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Border Collies & Cold Weather: Temperature Safety Tips

As the winter months approach, it’s a good idea to know how well your border collie tolerates cold weather.

Despite most collies having double coats, there are important things owners should know in advance to keep their collie safe.

I’ll explain everything owners need to know in order to keep their collie safe and comfortable throughout the cold winters.


How Well Do Border Collies Handle The Cold

Border collies handle cold weather fairly well, but they aren’t as resilient as many would assume.

While border collies do have thick double coats (most of the time), which helps them considerably in cold conditions, they haven’t had much cold exposure during their breed history.

This, ultimately leads to them feeling the cold pretty quickly compared to other double coated breeds.

Still, there are many factors to consider which I’ll break down below.

What Temperature Is Too Cold For a Border Collie?

If it’s windy and rainy then even 5C (40F) would likely be too cold to go outside. But if it’s dry, sunny, and without wind, even zero degrees or lower may be tolerable.

It’s important to realize it’s not all about the temperature alone. If the temperature outside is zero degrees but there is no wind and it’s dry and sunny, that’s a completely different situation compared to when there is wind and rain.

I know owners living in certain parts of Canada that see very low temperatures like -25°C and their collies are just fine to play outside while in good conditions.

With that said, their two collies are fit and healthy with no existing health conditions, and they are both 4 years old (not too old or too young).

Things to consider

If your collie is considered to be vulnerable the advice changes. In this case, vulnerable means a collie that’s reaching old age, still a puppy, or your collie has existing health issues. In these circumstances, avoiding cold weather altogether is the recommended advice.

Is there an exact temperature to go by?

Unfortunately, it’s hard to give a specific number, because there are many different factors at play, like wind and rain. In England, a very cold day would be considered 0°C, combine this with wind and dampness, it suddenly feels A LOT colder and a collie likely shouldn’t go out.

Everyone’s situation will change, so there’s no one-answer-fits-all. It’s best to use some common sense and go with your gut.

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Do Border Collies Like Snow?

Most Border collies love to play in the snow. Providing they are fit and healthy and neither too old nor too young, they will have a blast.

Just keep an eye on how long your collie remains in the snow, consider her paws, and always watch for signs that your collie is getting too cold.

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Do Border Collies Need Winter Jackets?

There are many accessories out there to help our furry friends in cold climates such as winter jackets. Whether or not your collie will need a winter jacket will depend on a few things.

As your collie reaches old age, it’s normal for her coat to start thinning out and her immune system won’t be as strong as it used to be. A winter coat may just be what your senior collie needs.

But if your collie is middle-aged, in full health and your winters aren’t particularly cold, then a winter jacket may be unnecessary. It’s very easy to say for short-haired dogs but it’s not so clear when we’re talking about a thick double-coated breed.

One of the benefits of winter jackets is that the quality ones are waterproof. This would certainly be ideal for any collie that lives in a cold and wet country.

Times you may want to consider a winter jacket for your collie

Your collie is reaching old age and becoming more vulnerable
Your collie is still young, under 1 year old
If you live in a country that has wet winters
If your winters are extremely cold: -20°C and lower

Other than this, a winter jacket may not be entirely necessary, but that’s for you to decide. Thankfully you can get high-quality ones like these, that are reasonably priced.

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Can Border Collies Live or Sleep Outside In Winter?

Although possible under certain situations, it’s not recommended that Border Collies sleep outside during winter. Border collies are not naturally capable of withstanding freezing temperatures throughout the night.

What to consider:

Border collies are very social and love having company. Life outside can be VERY lonely if you don’t have a pack of dogs
Collies do not tolerate cold weather for long periods of time
Collies are so intelligent that they don’t need to live outside in order to excel in their working abilities
As a loving family pet, life outside isn’t what they’re used to

Living outside would only work well if you have more than one collie (to keep each other company), you provide a weatherproof housing set up with access to a separate protected outside area, and you don’t experience cold weather!

I would say that’s quite a lot of requirements for it to work well, and even then, some would say it’s still not ideal.

Everyone’s situation is different and I’m sure you are able to make your own decisions based on the above.

5 Signs Your Border Collie Is Getting Too Cold

If you are experiencing cold weather but are still taking your collie out for walks, it helps to know when your collie is getting too cold. Here are 5 signs you can look out for when outside.

1. Picking up the paws

A very reliable sign to look out for is if your collie starts holding up a paw. Dog paws are very sensitive to temperature as it’s a point of contact to the surface they’re walking on. The moment you see your collie trying to hold her paws up, you know she’s too cold and it’s time to go back inside.

2. Shaking or shivering

The next best and most obvious sign is shaking and shivering. Just like with us, shivering is an automatic response from the body which relaxes and tightens the muscles rapidly in an attempt to warm us up.

All collies (and dogs in general) do this too and it’s a sign you need to go back inside. It’s possible to warm back up by increasing physical activity, but it’s not worth the risk.

