Dogs, man’s best friend. Your four-legged pal will likely follow you anywhere, even on a winter camping expedition! The same probably can’t be said for your human friends.
While camping in the snow may be considered extreme to some, others love the white winter wonderland. But if you plan on taking your pooch along you may be wondering how cold is too cold for dog camping?
The answer may surprise you! As long as you have taken the proper precautions and have the right gear, your dog can accompany you on some winter camping trips.
How Cold Is Too Cold For Dog Camping?
It is easy to conclude that since most dogs have fur they don’t get cold as easily. This is partially true, most pups don’t experience the cold like us humans. However, that isn’t to say that they don’t get cold.
Most dogs do not tolerate prolonged exposure well to temperatures below 40 degrees. This can vary with the breed, the dog’s age, the weather, and the gear. But a general rule of thumb (or paw) is at 40 degrees and below you should limit your dog’s time outside.
If the temperature is 45 or above, your dog is probably fine outdoors. Keep in mind though that not all dogs are as equally suited to chilly temperatures.
What Determines a Dog’s Cold Tolerance?
Breed. Certain breeds seem to be made for cooler temperatures. Not only can they handle the cold, but they thrive in it. Think huskies, mastiffs, and st. bernards.
Huskies for example can withstand temperatures well below 0 degrees Fahrenheit. However, they have proper protection and often don’t live outside, but only work and play outdoors.
On the other end of the spectrum are breeds like chihuahuas and Ibizan hounds who prefer the heat. Astonishingly chihuahuas can only withstand temps down to 70 degrees. The characteristics of the breed greatly affect their hardiness for the cold.
- Coat Type
One such characteristic is their coat type or their fur. If your dog has thick, coarse, dense fur they may be able to better withstand cold temperatures. Those with fine or thin fur, not as much. Again, think about the fur of a husky compared to a chihuahua.
Additionally, if your dog has recently had a haircut and their fur has been closely cropped or shorn low, they will not be as warm in wintery temps. A final consideration is how close they are to the ground.
Even if your dog has a thick coat, if they have short legs that bring their belly close to the ground, they may get chilly quicker. This is especially true if their coat picks up ice and snow as they walk along.
- Size & Weight
Small dogs get colder easier. I know I keep going back to the breed, but think of a chihuahua, they just aren’t suited for the cold! Little dogs have less weight and are closer to the ground, a recipe for dog hypothermia!
Bigger dogs or average dogs with a little extra weight are better suited to frigid temperatures.
Age. Senior dogs may be more susceptible to cold temperatures. They may feel chilly faster and get cold easier than younger dogs. Their metabolism, general health, and activity level can all factor in.
- Activity Level
Speaking of activity level, more active dogs are less likely to get cold. Running and movement keep them warmer for longer. Breeds who are more relaxed, less energetic, or older will not be as active and therefore will get colder faster.
If you are thinking about camping with your dog, review their characteristics, and decide how well suited they may be to winter camping.
Cold-Weather Gear For Pups
All is not lost if your dog doesn’t score very high on the cold-weather test. Additionally, if it does happen to be below 40 degrees you don’t have to throw in the towel. The right gear can help your furry friend tolerate the cold.
That being said, some breeds are just not suited for winter camping. Also, sometimes the weather won’t cooperate and it just isn’t feasible to take your pet. Your pet’s safety should come first whether you have gear or not.
Types of Dog Gear
The first and best line of defense against the cold is a dog coat. There are all types of dog coats available. Some for chilly weather and others for downright frigid temps.
Puffer jackets and cold weather parkas are best for chilly temps. These insulative jackets can even be waterproof to keep your pooch from getting wet.
Fleece, wool, and quilted coats are great for casual wear and cool but not cold temperatures. These coats are usually not waterproof and are not heavily insulated. They will keep your pup warm on chilly fall or spring days.
Winter coats or extreme weather coats are made for downright cold temperatures. They have things like reflective foil, a waterproof exterior, and thermal insulation. They even may hang longer over the dog’s belly and flanks to protect the exposed muscle.
No matter which type of coat you buy, be sure that it fits properly and the closure is comfortable for Fido.
Almost as important as a coat are booties. Your dog’s pads are very susceptible to cold. They can even get frostbite. Furthermore, sharp ice and crunchy snow can easily scratch or cut a dog’s pads.
A good pair of booties are essential not only for keeping paws warm but also protecting them. Look for booties that are insulated, waterproof, and have a durable non-slip sole. It also doesn’t hurt to purchase a pair that are highly visible as some furry friends are apt to lose them in the snow.
- Well Equipped Shelter
Finally, invest in a nice blanket and bed for your dog and certainly provide them with shelter. Chances are if you are taking your dog camping they will be bunking up with you. Which is great!
Sleeping with your dog can help keep both of you warm. Remember, don’t leave your dog outside when you are winter camping. Not even cold-weather working dogs are left outside overnight.
A dog bed is a great way to keep your pup up and off of the cold ground. This will act as a barrier and prevent them from getting cold at night. There are a few great camping dog beds available that are designed to be rugged, lightweight, and portable.
A blanket. You don’t have to get fancy with a blanket, though there are specialty dog camping blankets. Most times a nice wool blanket (like a military issue blanket) will work. This will just provide them with another buffer against the cold while they sleep.
Aside from having the right gear, there are a few other things you can do to help your dog stay warm.
Feed them. If your dog is outside in the cold, they may be burning more calories to stay warm. Running, hiking, and traversing through snow also have the same effect. While dogs generally need less food in the winter, a camping trip is an exception.
Brush them off. Before entering the shelter, or even when you take a break outside brush the snow, ice, and water off of your dog. This will help keep them drier and warmer.
Don’t force the coat. Generally, most dogs won’t need a coat if the temp is 45 degrees or above. If your dog seems uncomfortable or keeps trying to tear the coat off, it may indicate that they don’t want or need it. However, should your dog appear cold (shivering for example) they may need a coat even if the temp is above 45 degrees.
Signs Your Dog Is Cold
Even your best intentions and preparations may not always work out. On occasion, your dog may still get cold. How do you know your pup is too chilly? Look for these signs.
- Shivering or shaking
- Whimpering or whining
- Seeking shelter or a place to hide
- Cold ears and/or body
- Lifting paws off the ground
- Curling up
- Sleeping more than usual
Dogs can get both hypothermia and frostbite. Like us, if a dog’s body temperature dips below their average they can experience hypothermia. Unlike us, dogs typically run around 101 to 102 degrees Fahrenheit.
At around 99 degrees they could begin to experience hypothermia. This can lead to difficulty breathing, poor circulation, irregular heartbeat, problems with their nervous system, and eventually a shutdown of their body.
If you suspect your dog has hypothermia bring them inside, warm them up, and take their temperature. Then contact a vet if need be.
Dogs can also get frostbite. Though they have a specialized circulatory system in their paws to ward off cold, cold temps for too long can hurt them. Watch out for frostbite not only on their paws but also their nose, ears, or legs.
Watch out for blisters, ice accumulating on the skin, or discoloration. If you suspect frostbite get them inside and warm them up. Then contact their doggy doctor.
Winter Camping With Your Pup
Camping with your dog can be a blast and some folks can’t imagine going anywhere without their furry friend. Just remember, check the weather, dress them appropriately, bring them inside, and monitor them for signs of being too cold.