Genius Dog Owner Hacks To Prepare Your Pups For Winter

As pet owners prepare for winter, their dogs need to prepare as well. Just because they’re dogs doesn’t mean that they can handle any weather. But at the same time, keeping your pets warm can be easy and even fun.

Some winter hacks can save you money, such as repurposing old shirts. Others keep your house clean (muddy paws, anyone?) and keep your dog active indoors. If you’re a dog owner, you need these hacks for winter.

Create A Dog First Aid Kit

A Golden Retriever holds First-Aid-Kit.
Pinterest/Petplan Pet Insurance

Since cold weather can cause discomfort or fros bite, it’s best to keep a dog first aid kit on hand. Integrative veterinarian Dr. Carol Osborne recommends keeping a blanket and thermometer on hand if your dog appears shaky, hunched, or uncomfortable.

The Ontario Humane Society advises dog owners to watch for lethargy, weakness, and shallow breathing. These are signs of hypothermia. Keep blankets, hairdryers, or heaters on hand to warm your dog up if they appear too cold.

Re-Purpose Old Clothes Into Pet Sweaters

Dog wears a homemade dog sweater made by YouTuber Vicky Bermudez.
YouTube/Vicky Bermudez
YouTube/Vicky Bermudez

Pet sweaters can keep your dog warm while on walks. If you want to save money, make pet clothes out of your old t-shirt. All you need is a shirt, pen or pencil, needle and thread, scissors, and measuring tape.

Measure your dog’s body and front legs first (you’ll need flexible measuring tape). Measure and cut your shirt into a “mini shirt” with leg holes on their front legs only. Then cut it out and sew it together.

Protect Your Dog’s Paws With Vaseline

A jar of vaseline sits next to dog's paws.
Pinterest/Jessica Kaufmann
Pinterest/Jessica Kaufmann

Although your dog can’t eat vaseline, they can receive it as a moisturizer. You’ll want some if you plan to let your dog out into the snow. Otherwise, ice and salt harm your dog’s pads and cause them to crack.

If you don’t have vaseline, some cooking oils (such as olive oil and flaxseed oil) are safe for dogs and can act as a lubricant. It’s okay if your dog licks a little bit of vaseline or cooking oil, but don’t let them eat a lot.

Don’t Warm Their Water

A dog drinks water from a bowl after his race during William Hill Derby night at Wimbledon Stadium.
Getty Images
Getty Images

Many dog owners think that warm water freezes more slowly, so they put it in their pet’s dog bowl. But the opposite is true. The Mpemba effect states that hot water freezes more quickly than cold water for reasons that scientists are still debating.

Warm water usually evaporates quickly, which may be why it freezes faster. Either way, if you want your dog’s outdoor bowl to last longer, use cold water. Or better yet, keep their water bowls indoors.

Create A Paw-Cleaning Station Near Your Door

A dog wipes his paws on a blue towel.

As rain and snowfall, the streets become muddy. More dirt means more muddy paws to destroy your home’s floors. Prevent the mess by keeping a towel, brush, or packet of towelettes near your front doors.

Jen of the blog “My Brown Newfies” used a storage container that her dog could step into. But during cold weather, you don’t want to soak your dog’s paws. Use a damp towel or brush, not a hose that may make your dog cold.

Don’t Bathe Them As Often

Employee at the Barber Pet grooming salon washes a dog with soap.
Oleksandr Rupeta/NurPhoto via Getty Images
Oleksandr Rupeta/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Some owners bathe their dogs more than they need to. But over-grooming can strip the dog’s natural oils, says groomer Monica Hardy. Keeping these oils allows your dog’s skin to stay moisturized, and they’ll keep more comfortable (and potentially warmer).

According to the American Kennel Club, long-haired breeds should be bathed within four to six weeks. Short-haired dogs can be bathed less frequently, within two to three months. That’s only a couple of baths per winter, max.

Embellish Your Dog’s Bed

A pug is wrapped in a blanket.

Less exercise and cold winter often result in painful joints, especially in older dogs. Adding a couple of blankets to the dog bed will keep your pets comfortable and warm. Veterinarian Babette Gladstein recommends buying cheap baby blankets or airline blankets at the drug store.

If you’re worried about your dogs’ joints, you may want to buy them a new bed or a memory foam pad. Heated dog beds and high indoor beds are also available to buy.

Keep Your Dogs More Active Outside

Windle the dog plays in snow.
Danny Lawson/PA Images via Getty Images
Danny Lawson/PA Images via Getty Images

In cold weather, intense exercise is key when you take your dogs outdoors. If you get your dog’s blood pumping enough, they won’t be cold and miserable. A ball launcher or frisbee session should warm them up enough.

You can also try what’s called an “interval walk.” These walks change from regular walking to jogging to walking again. They keep both you and your dog warm without wearing you out. Plus, it’s a great workout!

Give Them An Indoor Scavenger Hunt

A golden retriever puppy sniffs the floor.

As you keep your dogs indoors, they have to remain physically and mentally stimulated. Otherwise, dogs may become destructive. An easy way to keep them active is to set up a doggy scavenger hunt.

Canine behavior consultant Joan Hunter Mayer recommends hiding dry dog food and toys in various spots. “Make the games easier to begin with–hiding in plain sight, then making it more challenging as the dog begins to understand the game,” she explains.

Put A Light On Your Dog

A lit HO3 is attached to a dog harness at night.

