A natural fur coat may provide some protection from the elements, but most domestic dogs aren’t adapted to frigid winters. Keep your indoor or outdoor fur baby safe, healthy and happy this winter with these 10 suggestions.
1. Carpet the doghouse as a way to keep pooches off a cold concrete floor. Be sure to nail down or otherwise attach the carpet to avoid seeing it dragged out into the snow. Some dog owners class up the joint with a heat lamp or even a regular light, which provides some warmth in a small space. If you do this, make sure your dog can’t get burned or chew through any electric wires.
2. Insulate with straw -- it's an inexpensive insulator for the doghouse floor. Straw can be replaced or topped up regularly, and is unlikely to stay wet or freeze, as a blanket or dog bed might. Take care to avoid hay and other products that might have seeds, leaves and other material that could get trapped in your pet's fur. Also, consider adding a pallet under the straw to make sure the dog stays off the cold, bare ground.
3. Add a heating pad, a more effective, albeit more expensive, option for giving Fido a warm place to lie down. For about $50, you can get an outdoor rated heating pad that warms to 102 degrees Fahrenheit but reportedly uses minimal energy. For chewers and otherwise destructive dogs, heavy-duty mats are available for a premium price. Again, make sure to protect any wiring from the elements and sharp teeth.
4. Heat and insulate the doghouse for more comfort in severe climates. Energy-efficient combination heating and air conditioning units specially designed for doghouses are available for about $600. There are plenty of ecological insulation choices, including soy foam insulation.
5. Shrink the doghouse to help dogs use their own body heat to stay warm. Though a large enclosure may seem luxurious, a pooch can keep himself warmer in an enclosed doghouse (with a flap or other covering on the door) a little taller than him- or herself, with just enough room to turn around. Hire a carpenter to custom-build a cozy doghouse that's worthy of your best friend.
6. Open a door to the dog. Even cold-weather dogs cannot handle severe temperatures, so make sure dogs have an option for coming inside. If you don’t want to constantly open the door, consider installing an electronic dog door. To deter entry by thieves and unwanted critters, these doors only unlock when your dog nears wearing a special transmitter collar.
7. Dress your dog for the weather. We think some dog clothing is silly and degrading, but boots and sweaters just make sense for certain dogs in the winter. Dogs regulate heat through their paws, and snow and ice on their feet can be very uncomfortable, particularly if ice builds up in hair around the paws. Canine booties can protect those paws. Also, small and short-haired breeds may be more comfortable in a sweater outdoors in winter.
8. Groom dogs appropriately for the weather. While short-haired dogs may need an extra synthetic layer of clothing, long-haired dogs have a natural extra layer of fur, but only if their hair is left to grow long and un-knotted. On the other hand, as noted above, the hair around paws can accumulate uncomfortable and dangerous amounts of ice and snow, so keep it trimmed.
9. Warm the dog’s indoor bed if the dog lies directly on cold, hard flooring. Make sure the dog’s bed is protected from drafts and raised off the floor. Consider using a hot water bottle or a microwavable heating pad, designed to stay warm for up to 12 hours. Or try a plush-covered reflective pet mat, which reflects your furry friend's own body heat for extra warmth.
10. Feed dogs appropriately for winter. Dogs that are spending time outside in the winter may be burning more calories just staying warm, so they need an extra helping of food (arf, yes!). Also consider a fatty-acid supplement to keep indoor pups from drying out in heated homes. On the other hand, some indoor dogs are getting less exercise in the winter, so they might need less food.
This article was updated November 23, 2017.