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How To Tell If a Dog Is Cold: Signs to Look Out For - PawSafe

How To Tell If a Dog Is Cold: Signs to Look Out For

Photo of Tamsin De La Harpe

Written by Tamsin De La Harpe

how to tell if a dog is cold

Are you going through winter, and you are sitting with your canine companion and wondering how to tell if a dog is cold? Well, since dogs can’t communicate verbally, it is up to us to recognize when our dogs are chilly and take the necessary steps to keep them warm.

One of the most obvious signs that your dog is freezing is shivering. Dogs shiver automatically when they’re chilly in an attempt to warm themselves up. However, shivering can also be a sign of anxiety or excitement, so it’s important to look for other clues as well.

By observing your dog’s behavior and body language, you can be sure to respond appropriately to your dog’s needs, thus strengthening your relationship. In this article, with the help of The Dog Behavior Answer Book by Adern Moore, we’ll go over some key indicators that your dog is freezing and what you can do to help them stay warm.

Other mammals like bears and seals have different ways of surviving in the wild, such as hibernating when it becomes cold and loading up on insulating fat.

However, dogs, like their descendants, wolves, do not hibernate. However, some dog breeds, such as Huskies or Malamutes, may grow thick fur to help deal with frigid temperatures, while short-haired ones can quickly become frozen. These Northern and Arctic breeds even have special genetics that make surviving in below freezing temperatures a breeze for them.

As much as different breeds have different levels of tolerance to snowy weather, dogs are susceptible to hypothermia and frostbite. The fur on our canine companions is not entirely enough to protect them from extremely low temperatures, and it’s important to address their comfort and well-being. 

Recognizing Physical Signs of A Cold Dog

It’s our responsibility to make sure our hounds are comfortable and safe, especially in colder weather. When it’s snowy outside, pups may show physical signs that they are chilly. Here are a few things to look out for:

1. Shivering or Trembling

This is a natural response to cool weather, as the body tries to generate heat to keep warm. If your dog is shivering or trembling, it’s a good idea to bring them inside or provide your pup with a warm blanket.

2. Hunched body & Tucked Tail

A cold dog typically tries to preserve their body heat by curling up and protecting their belly. You may see their tail tucking in as though they are scared.

3. Shifting from paw to paw: The Cold Toe Dance

Another obvious sign that a dog is freezing is when they start to shift their weight from paw to paw. This is often referred to as the “cold dance.” If you notice your dog doing this, it’s a good indication that they are feeling the cold.

The video below perfectly shows how Mo Mountain Mutts, a doggy daycare in Alaska, spots when a dog is getting too cold out in the icy weather and needs to get back their bus to avoid hypothermia:

4. Cold Ears and Body

The dog’s ears and body feel frigid to the touch, which is another indication that they are freezing. The ears may also be pinned down to keep out of the cold wind. If you notice this, it’s important to take steps to warm them up, such as putting extra bedding and ensuring they are well-fed.

5. Seeking Warmth

One of the most common behavioral indicators of a chilly pup is seeking shelter. If a pup is freezing, they will often try to find a warm and cozy spot to curl up in. This could be under a blanket, in their bed, or even under a piece of furniture.

If you notice your canine seeking shelter more often than usual, it could be a sign that they are feeling icy. However, when your hound seeks shelter under your bed, even when the temperatures are average, they may be doing it out of fear or stress.

6. Less Active

When pups are freezing, they tend to conserve their energy and move around less. If you notice your canine is sleeping more than usual or not wanting to play or go for walks, it could be a sign that they are freezing.

It’s important to note that not all hounds will exhibit these behaviors when they are feeling chilly. Some dogs may still be active and playful even if they are feeling chilly.

7. Curling Up

Canines may curl up to regulate their body temperature. Curling into a ball helps conserve warmth, especially in icy environments. Conversely, when it’s hot, pups might stretch out to dissipate heat and cool down.

Factors Determining If A Dog Feels Cold

Just because you feel cold, does not mean that your dog does.  Plenty of breeds absolutely thrive in sub-zero temperatures. Just see this Siberian Husky taking a nap under a blanket of snow:

However, there are many other dogs that are not as equipped to handle icy temperatures. So, let’s look what may make a dog more vulnerable to the colder climates.

Size and Body Mass

Smaller canines tend to lose body heat more quickly than larger dogs due to their higher surface area relative to their body mass. Pups with less body fat may also feel chilly more than those with more insulation. This means dogs like Chihuahua are far more likely to get dangerously cold outside in winter than larger breeds.


Puppies and elderly dogs are more susceptible to extreme weather. Puppies have less body fat and may not regulate their body temperature as efficiently, while older hounds may have weaker immune systems and less effective circulation.

Additionally, older hounds may have arthritis or other joint problems that can make them more sensitive to low temperatures.

Breed and Coat Type

Different dog breeds have varying levels of tolerance to different temperatures. Breeds with thick, double coats, such as Siberian Huskies or Malamutes, are generally more cold-resistant than those with short coats, like Chihuahuas or Greyhounds. Hairless breeds like the Chinese Crested are perhaps the most vulnerable to low temperatures.

