Tips for adopting dogs in the winter

A mom and her child reach out to a dog in a kennel in a shelter and the dog lick s the mom's hand

At Animal Humane Society, we see animals in need of loving homes all year round. There are hundreds of local dogs, cats, and critters waiting for their second chance this winter, but adopting a new furry friend in the Minnesota cold may feel daunting to some animal lovers. 

Cold weather and snow can make it more difficult to potty train dogs, take them for regular walks, and help them adjust to their new routine. Our Behavior and Training team provided some tips for how you can welcome a new family member into your home during the winter months. 

Potty training

  • Shovel an area of your yard so your dog has a spot to use that is clear of any snow and slippery ice. 
  • Even short potty breaks can be too cold for some dogs, so be sure to take extra precautions when temperatures are dangerously low. Use paw protection – like booties or paw balm products like Musher’s Secret – and put a jacket on your dog, especially if they’re a small dog or have a short coat. 
  • If your dog is struggling to get into a routine when it’s cold, potty pad training is another option. Start inside using pads in a designated area and when you’re ready, begin transitioning your dog to going outside. 
  • Be patient! Potty training can be a challenge but be consistent and don’t get discouraged if your dog has an accident. Try to find what didn’t go well and adjust accordingly. Our free Pet Helpline (952-435-7738) is always here to answer questions! 


  • Keep walks short if the weather is dangerously cold. Instead of a long walk, taking a few breaks throughout the day to walk once around the block is still a great way to get some exercise and help dogs burn off their energy. 
  • For newly adopted dogs, short distances are ideal no matter the weather. Walks around the neighborhood are great for helping them learn their new area. As they get more comfortable, try branching out to explore more areas for them to sniff. If you notice any signs of stress or discomfort on a walk, head back home. 
  • Be aware of how cold the sidewalk is. If it’s too cold for your hand pressed against it, it’s too cold for your dog’s bare paws!
  • If you do venture outdoors on a cold day for exercise, remember to use paw protection and put a jacket on your small or short-haired dog.
A husky sniffs a container during a training class
  • Watch out for salt or chemical deicers! If sidewalks and roads are icy, such chemicals can be damaging to your pet’s skin and harmful to their health if licked off. When you get home from your walk, be sure to wipe off paws. 


If it’s too cold outside for even a short walk, mental enrichment activities can help your dog use up some energy and keep their mind busy. 

  • Check out our one-day Brain Games workshop to create interactive games for your dog. 
  • Winter is also a perfect time to enroll your pup in a new class. Basic skills training classes will help you establish good behaviors while engaging your dog physically and mentally. Specialty classes, like The Nose Knows and Tricks 101, can provide plenty of engaging activities for dogs getting a little cabin fever indoors. 
  • See if there are any local sniff spots in your area. You may be able to rent out space for exercise time! 

Are you ready to adopt a dog? 

For more tips and tricks, visit our Pet Behavior Library and learn more about welcoming a new pet into your home. You can also call our Pet Helpline at 952-435-7738 for helpful advice from a trainer or behavior specialist.

If you're ready to look for your new best friend, view current adoptable dogs. 

View adoptable dogs