Winter warning for pets – please bring them inside!

Winter warning for pets – please bring them inside!

When the temperature plunges, I find myself thinking about the plight of dogs who are forced to brave the freezing ice and snow outdoors. I remember when I was a child some relatives had a german shepherd named Brutus. Brutus, by their account, was an “outside dog”. I remember thinking, “why is Brutus an outside dog and our dog is an inside dog? What is the difference?” Brutus was a beautiful shepherd and our dog, Sparky, was a Boston Terrier. I finally decided that Brutus must be kept outside because he was bigger than Sparky was, and that all big dogs must be “outside dogs”.


It bothered me, as it still does, to think about Brutus and all the other dogs banished to live their lives in backyards. How lonely they must be and it must be miserable for them during bad weather, especially freezing temperatures. It wasn’t long before I figured out that Brutus was an outside dog simply because they didn’t want him in the house. Through the years, I’ve heard this same line over and over from people who have that breed, the “outside dog”…….”he has a fur coat, he won’t get cold, dogs come from wolves and are used to being out in the cold”.

The fact is, dogs did evolve from wolves but dogs aren’t wolves. Wolves know how to survive in the cold. They build dens, eat different amounts and types of food in preparation for extreme cold, through evolution they developed thicker coats and innately know how to adapt to survive the weather extremes. Dogs, on the other hand, have been loosing their connection to wolves for thousands of years, have become domesticated, and depend on us to keep them safe and warm.


The truth is, dogs can get frostbite and die from exposure to cold weather.

According to experts at Animal Planet, “Decades ago, it was common for dogs to live their entire lives outside. But as our knowledge of canines has evolved, we’ve learned that staying outside 24/7 can be hazardous for a dog’s health. Any dog will suffer if left outside in extremely low temperatures, but shorthaired breeds like Labrador retrievers, Weimaraners, beagles and greyhounds, as well as young, old or ill dogs are most susceptible to hypothermia, a potentially deadly condition where body temperature falls below normal.

But sadly there are still people all over the country who have dogs living outside 24/7. Their excuses vary and include allergies, the dog is not house-broken, the dog likes it outside, and so on. To those people I say, Please bring your dog inside – especially in a deep freeze like we’re dealing with currently – or try to find him a home where he will be part of the family.

Brutus ended up living a short life, and vanished one day never to be seen again. This is the case for most “outside dogs”.  They don’t normally live a long, healthy life and feel the love and security that truly being a member of the family can bring.


Shari Strader is the owner of South Paw Pet Services in Norfolk, VA. She has a personal commitment to giving dogs a better life and specializes in positive, reward based dog training. Shari has worked for and volunteered with a number of animal rescue organizations nationally and in Virginia, North Carolina, and Georgia including the SPCA and Best Friends Network. She has donated time assessing, training, and rehabilitating rescue dogs and has also worked tirelessly in the political arena to lobby for humane legislation to protect animals.