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How long can a dog be in the cold?

When Is It Too Cold To Walk Your Dog?

As temperatures start dipping, you may wonder when it’s too cold outside to walk your dog. Here are some tips and guidelines for taking your dog on a walk in cold weather.


The answer varies, it depends on your dog! Your dog’s age, breed, size and health are all factors in determining how sensitive they are to cold weather.


Some breeds, like Huskies, Samoyeds or St. Bernards have heavy double coats and can tolerate colder temperatures—as opposed to breeds like Dachshunds, French Bulldogs or Boston Terriers who have short, thin coats.


Small dogs, like Yorkshire Terriers, Chihuahuas, or Pugs, and thin dogs like Whippets, Greyhounds, and Coonhounds, are more sensitive to cold weather than bigger, heftier pups.


Keep in mind that your dog’s health and/or age can affect their ability to regulate body temperature. Both senior dogs and puppies have a higher risk of hypothermia and frostbite. Dogs with any number of health issues such as diabetes, arthritis or kidney problems are also more vulnerable to cold—and this applies to cold-weather dog breeds as well.

corgi walking in winter



If it’s snowing, your dog’s coat may become wet and lower their body temperature. Dogs without much hair on their bellies get cold faster, especially if walking or playing in snow.


Wind lowers the feel of the actual temperature outside. Always use the wind chill temperature when determining if it’s too cold to take your dog for a walk.


Most healthy medium or large dogs with thick coats can take a 30-minute walk when temperatures are above 20°F. Small dogs or dogs with thin coats start to become uncomfortable in temperatures below 45°F. Consider limiting walks to 15 minutes for these dogs when temps fall below freezing.

border collie outside in winter


Regardless of breed, size, or age, your pup may indicate they are too cold or uncomfortable. Watch for these signs:

  • Shaking or shivering
  • Whining
  • Lifting or licking paws
  • Tucked tail
  • Slowing down/walking stiffly
  • Shallow breathing

If it’s too cold for you to tolerate being outside wearing a winter coat and hat, it’s probably too cold for your dog as well. In extreme cold, limit walks to bathroom breaks and make up for it with some indoor exercise (like tug-of-war) and enrichment activities.

two dogs outside in winter


Keep these tips in mind on frigid days to avoid potential cold-weather hazards for dogs when you’re trying to decide when it’s too cold to walk your dog.

  • Keep walks short when temps are below freezing.
  • Try to take ‘exercise walks’ during the warmest part of day, and limit morning/evening outings to relief walks.
  • When it’s too cold for a long walk, play with your dog indoors first as a warm-up, then head outside to let them do their business.
  • For dogs with thin coats, a coat or sweater will give them added protection and warmth.
  • Boots will protect your pup’s paws when it’s icy, and also protects them from de-icers and salt which can damage their paws.
  • Ask your groomer to trim hair growing between your dog’s paw pads, so it doesn’t collect ice and salt.
  • After a walk, wipe off your dog’s paws with a warm washcloth to remove salt and de-icer chemicals. You can also use dog paw balm to protect and soothe paw pads.
  • Use a leash or collar light to help your dog be more visible to drivers—super helpful when it’s dark and there are snowbanks.
  • Winter weather can aggravate arthritis, so if your dog has joint pain modify your walk routine accordingly.
  • Use conditioner when bathing your dog to replace essential oils removed by shampooing. This helps avoid dry, flaky winter skin.
  • Don’t let your dog eat snow – it can be bad for them (especially snow near treated walkways/roads).

Do Dogs Need More Food in Cold Weather?

Possibly. Be aware of your dog’s weight and activity level in winter. It takes more energy to maintain body temperature in cold weather, so if your snow-loving dog spends extra time playing outside, they may need more calories. If your dog tends to get less exercise in winter, you may need to cut back a little. Either way, make sure your dog stays hydrated. Proper hydration is important for immune function, and also helps prevent dry skin and hypothermia. Learn more about foods that hydrate dogs, or explore raw and natural dog foods that provide complete nutrition year round.

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How Long Can You Walk Your Dog in the Cold?

Temperatures are dropping yet your pup is as energetic as ever. There comes a point when you might be unwilling to take your pup out for exercise but your furniture may be at risk if you don’t. Besides, the cold doesn’t seem to dampen your pup’s enthusiasm for a walk.

That raises a good question. With their furry coats, dogs don’t seem to be as affected by the cold as we are. But common sense tells us that it can eventually be too cold for them or that you should limit their time outside.

But how cold is too cold? How much time should you give them outside to burn off that extra energy? Let’s take a look.

