It doesn’t often drop below freezing in most parts of California, so you may not be familiar with how to keep your dog safe in our coldest conditions. That may be a problem if you head for a hike in the mountains, take your dog for a walk on our coldest winter nights, or give your dog access to your backyard while you’re at work in winter. You may be surprised at how these conditions affect your dog. Here’s what you need to know about cold weather safety for your dog if you live in California.

When to Stay Indoors

Most dogs will be able to tolerate most of the weather in California just fine. However, when temperatures drop below freezing, some dogs will struggle to stay comfortable. Short-haired dogs, very young and very old dogs may not be comfortable during freezing temperatures. It is best to keep them inside, except for quick trips to pee, during this weather.

It can help to have a little bit of the indoors outside. If you let your dog have access to the yard in winter, create a small shelter for them that is waterproof and faces away from prevailing winds. That wind protection will significantly increase their warmth. Adding bedding, like straw or wood chips, is useful if you expect your temperatures to be approaching freezing regularly while the dog is outside. That way, the dog’s warmth will be better insulated.

Bundling Up Your Pup

Sometimes you want to brave the great, cold, outdoors with your dog. If you do, there are some things that you can do to keep them warm. A jacket or sweater is a good idea to help short-haired dogs retain their heat. Dog boots are a good option for a dog of any coat. They help protect the dog’s feet from ice, salt, water, and the rough conditions that go along with winter.

Adding a jacket and booties to your winter walk routine is especially important if you have a puppy. Puppies are be more vulnerable to the cold, especially if they get wet from snow or rain.

Protect from Salt, Anti-Freeze

The cold is not the only safety hazard you and your dog face when you head out in the winter. When freezing temperatures are expected, people use salt and anti-freeze to prevent ice formation on their sidewalks and in their vehicles. Both can be health hazards for dogs.

Dogs that pick up salt on their paws may lick them off later. If this is a daily routine for a few days, your dog may ingest too much salt and get sick. To avoid this,wipe off your dog’s paws with a damp cloth when you get inside.

Anti-freeze spills are another concern. Dogs can be attracted to anti-freeze, and it can be deadly if they ingest it. Don’t let your dog lick unusual liquids while you’re out on your walk.

Thin Ice and Snowfall

Some winter dangers are more serious when temperatures are not quite freezing. If your normal walk route or your hike stops by ponds, rivers, or other bodies of water, do not let your dog try to stand on the ice. Falling in can be very dangerous. Even if the water does not have ice on it, getting soaked will lower your dog’s body temperature very quickly. Always keep your dog dry in winter.

Heavy snowfall can also be a danger if you let your dog roam off-leash. Sudden gusts of snow can block your dog’s vision of you and even your smell. They may end up lost.

Keep these tips in mind as colder weather approaches and your dog will be much safer.