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How to keep dogs warm in winter

Knowing how to keep dogs warm in winter requires more than a little common sense and lots of care. But keeping an outside dog warm enough in the cold of winter is a little different than keeping an inside dog warm during outside their outside toilets or for short winter exercise walks.

A lot of the rules used to keep dogs warm in winter depend on many things: what type of dog you have, if it is short-haired or long-haired, whether it is a medium or larger sized dog who has been raised indoors his entire life, whether the dog is tiny and short-haired or whether they have long fur to stay outside for slightly longer periods of time.


As we run a dog rescue, we have all types of dogs–inside, outside and in-between. Our outside dogs consist of breeds such as Miniature American Eskimos, Shiba Inus, and Cocker Spaniels.

The most important goals in keeping outside dogs warm in winter is to heavily fill their dog houses with prairie hay, filling them over over half-full as dogs love to circle the hay and stomp it down, smashing it into a small nest to curl up in.

We also place plenty of hay on the ground in their pens so the pads of their feet will not be directly on snow or ice. Also, be prepared to break ice two to three times a day in their bowls of water to prevent dehydration.

Dogs with lots of heavy fur are good outside dogs, especially the ones with double-coats referred to as the “Northern Dogs” (Eskimos, Huskies, Samoyans, Chows, Elkhounds, Akitas, Iceland Sheepdogs, Chinooks, and Wolf-hybrids—to name just a few.

The dogs who are outside will usually begin gaining weight and eating more food in the late summer and early fall to add layers of fat to keep themselves warm during the long winter. Feeding another half-a cup or so of food a day will help this layer build up before winter arrives, which won’t be hard as the dog instinctively will become hungrier at this time.

Keeping their heavy fur brushed at this time will prevent knots from forming. And in the long run, it will increase their ability to stay warm, as heavy knots will bare their skin to the elements and have a tendency to pull the skin loose and tearing it.

A couple other important things regarding outside dogs is to keep their toenails trimmed routinely so they can walk adequately on the snow and ice. But even more so, to keep fur from building up with ice balls deep within the core of their pad keep the hair trimmed and check it, especially after heavy snow storms, sleet or ice. This build-up will eventually begin to lame the dog and throw his walk off, permanently injuring his foot and legs for life if not caught in time.


Inside dogs are very used to living in a nice warm environment while happily snuggling under their favorite blanket most of the time during the winter.

For a fact, inside house dogs cannot be placed outside very long in winter weather or any bad weather, or they can easily freeze to death very quickly or get pneumonia.

Winter boots or winter coats for dogs who are exposed to the cold and raincoats for dogs who are in stormy weather are important for small dogs to wear have in environments with severe weather drops or bad snow storms. They need to be protected and cared for by a caring and loving pet  owner, especially if they are small dogs who are short-haired— such as chihuahuas or rat-terriers with very little built-in natural protection.

The same rules apply to inside dogs as for outside dogs for keeping their feet clean from ice balls or fur knots on the body  if they have hair which hangs in the snow or ice, such as the long-haired dachshunds, Yorkies, Scotties or Cairn Terriers. Weighted down long ears with excess hair, such as Cocker Spaniels, are a severe winter problem with ice balls and matted hair.

Many dogs who are inside dogs should not be shaved down or clipped short in the fall unless they have very caring owners who do not leave them outside very long. They need some form of protection from the winter elements unless they have their own special coats which are placed on them all the time during the winter.

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5 Responses:

  1. Nancy Houser (author comment)

    - 3rd Dec, 09 05:12pm

    Good article…I also like to keep more than one dog per doghouse, as they can keep warm off of each other’s additional body heat. Plus blocking the wind from hitting a dog house directly also helps a lot in the blustery cold months. We also tack up carpet over our dog house door to help wind from blowing directly in. Just a few more tips to add!! :-)

    Danielle Oliver Tegtman

    Reply to this comment

  2. Nancy Houser (author comment)

    - 3rd Dec, 09 05:12pm

    I guess I always thought you just let them climb in bed with you under the electric blanky? LOL

    Carleen Hatas

    Reply to this comment

  3. miniature boxers

    - 2nd Jan, 10 07:01am

    I found just a bit of time to quickly wish a Merry Christmass and a Happy New Year to some people and wanted to stop by your site for just a second.. I know I’m a bit late with merry christmass but I’ve just been a tad busy with so many guests and I’m sure you are too. So Merry Christmass to you and your family and I hope all of you will have a happy new year. Don’t stop posting new posts next year because I will miss them :)

    Reply to this comment

  4. Kelly ann

    - 7th Oct, 12 03:10pm

    I have a husky lab mix. Who has always been an outside dog. She never wants to b inside. So what can I do to make sure she is warm in the winter??

    Reply to this comment

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