During colder months, the nights grow longer and the days become darker. Since dogs can’t see well in the dark, this poses several dangers for your pets. “Being so low to the ground. [dogs] can easily be missed by a biker or car headlights,” says dog trainer Nicole Ellis.

When you walk your dog, you may want to attach a small flashlight to their collar. You can also buy an LED light-up collar or attachable collar light. Illuminating keyrings should work well.

Why Dogs Need Boots

Iditarog sled dogs' paws are protected by fabric dog
Joshua Corbett/picture alliance via Getty Images
Joshua Corbett/picture alliance via Getty Images

When owners give their dogs tiny shoes and socks, it isn’t just for cuteness (although that’s certainly a factor!). During cold months, ice can form beneath your dog’s feet. This causes your dog’s nails to wear out and become brittle.

If your dog’s feet don’t have protection, you’ll need to trim and tend to their nails consistently. Dog boots save you from the hassle. If you don’t want to spend the money, you can give your dog human socks.

Create A Makeshift Path

A man carries a basket after snowfall as he walks with a dog.
Sidar Can Eren/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
Sidar Can Eren/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Some dogs hesitate as soon as they step on the cold floor. They may look at their owners like, “Really? I have to freeze my paws?” If your dog won’t walk to the car, lay out a tarp to create a pathway for them.

If you don’t own tarp, use another material such as a towel, trash bag, tent, or blanket. You’ll need either a thick or waterproof material to prevent the “path” from freezing over too quickly.

Warm Up Their Beds Beforehand

Black and tan Jack Russell terrier pedigree puppy is lying in his bed.
Tim Graham/Getty Images

If you want to warm up your dog, place a heating pad on their bed. You’ll have to monitor these since they involve electricity, but if you warm the blankets before your dog gets in, it should be fine.

Hot water bottles are also an option for those who don’t want to deal with a heating pad. Or, you can heat up a pack of rice, which warms quickly and is safe for dogs to eat.

Keep Coats Long, But Groomed

Dog groomer Cristina La Penna trims the fur of a poodle.
arifoto UG/picture alliance via Getty Images
Michael Reichel/picture alliance via Getty Images

While it’s good to keep your dog’s coat long in winter, you should still groom it regularly. Veterinarian Jeff Werber describes dog fur as a thermos, keeping your dog’s body temperature level as long as it is working properly.

Dr. Werber asserts that fur won’t work as well if it’s matted, tangled, or dry. Keep a moisturizer around for your dog, and don’t slack on brushing their fur. They won’t feel as cold if you do so.

Make Paw Cream At Home

A pet owner examines a husky's paw in the snow.
Wolfgang Kaehler/LightRocket via Getty Images
VW PICS/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Just as cold weather dries out our skin, it also dries dogs’ paws. Keeping them moist will prevent paws from cracking, which keeps your dogs comfortable and stops their paws from getting cut.

The American Kennel Club recommends making your own paw cream by melting oils with beeswax. Coconut oil and shea butter are both healthy choices for dogs, and they smell great. Melt four ounces of beeswax with a couple of teaspoons of oil, and let it cool into a cream.

Train Your Dog On Recall

A dog is happy to go for a jog with his owner in Roger's Grove Monday morning.
Lewis Geyer/Digital First Media/Boulder Daily Camera via Getty Images
Lewis Geyer/Digital First Media/Boulder Daily Camera via Getty Images

When the weather grows foggy, you can easily lose sight of your dog no matter how many lights they wear. Train your dog for the winter with an emergency recall. This unique command tells your dog that they need to come, and it’s not an option.

To start, choose a word other than “come,” since many dogs learn to refuse this. Once you have a unique word, reward your dog approaching with special treats.

Beware Of Drafts

Small white dog waits in an open door.
VW PICS/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

When dogs lay on the floor or in their beds, they can feel drafts that their owners can’t. These drafts, which slip through doors and windows, can make them chilly through the nights. Inspect your doors and windows when winter rolls around.

Use a towel to block the bottoms of doors. If your dog sleeps in a large room that doesn’t warm easily, consider moving their bed to a smaller room or warming their bed with another hack on this list.

Make A Clean Digging Box

A dog digs for seaweed as it plays in the snow on the beach.
Ian Forsyth/Getty Images
Ian Forsyth/Getty Images

If your dog is a digger, you won’t want to let them outside to get covered in mud. But you won’t want to rob them of entertainment and exercise, either. Make them a clean digging box to enjoy!

Most dog digging boxes involve a box (often a wooden or plastic storage container) and sand. It’s easy to sweep up–easier than mud! Keep some toys in there to encourage your dog to dig in it occasionally.

Pick Your Weather Battles

Young woman walks with her dog in winter environment.
VW PICS/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
VW PICS/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Although walking your dog in the morning or evening is convenient, it’s also guaranteed to have the coldest weather. Your dog won’t want to walk if they know that it’ll be freezing. Take them outside when the sun comes up.

If you’re able, walk your dog during the late morning or early afternoon when the sun is at its highest. It’ll be more enjoyable for both you and your dog. Plus, your dog won’t roll around in the morning dew.

Use A Pet-Safe Ice Melt

A black labrador sits next to pet-safe ice melt.

When it snows, many people clear their pathways with salt. But salt scratches your dogs’ paws, dries their skin, and can potentially lead to slipping and cuts. For the sake of your dog, swap salt with an ice melt.

Ice melts are made by vets to remove snow and keep your dogs’ paws safe. Veterinarian Sarah Gorman reminds pet owners that ice melts can still upset your dogs if they eat it. She adds that the safest ice melts are made with propylene glycol.