Now that the summer has ended and the approach towards autumn and winter has begun, many pet owners will want to make sure their dog is warm enough. Whether your dog is staying outside, sleeps indoors, or in a garage, it’s important to keep them warm at night.
For many, especially those of you with smaller dogs or dogs with thinner coats, keeping your dog warm at night is a must for not only their comfort, but also their wellbeing and general health.
How can you make sure that your dog is safe, warm and comfortable during the winter wherever it is they sleep? Well, I’ve put together a guide below which you can follow for outdoor or indoor dogs – it’s in two parts starting with indoors first.
How to keep a dog warm at night inside your home
Like humans, if a dog gets too cold, they can risk developing hypothermia, which occurs when their body temperature drops. This can cause muscle stiffness, a slow heart rate and slow, laboured breathing. If left untreated, this can potentially prove fatal.
Frostbite is also a risk, with areas of skin and flesh dying away, turning blue, and may requiring amputation. To avoid these, there are many dozens of different ways of keeping your dog warm at night for dogs who sleep inside.
Here are my easiest and quickest ways on how you can keep a dog warm at night when they are sleeping in the home.
1. Heated dog beds and mats
My first recommendation is that you not only have a warm and snuggly bed for your dog, but also have a heating blanket for them to sleep on.
You might already have a suitable dog bed for winter nights, but if you don’t here’s a very warm bed on Amazon which actually comes with a built-in heater. It has great reviews and comes highly rated for warmth due to the high sides and materials.
If your dog prefers to sleep on a mat rather than getting into a bed, then you could instead try a heated dog mat. They work just the same as heated blankets do for us humans.
The best heated dog mat I have found is this one on Amazon. You can set it to reach safe sleeping temperatures of 40℃ (104℉) which will be ample for keeping your dog warm at night.
2. Raised dog beds
If you do decide to invest in a new bed, get it up off the floor. Even if you don’t end up buying a heated dog bed, you should raise your existing sleeping area away from the ground.
If your floor gets very cold during the winter, raised beds keep your dog raised away from the floor and stop the loss of heat.
There’s an elevated dog bed on Amazon that you can use in combination with a heated dog sleeping mat that I recommended in the first tip.
3. Arrange their blankets around them
We like to create a little warm nest for our own dog Claude. He sleeps in our kitchen at night, and it can get very cold in there. All you need to do is wind some blankets together and then arrange them in a donut shape.
This then keeps your dog warm at night, as he can get into the donut shape and keep all warm and snuggly.
You can also buy specialist dog blankets that are made from warm fleece materials. Here’s a very highly rated dog winter blanket on Amazon.
Dogs don’t necessarily need blankets to sleep, as much the same was as humans don’t necessarily need blankets to sleep either; but it certainly can help, especially when it is cold.
In fact, dogs will sometimes seek out blankets to warm themselves up, be it a sofa throw or the duvet of your bed, so if you keep finding your blankets being dragged around the house, it may be a sign to get your dog a blanket of their own.
Not all dogs are suited to blankets, though, so if your dog is looking uncomfortable with their blanket then it may be best to take it away or allow them an escape route.
Blankets allow for dogs to burrow into, even when they aren’t tired, and provide a great place for smaller dogs to curl up under.
However, when first giving your dog a blanket, it is best to keep an eye on them and make sure that they are able to breathe under it and that they are able to get free once they are warm.
If your dog takes to their new blanket, then make sure to wash it regularly to prevent smell, as well as build-up of dust or dander, which can often trigger allergies.
If your dog isn’t comfortable with a blanket, then don’t worry as there are other ways for them to sleep warmly during the night.
4. Get a dog nesting bed
If you have struggled to make your dog a nest using blankets, then you might want to consider a covered dog bed. These are basically indoor kennels with hoods that cover the bed for additional warmth.
Although, again some dogs can feel claustrophobic or trapped, so it is best to test them out in the bed before making any final choices. We don’t own one of these but if you look at them you can understand why so many owners use them to keep a dog warm at night.
Here’s a good dog nesting bed on Amazon which comes in various sizes depending on how large your dog is.
5. Try out dog pyjamas
Yes, this really is a thing.
If your dog is comfortable dressing up, then there are canine pyjamas available for them to wear. While they are available in any size, they are best suited for small dogs with low bodyfat or short length fur.
My wife and I always wear pyjamas when it gets cold at night, so why should your dog miss out? Here’s a set I found on Amazon.
6. Draft excluder
This is a simple but effective solution that is so often overlooked by people wanting to know how to keep their dog warm at night.
