Pet Tips, Adventure Dogs

How Cold is Too Cold for Dogs?

February 3, 2023

I’m writing this from my cozy, heated office with my two dogs, Kitsune and Fenrir, snuggled up in a dog bed near my desk.  But it’s currently -17*F outside.  With the wind chill, it feels like -32*F.  And it’s supposed to get even colder overnight!  Small dogs sometimes get a bad rap for being hard to potty train.  But my two littles refuse to go to the bathroom anywhere other than outside.  It’s a blessing and a curse.  I love not having to worry about cleaning up doggy accidents.  But on days like today, when the weather is especially bad, I sometimes wish they would concede to using a potty pad.  Taking the boys out for bathroom breaks today has been a task and a half.  We’ve been spending more time getting all bundled up than we actually spend outside.  If you also live somewhere cold, you may wonder how cold, exactly, is too cold for dogs?

It depends on the Dog!

so cold!Each dog, like each person, is an individual.  There are a number of factors that can influence what temperature ranges each dog feels comfortable in.  Some dogs, just like some people, just seem to be more cold-tolerant than others.  Out of my own two dogs, most people would very much think that Fenrir would be the most cold-tolerant.  He’s half Kit’s age.  Fenrir has a dark-colored, thick double coat.  Kitsune has a mostly white single coat that I also keep trimmed.  Yet, when I take them out in cold weather it’s always Fenrir who wants to head back inside long before Kitsune!

Although I already just showed that these factors can be moot, here are some traits that can help dictate how cold-tolerant your individual dog may be.


In general, dogs that are very young or very old will be less cold-tolerant than healthy, adult dogs.


Pay special attention to dogs with health conditions during extreme weather.  They may not be able to maintain their body temperature as well as a healthy dog can.

Coat Type:

In general dogs with double coats will tolerate cold better than single coated dogs.  Dogs with short, thin coats will generally get colder faster and may be more likely to require sweaters or coats.

Coat Color:

Darker colored dogs absorb more heat on a sunny day, and thus may be able to maintain their temperature a bit better than lighter colored dogs.


Small dogs are usually more at risk in the cold than larger breed dogs.  This is especially true if they are walking through deep snow.  A small dog in deep snow is more likely to have their belly/chest coming into contact with snow, which can make them feel colder faster.

too cold dogs


It’s never healthy to allow your dog to become overweight.  However, underweight dogs will generally be more suspectable to the cold.


I find this to be true of myself as well as my dogs.  Animals who have time to slowly adapt to the weather will usually become more used to it, and not be as bothered by cold days.

It’s Not Only About the Numbers on the Thermometer!

It’s hard to set definitive rules for how cold is too cold for dogs.  Weather is about more than just the numbers on the thermometer.  It’s important to also take into account things like the wind chill, how sunny it is, and whether or not there is precipitation.  What your dog is doing outside can matter too!  If they’re just sitting around in the snow, they are likely to get colder faster verses if they are playing or exercising outdoors.

How Cold is Too Cold for Dogs – A General Guideline

In general, dogs may start to feel effects of the cold when the temperature is below 45*F.  Dogs who are very old or young, have thin fur, or are compromised in any way may be impacted more in moderately cold weather.  When the temperature drops to below freezing, or 32*F, it’s generally a good idea to closely monitor and limit time outdoors, especially if your dog is sensitive to the cold for any reason.  At below 20*F, you risk your dog developing cold related health complications such as frostbite or hypothermia.  A quick bathroom break is usually ok in these temperatures, but monitor your dog and do not leave them outside for longer than necessary. 

too cold dogs

If you need to take your dogs outside in especially cold weather, there are some precautions you can take to keep them safe.
  • You may think dogs look silly in jackets and boots, but they can help keep them warm.  Boots can help protect paws from snow, ice, and frostbite.  Coats, jackets, or sweaters are especially helpful on cold, windy days.
  • Limit time outdoors as much as possible.  When it’s especially cold, my dogs go out for quick bathroom breaks than come right back inside.
  • If you can, keep outdoor excursions to daylight hours.  Temperatures usually drop in the night, and even on really cold days the sun can sometimes be enough to help keep your dog warm.
  • Go outside with your dog in bad weather.  It sucks, I know, but you’ll know if you’re too cold that, changes are, your dog is too.
  • Know the signs of hypothermia!  They can include shivering, lethargy, pale skin and gums, lack of coordination, and reduced breathing rates.

Learn Your Own Dog’s Cold-Tolerance Level

Although you can use the information in this post as a general guide, your best bet is to always learn what you can about your individual dog.  By all accounts, my Fenrir, who is an Alaskan Klee Kai, should be pretty cold tolerant.  But he’s always been especially sensitive to extreme temperatures, hot or cold.  Because I know this about him, I’m always extra careful about taking him out when it’s especially cold out.  I bundle him up in his coat and boots, and keep bathroom breaks as short as possible.

Comment below!  What’s the coldest weather you and your dog(s) have ever experienced?  Does your dog do well in the cold?  What are some things you do to help your dog spend time outdoors in colder weather?

too cold dogs

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