Answer: It depends on the animal. Even a dog with a thick winter coat needs protection from the elements, particularly if the weather is any combination of wet, windy and cold. Protection could mean a dog house, garage, breezeway, or shed, unless you're fortunate enough to share your own home with him.
Question: Don't some dogs like to stay outside? Whenever I let my dog in, she pants to get out right away.
Answer: The panting you see from your outside dog when she's in the house is often a sign of stress, not overheating. The dog is uneasy in the house because it's not “normal” for her to be inside. If it's below freezing outside, and certainly if the temps are in the single digits, she's better off inside, whether she seems to like it or not.
Question: But my dogs will curl up together outside and look as cozy as can be. They don't look cold! They keep each other warm, right?
Answer: They're trying to share body heat in order to survive the night, just as you would if you were trapped outdoors with several people. You might make it through the night, but it's not going to be “cozy” or pleasant.
Question: My dog seems just fine when I go out to see him in the morning. Isn't that a sign he's okay sleeping outside in the cold?
Answer: Dogs live “in the moment.” When morning light begins to warm them again, they forget about the suffering of the last few hours. They're not going to complain to you about how cold they were, or how much sleep they lost as a result of the cold. That doesn't mean they're not miserable at night, trying to survive.
Question: Isn't that heavy coat of hair, and that extra layer of fat enough to keep them warm?
Answer: Put on your warmest parka, cap, mittens and boots, and go sleep on your porch when the temperature is -4 degrees. You may survive the night, but it won't be pleasant. Your pets go through the same suffering on an extremely cold night.
Question: Won't my dogs toughen up if I make them sleep outside?
Answer: Go back and sleep on the porch for a few more sub-zero nights and see how you feel about it.
Photo: This is Polly, a neighbor dog I've posted about several times in the past. Polly will soon be off her chain for good, she'll have a bed to lie on, and thawed water to drink. She's going to a Great Pyrenees Rescue in Missoula, and then on to a forever home. Happy Day!!!!