When is it too cold to walk your dog in Canada?

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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.

When the weather gets chilly, and as winter rolls in, you might be wondering, “When is it too cold to walk my dog?” or “When should my dog start wearing a coat when I take them outside?” Well, you’re not alone!

The thing is – there’s no one right answer to these questions. Whether or not it’s too cold for a walk depends on a bunch of things like the weather, your dog’s age, breed, and health! But don’t worry, I’ve got a bunch of handy tips to help you figure out what works best for you and your pup!

When is it too cold? A quick guide

Here’s a super quick guide to help you answer your question:

In general, keep it to quick potty breaks for all dogs if the weather drops below -10°C or 14°F.

For healthy small dogs or dogs with short fur, if the temperature is:

  • Between 10°C to -1°C / 40°F to 30°F: most dogs can comfortable walk up to 30-min
  • Between –1°C to -4°C / 30°F to 25°C: shorten the walk to 15-20 min
  • Below -4°C/25°F: stick to potty breaks

For healthy medium and large breeds or dogs with thick, double-coated fur, if the temperature is:

  • Up to -6°C/20°F: most dogs can handle 30-min walks
  • Between 6°C to -9°C / 20°F to 15°F: keep it to 15-20 min

Have a puppy or senior dog? They’re super sensitive to the cold! In general, if it is below freezing, keep the dog walks to quick outings and potty breaks.

No overnight outdoor stays
Yes – even your super fluffy Samoyed or your tough-looking Arctic breed dog needs a shelter to stay in. It’s too risky for domestic dogs to stay outside overnight.

Other factors to consider

Snow, Sn-ain, or Rain

If it’s snowing, or worse, that in between snow and rain (ugh!), then your dog’s fur may become wet. When this happens, it can lower their body temperature and make it feel even colder. Dogs without much hair on their bellies will also get cold faster.

Wind chill

If you’ve ever walked in the wind then you know, that when it blows, the actual temperature feels a LOT colder than it is. Always use the wind chill temperature to figure out if it’s too cold to take your dog outside.

Dog walk temperature chart

I’m a visual learner and if charts are your thing too – I’ve whipped up a super easy chart for you to follow that combines tips from Tufts University’s Weather Safety Scale, Dr. Kim Smyth’s chart created for GoPetPlan, and my guidelines above to make one handy reference.

Visual chart to check how cold is too cold to play outside with a dog. Chart is based on temperature and breed size. Recommendations are based on a 5 point scale system created by Tufts University Animal Condition and Care - Weather Safety Scales.

Signs your dog is too cold

  • Shivering
  • Hunching
  • Lifting paw(s) off the ground
  • Whining or barking
  • Refusing to move

If you spot these, it’s time to head back in and watch for frostbite or hypothermia.

Tips for cold-weather dog walks

  • Check wind chill. It can make it feel colder, so adjust your walk time accordingly.
  • Stay close to home. Super handy if your pup starts feeling chilly!
  • Wet weather = shorter walks. Rain or wet snow can quickly lead to hypothermia. Even if you’ve outfitted your dog with waterproof layers keep your time outside to a minimum in wet conditions.

Wet conditions can make warm weather potentially unsafe!
For small dogs, even 15°C/60°F could be quite cold when it’s pouring rain!

  • Grooming matters. Regular grooming helps reduce snow, ice, and salt build-up on paws. You can also prevent this by wearing protective dog boots or using a protective paw balm.
  • Paw care post-walk. Wipe your dog’s paws to remove any harmful substances, like painful salt and antifreeze!

Did you know?
Antifreeze, or ethylene glycol, is highly poisonous for dogs! 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.

Symptoms of antifreeze poisoning in dogs: Look out for lethargy, disorientation, vomiting, or ulcers. Call your vet immediately if you notice these!

  • Cold aggravates arthritis. If your dog has joint pain, shorten or modify your walk routine.
  • Exercise walks in the afternoon. Try to take longer walks during the warmest part of the day and limit morning/evenings to potty breaks.
  • Get coats and boots. For dogs with thin coats, a coat will give them added warmth. Boots not only add warmth but can also protect paws from antifreeze and salt.

Winter wardrobe for your pup (Canadian-Owned)

I’m all about supporting local businesses so if you’re on the lookout to outfit your dog with some warm clothes and booties, then check out these Canadian-owned brands:

I think you’ll love them just as much as we do!

Chilly Dogs 

Why you’ll love them: Great for all sizes, especially short-legged pals. Warm and durable.

Based in Ottawa, this independently-owned business makes Canadian-made coats in over 30 sizes to fit a variety of breeds including yes – short-legged pals (they’re sleeveless, made for longer bodies, and offer belly protection) AND broad, burly, and stockier breeds too!

Bonus points? They make jackets for different warmth levels. My favourite thing about this brand is that Chilly Dogs products are listed with denier count (the higher the more durable) and fill count (the higher the warmer it’ll be). So you can be really selective on the types of jackets you want to get for your pup.

Canada Pooch

Why you’ll love them: Stylish options in 15 sizes, plus you can twin with your dog!

If you’re following any Canadian pet influencer – chances are you’ve seen them don a Canada Pooch sweater or jacket! This is another brand created by a dog mom who wouldn’t compromise fashion over function when it came to her three rescue pugs, Canada Pooch was created with stylish functionality in mind.


Why you’ll love them: Reflective, machine-washable dog boots for all seasons.

A proudly Canadian company founded in 1994, 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.


In general, it’s too cold to walk a dog in Canada when it is below -10°C. Stick to potty breaks if it’s colder than this!

The ideal temperature to walk a dog in Canada is between 12°C and -10°C. Most healthy dogs can get enough physical exercise in this temperature range without any health risks due to extreme temperatures.

Learn more about when it’s too hot walk a dog.

Most small or short-haired dog breeds get cold easily. Popular dog breeds that get cold are Beagles, Boxers, Chihuahuas, Dobermans, French Bulldogs, Great Danes, Greyhounds, Shih Tzus, and Yorkshire Terriers,

The best cold-weather dogs are large or double-coated dogs like Akitas, Alaskan Malamutes, American Eskimos, Chow Chows, German Shepherds, Great Pyrenees, Keeshonds, Newfoundlands, Samoyeds, and Siberian Huskies.

Yes! Just like human jackets, puffer jackets are among the best options for winter dog jackets. They come in a variety of insulation weights, lengths, and yes – even silhouettes so you can always find the right one for your dog. There are also water-resistant, waterproof and windproof options too.


Ultimately, how long your dog can stay outside depends on their age, breeds, heatlh, weather, and if they’re geared up. Always err on the side of caution – shorter walks in colder weather. And remember, less time outside means more cozy cuddle time indoors!

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:

Top - woman standing on a snowy overpass holding a leash. Bottom - Corgi laying on the snow

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