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 dog safe, healthy and happy this winter with these 10 suggestions.
1. Carpeting the doghouse is one 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 the dog can’t get burned or chew through any electric wires.
2. Straw is an inexpensive insulator for the doghouse floor. It can be replaced or topped off 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 dog’s fur. Also, consider adding a pallet under the straw to make sure the dog stays off the cold, bare ground.
3. Heated pads are 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 dog teeth.
4. Heat and insulate the doghouse for more comfort in severe climates. Energy-efficient combination heating and air conditioning units specially designed for dog houses 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 dog can keep himself warmer in an enclosed dog house (with a flap or other covering on the door) a little taller than the dog with just enough room to turn around.
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 the dog for the weather. We think some dog clothing is silly and degrading, but boots and sweaters for some dogs just make sense 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. Dog boots can protect those paws. Also, small dogs 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, 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. Raise the bed off the floor and consider using a hot water bottle or a microwavable heating pad. These pads are designed to stay warm for up to 12 hours.
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. Also consider a fatty-acid supplement to keep indoor dogs 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.