How Cold Is Too Cold To Walk Your Dog?
[Here's our in-depth guide]

Aaron Rice Expert Dog Trainer
Written: January 17, 2022

Winter weather can be brutal on everyone. This includes your dog. There is nothing more frustrating than being trapped in the house when the weather is not pleasant outside.

If you have a young dog or a dog that loves to go on a walk, being locked inside the house might be like torture for this pet. 

Many people have to consider whether it is worth braving snow or ice to walk their dog in the winter. Your dog could love a walk in the snow, but walking some breeds in the severe cold during winter can be a risk for their health.

This means that you might be wondering, how cold is too cold to walk your dog?

How Cold is Too Cold to Walk a Dog?

The answer to this is partially going to depend on your dog’s own ability to stay warm as well as the severity of the winter weather. If you own a Husky or a dog breed that has a very thick coat, you will find that they are going to be much happier playing outside in the snow or the rain in winter than a dog that has a thin coat. 

Time of day matters as well, and night walks during winter will always be colder than daytime ones. 

The temperature at night could drop relatively low when compared to walking during the day. Your pet might love the snow, but walking later in the day could lead to an unsafe or dangerous health situation for your dog. Always try to keep cold-weather walks to the earlier parts of the day to keep your pet safe when they are out in the snow.

Greyhounds and other thin-coated dogs are not likely to stay warm when it is very cold outside, especially if they are not active. Some dog breeds could get hypothermia quickly when exposed to colder temperatures or a drop in temperatures due to wind chill. Smaller dogs might think it is fun to be outside until they start to get frostbite.

You should also consider that the pads of your dog’s feet are hard to protect from winter weather, and they lose a lot of their body heat through their feet since they cannot regulate their temperature any other way with ease. You do not want your pet to get frostbite on the tips of their ears or the pads of their feet.

How do I Protect my Dog From the Cold Weather?

Even armed with the right gear to keep your dog warm, some weather situations should be avoided, no matter how much your dog loves to go for a walk. Small dogs are affected by the cold differently than large dogs. What is too cold for your dog might be fine for other dogs.

It is a good rule of thumb to stay indoors as much as possible with your dog if it is below 20 degrees Fahrenheit out. You can let them out to go to the bathroom, but you should bring them back in once they are done. The wind chill can make it unsafe for your dog to be outside for too long. This is particularly true for small dogs.

Once temperatures are well below freezing and the windchill is causing additional cold, extended time out of doors can harm your dog’s lungs as well as injuring the sensitive pads of their feet. Some breeds of dogs will be more comfortable at these temperatures, but you should still make sure not to allow them to get too cold or breathe in cold air for too long.

How do I Know If My Dog is Cold?

Some dogs will not tell you that they are cold by asking to go inside, but there are signs that you can look for to judge if your dog is too cold to remain outside. You should always be aware of the amount of time that you have spent out of doors as well. Avoid staying out longer than 15 minutes in the snow or the ice.

If your dog shows these signs, they are cold and need to warm up right away to avoid getting sick of suffering from cold exposure due to the low temperatures:

  • Shivering
  • Holding up one leg
  • Breathing rapidly
  • Lifting their feet off the ground rapidly
  • Leaning against your legs or your body
  • Flattened ears

These signs can be indicators that your dog has become too cold and is uncomfortable or not feeling well. Get your dog to a warm location as soon as you can if you see these symptoms. Always make sure to offer them water as soon as they are indoors as well so that they do not become dehydrated from their time playing out in the cold.

General Guidelines for Cold Weather Activity With Your Dog

These are some excellent guidelines to follow if your dog wants to go outside when it is cold out, and you want to be sure that they are not going to get too cold.

  • Avoid 0 to 20 degrees and only let your dog out to go to the bathroom. Consider using coats and dog boots for fine-coated dogs at this temperature for any time that is spent outdoors.
  • Below 0 degrees is too cold for small dogs to go out other than the briefest amount of time. Larger dogs should not exert at this temperature to protect their lungs. Limit outdoor time to a few minutes or less.
  • 32 to 45 degrees is weather that is acceptable for some exercise for most dogs. You should limit this to less than half an hour and pay attention to whether your dog is sweating under their jackets or their boots as they play.

It Can Be Too Cold to Walk Your Dog in Winter

You will always need to verify what the actual ambient temperature is before you take your dog outside for exercise in the winter.

 Your dog might be used to the cold and might be able to withstand longer periods in the cold than other dogs. You will need to assess the conditions outside and your dog’s comfort with the cold when you determine how long they can tolerate being outside.

Walking your dog is a healthy part of their daily routine, but you will need to take extra precautions when you are walking your dog in the cold.