The temperature is dropping, days are getting shorter, and it’s just about time for a plethora of “If you’re cold, they’re cold; bring them inside” posts to start circulating on social media. When it starts getting chilly, pet owners rightfully start to worry about the welfare of animals who are outside. But, taking care of our pets during the winter isn’t actually that simply solved by just bringing animals indoors when the temperatures drop.
I think the most important thing about pets and weather, whether hot or cold, is to evaluate the animal in front of you. For example, my husband has a 55 pound Siberian Husky who we named Lizzie. Lizzie comes from generations of dogs who were bred for surviving and working in sub-zero temperatures with icy wind chills. When I’m cold, Lizzie is usually still panting. However, when our weather gets below freezing or it’s snowing outside, we can hardly get her to come inside. My husband will literally have to chase her around the yard to get Lizzie back into the warm house. Lizzie is continuously wearing her winter parka, and this is one of the few times a year that she isn’t extra warm. In contrast, my parents recently lost their Yorkie mix, Toby. For Toby’s entire life, he wasn’t very fond of being outside at all if the temps dropped below about 50 degrees Fahrenheit. When you compare Toby’s small body mass and thin hair coat to Lizzie’s large size and thick double coat, it’s easy to predict which one will fair better in winter weather.
When trying to decide what’s best for your pet, you need to determine what your pet actually prefers. I would never leave Lizzie outside for very long on a steamy August afternoon, but if she wants to spend extra time outside in December that’s fine. Toby didn’t want to spend much time outside ever, but he especially didn’t have to go out much other than to potty if it was very cold.
If your pet can’t come inside or if they like to spend extra time outside when it’s cold out, it’s still important to give them access to a quality shelter. Buying a well-insulated dog house and filling it with straw can help provide good shelter for your pet. Whether they use it is up to them. I have seen many photos of dogs sleeping comfortably outside right next to their pristine shelter that their owner lovingly provided. Some dogs, like Lizzie, just like the cold. Giving your dog access to a doggy door into the house or garage can also allow them to choose what temperature they’d like to be at.
When the weather starts to change, hot or cold, the most important thing you can do is evaluate the dog that you have. If your pet is well equipped to handle the cold, then you may not have to make as many changes as someone who’s pet does not tolerate cold weather. Just because you’re NOT cold, doesn’t mean that your pet isn’t. Toby would be cold long before I was uncomfortable outside. And, just because you ARE cold, doesn’t mean that your dog is cold, especially if you have a dog like Lizzie. Always make sure to provide shelter and opportunities for your dog to warm up, should they want to. Help the animal in front of you to have the safest and most enjoyable winter yet for you and your pup!