Are Dogs Less Active In The Winter?

White long coated dog laying down in the snow

As the winter season starts to approach, some of us may notice their dog begin to get less active, more sluggish, and slower to get up while others may see that their dogs became an energy ball running everywhere.

Some of these changes may worry owners about their dogs as they believe their dog might be infected or injured.

Are Dogs Less Active In Winter?

Dogs’ weather preferences are as a personality trait. Some of them cannot tolerate the heat and get exhausted in summer; they tend to lay down most of the time and sleep more extended hours.

However, others seem to have the winter as the lazy weather. They tend to be less active and conserving energy for thermoregulation. Bearing in mind that if you (as an owner) are less active during the cold days, your dog will not be enthusiastic about playing.

The cold weather could have the same effect on dogs as it affects us, humans. It can make dogs droopy and listless.

The effect of severe weather on dogs depends on many factors that may or may not be medical. 

Dogs are just like humans; they have weather preferences. Some of them prefer cold weather while others like the warm summer weather. Some dogs may be affected by cold weather, and others won’t.

What Factors Affect A Dogs Tolerance To Cold Weather?

Indeed, there are no fixed rules for this; your dogs’ tolerance to the cold weather depends on different and many factors:

  • Your dog’s coat:
    A thin single coat dog has less insulation than a thick double coat dog.
  • Your dog’s body fat percentage:
    A lean dog has less fat insulation to the cold, but this doesn’t mean that you fatten up your dog for insulation. A cozy jacket will do.
  • The size of your dog:
    Small dogs get cold faster, having a more excellent range of the exposed surface area of skin to lose heat to volume to keep the warmth.
  • The dog’s age:
    Of course, puppies and older dogs could have harder times regulating their body temperature.
  • The dog’s overall health
  • The dog’s being acclimated to the cold

It’s worth mentioning that some breeds are especially suitable for cold weather. But, generally speaking, all dogs need to be monitored on their activity level and their insulation.

How Can The Cold Weather Affect Your Dog?

Dogs are equipped with a warm fur coat and tough paw pads, yet they are still vulnerable to cold weather chills.

They can tolerate cold temperatures but still need extra care to prevent them from hypothermia and frostbites. Extended exposure to cold temperatures can put your pet in danger of frostbite. This happens when the body is no longer able to maintain its average temperature.

Hypothermia symptoms in dogs range from weakness and shivering to faint heartbeat and trouble in breathing; it all depends on the severity of the case.

Accordingly, if you come across a hypothermia case, call the vet at once and move the dog to a warm area. Cover the pet with blankets or towels and warm water bottles.

Avoid using a heating pad as they can burn your dog, just like what happens with humans, several layers between your dog and an electric heat source will do until you move the dog to medical care.

It is easy to recognize when your dog feels cold, he shivers and starts looking for warmth, just as we do.

You will notice that your dog is not acting the way he used to; he may be lethargic and want to spend more time inside the house. He may suffer from apathy, boredom, and, most of all, depression.

This is due to the low light levels we experience in winter. If you notice that your dog is less active, less alert, and sleeps more, he is probably depressed.

It is quite clear that cold weather affects the dog’s mood, behavior, and health.

How Does Cold Weather Affect Your Dog’s Mood?

Regardless of the weather condition, understanding the cause of your dog’s sudden change in mood, whether circumstantial or medical, will help you take good care of your dog in the right way.

Dogs can suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder. They can sense when the weather is about to change.

Depending on your dog’s breed, you will notice that he becomes more or less active. Some dogs show clear signs of irritation if the weather makes them uncomfortable.

Some puppies seek warm places like blankets or your bed; you might even notice that they are becoming cuddlier in the cold.

However, lethargy is a common symptom of many diseases. Make sure to consult your vet if you recognize a shift in your dog’s mood or abnormal signs.

How Does The Cold Affect Your Dog’s Behavior?

The weather, including rain and snow, temperature fluctuations, and the change in pressure, can affect your dog’s behavior.

However, your dog’s behavior in cold weather depends on the breed as well. Double- coated breeds enjoy more isolation from the cold weather than the single-coated breeds.

Yet dogs with short coats may curl- up in their beds most of the winter and are likely to resist going for walks.

Dogs can feel the weather change before we do, you may see the weather forecast on TV, but your dog can handle the weather change through the barometric pressure and static electricity.

These changes precede summer thunderstorms and heavy downpours. You will notice that your dog is sniffing at the air or getting agitated. Additionally, Your dog will pick up the sound of thunder long before you hear it through his powerful sense of hearing.

If he has a fear of noise and thunder, you will find him in his usual hiding spot once he feels a storm brewing.

Why Do Dogs Sleep More In Winter?

People living in areas where winter is not distinct may notice that their dogs are less alert in winter and sleep more extended hours.

However, if you live in areas with long, dark, cold winters, you will notice your dog showing some change in his behavior during the cold winters.

The combination of cold weather and low light conditions causes your dog to sleep more often.

The most important reason is the increased production of melatonin hormone. Just like humans, dogs produce this hormone in their brains. It helps to regulate the sleep cycles.