How Cold Is Too Cold for Your Dog?

Dogs come in all shapes and sizes so there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer to this question. There are various factors affecting your dog’s cold tolerance including breed, age, health, etc.

In general, a healthy medium or large dog can safely enjoy a 30-minute walk in temperatures down to 20 degrees Fahrenheit. Smaller dogs generally can’t handle the cold as well. For temperatures below freezing but above 20 degrees, limit your walks to 15 or 20 minutes.

Once the temperature falls below 0 degrees, start thinking about ways to keep your pup active indoors. It’s too cold for them to be outside.

Factors Affecting Your Dog’s Cold Tolerance

Now let’s break this down a little further. Most people can safely follow the general guidelines listed above but every dog is different. Some dogs can handle far colder temperatures than others so you’ll want to keep an eye on your dog and figure out what they can tolerate.

Here are some factors to consider.


A big fluffy Malamute or St. Bernard will be able to handle far colder temperatures than a little Chihuahua. A bigger dog’s size helps them stay warmer, plus all that extra hair helps keep them warm.

When determining your dog’s cold tolerance, consider their size and the length of their coat. The smaller the dog and the shorter their hair, the faster they will get too cold.


The age of your pup plays a role as well. Little puppies and older dogs can’t regulate their body temperature as well and will get cold faster. In cold weather, these dogs should only be taken out briefly to go to the bathroom.


No matter your dog’s age, their health will also play a role. If your dog is generally sickly or has poor circulation, they may not tolerate the cold as well as you would expect for their age.

Also, the cold can aggravate some conditions like hip dysplasia or arthritis. If your dog suffers from these or a similar illness, it’s best to keep them where they will stay warm. But be sure to take them out for short stints to go to the bathroom.


Finally, what the weather is doing has an effect on the cold your pup can tolerate. Always remember to check the “feels like” temperature rather than the actual temperature. Wind and other factors can make it feel colder than it actually is and your dog will get chilled faster.

Plus, if it is actively snowing while you’re outside, your dog will get wet. Their body heat will melt the snowflakes that fall on their fur, slowly dampening the whole dog.

Some dogs’ fur has better water-slicking qualities with a warm undercoat. Huskies or Malamutes are a good example of this. But short-haired dogs who lack that warm undercoat will get chilled quickly — especially if they get wet.

Signs Your Dog Is Too Cold

Regardless of what the thermometer or our general guidelines say, you should always keep a close eye on your dog when you’re out in the cold. There are distinct signs that will tell you when your dog is getting cold and uncomfortable. Watching for these is a good way to determine your particular dog’s cold tolerance.


Just like humans, dogs shiver when they are cold to help keep their body temperature up. Some dogs may shiver immediately upon going outside and stop once they are running around. But if you’ve been outside for a bit and your dog starts shivering, it’s time to go indoors.

Verbal Cues

Dogs don’t speak with words but that doesn’t stop them from talking to you! If your dog is whining or barking without an obvious reason, they may be trying to tell you they want to go back inside.

Hunching or Tucking Their Tail

Dogs also communicate with their bodies. As they get colder and more miserable, they may hunch their bodies and tuck their tails. This position is a great indicator that they are feeling too cold.

Lifting or Licking Paws

You know how cold your feet get when you go outside? And you wear boots! Imagine your poor puppy’s toes!

Though dogs’ feet are tough and used to going around barefoot, the ice and snow can get to be a bit much. If a dog’s feet are hurting or too cold, they’ll let you know. Watch for them to be licking at their paws or lifting them oddly.

Dressing Your Dog for the Weather

Regardless of how cold it gets, your dog still needs exercise. Consider dressing your dog for the cold to help him stay warmer for walks. Short-haired dogs particularly will appreciate a doggy sweater or coat to keep them snug.

If there is a lot of ice and snow on the ground, consider doggy booties. It may take some dogs a while to get used to them. But dog boots are a great way to protect their paws not only from the snow and cold but also deicers and salt which can hurt their paws.

#dog #dogs #snow

Your Pup and Winter

Keep these tips in mind this winter to keep your pup safe and snug. They still need their exercise, but limit walks to however long your pup can tolerate the cold. Watch them closely for signs of being chilly until you get a feel for what they can tolerate.

And then, let your pup enjoy the snow while the two of you enjoy a brisk walk together!

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How cold is too cold for dogs? What you should know

Signs that your dog is too cold in the outdoor winter conditions

Mary Johnson

By Mary Johnson December 29, 2022

Your dog is more than just your constant companion; he’s also a beloved member of the family. No matter the season, frequent exercise, a well-balanced diet, and outdoor playtime are essential to your dog’s health and happiness.


