When the weather gets chilly, many dog owners might be wondering – do dogs even need to go for a walk in the winter? How cold is *too cold* for a dog? How long should I walk my dog in the cold?
As you might have guessed, the answer to these questions is – it depends!
Factors like the weather, age, breed type, and overall general health can affect how long your dog can walk in the cold weather and when it is too cold to be outside.
This post contains affiliate links to products. We may receive a commission for purchases made through some of the links on this post.
Please note that I am not a veterinarian nor am I an animal health care professional. This blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional veterinarian advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your veterinarian with any questions you may have regarding the condition and/or the safety of your dog.
Here are some quick tips and guidelines to keep in mind::
Below -10°C / 14°F
Keep it at the bare minimum – potty breaks only!
Small dogs and/or dogs with short or fine fur
- Walk up to 30 min between 10°C to -1°C / 40°F to 30°F
- Walk between 15-20 min between –1°C to -4°C / 30°F to 25°C
- May want to reduce their time outside to potty breaks below -4°C/25°F
Medium and large breeds or dogs with thick, double-coated fur
- Walk 30 min up to -6°C / 20°F
- Walk between 15-20 min between –6°C to -9°C / 20°F to 15°C
Puppies and the elderly
Puppies and elderly dogs are more sensitive to the cold. If it is below freezing, these dogs should be taken out to eliminate only and kept indoors as much as possible.
No dog should be left outside overnight in the cold
Yes! Even even your arctic breed. Domestic dogs are not acclimated to the cold and leaving them outside overnight can result in frostbite and hypothermia.
Here is an easy-to-use visual chart that most dog owners can follow.
Recommendations are adapted from:
- the Weather Safety Scale developed as part of Tufts University’s Animal Condition and Care Scales
- Dr. Kim Smyth’s chart created for GoPetPlan (original link no longer exists – here is the archived version of the page)
- general walking guidelines found online (See sources for more information)
How to tell if your dog is too cold?
- Standing in a hunched position
- Lifting their paw(s) off the ground
- Verbal cues (whining or barking)
- Refusal to move forward
If you see any of these signs when you take your dog out – your dog is cold. Start making your way back in as soon as possible and monitor for signs of hypothermia and frostbite.
5 Tips for Walking Your Dog in the Cold Weather
1. Check for wind chill temperatures
Blowing wind can significantly affect how long your dog can stay outside in the cold. When deciding how long you can walk your dog in cold weather, make sure to reference the wind chill temperature and adjust accordingly.
2. Stay close to home
On extra chilly days, consider sticking close to home in case your dog starts to show signs of cold.
3. In wet weather, shorten your walk time or avoid going out
Keep your dog dry with waterproof layers and keep your time outside to a minimum in wet conditions.
Rain or wet snow can drastically lower your dog’s body temperature much faster than a frigid and clear day.
Wet and cold conditions significantly increase the risk of hypothermia and frostbite.
If you’re referencing the chart, wet conditions can make even warmer weather potentially unsafe. For small dogs, that means even 15°C/60°F could be quite cold for dogs outside in pouring rain!
4. Keep up with grooming
Regularly keeping your dog groomed can help reduce the amount of snow, ice, and salt that can potentially irritate your dog’s feet. By keeping up with regular nail trimming and keeping the hair around the dog’s pads neatly trimmed, you can reduce painful salt and ice build up around the paws.
You can also prevent this by wearing protective dog boots or using a protective paw wax / balm.
5. Wipe your dog’s paws after walking – Antifreeze poison alert
Did you know that antifreeze, or ethylene glycol, is a highly poisonous substance for dogs? If you’re walking your dog in the neighborhood, watch out for spilled antifreeze on nearby driveways and around cars.
Unfortunately, antifreeze can give off a tempting aroma that’s very attractive to dogs and can be easily ingested on walks, or from your dog licking their paws.
After every walk, make sure to wipe your dog’s paws thoroughly with a dog wipe or with warm water and a clean cloth to remove any salt, debris, and antifreeze.
Symptoms of antifreeze poisoning include:
- After 30 min / 1 hour after ingestion: Lethargic , disoriented, uncoordinated, and grogginess that can last for several hours
- Up to three days after ingestion – vomiting, oral, and gastric ulcers, kidney failures, coma, and death
If you see any of the early signs of antifreeze poisoning, don’t delay and immediately call your veterinarian.
Winter Jackets and Footwear For Dogs (Canadian-Owned)
If your dog is starting to show signs of cold, adding warm clothes and protective booties will definitely help keep your dog warm and comfortable.
In general, you may need to add layers to your dog once the weather reaches the ‘unsafe potential’ temperature range on the chart above.
If you’re looking for a warm winter jacket for your dog AND you want to support Canadian-owned businesses, check out several of our recommended brands – I think you’ll love them just as much as we do:
Based in Ottawa, this independently-owned business makes Canadian-made coats in over 30 sizes to fit a variety of breeds. Stemming from a quest to find the Perfect Fitting Dog Coat for her two dogs, dog mom Julie Kelly, decided to make her own and share her creations with others. The rest is history!
They make jackets for different warmth levels.
Major points go to Chilly Dogs for creating clothing with stumpy dogs in mind – their jackets protect the belly AND have no sleeves.
High mobility! Huge warmth! Zero compromises were made for the stumpy family!
Why you’ll love them:
If warmth and durability is a priority – look no further.
Chilly Dogs products are listed with denier count (the higher the more durable) and fill count(the higher the warmer it’ll be).
They even have a broad and burly option for the stockier breeds too!
Limone’s Size: 18
If you’re following any Canadian pet influencer – chances are you’ve seen them don a Canada Pooch sweater or jacket! Another brand created by a dog mom who wouldn’t compromise when it came to her three rescue pugs, Canada Pooch was created with stylish functionality in mind
Why you’ll love them:
- 15 different size options
- HUGE arrange of stylish options for the fashion-forward pup
- Matching sets available so you can and your pup can match wherever you go!
Limone’s Size: 18
A proudly Canadian company founded in 1994, this Muttluks first started creating its popular high quality dog boots from Marianne’s living room. It has since grown to become one of the most recognized high quality dog boots around the world.
Why you’ll love them:
- Dog boots are reflective, machine-washable, and have self-tightening straps for a secure fit
- Dog boots for all seasons to protect your dog’s paws from hot pavements, sand, burrs, ice, and salt
Limone’s fit: Original All-Weather Muttluks in XS
From experience, Limone likes to slip them off if the weather isn’t cold enough! It’s like she KNOWS when she doesn’t need them. She was happy to keep them on her paws when it was below –15°C/5°F though!
Ultimately, how long your dog can stay outside depends on many factors such as:
- General Health
- Weather Conditions
- Whether your dog is wearing protective gear
As a general safety guide, err on the safer side – stick close to home and spend less time outside the colder it gets.
Puppies, elderly dogs, or toy breeds are especially prone to feeling cold so take extra caution when heading outside.
Remember though, less time outside does not mean zero time outdoors! Always make sure that your dogs get plenty of potty breaks followed by plenty of warm cuddles under the blanket and extra indoor playtime!
Don’t forget, you can always download the printable reference sheet. Keep it by your front door for easy reference to help you decide how long your next cold weather walk should be!
Sources & Extra Reading
Here are some other articles and posts that I found helpful while researching this topic: