Tips for Your Dog to Play in the Snow Safely

Discover how to make playing in the snow both safe and enjoyable for your winter-loving pup.

Published January 16, 2023
Smiling Man Playing With Dog On Snow

Most dogs love snow. If your dog is eager to roll around in the white stuff, you might wonder if it's safe to let them. It probably is, but it's important to take precautions first. You may want to get foot protection, such as booties, for your dog - depending on the conditions and how long you plan to play outside. Older dogs, small breeds, and dogs with short hair might need a coat to keep warm. Learn more about how to make playing in the snow safe and enjoyable for your silly snow dog.

Can Dogs Play in the Snow?

Absolutely! If your dog wants to play in the snow, let them. Cold-tolerant breeds may be happy to run around in the powder for more than an hour, whereas dogs who aren't acclimated to cold weather might be done after a few minutes. Use your dog's body language as a guide and never force them to play in the snow if they're reluctant.

Regardless of their breed, put a time limit of about 30 minutes on your dog's snow playtime. While they play, assess them for any signs they're too cold. Bring them in and warm them up if they start shivering, trembling, whining, have a hunched body, tucked tail, or hold up their paws. If your dog wants to keep playing after the initial 30 minutes, give them a once-over before you let them continue, then reassess in another half hour.

Puppies and Snow

Depending on your puppy's age, it may not be safe for them to play in the snow. Puppies are still learning how to regulate their body temperature for the first few months of life, so extreme cold can be dangerous. Avoid letting your puppy play or walk in the snow until they're at least 4 months old. Even then, do not let your puppy out in the snow without supervision, and make sure they wear a coat.

Is It Safe for Dogs to Walk in Snow?

Yes, it's typically still safe to walk your dog when there's snow on the ground. However, instead of going on your usual long walk, you might have to cut it short depending on how well your dog does in the cold. The main concerns with walking in snow are damage to your dog's paw pads, as well as hypothermia. You should take precautions with all dogs in the snow, but with puppies, older dogs, dogs with compromised immune systems, small dogs, and cold-intolerant breeds, you need to take extra care to ensure they aren't harmed by the cold.

Dog Snow Safety

If your dog shows interest in heading out for a walk or romping in the white stuff, make sure you implement these snow safety tips first.

Chihuahua in winter jacket and boot
  • Suit up. Does your dog need a winter coat in the snow? Maybe. Dogs who were bred to withstand cold temperatures have a dense undercoat to help insulate them, but dogs with short, silky, or fine hair could definitely use a sweater. Small dogs and slender breeds without much body fat, such as Greyhounds and Whippets, should also wear a coat.
  • Protect the paws. Even though a dog's paw pads feel rather thick, they're still susceptible to damage, including cuts from ice or frostbite. Get your dog a set of booties to protect them from ice, snow, and deicer chemicals (such as salt). If your pup won't wear booties, try a protective ointment like Musher's Secret instead.
  • Don't forget the ears. In particularly cold areas, a dog's ears can be at risk for frostbite. Use a snood to keep your dog's ears protected.
  • Dry off. After every walk or play session, towel dry your dog's feet, legs, and belly. Clumps of ice on the fur can irritate the skin, as can deicing chemicals. It's also possible for your dog to develop moist dermatitis in areas where the skin stays damp for too long.
  • Stay hydrated. Everyone's skin gets dry in the wintertime, so make sure your dog always has a constant supply of fresh water to drink.
  • Consider winter grooming. Long-haired dogs can benefit from having the feathers behind their legs, on their bellies, and on their tails, trimmed. This will help prevent the dreaded snowballs that form in loose fur.

Playing (Safely) With Dogs in the Snow

Whether you live in an area that frequently gets snow or it's an unusual occurrence, it's important to take snow precautions. As a general rule, if it's too cold for you outside, it's too cold for your dog. When in doubt, let your dog out only to do their business, then keep them indoors the rest of the time. There are plenty of fun and interactive ways you can exercise your dog while indoors, so you can skip the snow altogether.

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Tips for Your Dog to Play in the Snow Safely