Dogs in winter
Wintertime can be lots of fun for all the family, but you and your dog need to make sure you’re prepared for the hazards that come with it.
Read our advice to help keep your dog warm, happy and safe from danger during the cold spell.
How can I keep my dog warm in the winter?
When the thermometer dips, don’t leave your dog outside alone. Most dogs spend a lot of time inside and are not used to extreme cold, so they could develop hypothermia or frostbite.
Does my dog need a coat?
Short-coated breeds of dogs, like greyhounds, Dobermans and Staffordshire bull terriers, can struggle to cope with the cold weather and may need a coat. If this is the case, it’s a good idea to invest in some winter clothes, such as a cosy doggy jumper or coat, ready for when they go outside.
Other breeds, such as Labradors, huskies and German shepherds, are not so bothered by the cold because they already have a thick coat that does a great job of keeping them warm. Just remember to keep in mind that just like us, all dogs are individual and some may feel the cold more, particularly if they are older.
If your dog starts lifting their paws, whining or stopping while out on walks it could be because their feet are too cold. Getting some doggy winter boots for them to wear can be a good way to help protect their paws. Look for booties that have a good sole and velcro straps. Most dogs will need a gentle introduction to wearing boots, so introduce them slowly in the house at first for short periods at a time. Remember, if your dog doesn’t like wearing boots, do not force them.
Keeping your dog warm in the house
If your dog is feeling the chill at home, try moving their bed to a warmer part of the house and provide them with nice thick blankets to keep them cosy, especially during the cold nights. It’s also worth considering a jumper for your dog indoors as well, if they’re sensitive to the cold. Of course, there’s always the option for extra cuddles to share the warmth too!
As long as your dog is healthy and able, you should try to take them for a walk in all weather conditions where possible, even in the snow! Do be careful in slippery conditions and do not go out if it means putting yourself at risk. If you need to stay at home with your pooch, spend time playing games indoors to stop them from getting too bored or frustrated.
Walking your dog in the snow
Walking your dog in the snow may take a little more prep than your normal daily walk. When heading out, remember to:
- trim the fur around your dog’s paws to help prevent ice balls from building up – these form between the pads and toes of the paw and are really painful
- wipe your dog's paws when you come home. Salt and grit used in icy weather conditions can get in between your dog’s toes and irritate their footpads, and it's toxic if they lick it off.
- put on their coat before you head out if they’re sensitive to the cold
- stay away from frozen ponds or lakes and keep your dog on a lead near frozen water, so they don't fall through the ice. If they do run on to it, it’s tempting to go after them but it’s really important that you don’t – most dogs are strong swimmers and are more likely to get themselves out of trouble than you are.
If your dog has arthritis, it can be worse for them in the cold weather. If they start to show signs of discomfort, contact a vet as soon as possible.
Dog walking in the dark
Dark evenings can pose a risk when you’re walking your dog, as it can be difficult for motorists to see you on the road. To keep yourself and your dog out of trouble, here are some things you should consider taking on your dark winter walks:
- good quality flashing or reflective collar or harness for your pooch
- bright or reflective clothing so you can be seen by motorists
- a torch or head lamp so you can keep your hands free to walk your dog
- your phone, just in case you need it for emergencies
- a light-up ball if you’re worried your dog may lose it in the park
To keep yourself safe when walking in the dark, it’s important that you:
- try to stick to lighted areas, such as paths that are lit in the park
- walk against the traffic when walking down country roads, remembering to keep your dog on your right (away from the traffic)
- only let your dog off the lead in an enclosed area, away from the road, in a place that is familiar to you and your dog
- keep up with your dog’s recall, so you know they will come back to you if they happen to wander off
If possible, you may find it will give you peace of mind to organise to walk with a friend or a group when walking in the dark.
What games can I play with my dog inside?
If the weather is too cold or dangerous to go out, you can make sure your dog feels exercised inside the home by:
- playing fetch indoors with soft toys, ensuring that you do so on carpet to avoid your dog slipping
- keeping your dog mentally stimulated by using their scavenger nature to your advantage. Instead of using your dog’s normal food bowl, think about using a Kong or a food puzzle to keep them entertained.
- playing game of tug – this can be a great way of not only exercising them indoors, but teaching them self-control when rules are put in place to make sure that play stays safe
- cutting back on what you feed your dog if they’re less active during the winter months, to help keep them in shape
• 20 January 2023
• 20 January 2026