  • Cold weather affects some dogs more than others
  • Other factors have an influence
  • How cold is too cold for dogs?
  • Signs to look for that dogs are cold

Not only does exercise prevent obesity, but it also provides the mental stimulation your pup needs to lower the risk of mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety. We’re all aware of the potential dangers of overheating, but what should we do when temperatures drop? At what point is taking your pup outside for a walk more harmful than helpful? How cold is too cold for dogs?

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We’ll delve into some of the unique factors at play in determining how well your dog tolerates cold weather. Additionally, we’ll tackle what can happen to your dog at certain temperatures and how long it’s safe for your pooch to be outside. Most importantly, we’ll take a closer look at the steps you can take to ensure your dog stays healthy and warm during the winter months.


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A gray and white French bulldog puppy standing in the snow

Cold weather affects some dogs more than others

Chances are good you know someone who wears a sweater in the summer. Maybe you have a friend who keeps their air conditioner set to 68 degrees and still feels hot. Just like people, all dogs are different. A large, overweight breed will respond differently to the cold than a thin toy breed. Breeds with dense double coats like Alaskan malamutes, Siberian huskies, and St. Bernards can tolerate the cold much better than, say, beagles and Italian greyhounds. In terms of volume, small breeds have more surface area than large breeds, so they tend to feel the cold more intensely.

Even the color of your dog’s coat can impact his ability to withstand colder weather. When the sun is shining, dogs with dark coats absorb more heat from sunlight than dogs with light-colored coats. Your dog’s general level of health also comes into play. Cold air can exacerbate conditions like arthritis, diabetes, and asthma. Previous exposure to cold weather matters, too. If you’ve recently relocated from Florida to Maine, your dog won’t be able to tolerate the winter chill as well as a dog who’s spent his entire life in a colder climate.

A red and white Shiba Inu jumps through the snow in a fenced backyard

Other factors have an influence

The numbers on your thermometer aren’t the only environmental factors that come into play when determining how cold weather impacts your dog. A frigid, 30-degree day is miserable enough; 30 degrees with a wind chill cuts to the bone and leaves you — and your doggo — unable to properly insulate yourselves against the cold. The air also feels much cooler on days with heavy cloud coverage. Without bright sunlight providing additional warmth, your pup will get colder faster than he would on a sunny day.

Heavy snow, rain, and thick fog can all play a part in your dog’s ability to withstand the cold. Lastly, your dog’s activity level impacts how cold he’ll be outdoors. If your dog sprawls out in the snow, he’s likely to feel the chill much sooner than a dog who gets a case of the zoomies and runs through the yard.

A chocolate Labrador retriever with snow on his muzzle

How cold is too cold for dogs?

As we’ve mentioned, there are several factors in play, like acclimation, your dog’s breed, and whether it’s sunny out that help determine how well your pooch can tolerate the cold. That being said, there are a few general guidelines you can follow. In temperatures below 45 degrees Fahrenheit, your dog will begin to feel cold when he’s outside, but it’s still perfectly safe for him to go outside for short periods.

Dr. Sara Ochoa says, “Dogs can go outside for 15 to 20 minutes at below-freezing temperatures to use the bathroom and play.” However, when the thermometer drops below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, you should keep senior dogs, young puppies, small breeds, and dogs with health problems indoors, experts advise. They’ll more than likely be OK for a few minutes, but we believe in playing it safe with your dog’s health. Anything 20 degrees Fahrenheit or below is simply too cold for any breed, even a northern breed like a Siberian husky, to withstand being outdoors for long.

Dr. Gary Richter, Rover’s veterinary expert, says, “If the temperature drops below 20 degrees Fahrenheit, dogs could potentially develop cold-associated health issues like hypothermia and frostbite.” You should always monitor your dog closely when he’s outside in cold weather. If your pooch begins shivering, whimpering, behaving strangely, or limping, you’ll need to bring him back inside.

An Australian shepherd playing outside in the snow

Signs to look for that dogs are cold

There are several signs to watch out for that dogs may provide to let you know they are cold. Some may be obvious and others may not be as clear.

  • Shivering
  • Whining
  • Acting anxious
  • Looking for a warm location to get to
  • Walking slower than usual
  • Holding up a paw

While some dogs thrive in cold weather, not all breeds can tolerate winter weather. Bundle up your dog in a sweater and booties, make sure to apply balm if his paws and nose crack in the cold, dry weather, and don’t let your dog stay outside too long in below-freezing weather. Just like you, your dog wants to stay toasty warm during the winter months.

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