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What to do when it's too cold to walk your dog

Updated: Aug 31, 2023

When temperatures drop, the nights draw in and the salt gritters are on the streets, it can be difficult to safely fit in regular walks with your dog. We’re here to give you tips to safely exercise your dog in winter.



When is it too cold to walk my dog in the UK?

Some dogs simply don't enjoy the cold and for others (young puppies, elderly dogs, dogs with health issues etc.) it can actually be dangerous to go out in extreme weather conditions. Larger dogs may be able to tolerate cooler temperatures versus smaller breeds, but it always comes down to the individual dog and the particular weather conditions on the day. If your dog appears uncomfortable when walking, doesn’t want to walk, is shivering, tucking their tail under or whining, it is too cold to walk your dog and it’s time to head inside.



How to keep your dog active in winter Here are our tips for keeping your dog active when it is too cold to walk your dog...


1. Explore a new place If you are concerned your dog may get cold on a walk, try using a long leash (or letting your dog off leash in a secure area) to sniff and explore a new area. Dogs "see" the world through their nose so, by encouraging sniffing, it promotes calmness, utilises the brain and produces endorphins which are hormones that reduce stress. If they show signs of being cold, you can quickly get them back into the warm.

2. Make their food an adventure Dogs are natural scavengers, so they love to sniff, dig and hunt for their food and by using licky mats, stuffed Kongs, scatter feeding and hiding food inside cardboard boxes, you can make an adventure out of feeding time and exercise your dog's brain, helping to burn off some excess energy.

3. Do some training indoors On days when it's too cold to go outside for a walk, take the time you would spend walking (let's say an hour) and divide this into several training sessions through out the day. So you might do four 15 mins training sessions throughout the day.


How to keep stay safe when walking your dog in winter If your dog is happy and comfortable to be out walking, here are some tips to help keep you both safe.

1. Wipe down your dog's paws and stomach after walking When you return home, wipe your dog's paws, feet, legs and stomach to remove grit and salt (which if ingested can be fatal) as well as dampness, snow or ice. Providing your dog with booties can also be a great way to keep salt out of their paws, but remember that it may take some time for your dog to adjust to wearing boots, so some positive training ahead of winter is recommended.

2. Prevent snow compaction To enable you and your dog to keep up your walking schedule in winter, keep the hair in between your dog’s feet trimmed to avoid build up of snow and ice which can be hard to get out and painful.

3. Wear reflective clothing - both of you! Wear hi-vis and reflective clothing and use a hi-vis dog lead (and coat) and a light on your dog's collar to help keep you both visible on dark mornings and evenings.

4. Stay off frozen water To prevent drowning by falling through ice, stay away from frozen bodies of water.

5. Take a buddy & stay off your phone By pairing up with another dog walker and their pooch and staying off your phone so you are not distracted will make for a safer walk and you will be less of a target for criminals.


My dog won’t go to the toilet when it’s cold We can totally understand your dog's POV here, as it is a shock to the system to have to relieve yourself outside in cold temperatures! So, here’s how you can encourage your dog to toilet outside when it’s cold:

  1. Warm them up first before going outside and allow them to warm up again afterwards

  2. Don’t shut them out in bad weather, so they know they will be able to come back inside



Want to explore indoor activities to help keep your dog active in winter? Check out APDS Dog Club, Dog Training and Scent Detection classes.


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