularly. That smell always clings and remains on furniture and other household upholstery, hence why some dog owners would prefer to have their dogs outside.
Some dogs may also turn out to be quite destructive, too, especially when not adequately housetrained from an early age. There are also cases where family members have allergies, and the pets have no choice but to stay outside. Ultimately, it is possible to keep your dogs outside while still offering them appropriate care.
How to Keep Your Dogs Comfortable Outside During Winter
Preparing your dogs for winter starts with understanding the breed that you’re dealing with. Dogs with thicker fur or a double coat are better equipped to stand colder temperatures. Those with shorter and thinner fur coats are more at risk as their coats offer limited insulation. The origin of your dog breed should also give you an idea of how it tolerates the cold weather.
Northern breeds such as Alaskan or Siberian huskies have a high tolerance to cold temperatures. Other factors that you should look at include age, health status, diet, and acclimation. Ultimately, all outdoor dogs need extra attention during winter. Below are six pointers to help you along:
Prepare the Shelter
If you already have a dog house, you need to take extra measures to reinforce it for cold weather. Your dogs need a warm, dry haven to shelter from the wet and cold conditions. Elevate the kennel from the ground by about 4 inches.
During winter, the ground gets severely cold that it draws heat from whatever it comes into contact with, in this case, the dog house. Wall insulation combined with secure doors should keep the cold drafts at bay. While there are a variety of options for heated dog houses, they come at an extra cost. The more budget-friendly option here is to equip your existing dog house with additional items for the cold weather.
The floor of the dog house should comprise of wood, plastic, or any other material that is a poor conductor of heat. Dry hay is an excellent floor lining option. You can think of it as a dog mattress. Dogs love to burrow in the grass and enjoy the warmth. Top up the ‘mattress’ with some warm bedding; woolen blankets are the most appropriate.
Here you can also utilize your old sweaters. Turn the bedding into a nest by folding them into a circle, and your furry friend is sure to curl up in the middle. There are also power-heated dog blankets in the market. Even though you mean well, you should not attempt to use your personal heated blanket on your pup. The temperatures set for blankets made for humans differ from those that are ideal for dogs, so they should not be used on dogs.
Ever considered dog sweaters ? While some people think they look silly, these sweaters come in handy during winter. Although the dog house may be all warm and cozy, your dog can’t spend all day cooped up in there. He will need dog clothes to keep him warm when outside. Ensure that you pick an appropriate size. If they’re too small, your dog will be uncomfortable and squirmy and will probably refuse to wear clothes again.
If they’re too large, your dog is likely to trip as he moves around. He may even start chewing and playing with his clothes, eventually destroying them in the process. Be sure to keep a keen eye for signs of your pup overheating. Unlike the heated blankets that your dog can easily wiggle out of when it gets too warm, he may be unable to get out of his clothes unassisted.
Cover the Feet
If your dogs enjoy running around on ice or snow, whether in your backyard or further outdoors, you may want to cover their feet with dog boots. When ice builds up in your dog’s paws, he will become unsettled and try to get rid of it by licking. This exposes your dog to toxic anti-icing chemicals, which could have an adverse effect on his health.
Getting used to the boots may take some time. It would be best if you bought the shoes well in advance of winter to allow your pup ample time to acclimatize. Let your dog wear shoes on random days. If he manages to keep them on, you can offer a treat or two as a reward. By the time winter sets in, they’ll be well accustomed to the footwear, and their feet will be protected.
Check for Frostbites
Outside dogs are at a high risk of frostbites during winter. Their bodies react to prolonged exposure to cold temperatures by shrinking the blood vessels near the skin to preserve their core body temperature. Frostbites mostly affect the paws, ears, tail, nose, nipples, and scrotum. Affected areas turn pale, are tender to touch, and can even swell up. Frostbites call for immediate attention as they could be an indication of hypothermia.
In such cases, you should immediately move your dog to a warm, dry space and cover him with warm blankets. You can also include hot water bottles for faster warming. Use a warm compress on affected areas then pat dry. If your pup does not show any signs of improvement, take him to the vet for further treatment.
Adjust Food Portions
Dogs need more food in winter to keep their metabolism active. In addition to a balanced diet, their diet should also consist of more fats. Dogs with more body fat have a higher tolerance for low temperatures. You need not worry if you notice your dog is packing up more pounds during winter. When the sun eventually comes out, he’ll run around as usual and quickly shed off the extra weight.
It is essential to provide your beloved pet with fresh water on a daily basis. Although dogs may sometimes lick the snow, do not assume this as a substitute for water. So how do you keep your dog’s water from freezing? You can add sugar, salt, or oil into the water to lower its freezing point. Ultimately, buying a heated dog bowl is the best permanent solution. Such containers utilize electric or solar power to keep the content warm even in extremely low temperatures.
In addition to the above measures, you can figure out other creative ways to keep your dog warm, depending on your situation. Despite all these helpful options, the best choice for your pup might be to bring him back into the house until the extreme weather conditions subside.
Whatever your reasons may be for keeping your dogs outside, you can always make an exception during cold winters. You can choose to crate-train them if you don’t want them roaming all over the house. Winter conditions can generally pose a health hazard to dogs no matter how well insulated the dog house is. Bringing them into your air-conditioned home for a couple of days will surely guarantee their safety and comfort.