This hormone is mainly produced by the pineal gland, which is light-sensitive, and as a result, melatonin is secreted at night, when everything is dark.

This hormone is not produced when light hits the retina. In winter, when there are less light and almost no sunshine, more melatonin hormone is produced in the dog’s body.

This hormone has a few different effects, but, most of all, it causes sleepiness. That is why the increase in melatonin production due to the dark winter conditions causes dogs to sleep more.

Another critical factor that causes dogs to sleep more in winter is the production of serotonin hormone. This is another neurotransmitter hormone produced by the pineal gland in the dog’s brain.

It works on regulating the dog’s mood. The reduced sunlight causes a decrease in the release of serotonin in your dog’s brain, causing your dog to feel tired, cranky, lethargic, and sleepier.

How To Keep Your Dog Awake In Winter?

Now that we know the reasons for your dog’s laziness and sleepy mood, it is easy to find solutions.

Since the leading cause is the low levels of light, a practical solution would be boosting light exposure: Keep your home as bright as possible. Open your window shades to stimulate natural light in your home.

You may put your dog’s bed close to a window or a glass door to expose him to more light.

Try to take your dog for a walk during the brightest times of the day to maximize his exposure to daylight.

Consider compact fluorescent bulbs as interior lighting as it has white light sources that mimic daylight.

Turn on these lights for an hour every day, and interact with your dog to keep your dog’s eyes opened, and their retinas are exposed more to the light.

You can insist on walking and engaging him in playing more, to help him fight his depression. This should mentally stimulate your dog and keep his brain active to fight off boredom and lethargy.

Play indoor games like fetch or seek that he usually enjoys. Try to teach him new tricks with ways of challenging him mentally. Mental stimulation for dogs is as important as physical exercise.

So, if your dog is medically sound, you shouldn’t worry about his sleepiness in winter. The dog might be only cold and want to cuddle up more.

Winter Dog Care

When the cold weather tends to reduce the outdoor activities with your dog, it becomes essential to protect him from the winter weather:

  • Make sure to keep the dog dry and warm:

    Most dogs are unlikely to tolerate a “blow out” after a walk or run in the snow. Therefore, you can help to warm up your dog with a good towel dry.

    If your dog spends his time outdoors during the warm months, make sure to bring him indoors during winter.
  • One of the right rules of thumb is:

    if it’s too cold for you, it’s too cold for your dog. It is recommended to gradually introduce your dog to the lower temperatures, rather than expose him to extreme temperatures for long periods.

    Some breeds such as Huskies, German Shepherds, and Saint Bernards are more tolerant to the cooler temperatures. However, dogs with thinner hair such as Chihuahuas and Greyhounds can make use of a cozy jacket.
  • Antifreeze smells good to dogs, but they are incredibly poisonous; even a small amount can be deadly quickly:

    They contain lethal chemicals that are extremely harmful to dogs. Make sure to control your dog’s exposure to them.

    It is vital to get to your vet once you suspect that your dog has ingested antifreeze.
  • Rock salt can also get stuck between your dog’s toes and chap his paws. Make sure to clean your dog’s feet and belly after his neighborhood walk.

    Moreover, it is recommended to trim the bits of fur regularly between the dog’s toes where the rock salt can get stuck. Additionally, you may look for brands of rock salt marked ” safe for pets.”
  • Always check your dog’s paws and dry them very thoroughly.

    This is important with longhaired dogs as they are liable to snow compacting between their toes and turning into ice balls, which can be very painful.

    It is also recommended to clean your dog’s paws at the end of your walk as salt and grit from roads and pavements can get lodged between their toes.
  • His water intake should be regularly monitored:

    Make sure that your dog’s water bowl is not frozen. Pets can get dehydrated in winter as in summer, so be sure to provide plenty of fresh water for your dog. The snow will never be a substitute for water.
  • As your dog may consume more energy in winter to keep himself warm:

    If he’s inactive and stays indoors. It is highly recommended to adjust food levels accordingly to avoid weight gain.

    Continue on walks:

    Although it may be cozy to stay indoors, your dog needs regular walks regardless of the weather. Ensure that your dog’s legs are wrapped up warm and frequently check his paws for cold-weather injury. Some of these signs are cracked paw pads or bleeding.
  • When walking your dog, keep him away from frozen ponds, lakes, or other water.

    The ice might not support the dog’s weight, which could be deadly if the dog breaks through the ice.

In Conclusion

The winter season can be fun for the whole family, but make sure you are prepared for all the hazards that come with it. As it affects our mood and behavior, the cold weather also affects your dog’s mood and behavior.

Nevertheless, it can be fun for both you and your dog if you provide him with lots of toys to play and keep them occupied and active indoors.

Your winter care for your dog will spare you many health problems that may arise throughout the season. However, your vet’s continuous contact is recommended to ensure that your dog will pass the cold winter in good health.

Erwin Borgers

Hi, I’m Erwin. I grew up with two cats, but I always wanted to have a dog. Since my wife and I lived together, we have Mayla. She is a very sweet King Charles Spaniel. Together we spend countless of hours in the forest near our home. We love to walk together and now I want to share what I learned about walking dogs and what I learned about dog gear with you.

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