Winter Prep For Your Pup


As we all start pulling out our hats and gloves, it’s important to remember the winter prep for our furry friends too. So, what are some things to consider?

Winter Apparel 

The type of dog you have will determine if they need a coat. Puppies, small dogs, flat-faced breeds, medically fragile dogs, and those with very short hair will need extra warmth when the cold winds blow. However, dogs who were bred to live in snowy climates, and those with double coats typically do just fine with their own fluff for insulation.

Pup in the winter
Ona the St. Bernard. Photo courtesy @saint_ona.

I highly recommend bringing your dog along to choose a coat in a brick and mortar store rather than buying online. Places like Hound About Town and Fussy Friends are some great local spots to stop in. You want to make sure it fits properly, and that your dog can move freely without the coat falling off. It’s tempting to choose the cutest outfit, but the deciding factor should be how comfortable your dog is in their clothes. Many dogs feel too restricted in snug sweaters, despise hoods, or dislike certain materials so much that they refuse to move. Try out a few styles to see your pup’s preference. It’s also important to make sure your choice is compatible with your dog’s walking gear, as a mismatch can result in the clothing or harness/collar falling off. In the event you have a dog who is extra sensitive to the cold, you may even want to layer their winter clothes with a onesie or sweater underneath, and a thicker coat on top.

Pups in winter jackets
Bosley and Bailey. Photo by Tracie Koehnlein.

Protecting the Paws

Even if you have a Husky or Bernese Mountain Dog, protecting your pup’s paw pads is a vital part of winter preparation. The pads on your dog’s feet are not only vulnerable to frostbite, but city dogs have to worry about sidewalk salt. Rock salt (and the added chemicals) can be particularly corrosive to puppy feet. Along with burning their pads, a dog who licks up too much salt can become ill with salt poisoning.

Booties are a popular choice for paw protection. The most important factor in choosing booties is making sure they fit securely, and have good quality Velcro or straps to ensure they stay on for the duration of the walk. Along with cloth booties, there are rubber Pawz, affectionately called “balloons” by those who use them. Though they only last a few walks before tearing, Paws stay on better than other materials. However, putting them on can be a struggle, and you must be careful not to pinch your dog or pull their toenails when putting them on or off.

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Most dogs find booties uncomfortable, and feeding your dog treats while putting them on for the first several times can help them develop a positive association. It may take a few tries before your dog tolerates wearing booties, but many manage after they see it’s related to their walks.

For those pet parents and dogs who find booties too stressful, there is an alternative. Paw balms are waxy substances you rub on your dog’s pads before the walk to protect them from the ice, salt and chemicals in the streets. Musher’s Secret is the most trusted brand, and one that can be used all year round. Those on a budget can also use petroleum jelly. Though these various balms do offer protection, it is still a good idea to wash your dog’s paws with wipes or a wet rag after their walk.

Photo courtesy of

Fun and Safety

Most dogs love a romp in the snowy park and pouncing on ice chunks on the sidewalk. It’s perfectly fine to allow these jaunts, but playtime may need to be limited in the winter. When temperatures hit the teens and beyond, time spent outdoors should be limited to 5-15 minute potty breaks unless your dog is a hardy, double-coated breed. Each animal is different, so read your dog’s signals when outside. Watch for excessive shivering, whimpers, and repeated lifting of the paws, as these are signs the dog is overwhelmed. Once you learn your dog’s limits and what winter prep they are most comfortable with, you’ll both be in for a safer and happier winter season for years to come.

Photo courtesy of
Tracie Koehnlein
Author: Tracie Koehnlein

Tracie is an animal shelter worker who loves books. When she's not working for or talking about animals she may be writing or binge watching fantasy shows and movies.