How to Take Your Dog Outdoors Safely in Montana Winters

Montana is many things—beautiful and fun are two of the first adjectives that come to mind. The third is cold. While a little cold does not stop us here at Montana Pet Dental, we know that Montana’s long winters, below-zero temperatures, and heavy snowfalls of a foot or more at a time can be daunting. 

When it’s cold outside, sometimes we wish time could stand still while we could enjoy a cup of hot chocolate, but no matter how cold it gets, our dogs will still need to go outside. Knowing the dangers cold weather can bring will help you keep your dog safe and healthy this winter. 

Why Cold Weather Safety Is Important 

Many people assume that because of their fur, dogs are fairly immune to the cold. While it is true that certain breeds like huskies or Bernese mountain dogs are good in most cold weather, this doesn’t apply to all dogs. When dogs get too cold, they are at risk of contracting frostbite, as well as hypothermia and other deadly illnesses. 

A dog’s size, fur length, and age all play a part in how long they can stay outside in cold temperatures. Senior dogs, small dogs, and puppies all have a more difficult time staying warm. But in general, a good rule of thumb is if it’s too cold for you, then it’s too cold for your dog. 

If you ever notice your dog trembling, standing in a cramped posture, or alternating their feet off of the ground, they are too cold. But since they still need to go outside, a little winter gear can help.

Winter Gear for Dogs

Just like you wear a parka and boots, dressing your pooch for the weather is a great way to keep them happy and healthy during the colder times of the year. From dazzling colors to muted work gear, there are many different ways to keep your dog warm while expressing their style. 

Sweaters and Jackets

When picking out body wear for your dog, keep in mind their potty situation. Sweaters and jackets should come down low enough on the belly to keep them warm, but leave enough room for them to urinate. The back should come to the base of their tail. 

  • Light Sweaters—often made from a knit or jersey material, these are for chilly days that aren’t too cold.
  • Jackets—for colder weather, they should be double-layered, and for wet weather a waterproof or water resistant jacket is ideal.
  • Coats—should have more than two layers or an insulted layer for the coldest weather.


Not only will boots protect your dog’s sensitive paws from frostbite and cold, they can also be used for walks on hot pavement in the summer, or on hikes where sharp rocks might be present. However, boots only work if your dog will walk in them. Practicing at home is the first step to successfully using foot gear. 

Personal Heaters

While there are many different types of personal warmers on the market, some can be dangerous for pets. If your dog is not able to move away from the heat source, they could get overheated or get burned. If you want to use a personal heater, be sure to do some careful research or ask your vet which products they recommend.

Dog Safety in Cold Weather

When it comes to taking your dog outside in Montana’s cold winters, the first thing you need to consider is their size. Here’s our guide for proper winter safety for dogs by size and outdoor temperature.

Small Dogs (under 20 pounds) 

45 degrees—A sweater or shirt might be needed for short-haired or very small dogs.

30 degrees—Use a heavier sweater or a jacket, consider boots for walks, and limit the amount of time they spend playing outside.

20 degrees—The danger of frostbite goes up even more, so a jacket and boots are a must for small dogs. Limiting their outside time to potty breaks only is a good idea.  

10 degrees—Bundle up and take potty breaks only. 

Medium-Sized Dogs (20 to 50 pounds)

40 degrees—A light sweater could help smaller or short-haired dogs. 

30 degrees—Wearing a jacket and boots for walks could help many dogs enjoy their outside time more. Reducing time spent outside is good for dogs on the smaller end of the medium scale. 

15 degrees—Outside time should be limited to potty breaks or short walks, and bundled ones at that.

10 degrees—Bundle up and take potty breaks only. 

Large Dogs (over 50 pounds)

35 degrees—A sweater or light jacket may be necessary, depending on your dog’s amount of fur. 

20 degrees—A jacket and boots will help protect your dog during long walks or outside play. Be sure to watch your dog carefully for signs of cold, and limit their time outdoors if they seem cold. 

10 degrees—Limit the amount of time outside to bundled potty breaks and short walks in boots. 

Dental Care for Your Dogs in Montana

Keeping your dog safe and healthy during the winter months is not limited to beating cold weather. A dental exam for your dog could help them avoid painful tooth decay and tooth loss. At Montana Pet Dentistry and Oral Surgery, we want to help all the dogs we meet get the dental care they need so they can have an exciting and warm winter season. Contact us today to make an appointment for your winter buddy.



Images used under creative commons license – commercial use (3/31/23). Photo by Yuki Dog on Unsplash.