When the temperature drops overnight, people wear sweaters to combat cold weather. Puppies don’t have the benefit of pulling something out of the closet to wear. While some parts of the country tend to enjoy mild winters, abrupt changes in the weather often leave pets shivering in shock.
Different dog breeds react to cold weather in different ways. My German shepherd, Magic-the-wooly-wonder, would spend hours outside if he had his choice. He even likes rain and snow turns everything into a doggy playground. But short-furred pups like Chihuahuas tend to be heat-seeking missiles eager to burrow into piles of fluffy blankets. A draft sends them scurrying for shelter. Cold weather may prompt fussy puppies to potty in the house because they don't want to get their nether regions chilly.
Stimulate Fur Growth
Acclimate pups gradually to outdoor chills. That stimulates their fur to grow thicker and be more protective. Exclusively indoor pets won’t be as well equipped to spend time outside, so be aware and bring them back inside after only short trips to the bathroom and back.
To get pets used to spending more time outdoors, offer small tastes of cold weather in two to three-hour periods beginning in early Fall. Once the weather drops to the forties or below, a half hour to an hour supervised time outside both morning and evening can help prompt thicker fur growth.
Offer A SweaterPuppies are less cold tolerant because they have less muscle and fat mass than adults. Muscle and fat increases their metabolism, and keeps them warm. Puppy coats won’t be as thick or long to offer protection. Little pups have less body mass to generate natural heat, too, and often benefit from a doggy sweater especially when they must do outdoor bathroom duty. Teach your puppy to wear a sweater using the same tips found in this article to help puppies accept costumes.
Reduce Fly-Away Fur
Pets often develop dry skin, dull coats, and static-filled fur during the winter as a result of artificial heat from furnaces. Ask your veterinarian or pet products store about fatty acid supplements. These help counteract the drying effects of winter weather.
Combing your pup can create even more static. I no longer recommend stroking fur with even a USED dryer sheet to diffuse the static because they have perfumes and chemicals that can irritate the skin. Puppies are particularly sensitive.
Instead, you can use a wire hanger to “ground” the charge and get rid of the static. Carefully stroke your puppy with the long (smooth) bottom edge of the metal hanger from his neck to tail, and on both sides. Avoid his face or other tender areas.
Adjust Puppy Feeding
Pets stay warm by burning fuel—the food they eat. They need more calories to generate increased body warmth, too, especially if they’re outside pets and can’t rely on your warm lap. Puppy food and “performance” diets offer more calories but you may also need to increase the ration especially if your pup spends much time outside. If he won't eat it all in the scheduled meals, increase the times he's fed.
Provide Outside Shelter
Getting wet, or sitting in the cold wind, allows body heat to be stripped away and predisposes pets to cold risks. When fur stays clean, untangled and dry, it traps a warm layer of air next to the pet’s skin that helps protect them from the cold.
Provide your outdoor pets with a dog house or other shelter even during moderate temperatures. That way they have time to get used to sleeping inside, and learn to take shelter there out of the wind and rain.
Avoid accommodations that are too large. Outdoor shelters should be only slightly larger than the curled-up pet, so that the dog’s own body heat can fill up the space and keep him warm. It’s best to offer a puppy-size shelter rather than a jumbo dog house if your little guy hasn’t reached adult size.
If you already have an adult-size dog house for Junior, simply place a smaller shelter such as a puppy size dog crate—inside for him to use as his bed. Put a dry blanket or straw bedding inside for the pet to burrow and snuggle.
Staying in the garage helps keep the wind off their backs, but dogs still need a small cubbyhole to hide inside—even a cardboard box can help as long as it stays dry. Providing a light bulb overhead can offer some warmth. You can also find terrific pet warming beds or safe pet heating elements to situated under the dog’s bed, available from pet products stores.
When outdoor shelter or a garage isn’t available, pets should be inside whenever temperatures drop below about 40 degrees or the weather turns nasty. Take steps now to prepare for the chills of winter weather.