There is a class of people – strong-willed people, I believe – who will run outside no matter the temperature. Perhaps you’re one of them. When it gets hot outside, you shed layers and bring water and when it gets really cold, you grab mittens, a hat, and you bundle up.

As humans, we have the ability to modify our dress for the surrounding temperatures. Our pets, on the other hand, don’t have that luxury. Sure, our furry friends are oftentimes overjoyed to be going out for a run when they see you lacing up your shoes and grabbing their leash, but have you ever stopped to ask yourself, “Should I be taking my pet for a run in this weather?”

Dr. Joe Whalen, a veterinarian with Hyde Park Animal Hospital, says that sometimes, that answer should be ‘no’. If you’re a pet owner, it’s wise to be mindful of a few rules when it comes to winter running.

Rule #1 – If you’re covering your face, leave your dog at home


“A general rule I have for taking your dog for a run in the winter is that if you have to wear a facemask to cover up because of the chill, it’s too cold for your dog to go with you,” said Dr. Whalen. On the other end of the spectrum, he recommends also leaving your dog at home when it is above 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

Rule #2 – Be mindful of running surfaces

One of the biggest hazards to taking your dog for a run in the winter is what happens to their paws. “Running on sand and salt will really make your dog’s paws sore, “ said Dr. Whalen. The pads on your dog’s feet can burn or blister depending on the condition of the road or sidewalk. To remedy this, Dr. Whalen recommends ordering dog boots made of rubber or cloth or carrying your dog over areas covered in salt, if the dog is light enough. Otherwise, steer clear of surfaces that have been treated. “A dog will lift up their paw if they are too cold or uncomfortable,” he continued.

Rule #3 – Remember hydration

Although we don’t consume as much liquid in cold temperatures as we do in warm ones, dogs need to be hydrated if you’re going for more than an hour, said Dr. Whalen. Bring a bottle of water with you or make a stop at home mid-run because there will most likely not be any working water fountains.

Rule #4 – Pay attention to what your dog is telling you

There’s no straightforward answer when it comes to taking your dog for a run in the cold. Overall, Dr. Wahlen notes, most dogs love the cold, so running with them in the winter shouldn’t be an issue as long as it’s for a shorter amount of time, about three to five miles. The size and type of dog definitely matters as well, he notes. You will be able to tell whether your dog is enjoying the time outside simply by paying attention to their actions. “If they are giving you big puppy dog eyes, that means they probably want to go inside,” he said. Pay attention to your pet’s needs and know that sometimes, it’s OK to leave them at home.

Do you have more questions about running with your pup in the winter? Check out Hyde Park Animal Hospital here or give them a call at (773) 324-4484.

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Adrienne Zimmer has been competitively running since she was 10 years old. She ran her first half marathon when she was 15 and her first full marathon at the age of 18. Since then, she has competed in more than a dozen half marathons, five full marathons, a dozen sprint triathlons, a half Ironman and a full Ironman triathlon. She is a graduate of the University of Iowa and works full-time as a writer and editor. In 2017 she hopes to finish Boise's Race to Robie Creek Half Marathon, dubbed the toughest half marathon in the Northwest.

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