Abstract Pinnipeds have to cope with the thermoregulatory demands of their amphibious lifestyle. As they are effectively insulated against heat loss in water by their blubber, they have to bypass the blubber for heat dissipation while staying ashore. In previous studies thermal windows on the body of captive phocid seals have been described as areas of heat dissipation in air. In this study we used infrared thermography (IRT) to examine thermal windows in seals hauling out as well as in training situations, where the first refers to a voluntary and the latter to an induced stay on shore. Furthermore we provide an IRT-based estimate of heat loss through thermal windows in pinnipeds. Hauling out seals developed thermal windows within a few minutes irrespective of environmental conditions. By contrast, seals staying on shore on a trainer's command did not develop thermal windows at all. The calculation of heat loss through thermal windows resulted in considerable values in air, but above all in water, which is energetically disadvantageous as it takes up to four minutes to close thermal windows in water.