Dogs can feel cold, just like you: how to weather the frigid winter with your dog

Biting cold temperatures have lingered across Windsor-Essex this week, and it’s not just us people who feel the stinging cold on our skin — our furry friends can also have a low tolerance for these conditions. And depending on the breed or age of your dog, experts suggest being mindful of your pooch when taking them outside, especially when it’s -20 degrees Celsius or colder. “Dogs can definitely die in the cold,” said Melanie Coulter, the executive director at the Windsor-Essex County Humane Society. “If it’s cold for you out there, it could very well be cold for your pets.”

Depending on the breed or age of your doggo, it may not be wise to have them outside for any prolonged period, Coulter said, suggesting people shouldn’t leave their dogs outside unattended for long periods, as they can develop hypothermia and frostbite, just like humans. It’s not just the temperature that affects animals outside, but also the condition on the ground. “Especially with the sidewalks having that kind of ice, salt and ice between their toes can be really painful for dogs,” Coulter said. “So sometimes even if the colds not bothering them, just the pain in their paws can make it really uncomfortable to walk.”

Windsor resident Joe McParland usually takes his 10-year-old Greyhound Tessie for two 30-minute walks a day. “She wakes me up at six o’clock to tell me get your butt out of bed because we should be on the road by 6:30,” said McParland. But their walks this week in this extreme cold have been brief, only long enough to have a sniff and do business, then back inside.

“She doesn’t want to have any of that gear on. But when it’s this cold, whether she wants to or not. She gets her quilted coat,” McParland said, adding in his 25 years of owning Greyhound dogs, not a single one has been amenable to wearing special doggy boots.

“There hasn’t been a Greyhound who likes those booties and it’s usually a contest to see how far they can kick them off their paws into the streets. So I’ve just given up,” he joked, saying he’s instead careful about the choice of walking surface. Skipping walks during extreme cold is okay, as long as you get back into the routine when it warms up a bit, experts say.

“Most dogs they want to get out they want to pee and get back in the house. They don’t want to be hanging outside they don’t really care about their walks as much,” said Kelly French of Animal Antics Behaviour Centre. French notes it’s also a good opportunity to try out doggy daycare.

“We do find this time of year, rainy days too, that we have our busiest numbers when it’s harder to be outside and less practical to be walking,” French said. Animal Antics on North Service Road requires an assessment first, but once your canine is cleared, French said it’s a great place for your pup to burn energy and socialize. You can also do many of these energy burning activities at home.

“Doing things like puzzle toys, other activities inside to occupy their mind can also achieve the same thing,” said Coulter.