Although many dogs are easily trained to live inside homes with their favorite humans, there are some circumstances where your furry friend may need to stay outdoors for an extended period of time. If your dog requires an outdoor living space for more than 20 minutes during the cooler months, it is helpful to follow these winter safety tips to ensure he or she remains warm, healthy, and happy.

1) The Challenge of Providing Clean Water
While you may find your dog requires fewer trips outside to fill up his or her water bowl during the cooler months, there are a few things to stay vigilant about. For example, the water may get dirty, particularly on windy days, it could spill out from your dog playing or tipping the bowl over, and, for those in colder climates, the water could freeze. Try solutions like no-tip heated water bowls, rubber water bowls that are kept in the sunny spots of the yard, a wireless heated pad under the no-tip bowl, or place the bowl inside an old tire and fill in the space with dark rocks. Please keep chewing in mind for more playful dogs as you determine the best solution for your dog’s needs.

2) Getting the Right Size of Shelter
A pet carrier or indoor dog crate should be tall enough for your dog to stand and turn around in yet not overly large for a more cozy and portable option. This is a good measure for your dog’s outdoor home as well because the small yet still comfortable sizing will better insulate your dog from the cold. As for the water bowl, it may be ideal to offer a separate water cover outside of the dog house to prevent debris from getting into the water while also avoiding spills that can make your dog overly cold or uncomfortably wet.

3) To Insulate or Not to Insulate
If the temperatures in your area drop to near freezing, you may want to add insulation to your dog house. In fact, some dog houses are built for colder temperatures. Others will need a little handyman attentiont to become insulated. A third, and perhaps the easiest, option is to add a wireless heated pad or blanket that fills up the floor space. This option is best for dogs who do not typically chew on objects in their crate or space.

4) Adding a Platform
However you decide to keep your dog warm from the cooler weather, consider building your his or her shelter off the ground. This will prevent the dog house from getting wet or cold from snow or rain puddles. It will also reduce the risk of wood rot, mold, and mildew.

5) Giving Your Dog a Pass on Bathtime
When you dog lives outdoors, there are some chores that should become a part of your regular routine to keep your dog healthy. For example, his or her water and food bowls should be cleaned at least daily and fresh water should be added throughout the day. On the other hand, if your dog is not a fan of bathtime, he or she is in luck. Your dog will continue to require regular brushing and nail clippings. However, bathing too frequently may strip him or her of the natural oils that protect his or her skin from the cooler temperatures. So, if your dog shutters when it’s time to get clean, this may be the perfect excuse to potpone the bath and rely more heavily on brushing until the weather heats up in the spring. That said, before you develop your winter grooming plan, be sure to speak with your veteranarian about your specific dog’s needs.

6) Planning Out His Boundaries
Once your dog’s new digs are set up, it’s time to establish some roaming, play, and potty area boundaries for his or her safety. The most popular methods for setting boundaries include fences, ti-out cables, or kennel runs. Electric fences can be helpful for easily trained dogs. Please keep in mind these types of fences do allow other animals to enter the space and more determined dogs to leave, which can be dangerous when your dog is left unattended for extended periods of time. Physical fences at the appropriate height and spacing create effective yet safe boundaries for most dogs, even diggers when additional safety escape-proof measures are taken underneath the fence.

Tie-out lines and ziplines are helpful if your dog is not going to be left unattended for more than a half hour. Dogs who are tied up outside can easily get tangled or choke themselves trying to chase after something. Therefore, if you are using this method of keeping your dog within your designated boundaries, make sure he or she is not left tied up for too long without supervision.

7) Visit Often!
No matter what steps you have taken to ensure your dog is safe while outdoors, remember spending quality time with his or her human each day is essential for good health. Make a schedule for household members to spend time with your dog at least a couple of times per day as it can be easy to get caught up in daily tasks and let time slip by. For more pet care safety tips, visit our blog frequently for articles that can help your dog stay comfortable, happy, and ready for your next family adventure.