How to Keep Your Outside Dog Warm in the Winter

A sled dog is accustomed to living and working in the snow, but must have shelter during prolonged frigid weather.
husky puppy image by rich1 from

Your outside dog needs protection from cold weather, and some dogs shouldn't be left outside in the cold. Huskies can tolerate winter conditions well because their thick double coats provide insulation for cold climates. Greyhounds, with thin coats and bare underbellies, shiver easily and need winter jackets or snoods to stay warm on frost-chilled days. Puppies and elderly, frail or sick dogs are especially vulnerable to winter weather, and need extra protection.


Step 1

Shelter your dog from wet, drafty and cold weather. Wind chill makes your dog even colder than the temperature recorded by your thermometer. When he gets cold or wet, his body temperature drops, internal organs can shut down and your dog can be at risk of dying even though temperatures are above freezing. Access to an insulated doghouse, garage or shed when temperatures drop below 45 degrees Fahrenheit helps keep your dog warm. Dogs accustomed to indoor living or temperate climates should not be left outside in freezing temperatures.

Step 2

Provide a weathertight shelter for your dog. When your dog is wet, his core temperature drops. Wet dogs do not automatically dry out from body heat. The temperature may drop so quickly that a puppy cannot dry out, leaving him vulnerable to hypothermia.

Step 3

Make the shelter accessible. You may not be at home when temperatures drop below freezing and weather changes from sunny to blowing snow. If your dog's regular shelter is inside the house, shed or garage, install a dog door and train him to use it. If you do not want him in these areas in your absence, provide an insulated doghouse where he can take temporary shelter until you are home.


Step 1

Provide a dog bed for your outside dog. When he sleeps on concrete or the ground, the cold surface can pull heat from his body and chill his joints. Old blankets rarely help, as they pack down and provide little warmth retention. Fresh straw keeps outdoor dogs warm, but it must be replaced whenever it is wet or dirty.

Step 2

Put a clean dog bed in the sheltered area. Your outdoor dog needs a warm bed out of drafts and rain. A sleeping dog can develop hypothermia if he can not maintain normal body temperature. Convert an old T-shirt into a dog night shirt for your shivering dog. Check pet stores for insulated dog beds that fit inside a doghouse, or electric pet bed warmers. Use electric accessories with double-insulated, low voltage, chew-resistant cords and follow the product directions.

Step 3

Add extra bed insulation when temperatures dip below freezing. Use a foil emergency or space blanket under your dog’s bed. This makes a self-heating bed, as the Mylar material reflects the body heat back to the dog and bed. Bubble wrap is effective, but it must be tucked in so that a puppy or bed-chewing dog cannot tear it up. Replace bedding when it is damaged or chewed.


Step 1

Ask your veterinarian about winter nutrition. She may recommend more feedings per day for puppies, senior and frail dogs when they are outdoors. Small, frequent meals are easy to digest and help dogs maintain their energy.

Step 2

Feed room-temperature meals. Your outside dog may enjoy frozen fish bits and other cold foods in summer, but don't make him use precious body heat to digest ice-cold meals in winter.

Step 3

Provide fresh drinking water 24 hours a day. When temperatures dip below freezing, water bowls and buckets ice over and your outdoor dog can become dehydrated if you don't notice. Change the water frequently during the day to make certain your dog has plenty of fresh water readily available. You may prefer to use a water bowl de-icer during winter. De-icers are submersible heaters dropped into the water bucket. They turn on and off as needed to prevent freezing of the water. Heated water bowls perform the same function. Choose devices equipped with heavy-duty, chew-resistant cords.


  • The first signs of frostbite are when the dog's ears, toes and tail are pale and cold to the touch. Get the dog to a protected area and slowly warm the cold body parts. Frostbitten areas should be checked by a veterinarian.


  • Keep clean bath towels handy so you can dry the coat of your outdoor dog.

  • When your outside puppy or dog is cold, wrap him in a dryer-warmed towel.

  • When your outdoor dog shivers, bring him indoors or provide better shelter.

  • Dog apparel such as coats, sweaters or pajamas can help weather-sensitive indoor dogs stay warm.

Items You Will Need

  • Doghouse
  • Dog bed
  • Foil space blanket
  • Fresh straw
  • Bubble wrap
  • Towels
  • Water bowl de-icer


About the Author

Phyllis Benson is a professional writer and creative artist. Her 25-year background includes work as an editor, syndicated reporter and feature writer for publications including "Journal Plus," "McClatchy Newspapers" and "Sacramento Union." Benson earned her Bachelor of Science degree at California Polytechnic University.

Photo Credits