When is it too cold to walk your dog?

Woman With Dog Walking On Footpath Against Wall
You’re all wrapped up – but is it too cold for your coat-free pup? (Picture: Getty)

Taking your dog for a walk once (or twice) a day is essential to their health and wellbeing.

Dogs need to keep fit, stay upbeat, stretch their legs and engage with the world.

Not to mention, your canine companion probably loves the regular, quality, one-on-one time with their best pal (that’s you).

Walks are all well and good in spring and autumn, when the UK weather is usually temperate, mild or a little bit warm – bar an unexpected summer heatwave or two .

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But what about dog walking in winter? We have to wrap up when we head out into the cold, so at what point in the year does it get too frosty outside for pups ?

And is there an exact temperature beyond which you should exercise your dog indoors?

Here’s what you need to know.

When is too cold to take your dog for a walk?

Brrr! Don’t let freezing temps put pets in danger! Follow this handy chart to see just how cold is too cold for your dog: https://t.co/tXxNCBFTtu #ItsSoCold pic.twitter.com/efIFp1qagx

— Petplan Pet Insurance (@Petplan)

Generally speaking, no dog should be out for a walk if the weather drops below -10°C.

According to data from the Tufts Animal Condition and Care (TACC) system, things get potentially risky for small and medium breeds when it’s colder than -4°C.

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Logically, smaller dogs, and dogs with fine hair, are less able to tolerate colder temperatures with their teeny, furless bodies.

Bigger breeds, or big dogs with lots of thick hair, get cold less easily. They’re slightly less of a concern, until the temperature falls to around -9°C.

Head of telehealth at Vets Now, Dave Leicester, agrees that it does really depend on the breed. He told Metro.co.uk: ‘Just like humans, some pets, such as husky dogs, are more tolerant to cold weather than others. Make sure you do your homework on your breed.
Portrait Of Dog During Winter
Huskies can tolerate cold weather better than other breeds, says Vets Now (Picture: Getty)
‘For example, Dobermans, chihuahuas and great Danes require a little extra protection in the cold. Short-nosed pets are also more at risk from extreme temperatures due to inherited breathing difficulties.’

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That said, all dog owners should be vigilant when temperatures start to plummet into the minus range.

Another good rule of thumb, says Dave, is ‘if it’s too cold for you, it’s too cold for your dog’.

‘Keep your pets inside, especially overnight, when temperatures plummet, otherwise they run the risk of getting frostbite or hypothermia. If your pet is showing signs of either of these, contact your vet immediately.

‘Remember, too, that temperatures indoors can also plummet. If you’re out, try to make sure temperatures in your home can never fall below a reasonable level (around 20°C).’

Use a carabiner to attach it to a belt loop for a long hike.

Young Woman Walking Dog In The Park
What about normal winter temperatures, that aren’t in the minuses? (Picture: Getty)

So, what about the freezing point, then? Do we need to keep a close eye on dogs between 5°C and 0°C?

Well, it’s certainly good to be alert and vigilant when you’re walking your dog at this temperature – but there’s no need to panic.

It’s wise to keep a close eye on your pup for signs they might be struggling with their winter stroll.

Dogs that are too cold may be seen shivering, slowing down or stopping, whining or barking, or appearing unsettled, lethargic, anxious or even withdrawn.

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Position-wise, they may lift their paws off the ground – or be seen hunching while tucking their trail.

Sick young puppy
Don’t let your pup get too chilly (Picture: Getty)
PDSA vet Lynne James told us: ‘Watch out for wet weather – getting wet will increase the risk of your dog getting chilled.

‘If you spot your pet shivering or they seem to be struggling with the cold, bring them into the warmth straight away.

‘If your dog gets wet, always dry them off with a towel as soon as you get home and make sure to check and rinse their paws – any build-up of salt, grit, dirt or snow can be painful.’

Lynne also reckons shorter, more frequent walks are a good idea when it’s really cold outside.

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‘As the temperatures drop, plan for shorter, more frequent walks rather than one long distance hike daily.’

Front view of mother and son walking with dog looking down
Do dogs even need winter walks? Yep, they do, says the PDSA’s expert vet Lynne James (Picture: Getty)

‘Despite the cold weather, dogs still need daily walks to keep them happy and healthy – it’s important for their mental, as well as physical health. Most dogs will cope well and many may even enjoy the cold!’

You could also adjust the time of the walk: early mornings and late evenings are usually frostiest or coldest.

If appropriate for your pooch, consider getting them a fabric coat to cover their mid-section.

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Lynne agrees: ‘For most dogs, their own lovely fur coat is insulation enough, but those with thin fur, or who are unwell, very old or young, may benefit from a good winter coat. Look for something well-fitting, waterproof but with a comfy lining.’

Don’t force them to wear it, though – or even force them to go outside if your pup is really pushing against it.

Shih Tzu on a warm bed
Would your pup prefer to exercise indoors when it’s cold? (Picture: Getty)

Lynne adds: ‘Avoid forcing your pet to go outside if they really don’t want to on those bitterly cold days – let them go to the loo in the garden, and play some indoor activities instead.’

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Finally, keep in mind that the above only applies to cold temperatures – it doesn’t take into other considerations for snow falling, lying on the ground or sheets of ice.

For more on whether it’s safe to walk your dog in the snow, read our complete guide here.

If in doubt, contact your vet for further guidance.

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