3. Reluctant to walk / slowing her movement

This is quite a serious sign that your collie is very cold. When it gets to the point where she no longer wants to move, it’s past the point of reviving your activity.

You should head back inside and seek a warmer place if your notice your collie slowing down or stopping.

4. Tail tuck with a hunched posture

Another reliable sign that indicates your collie is too cold is tail-tucking. Tail-tucking is a general sign of being uncomfortable and the hunched body position is seen across most breeds when exposed to cold temperatures.

5. Any other unusual changes in behavior

Any weird changes in behavior should also be noted and if you are out in sub-zero temperatures, it’s likely going to be the reason. Behavior changes could be to do with body language, barking, or whining, and anything out of the norm.

Signs of hypothermia include:

  • Weakness
  • Lethargy
  • Dizziness
  • Lack of consciousness
  • Slow shallow breathing
  • Fixed & dilated pupils
  • Muscle stiffness
  • Lack of alertness


If you notice any of these signs, this indicates that your collie is already extremely cold. Not only should you seek a warmer place immediately, but it’s advised to contact your veterinarian asap for further guidance.

Recommended Read: Can Border Collies Live Outside?

Tips To Keep Your Collie Safe In Winter

Let’s run through some additional tips to remain safe in winter.

1. Don’t venture too far away from home

Remaining close to your home or car is very important throughout the winter months. The worst situation to be in is to see your collie exhibit behaviors that indicate she is cold when you are the furthest away from your home.

Not only that, but the weather conditions could take a turn for the worst and make your situation dangerous.

2. Keep her on the leash

Most border collies have exceptional recall and obedience, but regardless, it’s a good idea to keep your collie on a long leash throughout the winter months.

In windy conditions and depending on the landscape where you are walking, your collie could lose her way if she ventures too far away from you. This might be unlikely to happen, but a terrible situation to be in if it does.

3. Lukewarm drinking water

Instead of filling up your collie’s water straight from the cold tap in winter, you can help keep her warm by using lukewarm water (neither hot or cold).

It doesn’t need to actually be warm, but just not being cold will have a dramatic difference, and it will encourage her to drink more and stay hydrated.

4. Wear an extra hoody/jumper when out on walks

If you were to get into a sticky situation where your collie suddenly becomes too cold and/or can’t walk back herself, if you wear an extra layer, this can be taken off, used to wrap up your collie to keep her warm while you carry her back or seek other help.

Again, this might only be for a dramatic situation, but it could make all the difference.

5. Stay away from frozen lakes and bodies of water

Walking on those frozen lakes might seem like a fun idea, but it goes without saying, i’ts a huge risk. Even lakes that are frozen thick, might have weak or thin patches.

If your collie was to fall in, not only would this be an emergency situation, but it could force you into a dangerous situation too. Always avoid frozen lakes and bodies of water in general.

6. Stay dry at all costs

Don’t try walking your collie if it’s raining outside. Once your collie is damp or wet, her ability to remain warm is practically non-existent.

Her double coat will do nothing if she’s wet. Stay inside when it’s damp, use interactive puzzle toys, command training and try using a flirt pole if you have a large room.

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Be Cautious But Have Fun!

Cold weather, especially snow, can be an awesome experience for our furry friends, so enjoy it! Always be attentive to the temperature, the wind, and signs your collie is getting cold, but until then, have fun! Check out this awesome video of a collie’s first time in the snow!

Are Border Collies Good With Cold Weather?

Border collies can tolerate cold weather assuming they are otherwise healthy and remain dry. Collies that have double coats will have a somewhat decent level of protection in low temperatures.

What Temperature Can Border Collies Handle?

In dry sunny conditions with little to no wind, a Border collie can handle sub-zero temperatures. However, if its windy and wet 5C (40F) is likely already too cold.

Do Border Collies Need Winter Jackets?

Some collies will need winter jackets and others will not. It depends mostly on their age, current health, and how cold it is where you live. If you will be walking your collie in sub-zero temperatures a winter jacket is a good idea.

Do Border Collies Like The Snow?

Most border collies love the snow, and there’s no harm in letting them play in it assuming they aren’t too young or old and have good health. Despite the fun, never leave your collie out in snowy conditions for too long.

Should I Bathe My Collie In Winter?

Given that collies do not need regular bathing anyway its a good idea to save bathing until warmer weather. If you really need to bathe your collie in winter, then ensure it’s done indoors and dry her off completely inside.

Last Thoughts

So there you have it! You now know that your border collie can tolerate cold weather, but only for a short amount of time. Collies should not live outside in cold weather, and it’s important to know the signs that your collie is getting too cold.

Thank you for reading! View all Border Collie articles >>

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Before making any decisions that could affect the health and/or safety of your dog, you should always consult a trained veterinarian in your local area. Even though this content may have been written/reviewed by a trained veterinarian, our advice to you is to always consult your own local veterinarian in person. Please read our full dislcaimer if you have any questions.