How do I know if it's too cold outside for my dog?
When winter arrives in force, it can be fun to watch your dog rejoice in the fresh, undisturbed blankets of snow that appear overnight - but as fun as it may be for you and your pup, you also need to be cautious of how much exposure they get to the winter wonderland. How cold is too cold for dogs?
There are, of course, different answers for different breeds of dog. Some dogs thrive in the cold because of how they've been bred and evolved; Siberian huskies, Alaskan Malamutes, Australian Shepherds, and Bernese Mountain Dogs are all examples of dogs that have a double coat of fur and can withstand much colder temperatures for longer periods of time than short haired dogs. Examples of short haired dogs with a single coat include pit bulls, greyhounds, and dachshunds. Before you leave your dog outside in the cold or take them for a long walk please understand what kind of protection your dog gets from their fur. If necessary, buy them a sweater for when temperatures drop below freezing!
Another factor is the size of the dog. All things being equal, a small dog will get cold faster than a large dog. Small dogs have less body fat and should be monitored more closely when temperatures get cold - for some dogs, any temperature under 45 degrees is uncomfortable!
Finally, if the temperature drops below 20 degrees then all dogs are at risk for hypothermia and frostbite and owners need to monitor how long their dogs are outside and any change in behavior. Look out for behaviors that indicate they may be uncomfortable, such as limping or stopping their playtime to sit for long periods of time.
Ultimately, it comes down to individual dogs and how they handle the snow and cold of winter. Remember to be a responsible dog owner and understand how your breed does in cold weather, monitor the temperature once it's below freezing, and look out for unusual behavior that signals your dog is ready to come inside and warm up!