Should my dog sleep indoors when it’s cold?

The temperatures are cooling down as we approach winter. While you are snuggled warmly and cozy inside, where is your dog? If you wonder whether he should be inside or outside in the cold – consider these 10 points:

  1. Consider your location in the country. Winter temperatures and climates differ in South Africa – consider the vast differences in the climates between Sutherland, Cape Town, Durban and parts of the Free State in both winter and summer. Not all breeds can cope in all conditions. A Husky or Saint Bernard may cope very well in colder weather, where a short-coated breed like a Jack Russell Terrier may not. If you have a mutt, consider his size and coat type. Dogs with undercoats and/or rougher coats tolerate the cold better than dogs with shorter, softer coats.
  2. If you don’t already have a dog, but are considering one, be responsible when you choose a breed to welcome as part of your family. Consider why you want a dog, coat types, size and temperament. Some breeds need constant companionship and need to be with their humans at all times.
  3. If you get a new puppy and want your dog to sleep in your bed, introduce him to this from day one. If you want him to sleep in the same room but on the floor, give him a comfortable dog bed and teach him to stay there.
  4. Your dog may also have a preference as to where he sleeps. If you are rescuing or re-homing a dog, what is his history? Some rescue dogs don’t settle down in the house. Dogs who are terrified during thunderstorms will be more comfortable indoors.
  5. Has your dog reached his senior years? Senior pets may suffer from arthritis and other joint diseases. The cold weather may increase discomfort and pain. Both young and senior dogs diagnosed with joint conditions will be more comfortable indoors in winter. A thick foam mattress can help reduce pressure on joints. The bed should be placed in a draft-free area of your home and should be easy to get into and out of.
  6. You can increase your pet’s food portions during winter. Take your dog for a free weigh-in at your vet at the start of winter. Monitor his weight over the next week or two. If it drops, increase his food by 5 to 10%. Weight loss during winter will impact on your dog’s ability to cope with the cold. If your pet is overweight, speak to your vet for advice.
  7. If your dog sleeps outdoors in any season, provide sufficient shelter from the elements. The location of an outdoor kennel is important. The backyard, away from the front gate, is preferable. Good kennel locations for summer and winter differ. The winter sun is lower in the sky, so check for glare. In summer your dog needs shade during the heat of the day. A wall or other solid structure on one or more sides of the kennel can provide a good wind break. Also consider your rainy season and the direction of the kennel door during these periods.
  8. Whether dogs sleep indoors or outdoors in winter, they should be comfortable, dry and warm. If you use an outdoor kennel, include the same comforts you would for an indoor bed. Fabric stores stock thick fleece during winter. For a good price you can get a couple of metres of fabric and cut several blankets to alternate in the washing machine.
  9. Shorthaired breeds will benefit from a dog jersey in the winter, even if your dog only spends part of his day outdoors. Jerseys must be changed and washed daily! Do not let your pet wear one jersey the entire winter! Breeds with thicker coats do not need jerseys.
  10. Never allow your pet to be uncomfortable. If he shows signs that he is cold outdoors, review his sleeping area. A cold dog may whimper, tuck his tail between his legs or flatten his ears against his head. Your dog may also appear restless or he may wrap himself into a tight ball and start shivering. If your pet shows signs that he isn’t coping outdoors and you are able to provide a warmer place inside, do so for the comfort of your pet.
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