If you plan on keeping your dog outdoors throughout the winter, there are some basic preparations that must be made to keep him protected from the weather. This is particularly true if you live in a colder climate that sees a lot of low temperatures and snow. It is important to recognize that some breeds, particularly those with shorter coats are simply not suited to outdoor living in the winter. Likewise, older arthritic pets and ill animals should be kept indoors during the winter season.
Start by ensuring that your dog has a safe and warm house to protect him from the wind and snow. It should be elevated from the ground, especially if your doghouse sits on concrete which can really hold the cold. You can do this using a few insulated boards or a wooden pallet. What you don’t want to use is anything that really holds the cold temperatures like concrete and metal.
The house should be insulated to keep the warmth inside and have a cover to help reduce wind and cold entering the house. A plastic flap or piece of carpeting that acts as a door will work. You can also put in an interior wall that further cuts back on the wind that blows through the door. The house itself should be large enough for your pet to sleep comfortably but not much larger than that. Animals (and people) generate lots of body heat and keeping the space reasonably small will allow your dog’s own body heat to help keep the temperature inside comfortable.
You can use a number of different things to heat the interior of the house. Provided that your dog is not an avid chewer, a heated kennel mat or bed is an ideal and safe choice. If your pet is apt to chew wires, consider covering the wire with some PVC piping and check it periodically to ensure that he hasn’t chewed that. Heating lamps can be used but they can get very hot and burn your pet if accidentally bumped or nosed. They can also pose a fire risk. If you want a more deluxe system there are kennel heaters that can be installed in your pet’s house to keep it toasty throughout the season.
Water bowls and buckets are often too shallow to stay liquid if the temperatures get cold. Instead, consider getting a heated water bucket or dish, available at pet supply and farm supply stores. These plug in and have a coiled heater at the base that keeps water from freezing. It is important that your dog has a reliable source of water as eating snow will not suffice to keep him hydrated and comfortable.
Because your dog will burn more energy staying warm, it is also important to keep an eye on his weight and adjust his food quantities accordingly if he seems to be losing weight. Some dogs require larger amounts of food throughout the colder months to maintain a healthy weight. Check your pet’s paws regularly. Bits of ice can build up between the toes causing discomfort.
Make sure that there are no jugs of antifreeze within your dog’s reach and that none is spilled within his yard. Antifreeze can attract animals with its smell but is highly toxic and often fatal even in small quantities.