Should you walk your dog in the winter?

cold dog

The answer to whether or not you should be walking your dog in winter – for those in the UK at least – is that yes, you should definitely be walking your dog throughout the colder months. It’s important that all dogs get out for at least one good walk a day – it’s their opportunity not just for physical exercise, but mental stimulation and socialisation too.

Of course, there are some caveats, and every dog is different. Cold weather dog breeds like a Newfoundland, husky or Saint Bernard can obviously withstand much colder temperatures thanks to their thick fur. Smaller dogs with shorter coats like Jack Russells, French bulldogs or Chihuahuas will feel the cold more than their larger, longer haired counterparts. Similarly, puppies, older dogs and dogs with medical conditions are more vulnerable to extremes in temperature, and may need a bit of extra TLC.

cold dog

Cold weather dog walking tips

Although the temperature in the UK generally won’t get cold enough to be really dangerous in itself to your dog, you still need to take other sensible cold-weather precautions:

  • Use a flashing collar or harness to make sure your pup can be seen in the dark.
  • Be careful around ponds, lakes and other bodies of water that could have a thin layer of ice on them.
  • Antifreeze can be fatal to dogs, even in small doses, and its sweet smell can be particularly tempting for dogs and cats. Clean up any spills immediately, and avoid any patches of liquid by cars. As well as licking up puddles, keep an eye on whether your dog’s walked through any puddles near cars, as they might lick their paws later on. 
  • If your pup’s paws are particularly sensitive, or if you’re out in some proper cold weather for a long period of time (and if they’re not too embarrassed), you could invest in a pair of winter dog boots. Aren’t they adorable? These have the added benefit of keeping paws clean and free of irritants.
  • If it’s snowy out, ensure that all snow is wiped off your dog when you get in, paying particular attention to their paws. If your dog has a long coat, trim around their paws so that snow, grit and other irritants don’t collect in their fur.
  • Try walking slightly later in the day when it’s a bit warmer and lighter, the worst of the ice might have melted away and irritants like salt and grit are more likely to have dispersed.
  • Dog paw balm can be used to add a protective layer to your dog’s paws, help prevent snow balls forming on paws and keep them nice and moisturised.
  • Finally, know the signs that your dog is cold, so you can get them somewhere warm when you need to: frequent lifting of their paws off the ground; shivering; ears that are cold to the touch and reluctance to keep walking are all fairly obvious tell-tale signs that they’re too chilly.
  • On the rare occasion it might be kicking off outside enough that it really is too cold, icy or stormy to get out for a walk, make sure you expend some of your pup’s energy at home: play with your dog in the house or do some indoor obedience training to burn off some of that excess physical and mental energy. 

Cold weather can lead to dry paws and a dry nose too – find out more about what else can cause dry paws and why your dog’s nose is dry.