As most dogs sleep close to the floor, drafts from underneath doors can allow in wind and cold air. If you are worried about your dog catching a chill, then using a draft excluder to block the gaps under the door can go a long way to making the room warmer.
This is actually also a great way of keeping your house warm for you as well as your dog!
7. Indoor grass patches
If you are living in a place where the winters can get unbearable outside, then you may not want your dog venturing outside to do his business.
I recommend an indoor grass patch. These are squares of fake grass, with a tray underneath to collect urine. This lets your dog to go to the bathroom without having to go outside into the cold, helping to keep the pup warm at night.
While these do need to be cleaned regularly, they can be a godsend (and are also incredibly useful for dogs living in high-rise apartments who cannot get outside very easily).
If you don’t want to make your own, check out this dog grass patch on Amazon.
8. Heated dog bowls
As your dog’s water bowls will typically be set on the ground, it can often be the case that the water in them becomes icy cold. When dogs drink ice cold water, their body temperature can soon drop to dangerous levels.
To mitigate this risk, try a heated dog bowl. Rather than warming up the water they will instead keep the water at a comfortable room temperature so that your dog can drink without getting too cold. Here’s a heated bowl on Amazon.
9. Let your dog sleep in with you
I put this as the last option as many owners don’t like their dog sleeping their bed with them. My wife personally doesn’t let us do this as she can get allergic to the hair.
However, if it’s not a problem for you, why not make an exception on those cold winter nights?
10. Don’t let them sleep too near to heating
Whilst is might be tempting to position your dog’s bed near to a heater or radiator, I would recommend against doing so.
As French Bulldog owners, our particular breed is brachycephalic. This means they can overheat very easily and quickly become uncomfortable.
How to keep a puppy warm at night
Most of the advice I’ve already written above about how to keep a dog warm at night will equally apply to a young puppy. However, puppies are extremely vulnerable to the cold and don’t cope well with low temperatures at night.
The good news is that many of the warming products available for smaller dogs are also suitable for puppies. You can find microwavable heating pads will be much safer than hot water bottles, and blankets or even old towels or clothes are also an easy go-to option.
Just make sure to keep an eye on them and make sure they can breathe while they are under there.
How to keep a dog warm at night outside
Most dog owners will want to keep their dogs inside at night, for various reasons. This can be because of shedding, destructive behaviour or even that their dog seems to prefer being outside. Working dogs will often sleep outdoors.
However, in cold weather even larger, furrier dogs can become vulnerable to illness, hypothermia and even frostbite.
But as the owner of an outdoors dog, how do you keep a dog warm at night outside? Here are some quick tips:
- Build a warm doghouse.
- Leave them plenty of food to keep calories up (will keep them warmer).
- Use a heat lamp if the dog sleeps in a garage.
- Install a light bulb in a protected wire cover in the doghouse.
- Have a pile of straw which the dog can burrow into.
- Place thermal shiny blankets on the outside of the doghouse.
How can you keep a dog warm that refuses to come inside at night?
Sometimes the reason some dogs sleep outside is because they seemingly refuse to come inside when called. This is often more of a behavioral issue more than a statement of personal preference, however, and this can be resolved with training.
If your dog is a rescue, or has a history of having been outside, then they may be wary of the indoors. It is important that you create a strong bond with your dog and make your home a friendly and safe place.
With positive reinforcement so that they associate the inside with good things and make them more encouraged to come inside at night to keep warm.
However, while you are encouraging your dog to come inside, there are ways to make sure that they are warm and out of the elements when they are sleeping outside.
A dog kennel is the classic choice, being watertight and offering a shelter away from the wind and the rain.
Can I leave my dog outside at night?
Some breeds do prefer being outside to inside, dogs are natural pack animals and being separated from their ‘family’ can be stressful and isolating.
Also, domesticated dogs are not wild animals and more often than not their fur is not thick enough to withstand the cold. If in doubt, it is best recommended to keep your dog inside the house at night (especially smaller breeds.)
Please also note that in some places it could be illegal to keep your dog outside at night. There could be laws in your local area which state you need to give your dog safe and proper shelter from the elements.
Not all dogs are suited for sleeping outside, especially smaller dogs and those with thinner coats. If you are unsure if your dog is suited to sleeping outside, it is best to look into where the breed originated and what they were bred for. Please also consult with your local laws too.
