Owner and Trainer Jo, training her Border Collie, Banjo, in the snow using a clicker & squeeze tube for rewards.

Good Ole Winter in New England! It’s cold. Sometimes brutally so and then add in the wind chill factor and it can be downright miserable. I have vowed to never get another winter puppy again! But, here are some tips to make dog training in cold weather a little better.

How Cold is Too Cold?

Some dogs will start to feel the effects of the cold around 40 degrees! Small dogs, dogs with thin fur, hairless dogs, and older dogs may be a little uncomfortable when it’s cool. For most dogs though, they are good to go at temperatures we humans may start to feel a bit frozen at. This past weekend, I worked with 3 different dogs in 30 degree weather. It was freezing for the humans. All 3 dogs I worked with were in their element being outside in the cold! A Bernese Mountain Dog, Australian Shepherd, and a Miniature American Shepherd. All perfectly content. The wind made my last lesson so miserable we cut it short at 30 minutes and opted to do another 30 minute session on a less windy day. I generally cancel all outdoor training sessions if it’s less than 30, especially if there is a real feel temp of 20 or less.

Dog Gear to Protect From the Cold

Hairless Chinese Crested sporting a winter body suit and booties getting ready to do a nose work search in the snow.

Consider a nice jacket or full bodysuit for your pup if they fall into the fair weather fidos category. My 2 hairless Chinese Cresteds have an impressive wardrobe. Fleece jammies, cotton jammies, coats that cover their backs/chests, raincoats, rainsuits, and full on winter suits that are fleece lined and weatherproof! They have more outer gear than I do. My furry beasts each have 1 nice winter jacket that is rain/wind resistant. They only use them in blizzard like conditions if we are going out to play for a bit.

Now, some dogs may appreciate some gear for their feet while others would rather not be subjected to such nonsense. Believe it or not, my hairless boys don’t seem to mind cold paws much, but my Mini Aussie tries to see if he can walk/hop on 1-2 feet if its too cold. For him, that seems to be somewhere in the teens. Particularly if the ground is wet and cold. I’ve sent him out for quick potty breaks and have had to go get him and carry him in because he’s perched up on 1-2 feet, frozen in place.

I don’t train much in extreme cold, but I do try 1-2 times a winter to get out in extreme temps. You may find yourself at a trial when it is 1 degree outside. I have done K9 Nose Work® trials in all weather from 1 degree to 100 degrees. The dogs should be properly prepared for such conditions. So I get out there a few times every winter and run some searches in jackets and boots. My dogs don’t love their booties, but will tolerate them, especially when working. They don’t care about boots if they are busy working.

I would recommend your pup wear boots if you intend to walk a lot on surfaces that have been treated for snow/ice. That stuff is not good for our pups to lick off their paws. You can also opt for something like Musher’s Wax or just making sure you clean your pup’s paws every time you expose them to those chemicals. (All of the above gear can be found at https://ziggys-doggy-fashion-boutique.myshopify.com/)

Gear for the Humans!

Now, for the humans. For me it’s my fingers that kill me. If it’s not my fingers it’s my ears and toes. So layers! In addition to the usual layers, hats, gloves, scarves, and good shoes here are a few things you may find helpful!

First. Because I need my gloves, my absolute favorite bit of gear for winter dog training is a silicone squeeze tube! Yep! That’s my favorite. It allows me to use high value food for a training treat for my pup and still be able to wear my gloves. I’ve tried so many different gloves and treat combinations, but nothing quite compares to being able to wear thick, warm gloves and be able to manage a lead, clicker, and food.

Your silicone squeeze tube can hold so many different treat options. You can try peanut butter (Xylitol Free), cream cheese, canned dog food, baby foods, and even liverwurst! You many need to play with consistency of some of the foods. I usually need to water down liverwurst a little bit so it’s thin enough to go through the squeeze tube opening. I would also recommend changing up your reward regularly as some of these food items are higher in fat and should not be eaten in vast quantities!

My second favorite cold weather gear is my heated vest! I love my heated vest so much. It keeps my body plenty warm for a training walk or even if I’m out for a few hours teaching. I wear my heated vest under a lighter, waterproof, wind resistant jacket. I think, I need to invest in more heated gear!

The Dog Training Must Go On!

If you find yourself puppy raising or adopting a new pup in the cold weather the training must go on. You cannot wait til warm weather rolls around to train your pup. If you are doing dog sports, particularly scent sports, you may find yourself someday trialing in temperature extremes. It’s best to be prepared for the elements! I hope these tips help you regularly train your pup in the cold weather! Happy Training!

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