With the right preparation, certain breeds of dog can spend much of the winter in their outdoor doghouse. Although not recommended for small, young or old short-haired dogs, a pet that is acclimated to the temperatures and has a sturdy shelter can remain outdoors. Responsible dog owners will supervise their outdoor dogs to ensure their health and safety.
Dangers of Winter Weather
Winter's frigid air and frozen precipitation can be a health hazard for outdoor pets. The Humane Society of the United States advises dog owners to bring their canine companions indoors when the weather turns bitter, and states that pets should never be unsupervised while outside, regardless of the season. Extreme weather conditions are particularly difficult for short-haired, very young or very old animals, and they are safest when living indoors. Canine noses, ears and paw pads are susceptible to frostbite, and wind chill can cause deadly hypothermia.
Indoors or Outdoors
When temperatures plummet, pet owners may want to bring their furry friends inside, but certain breeds of dog may be better equipped to withstand winter's temperatures than others. A dog's fur thickness and length as well as his body mass can help him stay warm while outside, although determining what temperature he can withstand is not an exact science and can make wintertime living risky, according to Dr. M.A. Crist for Texas A & M University's Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences website. Dr. Crist asserts that indoor pets not acclimatized to winter should not be left outside when daily temperatures are below 45 degrees Fahrenheit.
A snug, weatherproof shelter can keep cold-acclimated dogs safe and warm when snow flies. A proper doghouse should be large enough for the dog to stand up in, and insulated to maintain the dog's body heat. An outdoor rated heating pad will ensure that the dog stays warm, and dog owners can add blankets and dry straw for added comfort, changing them frequently if they become wet or dirty. The Humane Society recommends a raised floor with a door that faces away from the wind to keep pets cozy.
Outdoor dogs burn extra calories while keeping warm. Dog owners will need to feed their dogs more food than usual throughout the winter season, according to Dr. Crist. Outdoor dogs also need access to fresh, unfrozen water at all times. Heated water buckets can help dogs stay hydrated during winter months. When a dog house is not available, a toolshed or garage can keep canine companions safe from sub-zero temperatures.