Health Conditions

Certain health conditions can also make pooches more sensitive to the low temperatures. For example, dogs with hypothyroidism may have a harder time tolerating low temperatures. Dogs with heart or lung problems may also struggle in icy temperatures. Dogs recovering from surgery are also prone to hypothermia.


Sled dogs that are accustomed to snowy temperatures, either through exposure or adaptation, may be more comfortable in icy weather. They may develop a thicker coat and increased tolerance to low temperatures or simply be more used to the cold.

However, taking a dog from a warm climate to a cold one may make it harder for them to adapt.

Activity Level

More active hounds generate more body heat and may be better able to tolerate colder conditions than sedentary canine companions. However, intense physical activity in extremely low weather can lead to overheating, so it’s important to monitor your dog’s activity levels.

Ice and Wind

Ice and wind can significantly affect how icy your pup feels. Wet conditions and strong winds can increase the chill factor, making it feel chilly than the actual temperature. Ice on the ground can be dangerous to their exposed paws and dogs may need to wear booties to protect their paws in snow and icy conditions.

Preventing Hypothermia

hypothermia in dogs

Hypothermia in hounds occurs when their body temperature drops below the normal range, which is around 101 to 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit (38.3 to 39.2 degrees Celsius). It can be a serious condition and requires prompt attention.

Preventing hypothermia in pooches is crucial, especially during colder weather. Here are some tips to help keep your pup warm and reduce the risk of hypothermia:

Provide Adequate Shelter And Warm Bedding

Ensure that your hound has a warm and dry shelter, whether it’s indoors or in a well-insulated doghouse. Shelter is crucial for protection against icy temperatures, wind, and precipitation.

Offer your canine friend a warm and cozy bed, preferably off the cold floor. Consider using a heated dog bed or placing blankets and padding in their sleeping area for extra insulation.

Use Dog Clothing

Consider dressing your pup in proper clothing, especially if they have a short coat or are particularly susceptible to the cold. There are various types of canines, sweaters, jackets, and boots to protect their paws available to provide additional insulation.

Limit Outdoor Exposure

Minimize the time your pup spends outdoors during extremely cold weather, especially if they are not acclimated to low temperatures. Take shorter walks and provide opportunities for indoor exercises and play.

Dry Off Your Dog

If you go for walks and your hound gets wet from rain or snow, make sure to dry them off thoroughly. Wet fur loses its insulating properties, and a damp dog is more susceptible to skin infections and low temperatures.

Adjust Diet

During icy months, your hound may burn more calories to stay warm. Ensure they are receiving a balanced and nutritious diet to maintain their energy levels and support overall health.

If you suspect your pooch is experiencing hypothermia, it’s crucial to seek veterinary attention promptly. Signs of hypothermia include: 

• Weakness;
• Lethargy;
• Muscle stiffness;
• Shallow breathing; and
• Drop in body temperature.

Prevention is key, but being prepared and attentive to your dog’s needs will help ensure their well-being in snowy conditions.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Why is my dog cold?

Hounds can feel chilly when the temperature drops. However, there are several reasons why your pup might be freezing, including a lack of insulation, a weak immune system, or an underlying health condition.

My dog is cold and not eating. What should I do?

If your pup is freezing and not eating, it could be a sign of a more serious health issue. It’s important to take your canine friend to the vet as soon as possible to get a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.

My dog is cold to the touch and throwing up. What could be the problem?

If your pup is frigid to the touch and throwing up, it could be a sign of hypothermia or another serious health issue, such as kidney disease. It’s important to take your dog to the vet immediately for proper diagnosis and treatment.

What are the signs of a cold for a dog?

The signs of a cold for a hound include coughing, sneezing, runny nose, watery eyes, lethargy, and loss of appetite. If your puppy exhibits any of these symptoms, it’s important to take them to the vet for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Do dogs get cold easily?

Dogs can get chilly easily, especially smaller breeds or those with short hair. It’s important to monitor your dog’s body temperature and provide them with adequate warmth during snowy months.

How do I know if my dog is warm enough at night?

To ensure your pooch is warm enough at night, provide them with a comfortable bed and blankets. You can also monitor their body temperature and behavior to ensure they are not shivering or exhibiting signs of discomfort.

Final Thoughts

Dogs get chilly, and we have to keep them warm and comfortable. Here are a few key takeaways to keep in mind: if you suspect your hound might be freezing, look for signs such as shivering, curling up, or seeking warmth.

Consider your dog’s breed, size, and coat when determining if they need extra warmth. Provide your dog with warm bedding, clothing, or a heated pad if necessary, and avoid leaving your pooch outside in frigid weather for extended periods.

By following these tips, you can help ensure that your pup stays warm and cozy during the icy months. Consult with your veterinarian if you have any concerns about your dog’s health or well-being.

Meet Your Experts

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Tamsin De La Harpe


Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.

Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.