Do Labrador Puppies Need a Coat in the Winter?

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Any good pet owner can feel anxious about how their dog may respond to extra-cold winter nights. That anxiety can be even more intense if you’re the owner of a young puppy! As a puppy parent, you may even find yourself wondering if it would be worth the money to buy a coat for your Labrador puppy.

Labrador puppies do not typically need a coat in the winter because they have a thick, double-coat that provides warmth in colder temperatures. However, protective items such as coats and booties should be considered if extended time in cold weather is expected.

In this article, I’ll explain why your Labrador puppy should be perfectly comfortable on his own this winter, as well as how to recognize when your dog may have spent too long in the cold. I'll also share with you some of my favorite items for cold-weather protection when necessary.

Labradors Were Bred to Tolerate Cold Weather

If you notice your labrador acting more energetic and lively in the cold weather, it’s not in your mind. Labradors do love the cold!

Labradors were bred in historically cold climates, dating back to 16th century Newfoundland. Around the 19th century, traders shipped the breed to England, from which point they slowly made their way around the world to Canada. This breed made a name for itself by swimming through icy waters to assist fishers in pulling in nets filled with their prize.  

Labradors seemed made for the task, not only because of their webbed paws but also their waterproof, double-insulated coat.

Labradors Are Well-Insulated Dogs

A Labrador’s fur comes in two layers: the topcoat and the undercoat.

While the topcoat, also known as “the guard,” provides this breed with its waterproof quality, the undercoat is genuinely responsible for the magic of keeping the dogs warm. The soft, downy undercoat insulates Labradors against the harsh winter chill.  

The undercoat also contains a coating of oil that keeps Labradors’ skin dry, even on the dampest winter days.

However, even with a Labrador’s undercoat, you should be careful with how much time you allow your pup to spend out in the cold. Extended periods of cold exposure can put your dog at risk for illness. 

Why Is My Labrador Puppy Shaking in the Cold?

Puppies can shake for a variety of reasons, but will often do so as a sign of being cold.

Your Labrador puppy could be shaking from spending too much time outside in the cold weather. Prolonged exposure to the cold can make your dog ill. Therefore, it’s wise to recognize the signs when your puppy may have overdone its outdoor playtime. 

If your Labrador puppy is still shaking after being brought indoors, then you may need to consult with a vet for further assistance. 

Extended Periods Outside Can Make Your Pup Cold

Like humans, dogs can shake when they catch a chill. Chances are, if you’ve spent an extended period in weather cold enough that you’ve needed to take certain precautions around your own comfort, it might be time to warm your puppy up.

Your dog isn’t likely to feel the cold up to a certain point, but it’s important to remember that your Labrador puppy is quite young. A winter coat won’t be necessary, but your puppy will still have a lower threshold than a fully grown adult.

labrador-winter

Labradors are comfortable with climates under 32°F (0°C), but even fully grown adult Labradors shouldn’t spend too much time in weather under 20°F (-7°C).  They should be fine for fifteen or twenty minutes-- long enough to use the bathroom or get in a quick playtime, but keeping your Labrador outside any longer may result in illnesses related to freezing temperatures.

Signs Your Puppy Has Been in the Cold for Too Long

Much like humans, Labrador puppies will exhibit certain symptoms if they’ve been exposed to the cold for too long.  

In addition to shaking and shivering, keep an eye out for:

  • Whining
  • Slowing down/lethargy
  • Holding up paws
  • Trying to dig or bury themselves
  • Running nose

If your Labrador puppy is clearly exhibiting signs of discomfort, it’s definitely time to bring him in from the cold.

How To Warm Your Dog Up From the Cold

When warming your dog up, try to avoid going straight from incredibly arctic-level temperatures to a hot room. Allow your pet to acclimate to the new temperature slowly. 

Follow these steps to properly warm your dog up:

  1. The first step should be to check your puppy's fur. Labradors are notoriously waterproof, but that doesn’t mean you are entirely off the hook! Snow lodged in their coats could melt and add more chills. If you find signs of water, use a blow dryer on a low-heat setting to warm up and dry your Lab’s fur.
  1. Check your Labrador’s paws, especially if you walked alongside any roads. Ice is an incredibly handy and common way to melt snow and make roads safer for drivers.  Unfortunately, it can also make the road less safe for your puppy’s paws. Salt can cause dogs’ paws to peel, so it’s vital to rinse them off in warm water.
  1. Monitor your puppy’s shaking. Most dogs should stop once they’re warmed back up.  If your puppy doesn’t, watch closely for any signs of other common winter illnesses. 
labrador-with-woman-in-winter

Common Winter Illnesses

While your Labrador puppy should be fine in cold weather without the help of an additional coat, extended periods in the cold may result in an illness. A few common illnesses to look out for include hypothermia and the flu.

Hypothermia

Of all common winter illnesses, hypothermia is among the worst. Hypothermia occurs when the body reaches low levels for such an extended time that the muscles stiffen, the heart slows, and the dog fails to respond to stimuli.

If you worry your puppy may be experiencing these symptoms, take his temperature. Any temperature reading below 95ºF (35ºC) probably warrants a trip to the vet. 

The Flu

Symptoms of the flu in Labrador puppies mirror symptoms of the flu in humans. A puppy suffering from the flu may be experiencing laziness, a cough, and lack of appetite. Other common symptoms include a mild fever and sneezing.  

While it is not necessarily an emergency if your puppy catches the flu, it is worth keeping an eye on. If your dog experiences significant discomfort, you should take him to a vet’s office for closer examination.

Conclusion

Labradors come ready and willing to face cold temperatures that would make many other breeds miserable, and they are prepared to do so without the assistance of a manufactured coat!

Though your Labrador puppy is likely to love the slight chill of a winter day, you should be careful about allowing him to spend too much time in the cold. As always, keep an eye out for any signs of possible health problems resulting from time spent in the chill. 

About THE AUTHOR

Mark Brunson

Mark Brunson

Mark is the founder of Everything Labradors and a husband and father of 3. He enjoys spending time with his family, including his dog Molly, a Labrador/Golden Retriever mix. He’s a big fan of the outdoors and loves to travel to new places.

Read more about Mark Brunson