Can Dogs Stay Outside in the Winter? (3 Reasons ‘Why’ & 3 reasons ‘Why Not’)

Some dogs love a trip outside to play in the snow, but that doesn’t always mean that it’s good for them. Can dogs stay outside in the winter? Can we get 3 reasons why and why not?

Some dogs can stay outside in the winter, provided that it doesn’t interfere with their social requirements, that they have a thick enough coat, and aren’t a small breed. Winter breeds are usually fine and a well-insulated doghouse certainly helps and will allow short haired breeds a little more time outside, provided it’s well supervised.

Let’s go into the reasons why and why not so that you can make an informed decision that works well for both you and your dog!

Reasons your dog should be indoors

There are a lot of good reasons to keep your dog inside and close to you. Let’s take a look at  of the strongest ones to start with, so that you can ‘file these away’ and keep them in consideration when deciding where your dog is going to stay for this winter.

Short-haired dogs

With short haired breeds of dog, typically any time that the weather gets below 45 degrees then it starts to become dangerous for them. Add in that those temperatures can and often do take steep drops during winter when a storm rolls in, and you’ve got a recipe for potential tragedy if your dog is outside.

While the doghouse will help, it will need to be well-insulated, as otherwise it’s not going to be much warmer than the outside. The dog house also needs to be the right size, as one that is too big will be harder to heat up with their natural body heavy.

Small breed dogs

Small breed dogs have less resistance to the cold that larger breeds and it makes sense. They have a smaller body mass and they weren’t bred specifically to resist the winter so their coats aren’t going to be very effective.

With smaller dogs, it’s best to keep them inside, and when you do take them out for potty breaks or quick walks, a coat is a good idea, as well as some doggy-shoes or at least a bit of palm balm or Vaseline to keep their feet from drying up from the cold and cracking.

These little guys and gals simply don’t take to the cold very well, so they are definitely going to need to be indoor dogs for their own safety.

Heavy social requirements

Some breeds are much more social than others. While all dogs need a certain amount of attention to avoid developing conditions such as separation anxiety, the amounts of required attention will vary from breed to breed.

For example, here are some breeds that really need a lot of your time and attention:

  • Labrador Retrievers
  • Cocker Spaniels
  • Jack Russel Terriers
  • Siberian Huskies
  • Chihuahuas

Human interaction is important for all dogs. You have to remember that from a canine perspective, they are part of a larger pack, and this mentality is wired into them at an instinctual level. If you don’t spend a lot of time with your dog, for them it is like they have been rejected from their pack.

This can cause dogs to become depressed, where they will act out or even stop eating and become ill – it’s quite serious. As such, you should research your dog’s breed to find out a little more about their attention requirements. Most dogs will NOT do well if they have too much time alone.

Reasons that a dog can stay outside

Now that we’ve discussed reasons why a dog should be inside, we’ll go to the flipside of that argument to give you scenarios where outside winter time is not necessarily a bad thing. Let’s take a look at when wintering outside is possibly an option.

Winter dog breeds

While they still feel the cold, some breeds have genetic factors that give them quite a bit of immunity to it. For example, let’s take a look at the Siberian Husky. These dogs love spending time outside and will sit right down in a pile of snow if they feel like it.

While most dogs start getting dangerously cold at below 45 degrees, a Siberian Husky can function in temperatures as low as -60 degrees Fahrenheit! That’s a pretty serious contrast, but these dogs were bred for winter temperatures.

Take a close look at their winter coats and it’s quite apparent that outside life is certainly quite a bit safe for them. So, if your dog is a winter breed, check and see what temperature range they are comfortable in, and give them a nice, insulated doghouse because withstanding the cold doesn’t mean they necessarily like it!

They have a proper doghouse

One possible exception, provided that you are meeting your dog’s socialization requirements, is when you’ve given them an exceptional doghouse. For instance, there are commercial insulation options that can make the house as much as 20 degrees warmer inside than it is outside.

You can even upgrade the doghouse with a little modern technology by installing heating and AC systems so that the temperature inside is arguably as comfortable as the house. Just keep in mind if you do that you need to regularly inspect the doghouse to make sure that everything is running properly.

Brown outs can and do occur in the winter, so you also need to factor this into your decision, and even if you have some sort of independent, back-up power regular inspections need to be considered ‘part and parcel’ of your responsibility if you will be keeping your dog outside.

Short-stays within acceptable parameters

If you have that exceptional doghouse, then short stays outside can be okay, if longer ones are out of the question.

While we recommend avoiding these altogether and simply keeping your dog safely inside, as long as that doghouse is present and warm enough from insulation and thick bedding inside, then brief stays outdoors in the winter should be okay.

That said, you need to check your dog regularly if you do and this is why we can’t really recommend it. Hypothermia can kick in fast and if your dog isn’t a winter breed, while a good doghouse should make a brief stay outside okay, this is NOT guaranteed and that should factor strongly into your decision.

In conclusion: Some dogs can stay outside, most shouldn’t

Winter can be brutal on dogs and if your dog doesn’t have a thick coat, if they are a smaller breed, or if they simply have high socialization requirements then it’s really best to keep them safely indoors. That said, if you have a winter breed dog like a Siberian Husky, then outside time will be perfectly safe.

A well-insulated doghouse can also help immensely and also open up the option for brief, tightly controller stays outside, provided that they are regular checked on to ensure that they are fine.

Ultimately it boils down to this: Some dogs can indeed stay outside, but for most of them this is not the safest option.