With another week of cold weather about to hit the GTA, those of us with dogs that need daily walking are wondering what our options are. Just how do you handle a young, energetic dog who wants to go out regardless of the temperatures? And on the flip side, how do you deal with an elderly dog who feels the cold but yet has to go out to do his business—even when it’s – 35C with the windchill? Or if you live with your dog in an apartment and you have to walk him?
When It’s Too Cold
Generally, Dr. Issam Kadri believes when it’s too cold for you, it’s too cold for your dog. That might not be entirely applicable if you have a double-coated Northern breed, however, such as a Siberian Husky, Saint Bernard or a Malamute. Generally the temperature guidelines accepted by most veterinarians are:
For healthy medium-sized and large breed dogs, a temperature of – 7 C including the windchill means a walk of 30 minutes max, while smaller dogs shouldn’t be out for longer than 15 to 20 minutes. From – 7 C down to around -15 C, short walks are all you need and once it drops below – 15 C, few dogs should be out for anything longer than the couple of minutes it takes them to do their business. Even if they don’t believe you!
Bred for Cold
Some dog breeds have much lower tolerance for cold weather, particularly when they’re older. These include short-haired breeds such as pointers, small breeds such as Chihuahuas and Dachshunds and fine-built dogs like Greyhounds. Your average Lab or Doodle can probably handle reasonable temperatures, though, particularly if they’re equipped with warm boots and a jacket.
Just like people, young adult dogs can handle lower temperatures than puppies or elderly pets. If your dog is younger than 7 months or older than 7 years, the temperature range he can tolerate is likely to be smaller. In addition, both groups can slip and fall more easily, and while it doesn’t seem like a long way to fall they can hurt themselves on the ice.
Acclimatizing to the Temperature
Try to minimize the shock of taking your dog straight out into the cold from the warm home. If you have an enclosed porch or patio, give him a couple of minutes there before going outside to acclimatize—particularly if he doesn’t wear winter clothing. Otherwise, open the door and stand in the doorway first while they adjust to the temperature before venturing out on your walk.
So get out there and enjoy yourselves even when it’s cold, just keep your dog’s age, size, breed and state of health in mind.