For instance, St Bernard’s were bred as a working dog in the Alps of Italy and Switzerland, meaning they have incredibly thick coats and are comfortable in colder weather. However, chihuahuas are the smallest breed of dog and were bred in Mexico (although whether their purpose was as food or as a companion dog, the jury is still out), meaning that they are not suited to harsh winters.
If you are still unsure about whether your dog will be able to comfortably live outside, it is best to check with your vet.
I do not recommend letting a dog sleep outside at night at all. However, I appreciate it is sometimes unavoidable as this vet said:
“Many dogs love to be outside and some in rural areas sometimes prefer to be outside. As pup parents, it’s important to know when they need to join their families and seek shelter.” – Dr. Rob Prietto.
If you are concerned about shedding or smells, then you can designate a warm area your dog can sleep in away from your main living area that you can easily clean and ventilate.
How to keep your dog warm on winter walks
Sleeping at night isn’t the only time you need to keep your dog warm, and while the winter can be bitterly cold it is also important that you continue to exercise your dog.
Walks go a long way to spend a dog’s pent-up energy, so if you stop walking them in the wintertime, they can get more destructive and difficult to deal with.
That being said, how can you make sure that your dog is comfortable during your walks in the snow?
Invest in winter clothing
You can buy a range of winter wear to fit dogs of all sizes. I’ve previously written about these at length with regards the French Bulldog breed, and here’s a selection of recommendations that will suit other smaller dogs too:
- Winter coats for Frenchies and smaller dog breeds
- Winter boots and paw protection for Frenchie and other smaller dogs
To summarise though, here are some suggestions for warm winter clothing you can consider:
- Sweaters: Either a knitted or quilted sweater is great for all kinds of dog, including hairless breeds, short haired dogs, young dogs, small dogs, old dogs, and dogs with both short term and long-term illnesses or compromised immune systems. Affordable, easy to find and you can even make them yourself if you are creative.
- Jackets: Dog fur can absorb water from snow and ice, potentially giving them a chill. Similar to a sweater, these jackets are insulated and waterproof and also come with hoods and other attachments to allow them to go about their business, including potty, without hassle.
- Dog boots: General rule of thumb for both hot and cold temperatures: if it is painful (freezing or boiling) for you to walk on the ground in bare feet, it is painful for your dog too. Dog boots may not be for every dog, but they can protect against sharp ice, hidden dangers and even ice-melting chemicals people put down. You may have to measure your dog for boots, as paws aren’t a ‘one-size-fits-all’ affair.
- Snowsuits: Not really a practical solution if you only have snow occasionally as they can be hard to take on and off, but they can be useful if you live in very cold climates with a lot of snow during the winter.
- Paw protection: For dogs who don’t like wearing boots this paw wax or balm is commonly used by mushers for their sled dogs, providing a protective layer between the paw pad and the cold ground and stops ice sticking to the paw.
- Dog umbrellas: This option is mainly for smaller dogs and puppies, and while it may draw some attention it is a fun way of keeping the rain off your dog if it is not comfortable with wearing a waterproof jacket.
Keep your dog’s ears warm
Dog’s ears are very thin and are extremely vulnerable to frostbite in cold weather, so the best way to make sure that their ears are warm both inside and outside the house is to put a hat on them.
A very popular option is a dog snood, a knitted tube that is worn like an open-ended sock over their head and neck. These are able to be bought from many reputable retailers, as well as Amazon, or you can even try and make one yourself if you are a canny knitter.
Can dogs get too cold at night?
While it does depend on what breed of dog you have, with factors including their size, their fur and their age, it is important that you keep an eye on the temperature when it starts to get cold.
Small, thin haired and older dogs will need a coat when it drops below 32°F; however, every dog is different and is comfortable with different temperatures, so if your dog looks cold before it dips below 45°F then its best to put a sweater on them.
Better safe than sorry, after all!
Handy Hint: If you own a French Bulldog here’s some content I put together to help you decide how cold is too cold.
How do you tell if my dog is cold at night?
While dogs cannot speak, although we often wish they could, they do communicate with us in ways that we can understand. A cold dog will often make its discomfort well known. This can include obvious signs like shivering; although many dogs will whine, act anxious and will find ways to try and keep their paws off of the ground.
You know your dog better than anyone, so if your dog is doing any of these things, acting up because of the cold, or showing other signs of discomfort, then it is best to bring them inside.
The bottom line is this; it’s your responsibility to make sure you keep your dog warm at night, and I hope these tips have given you a head start on how to do so.
If you have enjoyed this guide on how to keep a dog warm at night, please do pay it back by sharing on social media. You might also like these related guides I recently published.